Troy band headed to France

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The Copper Mountain Band hails from Troy but plays across the United States and this weekend will perform in France.

A look at the show listings on the Copper Mountain Band's website is a good indicator of how the Troy country band is holding on to its small-town roots while making a break for the wider world.

Today the band plays an acoustic set at rural Fair-Mont-Egan Elementary school east of Kalispell; the next gig is May 14 at the Salle de la Source in St. Cyr au Mont d'Or, France.

Lead singer Jacque Jolene has one idea why the four-year old band, which spends every weekend on the road and has been playing about 150 live shows a year, was recruited to play in France.

"A lot of people say you're high energy, that is what we love about you," Jolene said. "That's what we like to bring to the table: a nonstop, fun, young atmosphere."

A man in France was so taken with the YouTube video of the Copper Mountain Band's country-style remake of the Cher song "Just Like Jesse James" that he invited the band to play at his country club. He also had the connections to give the band four more shows during their three-week trip.

The video, which has drawn almost 140,000 hits, wasn't conceived as an international marketing idea for the band; Jolene said the band's web designer was fooling around with the band's camera, created a mock video and put it on YouTube as an afterthought.

"For some reason, people have fallen in love with the country version we created," Jolene said. "We get comments from people all around the world saying they like it.

"We look at it [the video] now and can't wait to be able to redo it."

It has taken more than a low-budget video to put the band where they are today.

From their remote northwest corner of Montana, the band members travel every weekend throughout the western United States. They started out in small bars and have worked up to fairs, festivals and opening gigs for major acts such as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Mark Chesnutt, Sawyer Brown and Emerson Drive.

Copper Mountain Band began four years ago with Jolene and her husband, Nate Norman, the band's bass player, pulling in his first cousins Israel David (vocals and guitar) and Shawn Tong (lead guitar). Casey Mann of Kalispell, on drums, ended up completing the group.

Norman and Jolene have two children; he is a real estate agent in Libby and she is a general manager for Copper Mountain Coffee. The cousins in the band grew up in Troy.

"Troy is not an ideal central location," Jolene said. "But we want to stay grounded. It's beautiful and we don't want to leave our home town, so we'll make the sacrifices of traveling long distances on the weekend."

Jolene, 29, said she has been singing since she was about 10, while her husband and his cousins were raised in a musical family. Mann was in the military for many years and used to play drums for the Blue Moon Band at the Blue Moon bar in the late 1990s. He now is devoted to music full time.

Mann said the band's current success has not been surprising.

"It's the right mix of people with the same goals, all trying to get somewhere with music other than just a hobby," he said. "It all fell together at just the right time."

Jolene believes the band's energy, the way they mix it up with a male and female lead singer, and their versatility have given them an edge.

"We keep it diverse, with saxophone and harmonica and young fresh faces, we play rock and roll, classic country and new country," she said.

The Copper Mountain Band's original music is strictly in the country genre, though, with Jolene and David writing most of the band's originals, with occasional contributions from the rest of the group.

The band has released one CD of original songs, and has gained airplay for "Just Like Jesse James" on radio stations in Idaho and Washington, with hometown support from Libby radio.

Jolene said that despite the many things holding them in Troy, including her own children, ages 6 and 1, the group is ready to spend more time away from home. They're even in the market for the quintessential band tour bus, she said.

"We just want to see if we've got what it takes, and would love to continue doing music as a career," she said. "We've given our booking agent the green light to go ahead. We can home-school the kids if we have to. We're going to go full forward now."

The Copper Mountain Band plays a free acoustic concert from 2:30 to 4 p.m. today at Fair-Mont-Egan School for the opening of a weeklong Hanna's Dream Art Drive.

Hanna's Dream is a nonprofit organization that collects art supplies to help children around the world heal from issues such as domestic violence, poverty, sexual abuse, low self-esteem and child trafficking. It was started in 2008 by Hanna May Cini, then 5 years old. She died on April 17, 2009, in a car accident.

Copper Mountain Band lead singer Jacque Jolene is a board member of the nonprofit, and the band wrote "Hanna's Song," which plays on the home page of the Hanna's Dream website.

Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at hgaiser@dailyinterlake.com.

 

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