I arrived in Bozeman on Monday morning, desperately needing sleep.  I crashed hard for 4 hours, then met Leif Christian for a late lunch – Leif was the Montana Groundbreaker this year, and also happens to be a close friend and musical mentor.  After lunch, and a brief stop at Peach Street Studios, we ended up at Music Villa (the best music store on earth.) There, we met music mentor Patrick Leonard (Madonna, Michael Jackson, Leonard Cohen, Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Jewel, Pat Monahan, Blue October and more.)  Patrick spent about ten minutes outside the local music store talking with us and a couple of other guys before leaving to a scheduled rehearsal with his band for Friday night’s show.  In ten minutes of casual conversation, I learned more about music and the process of someone great, than I had learned in the previous year of articles, seminars and workshops.

On Monday night, we played an open mic at the Haufbrau, and Jesse Barney and Grammy-winning engineer Doc Wiley, two of the partners at Bozeman’s Peach Street Studios, joined us to watch.  We talked from the mic about the upcoming groundbreaker showcase and HATCH.  Growing up, I played fiddle with my Dad in that bar.  It was absolutely unreal, being back under the circumstances.  After we left the Haufbrau, Leif and I went to a mutual friend’s house in town and ended up talking music and music philosophy until 3AM.  I left exhausted and reeling from the day.  The beginning of the actual HATCH festival was still three days away.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up after 6 hours of sleep to find out that I barely had time to get to the Music Business Panel at Montana State University.  I raced to get ready, and Leif and I arrived ten minutes late, relieved to find that it hadn’t started yet.

Doc Wiley moderated the panel and shared incredible insight about his vast experience in the business in the process (he has a Grammy and multiple platinum and gold records.) Larry DiMarzio, a true legend in music and music technology, told music war stories and connected them to what it means to be a musician today.  He was brilliant.  Paul Decker and Mike “Bueno” Good, owners of local music and record stores made great points about the differences they’d seen in music business over the years.  Patrick Leonard shared stories about writing and working with Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Pink Floyd.  He talked about the greatness of players like Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen (both of whom he’d worked with on multiple occasions) and why they were so revered and successful.  Ron Craighead, PD at KGLT radio, talked about the changes in radio over the years, and really made some brilliant points about professionalism and making great music.

When the panel ended, the inspiration continued in another room, in a more interactive setting.  There were brilliant answers to questions all of us have as musicians.  The answer to one question, often answered ten others.  I spent some time talking to the mentors individually after the fact.  There was something about it… these people were doing / had done a lot of what I dream about.  Particularly based on things that Patrick said, I really changed the way I thought about what I do in those 2 hours.  I wanted to spend 5 more hours alone, pouring my heart into a journal so that I could really capture and put together the pieces of how I was going to go forward from there.  I had arrived in Bozeman with the notion that I was kind of a badass.  I left the room that day feeling like a student… and I loved it.

There wasn’t any time for journaling.  The whole thing was moving too fast.  After the music business panel, we got a ride downtown for a “mentor lunch” at the Bacchus, a local Irish pub – a place I’d performed in last December on a visit to town.  There, we met many of the amazing HATCH mentors as well as Montana Highschool Groundbreaker, Courtney Yovich and her Dad Matt.  Before I’d even heard Courtney play, I knew I was in killer company.  Her Dad was the kind of supportive parent that every musician looks back and wishes they had.  He reminded me a bit of my Dad.  Courtney, Matt, and I talked great artists and songwriting while we waited for the rest of the crew to show up.  Once everyone was there, there were so many quick introductions, that I had half of my attention during the lunch on repeating names in my head, and associating names with faces.  I didn’t forget anyone.

After lunch, many of the mentors, and all three music groundbreakers boarded a bus to the Double T River Ranch where we had been invited to perform at the “Welcome to Montana” party.  While we waited for the bus, I ended up in a short conversation with a guy in a sideways hat.  He looked like a DJ.  It was Evan Twyford, a user experience engineer for NASA (Yes! He designs space ships) and a professor at the University of Huston.  He’s my age! He’s also a DJ and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.  Even the casual conversations were different and interesting.

At the ranch, I heard Courtney Yovich sing her original songs for the first time.  I was instantly humbled and blown away.  She’s 15 and in many ways, much better than me.  And yet she manages to avoid arrogance, and present herself with grace and a willingness to learn.  Leif, Courtney, and I played music on the lawn in front of the main building at the ranch against one of the most beautiful Montana backdrops I’ve ever seen… and I grew up there.

The party was actually fun (I don’t usually like parties.)  The conversations were consistently brilliant and exciting.  Everyone had an incredible story.  Gems of inspiration were a dime a dozen.

When it got to the introductions, I was really blown away.  Major movie producers and investigative journalists, Leaders in technology and architecture, a guy who’s actually an inventor for a living, forward thinkers in education and design, incredible social entrepreneurs, a former groundbreaker who now has a major career in documentary filmmaking, HATCH founders and volunteers, as well as the current groundbreaker for architecture.  About half way through I started wondering “what the hell am I doing here?”

The performance at the party was insane.  Leif and Courtney absolutely killed it!  Amazingly, after hearing us perform, a lot of these great men and women seemed to really respect us.  Maybe they just know how much it takes to create something, and it led to some sort of shared understanding.  We left the party with Jesse Barney from Peach Street Studios and Dodge Kramer, and in house engineer.  The conversation about music on the 45 minute drive back to Bozeman floored me.  I couldn’t get away from it.  HATCH was taking over my heart.

To be continued…