Mockingbird: Frisco's Next Big Thing
One day we were tossing names of musicians into a hat for a drawing. It was preparation for the first Whistlestop Jamboree and, in particular, one of its events which was a twisted musical experiment we wanted to try: randomly assembled "scramble bands" whose task was to write a few songs and put on a half-hour performance at the festival. Stacey Shope was at the table to help with the drawing of musicians into their respective bands.
Now, Coach Shope, in addition to her work at Frisco High School, has many years of songwriting under her belt, and performing them from atop a stool. In fact, she's gained a few kudos from some of KHYI 95.3FM's songwriter contests. So, with a bit of arm-twisting, she finally agreed to allow us to add her name to the hat. Little did we know something extraordinary was about to hatch.
Playing her tunes within the context of a full band whet her appetite for a bigger stage, a wider range of frequencies, and new directions for her original songs. Eventually, a perfect storm of sound was assembled, and even included three other musicians who'd also been a part of Whistlestop Jamboree Scramble bands through the years.
Well, at last, with Matt Hinchey and Stacey's brother, Phil Shope, on guitars, Pete Duncan on keys, and bassist Bryan Bentley and drummer Ben Wade tucking it all in to rhythm, Mockingbird is getting ready to take flight.
I had an opportunity for some Q-and-A with Shope and Hinchey, as the band prepared to be featured on the main stage at this year's Whistlestop Jamboree on October 19th.
BROOKS: Give us the gist of your band's sound and style - your elevator pitch.
SHOPE: Sure. It's Rock n' Roll filling in a folk blues pie...with a soulful side of Honkeytonk!
BROOKS: Who are some artists/bands that inspire your sound - those who, if our readers enjoy, would also enjoy your music?
HINCHEY: Led Zepplin (All of it!), The Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers time frame), Fleetwood Mac, Black Crowes, Kentucky Headhunters, AC/DC, BB King, Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Derek Trucks, Little Feat, Blackberry Smoke, & Pearl Jam.
SHOPE: I think we have a melting pot of sounds. But personally, the Black Crowes were a big influence as far as what I dig in a band.
BROOKS: Four of the six of you have been in Scramble bands at our Whistlestop Jamboree before. So, can you briefly tell us about your personal experience with that?
SHOPE: Initially I was terrified. I had never done anything like that before, so it was a first. Opened my eyes to possibilities of what could be. I felt really fortunate to have been with some crazy talented musicians.
HINCHEY: As for me, Scramble bands were short drummers that year, so I volunteered with a little nudge from my wife! I hadn’t played drums in years, so I was super nervous about sitting
behind the kit again in front of a crowd. So glad I did! I had such a great time getting to
know folks I didn’t know, and hadn't played music with prior. It was a fun challenge to bring
people together and create music from nothing. Bonus: It was real cool to see the
locals show up in support of such a crazy music experiment.
BROOKS: How did Mockingbird evolve from this experience?
HINCHEY: The first year of Whistlestop, Pete got drafted into Stacey’s scramble band along with the great guitarist David Wilson. From there they created a band called Sister Grove. The following year they were a feature band on the main stage of Whistlestop. At some point the group ended up needing to take a hiatus. When it was time for them to get back into music again, Stacey reached out to me and asked if I had anything going on. I gladly accepted.
BROOKS: Describe your creative process with songwriting, from its beginning to when it is
SHOPE: The creative process of the band I would say is organic. In the beginning, I had a batch of songs that I've had for a while and brought to the table. The fellas have taken them into their gentle and sometimes rock fueled hands and run with them. They are beyond what I could have ever imagined. The musicality they add is still overwhelming for me at times. But all the while keeping in mind the intention and integrity of the song. We also get together for writing sessions. Some of my favorite tunes have come from just sitting around coming up with riffs and the adding lyrics. Nothing is forced, if it feels good we go with it. Beauty comes from vulnerability.
HINCHEY: All the players in the band are seasoned and versatile, providing our singer every
emotional outlet. This allows us to create a fun show musically, featuring our original
songs in a way that isn’t "Rinse and Repeat."
BROOKS: What are your thoughts on the music scene in Frisco? Is there a music culture here?
HINCHEY: I think Frisco is ripe for a scene. There’s original talent everywhere, it just seems awfully difficult to locate here in Frisco. I don’t believe it’s due to a lack of talent, rather, a lack of
venues not making local, original talent a priority. In DFW, we have bands like Buffalo
Ruckus, BJ Stricker & The Kings, 40 Acre Mule, and The Whiskey Prophets all doing
impressive work. It’d be hip to see any of them out at the bigger venues like Toyota Stadium
performing at a festival! I’d like to see our bigger venues take bigger chances on our
SHOPE: I think a culture is being developed. Encouraging people to get out to see live original music and giving them the opportunity to do so is important. Letting them know live music isn't just going to see a cover band.
You can keep up with Mockingbird's upcoming releases and activities at: www.mockingbirdlive.com. And be sure to catch them on the main stage of this year's Whistlestop Jamboree at the Frisco Rail Yard on October 19th.
Jeff Brooks is co-founder of The Frisco Music Scene and fronts the Dallas-area band The Bodarks.