The return of live performances to Boulevard Music continues this weekend, as bluegrass-come-classical band the Miskey Mountain Boys bring their talented selves to Culver City. One of the Boys, who in fact isn’t a boy, Michelle Lynskey, spoke to the CCN about what we can expect…
When did the band form, and when did it get serious?
Michelle Lynskey: The original band formed in 2012 I believe. I was working as a show director at Disneyland and one of my shows was the well loved group, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Given what amazingly talented musicians these guys were, I was honored to be asked to direct this show. While there were many talented members that made the ensemble special, the Marshall brothers were nothing short of genius. They wrote and arranged all of the show’s quintessential numbers, including “Fiddles Gone Wild” and “The William Tell Overture,” which Evan performed in the Golden Horseshoe more than 10,000 times. And like he is fond of saying, “all in one night”!
We’d been playing together for a couple of years from 2012 – 2014, but when Disneyland decided to close the Billies down in 2014 to make way for the new Star Wars Land, we decided to make it a more formal group. So John, Evan and another Billy, Duane Michaels, and I branched out, created all new arrangements and included some of the well-loved showstoppers from the Billies to create the Miskey Mountain Boys.
Describe your sound…
Well, it’s really a blend of everything we like. We have driving Bluegrass tunes, straight ahead Jazz standards and well known classical symphonic pieces. We lovingly call it Classgrazz, which is a combination of those three musical genres. We really like to take tunes from any genre and “Miskey-fy” it, making it our signature sound. For example, we blend George Gershwin’s classic opening and closing themes from Rhapsody in Blue, with a classic bluegrass tune called Old Joe Clark, and call is Rhapsody in Bluegrass. You might not think they work together, but they do! They’re all shades of the same music. Classical music has long been stylized instrumentations of folk tunes. Bluegrass, Irish and Jazz all have common threads that have been passed down along the generations. We love bringing these many musical styles together in one show. It certainly makes the evening interesting, as you never know what’s next!
What are your career highlights so far?
While we have many concerts we have adored, our three stand outs would be: The Laguna Festival of the Arts / Pagent of the Masters, The Ace Theater in Downtown LA, and the Bluegrass BBQ at the Laguna Live Arts Festival. That was the show that changed my mind about this band. It was outdoors, in a huge canyon and we played to a standing room only crowd. It was 2 hours of pure joy! That’s when I realized our camaraderie on stage traveled so much farther than I thought it could, permeating throughout the crowd and bringing the audience on stage with us to share in the delight of our music. I knew that night our music wasn’t just special for us…. we had something special to share with our guests!
Besides playing together, our bandmembers have been in national touring shows, played at the Hollywood Bowl, performed in the Pacific & Pasadena Symphonies and appeared in numerous television and film scores. I’ll often brag about my bandmates to industry folks, who say, “yeah, I’m sure they’re great.” Then I play a track of live music and their eyes light up. “These guys are the real deal!” is what I hear the most. Yep. They are. Not to be missed.
Do you have any recorded music available?
We do. Our first Our first CD, entitled, Miskey Before Breakfast, is available on iTunes, Amazon and other places. It features the original line up with Duane Michaels and is a more traditional bluegrass / jazz instrumentation with mandolin, fiddle, guitar and of course, bass.
We have a second CD that is moments away from being finished. We recorded it prior to the pandemic which is why it has taken us so long to mix and master it. Our original CD title was Miskey No Chaser, but since it’s taken years to finalize we’ve thought of making the title This Darn Album. That way, when we’re in interviews, and people ask about our new release, we can say, “Well, this Darn Album took us years to complete, but we’re really proud of THIS DARN ALBUM.” I think it’s much more fitting!
That being said, Miskey No Chaser includes the newest additions to our band – cellist Debbie Kollgaard and banjo player, Andy Rau. So it’s definitely worth the wait. Keep an eye on our website and facebook page for more info!
Have you performed at Boulevard before? Any memories?
Many times. I think as the Miskey Mountain Boys, this is our fourth time. But Evan and John have performed there multiple times across the years.
Favorite memories? The audience for sure. I always adore the audiences at Boulevard Music. They’re appreciative, open, engaged, and receptive. It’s a band member’s dream come true! As the bassist, I never wanted to be the front man for the band. I’m actually quite reticent when it comes to being on mic. I don’t think I’m particularly funny, but gratefully, the audiences at Blvd always make me feel like I’m doing a great job!
What can we expect from the set this time?
High energy music, exceptional performances, laughter and joy.
What else do you have coming up?
We are booked at the Alhambra Center for Performing Arts on Oct 15, and the Coffee Gallery Backstage is trying to get us in twice before the end of the year. Once for sure depending on our schedules. Keep an eye on the website for more info. We’re back again for the Laguna Festival of the Arts, main stage. This will be our third year in a row, which I understand is unusual for local groups. But apparently, we have a big following down that way!
We’ve also worked up two new pieces which are full Pops orchestrations. They sound amazing and we’re going to be premiering them soon!!!