The rise of on-demand streaming as the primary form of music consumption has had many implications, one of which has been that services like Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora are now a major pipeline for artist discovery. The ascent of Mt. Joy provides an excellent example of how just one song on the right playlist can give life to an aspiring band.
The band grew out of the reunion of Philadelphia-grown musicians Matt Quinn (vocals, guitar) and Sam Cooper (guitar) in Los Angeles. The two connected with multi-instrumentalist Michael Byrnes through Craigslist and cut three songs that Quinn had written around September 2016.
The story up to this point is a fairly common one, but what happened next strapped the band on a rocket ship. Quinn’s personal friend, Jack Gallagher of C3 Management, decided to do the guys a solid and got the song “Astrovan” to a few people at Spotify, who liked it enough to put it on some key playlists. The response was almost instantaneous. After making Spotify’s “Viral” charts, within approximately one month it had been played more than 1 million times.
Mt. Joy suddenly had the ears of not only average Spotify listeners, but A&R divisions of record labels and radio stations. Gallagher became the band’s manager along with Matt Shay, adding the band to C3’s roster. They reached out to Ali Hedrick [who recently moved to Paradigm from The Billions Corp.], with just “Astrovan” and three unreleased songs recorded.
“I told [Gallagher and Shay] ‘Guys, I’m really busy, I’m not taking anything on.’ Then I listened to the music and I thought ‘Ah man, this is so good.’ I was singing the songs … the next day in my head and I thought ‘I’ve just got to work with this band. It’s just too catchy and too incredible.”
In agreeing to work with the newborn band, Hedrick was breaking one of her general rules: never sign an act before seeing them live. Indeed the members of Mt. Joy hadn’t even played a live show yet, but Hedrick said the songwriting was so good she was willing to overlook what would usually be a roadblock.
Once it became clear that Mt. Joy may indeed have a long-running career ahead, Quinn said he remembers playing one show in Los Angeles before going deep into songwriting mode.
Gallagher said the original plan was to release one new song each month, with Byrnes playing drums on the first records before bringing drummer Sotiris Eliopoulos into the fold in early 2017, after which the band began touring heavily. Keyboardist Jackie Miclau had joined by August of that year, and then Mt. Joy was signed to Dualtone Records.
The power of just a few hits was immediately apparent, Hedrick said, as the band was able to sell out Baby’s All Right in New York and Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia with only three songs available to the public for listening.
The band hit the road with fellow Matt Shay act The Head And The Heart in March 2017 and would play with The Lone Bellow, The Revivalists, Neko Case, and Anderson East in the next 13 months.
Hedrick said the routing strategy was “no stone unturned,” giving the band small rooms in markets where they weren’t supporting and onto festivals like Bonnaroo, SXSW, Made In America, Lollapalooza,
Newport Folk and Shaky Knees.
The band has pretty much lived on the road since early 2017, and Quinn acknowledged the experience was new to everyone, but they all recognize the need to work hard at mastering the art of the live performance.
Kevin Harrington – Mt. Joy
Matt Quinn of Mt. Joy is all smiles these days as his band has gone from a project with former classmate Sam Cooper to a touring and streaming force.
“Once you get over the shock factor of touring, the lifestyle change, you start to focus on how you can learn to play for bigger and bigger audiences,” he said. “We’ve had the opportunity to open for some bigger bands in bigger rooms.
There you learn the differences between different- sized rooms. It’s been a lot of fun for us to first watch those bands do it but then have our shows come back for the second time in some cities. We try new things and see what works.
“It’s definitely a pretty steep and fast learning curve, but we feel over the past three to four months we definitely hit a stride which makes the shows a lot of fun. We definitely look forward to new ideas we have to try to push forward and grow the show and make it as exciting as possible.”
Aside from the songwriting, which was strong enough to win her over by itself, Hedrick said the real strength of Mt. Joy is the willingness of its members to put in the necessary effort. “They work as hard as I do,” Hedrick said. “Our team is really working very hard on this band and this band is working just as hard, which is nice. They make it very, very easy. They say yes more than they say no.”
Mt. Joy’s eponymous debut album was released March 2 and is still getting love from streaming and radio services, recently with the single “Silver Lining.” Ironically, Gallagher said one of the problems bands borne of Spotify face is connecting audiences to the band that made that one song they like.
“You don’t always tie the song back to the band, so getting those two things to connect is crucial,” Gallagher said. “You see some bands with literally hundreds of millions of streams, but they can’t sell 50 tickets in some markets. Their song blew up via playlisting but they never connected the brand and the band name, that identity back to the song. It’s a blessing and curse, but it’s still a blessing because that’s a lot of money.”