Picking Up Fans with Silver Dream
"We don’t really set up an intention when we write our songs. Originally, "Hometown Heroes," was written about me and the bass player, our friendship." - Trevor Terndrup
Abbe Davis January 27, 2021
Nashville-based Alternative Indie Rock band, Moon Taxi, has released their sixth full-length album, Silver Dream. The new singles, “Hometown Heroes” and “Say” provide hopeful messages and uplifting Rock. Jangly guitar is the heartbeat of the new singles, melodic keyboard lines, encouraging lyrics, and an anthem Chorus to heal what ails you. Their recent songs are similar in style to the songs of The All American Rejects, Train, or Maroon 5.
Band members are lead singer Trevor Terndrup, guitarist Spencer Thomson, bassist Tommy Putnam, Wes Bailey on keyboards, and Tyler Ritter on drums. If their music sounds familiar to you, it's because their songs have been featured in: the ESPN college football anthem, Jeep Compass, Microsoft Surface Pro, BMW, Maker’s Mark, and McDonald's commercials. It appears that their music can sell products well.
The bassist and lead singer jammed on tunes in High School, and the rest of the band met up at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. David Swan was on drums until 2006 until Tyler Ritter joined them. Moon Taxi honed their craft in school, and then did shows along Highway 65 through the heart of Tennessee. Their previous sound was the fusion of Funk, Reggae and Rock. In 2007 they added Keyboardist Wes Bailey, which moved their sound into a more Alternative genre.
In 2008 their live album, Live Ride landed them in festival circuits. Next, the success of Cabaret, an album mixed by Grammy Award-winner, Vance Powell (the Raconteurs).The track "Square Circles" featured Hip Hop artist Matisyahu. Following that album, was the success of Mountains Beaches Cities, where they appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman. Moon Taxi's first hit single “Two High” off of their album Let the Record, expanded their fanbase to over 130 million streams on Spotify and put them in the Top 10 Alternative spot.
This is truly an eclectic band in their overall body of songwriting. Shows include integral moments where one of them breaks into a solo and the bands lets loose with solid musicianship. Another highlight is a great version of “Killing In The Name Of” where their soul revs into gear. Previous singles break from traditional Alternative with "Let the Record Play" featuring interesting chord changes and dynamic guitar lines. "Restless" has a smoldering production with a hip melodic vocal line.
Trevor’s clear tenor vocal soars above in live shows, and his enthusiasm attaches to the audience. They want to have fun along with him and he keeps inviting them to.
I got to speak with Trevor who promised me he just might one day perform “Hometown Heroes” on ukulele when I attend a show. I'd love to hear that. For now, we talk about the band’s journey.
AD: Hi, Trevor. Let me start with how I texted a friend on my phone about how I was going to interview you guys, and it came out as Moon Taco, and I’m wondering if this happens to you as well, or am I just that bad at texting people?
TT: Hm..That’s never happened to me specifically, but I don’t really write Moon Taxi to other people often.
AD: Well next time try it, see if it comes up as Moon Taco if you do. Let’s move on here beyond my issues. I love your new songs, "Hometown Heroes," and "Say." Why do you think those songs have so much appeal?
TT: Thank you, I appreciate it. We don’t really set up an intention when we write our songs. Originally, "Hometown Heroes," was written about me and the bass player, and our friendship. How we’ve been in each others lives since we were 15 years old, about our long lasting relationship that we cultivated and value (and work at). The song took on its own meaning. We put the song out in late Feb of last year, then in early March a deadly tornado rolled through Nashville, Tennessee, our home town. We saw neighbors helping neighbors, the community working together and the, “We’re all getting through it together.” Then a month later, COVID happened and the song took on an even deeper meaning for me, when I saw frontline workers risking their lives for others. We didn’t set out to do that, but a well-written song can apply to different things in different ways.
AD: I hear you. Now, the song "Say," for that video - where you dancein the alley, was your body sore the next day? How did you guys create that video? I wanna hear all about it. I kept thinking, "If this took a while that would be tough, dancing for so long to get it right."
TT: I just wanna start out by saying I’m pretty limber, I stretch every day. I was a little sore in the neck from the head banging just because, when you tour and you’re head banging every night, it’s easier,. I was just going in pretty cold, so yeah, my neck was a bit sore. For the most part, I popped off those moves pretty easily. That video was shot at the height of Quarantine. We did have Spencer our guitarist there, 'cause he has the best i-phone, the most updated one. He volunteered his camera.
AD: Is that why you did this in an alley, to be safe?
TT: Yeah, exactly. To be safe. So, Spencer volunteered his camera, it was just he two of us and my wife was there. She did the cue cards, cause she’s a calligrapher.
AD: It's cool that you guys did that. I feel like wherever your band goes, it is like a train that keeps moving and more cars keep attaching to the Moon Taxi (train). There is also, the variety of work you guys have put into the journey. It’s like Kevin Bacon now, the 7 degrees of separation. Do you feel that way?
TT: That’s what happens when you are a band for this long, you develop relationships all around. The music business is a human business, a business of relationships. Hopefully we haven’t burned any bridges. We try to be as nice as possible.
AD: What about with Eddie Money, your backstage about that, what you said was so funny, talking about him running down the aisles, what was that about?
TT: (laughing) It was the first time we played the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. We were freshman in college and we won this college music contest. We got to open up for Eddie Money which was pretty random, but pretty awesome. RIP.
AD: It’s awesome, he is pretty legendary. I love the song “Gimme Some Water,” that melody! It’s a kick butt tune, but the lyrics are not politically correct or right. I would feel bad singing it out, I just love the melody and lyrics of it.
TT: Yeah, that was a different time, and I guess they had a different idea about things back then.
AD: (It’s symbolic and I am sure Eddie Money didn’t mean it that way). Yeah, (laughing) 70’s and 80’s things hadn’t yet changed that much. So, let’s talk about how you guys met up at Belmont. You jammed in Belmont, is that true?
TT: Yes, that’s true. The bass player and I had been playing since High School and we were kind of a duo already, and we met our guitar player who is our producer now.
AD: (He’s chewing gum so of course, gotta ask him this) Hey, what are you eating, 'cause I’m on a diet, and I’m due for my energy bar now, so now I know I can eat something, ok?
TT: Well, it's a piece of gum. You know when you first put a piece in, you gotta chomp it down to size?”
AD: (laughing) Oh yeah! What flavor?
TT: I got some Orbit Spearmint gum.
AD: Yeah, that’s a bit basic, right? I mean, when you really go for it, ya do some Cinnamon, right?
TT: Yeah, I’m bein’ kinda basic here. So we met Spencer on the dorm room steps. We jammed together and that’s the story. We met our drummer a few years later. Our other drummer went into ROTC and now he flies Black Hawk Helicopters, so he went onto bigger and better things.
AD: Does he ever regret it or miss it?
TT: I mean, he’s awesome. He went down one path and we went down another. Then we met our keyboard player and that’s when we felt Moon Taxi had its full formation, having that sound and his songwriting melodies. He began contributing little by little. Now he’s a fundamental part of the songwriting process.
AD: You guys are awesome musicians. I did some research and I can see the progression, yet you still nod to the funk, fusion, and other styles you did way back when at shows. This makes it fun to listen to, it’s so enjoyable.
TT: Thank you. Even if it doesn’t come out sounding like Moon Taxi, it’s a process of filtering it through our hands and our ears. Our genre is ambiguous since we encompass different things, but it is still a Moon Taxi sound. “Say” will be a good song for us.
AD: I love it!
TT: It’s so anthemic.
AD: It is! Totally. So back in college, did you guys jam for hours, and where did you jam?
TT: Everywhere. First in the dorm, then we lived off campus in the house, so we had some pretty grungy houses that always had a jam room.
AD: What did you guys study, Music?
AD: I studied Philosophy and Spanish. A few of the other guys studied Music Business and Music. But we were all there to pursue our dreams of Music.
AD: So was it intimidating being in Nashville with so many musicians there in town, and gigs among so many other artists? Is that why you left to travel? Like you didn’t have to stay in town so much, and that travel would help?
TT: We thought Nashville was a great launching pad because it made us more professional in how we presented ourselves, and in terms of practicing all the time. We realized, if we were gonna get a grass roots following, we had to travel and do the work. So we would just go up and down 65, pretty much to every state that touched Tennessee, and played out as much as possible. First it was for friends, and then it was friends of friends. Then, it was for people we never met before.
AD: Ah, the message grew. Who is the most OCD when you travel, and how did you guys do it?
TT: We started with two vehicles and we’d put our amps in the back of them, then we had a communal van. I’ve always been the OCD one, mainly because I like things clean. I can’t really think when there's a lot of crap around. So I would be the kind of band mom, cleaning up all the stuff. Since then, I ‘ve taken on this hatred for single use plastic.
TT: We’ve been on a tour bus for close to five years. If you’re drinking a bottle of water, I’m gonna break it down to recycle it.
AD: Ha. During quarantine how are you spending your time?
TT: This has been awesome because my wife and I just had our first child a month ago. A really good time for me, 'cause I’ve been home.
AD: Are you getting any sleep?
TT: Not really, about five or six hours at a time.
AD: That’s actually good. So let’s get into it more. Swan left and Wes joined you guys on keyboard. And then you did a festival of about 30 tunes for a show years ago? Why 30 tunes?
TT: We wanted to play everything we had. I think it was about a 3 hour set.
AD: I’m fascinated you guys didn’t jam on one tune for about 8 or 9 minutes.
TT: It was a long festival.
AD: You guys got in on the festival circuit back then, but are there any festivals that you guys haven’t done yet, that you'd like to do?
TT: I’m trying to think of what we need to do at this point. I don’t really know. We have played all of the major commercial ones and some smaller and intimate festivals. Really, I just wanna get back out there and play.
AD: I feel badly for everyone. Ya miss that rush, huh?
TT: Yes, I really do.
AD: Are you guys able to jam together?
TT: Yeah. We just got to play a show at the new Brooklyn Bowl here in Nashville for our album release. That was great. We got to play our new songs.
AD: That’s cool. Glad you guys got to do that. Your band has done so much in just over ten years. In 2008 you met Warren Haynes, and Matisyahu. Is that how you got to open for Government Mule?
AD: How did you connect with Warren Haynes (from the Allman Brothers)?
TT: Well, we had opened up for Government Mule about six months prior, and then we played a festival up in New York. We asked him if he wanted to jam, and he was a super nice guy. His roadie at the time, who looked a lot like him, his name was Farmer. RIP, Farmer. He kind of facilitated it and Warren came and sat in, and we got a great video out of it.
AD: How do you know it wasn’t Farmer on stage with you? (laughing)
TT: (playing along like a kid) ‘Cause Farmer was there, and he handed him the guitar.
AD: (laughing) So in 2017 at Dylanfest, I just wanna say, Wes on keyboards with “All Along the Watchtower,” was great. Also, when you are backstage at Dylanfest, what is the culture like? Do you get to meet Shakey Graves or Boz Scaggs and others?
TT: Well thanks, I’ll have to tell Wes you said that.
AD: Yeah, I mean, he sounds so attune to the keys when he does that solo, it’s a moment. So, back to the people there, do ya get to meet anyone?
TT: I met Emmylou Harris that night, that is like the keyboard solo of my life. After that it was just all downhill from there.
AD: (laughing)! Ha! Yeah right, I think you’re saying, “I’ve done it all.” right? Wow, Emmylou Harris is amazing.
But Dylan’s not there, right?
TT: No he wasn’t there, it was just a celebration of his work.
AD: Genius lyricist. I know you guys have said that when you do his songs, you’re experiencing the genius of it.
TT: That’s what our whole "Say" video is about, it’s like "Subterranean Blues," the cue cards. "Say" is a nod to him.
TT: A very specific nod to him.
AD: So now, weeks ago you did a halftime show for the Titans vs. the Ravens. It looked like nobody was there, was that weird, was anyone there?
TT: Nobody was there, just the film crew. We realized it was going to be that way ahead of time. I think we prepared ourselves.
AD: Yeah, it is strange seeing football these days with half of the people are hardly anyone in the stadiums.
TT: It was still cool to be asked to do that.
AD: You guys look like you were having a great time. Growing up, were you into jam bands, or Grateful Dead?
TT: I love the Dead. I got into a little bit more Reggae than traditional jam bands. I was also big into singer/songwriters of the 70’s, like Jim Croce, Bob Dylan, Donovan. Donovan is one of my favorites. I think I just kind of scoured through my parents’ record collection. I discovered a lot of music there.
AD: How are they when they go to your shows? What do they tell you, do they like it?
TT: They are big fans, they have a good time.
AD: That's great! I wanna talk about the covers you guys do. How you can be creative within doing someone else’s tune. Who is singing when you guys do “Killing In the Name Of?”
TT: That’s Spenser.
AD: It sounds kick ass, I loved it. Do you guys still do it live?
AD: I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it is kick ass. You guys, your musicianship, it’s amazing!
TT: I do some singing now and again, too, as well.
AD: But see, everyone already knows you sound great.
AD: “Too High,” has been number 3 and it was in the JEEP commercial, what does that tune mean to you guys?
TT: I thought it was a great tune to lead with a lot of people to be introduced to the band, because it is about coming together, and unity.….
AD: You seem like a positive person. Are you the main guy who writes the lyrics?
TT: We all share the duties, and it depends on how we each present stuff to the group, and how it has to be created, or finished.
AD: What else is up the pike for you?
TT: We are just trying to draw attention to the new album, Silver Dream, which dropped on Friday. The official video for “Say” is coming out on that. We want people to go check that out.
AD: This has been fun! Would you ever do “Hometown Heroes” on ukelele?
TT: Yeah, that would sound great on ukelele.
AD: I’d love to hear you do that.
TT: Well maybe when you come out to a show, we will do that on ukele.
AD: Oh, man! I’d love that! Excellent. You guys have to be on our show that begins in March, when we do the Tru Rock Revival show out of the new studio, OK?
TT: Sure thing, we'd love to. Thank you so much.
AD: Thank you, best to you guys.
Abbe Davis, Editor / Musician
Abbe Davis is Editor of TRR. She is also co-MC of The Tru Rock Show, and singer/songwriter of the Hard Rock band, Sordid Fable. She has done Blues/Rock shows alongside legendary Blues artist, Buddy Guy. Her past includes writing and performing standup, opening for Otto and George. Abbe's other passion includes interviewing musicians, promoting bands, and supporting Rock Music. She is currently recording with Sordid Fable for their album release in 2021.