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Q&A with 2019 Big Sky Big Grass performing artists



Big Sky Big Grass is a four-day bluegrass music festival from April 11-14. This year’s lineup includes regional acts such as The Lil Smokies and The Hawthorne Heights. PHOTO BY GABE PRIESTLEY


BIG SKY – After a day shredding the slopes of Lone Mountain, exchange your ski boots for dancing shoes for the 13th annual Big Sky Big Grass bluegrass music festival.

The four-day event from April 11-14 includes a mix of small-stage and large-venue shows at the Montana Jack, Chet’s Bar & Grill, the Carabiner Lounge and the Missouri Ballroom. The festival celebrates a ski season of fresh snow and live music.

This year’s lineup includes nationally recognized acts as well as regional bluegrass talent.

Before the festival, Montana-based The Lil Smokies and The Hawthorne Roots, who released their EP “On Second Thought” in 2018, spoke with EBS about their setlist choices, music style and what it’s like playing at the show.

Explore Big Sky: Why is the band choosing to play at Big Sky Big Grass?

The Lil Smokies: BSBG was one of the first festivals we were ever invited to and we somehow haven’t been back since. We thought it was high time we rectify this. The festival had a lasting effect on the band; we wrote a lot of songs that became our first album in a stairwell at that festival in the wee hours of the night.

The Hawthorne Roots: For the ski passes!

EBS:  How has the band’s Montana roots affected its style?

T.L.S.: There’s an easiness and sense of place, time and space that time spent in Montana renders; this all has permeated our attitude sonically and as a band.

T.H.R.: Our style is actually probably affected more by the fact that most of us aren’t originally from Montana. The band members are from South Dakota, New York and New Hampshire. Lucas is the only Montanan. But living in Montana, Bozeman particularly, has brought us all together. Bozeman’s music scene has a lot going on for being a relatively small community in the middle of nowhere. Living in Montana has certainly affected the songwriting, though. We live in a place that encourages time spent alone in the outdoors – the perfect environment for songwriting.

EBS: What are you looking forward to most about playing at Big Sky Resort?

T.L.S.: Being back in Montana and seeing a ton of our musical friends is a great way to kick off festival season.

T.H.R.: We are stoked to catch up with musician friends we rarely get to see. We’re ready to jam in the lobby y’all!

EBS: How does the band pick its setlist for shows, especially one like BSBG where there are multiple bluegrass artists playing, too?

T.L.S.: It all depends on how we’re feeling that day, the songs played the last time we were in the area and perhaps who we’re going to have sit in with us.

T.H.R.: Making a setlist is like making a playlist for someone you really care about. There is a lot of thought that goes into the order and song choice. We’re stoked we get two hours to play for everyone. We can really dig into our original material and have fun with the variety of styles we play. Really, when it comes to making a setlist, we think about the environment and our fans. What do they want to hear? We like playing all of our songs so we are happy no matter what. We’re thinking this is going to be a party set, so bring your dancing boots … or just rage in your ski boots.

EBS: What can we expect from The Hawthorne Roots at BSBG in the wake of your latest album release?

T.H.R.: We won’t say too much, but we are bringing a new sound. We have some guests lined up. This will be different than any other Hawthorne Roots show we have played before.

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