In Conversation with Town Meeting

Massachusetts indie folk-rock band, Town Meeting, noted for rousing harmonies and waves of positive musical energy, have shared the stage with Bob Dylan, Tancred, and Third Eye Blind. They’ve just dropped the track “New Hamsphire” from their soon-to-be-released EP, Geography, Part I and will be touring the Northeast this summer before putting out Geography, Part II in the fall. Recently the band’s vocalist, lyricist, and left-handed rhythm guitarist, Luke Condon, took the time to answer our questions about the band member’s musical backgrounds and what brought them to where they are now.

Describe your background. What role did music play in your childhood?
My brothers and I (Luke) grew up in the church. Our dad played guitar and lead worship since forever, so I’m sure that had some kind of influence on us. As kids, most of the music my brothers and I were given came from a Christian bookstore. The first CD I ever got was Much Afraid by Jars of Clay. I no longer have all the same beliefs I had back then, but that CD still holds up. Just good music. Good writing. I loved that. I still listen to it. Music was also a way to connect with people. It was common ground. Always has been. I think That’s still one of my favorite things about it.

Did you have any special vocal or other musical training?
No. I mean, I think we all took band in middle school but I don’t think that counts. Tim may have. I’ve never asked him, but he’s ridiculously good at any instrument with strings. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had lessons.

What or who in your musical training had the most?and best?influence on you, creatively?
Again, no real musical training, but I will say that our middle school band teacher, Mr. Tree, was a pretty solid guy. I played alto sax from sixth to eighth grade and my self-esteem was pretty nonexistent, but I remember him being very encouraging. I couldn’t read music (still can’t) to save my life, but after a while I was able to play the songs just by hearing them a few times. He definitely tried to get me to learn to read music, but he made me feel like I was gifted or something. Like music was something I could pursue if I wanted. He was a good dude.

What was the most mesmerizing musical experience of your life?
Oh man, what a question. I’m sure all the guys have all kinds of takes on this, but since I’m the one answering the questions I’ll give you two stories. My favorite band is Dawes. I was probably 25 the first time I saw them and they blew me away. When they sang “A Little Bit of Everything” I saw an old man as close to the stage as he could get singing along as loud as he could with tears in his eyes. And when they sang “When My Time Comes” I remember screaming out the chorus with everyone else in The Royale. Although I’d been writing songs since I was 12, this was the show that made me really want to do something with it. In fact, that show was basically the inspiration for our song “Rest Of My Life.” I guess my second favorite musical experience was the first time we heard people singing along to songs we wrote. It’s a pretty incredible feeling, one that hasn’t gotten old yet.

Tell us about the Boston folk scene right now. Is it particularly vibrant these days? If so, why do you think that is?
The local music scene in Boston, and really all of New England right now, is filled to the brim with incredible talent. Tigerman Woah, These Wild Plains, Darlingside, Julie Rhodes, The Ballroom Thieves, the list goes on and on and I want to name so many more. we’re honored and humbled to be a part of it. My Spotify playlist is made up of mostly my friends, either from Boston or Portland or New Hampshire.

How did you come up with your band’s name?
I think we all like the idea of community. Of neighbors helping neighbors and sitting around a fire and wiffleball games in the street. Caring about and being there for each other?that kind of a thing. The name “Town Meeting” kind of means that to us, I guess. Small town. Home-grown. A good blend of the old and the new. That sort of thing. Plus every town has a town meeting, and usually hangs a sign that says “Town Meeting,” so I guess That’s kind of a free advertisement?

Has anything funny or bizarre ever happened to you while creating or performing Geography, Part I?
The first song, “West of Seattle,” was recorded a day after it was written. It wasn’t even supposed to be on the record. Tim, Brendan, and I were hanging out waiting for Dean and Russ to get to my house to rehearse, and I was just sort of messing around with different chord ideas when Tim and Babe starting playing along.

All of a sudden we were like, “this could be something.” It was all really organic. When the other two showed up they jumped right in with different ideas and we all knew immediately that it needed to be on Geography: Part I. It’s one of my favorite songs we’ve written and we wrote it as a band, which always makes me happy.

What do you like best about the new EP so far?
Everything. It’s got a few brand new songs as well as a few our fans are already familiar with. Recording them was a great experience, both in Boston and in Maine. I’m psyched our good friend Hannah Daman?one of my favorite singer-songwriters out of Portland, Maine?was able to sing with us on “Every Song.” And most of all, I’m happy with the response thus far. The few people we’ve shown these songs to have told us nothing but good things.

What’s the story behind “New Hampshire?”
We all grew up in and around the granite state. As kids, we used to vacation up at Lake Winnipesaukee and North Conway. When we first started playing music, like any band, it was tough finding places to play, especially because we did original songs instead of covers.

Not exclusively, but New Hampshire venues were some of the first to take a chance on us. The Fitzwilliam Inn in Fitzwilliam comes to mind immediately. It was one of the very first places to email us asking us to come play, and now they’re like family. You remember those places as you get bigger, you know?

And It’s not just the smaller places. Our first pretty major gigs were in New Hampshire opening for national acts at The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom and The Bank of New Hampshire Pavillion. we’re still massively grateful for getting those opportunities. “New Hampshire” was a fun way to honor those venues?the big and the small?and especially those fans who took a chance on us and were there in the beginning. And relax, Maine and Massachusetts. I know you guys were there, too. You’ll get your song eventually.

What’s going to be in Geography, Part II?
You’ll have to wait and see.

What conditions do you require in your life in order to go on being creative?
Staying creative is really just staying observant. Trying to see all the different angles of a thing. That’s important, too. And always writing. I used to carry a small notebook everywhere I went. It’s since turned into an iPhone but the idea is the same. don’t stop writing. The good shit and the bad shit. All of it. Even when You’re not feeling it. Sit down in front of a good fresh blank page and start typing. It’s important.

Are there any books, films, or albums that have deeply influenced your development as an artist?
Nothing stands out and everything stands out. I love Neil Young. He usually gets me in a writing mood. So does Dawes and Patty Griffin. And Derek Webb. And John Lennon. And Ben Folds. And David Bazan. And probably a thousand others. We also read a lot of Stephen King. Probably too much. I’m sure that sometimes subtly sneaks into our songwriting.

If you had an artistic mission statement, what would it be?
I’m not sure how to answer this question. I guess based on conversations we’ve had as a band lately, maybe something like this: Stop being afraid.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.
Geography: Part I this summer and Part II in the late fall. We also do a Town Meeting podcast and acoustic one-on-one sessions for our Patreon subscribers. Our patrons are immensely important to us as a band, so we’re happy to give them all kinds of extra content.

Do you have anything else to add?
Yes. Fargo is the best show on T.V. right now. Also thanks for the interview! It’s been a pleasure. I think everyone is going to really fall in love with Geography: Part I. we’re very proud of it.

Wanda also writes the blog The Mindful Bard:The Care and Feeding of the Creative Self.