On first observation, one might think that Sean Mahoney is simply moonlighting as a guitar player in several Telluride band configurations, including Alan Booradley and the NIA. Others might know him as a devoted dad and husband with the typical story that his family moved here for a year and stayed longer than expected.
But the more I’ve gotten to know Mahoney, the more I’ve learned about this multifaceted guy. He’s not only an insanely talented musician, but also a composer of musical theater, soccer coach and DJ. (He DJ’ed a killer dance party in the SHOW Bar after the balloon drop on New Year’s Eve this year.)
I’ve been trying for a couple offseasons now to get him in this space, and here we finally are.
Kathrine Warren: What first brought you to the area?
Sean Mahoney: I first came to Telluride in 2003 to play a solo gig at Brown Dog (now Floradora) and attend Blues & Brews as a guest of former locals Sean Tannehill and Mike Frasier. A big crew of skiers and friends from my home area of the Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire, had migrated here in the ’90s and I loved it instantly and always remembered how special it was upon returning to city life.
KW: What made you decide to stay?
SM: After almost 10 years in New York City, my wife Emily suggested a year out of the hustle and after a short negotiation/snake draft (Her-Chicago, Me-Galway) we settled quickly on Telluride as the perfect spot for a year (now four years) away with our two kids.
KW: What is one of your earliest musical memories?
SM: My twin brother and I fell asleep nightly to DC Superhero Book and Records, as well as the late-night creeperfest of Dr. Demento from a faded signal out of WTOS in Skowhegan, Maine. I also loved the 8-track of “Barry Manilow Live” a lot. Oh, Mandy.
KW: What is your instrument of choice?
SM: I love a Steinway Piano any day of the week even though I’m no Elton John, but my Fender Stratocaster through a vintage amp turned way up is still tops. I’m currently “learning” both fiddle (yikes) and dobro (getting there very slowly).
KW: What is your day job?
SM: I work mostly remotely in a variety of musical idioms. Mainly, I write music, book and lyrics for a variety of rock musicals and traditional/historical musical theater. Most recently, I co-wrote a show about the Industrial Revolution called “Factory Girls” that will have its world premiere in Tokyo this September, and my more “local” piece about the origin of Butch Cassidy, “The Invincible Three,” will be performed as a radio play (graciously supported by Telluride Arts) here in town Oct. 25-26. I also DJ professionally all over the U.S. and play guitar and sing in a few bands for fun as well, and I coach the U10 boys team with Brendan Clarke for Telluride Soccer Club.
KW: What is your favorite thing about playing music?
SM: Whether it’s a long-term friendship or someone you’ve just met, music can cut to the chase pretty quickly personality-wise and in many nonverbal ways. It’s still the best way to make friends that I know. I wandered into the old open mic at the Moon my first week here and met two of my main musical compadres, John “Sully” Sullivan and Wyatt “They Call Him WyGuy” Listrom. Soon enough, through them, I met everyone and it’s been a consistent blast ever since.
KW: What is your dream gig?
SM: Town Park with hula hoopers breathing fire while a 20-piece orchestra plays haunting yet intensely metal ski rock out of “Mad Max Fury Road”-sized amps to a crowd of grazing, uncaring elk and confused coyotes.
KW: What is your all-time favorite album?
SM: I have a few that still rotate but some in the top ten would be Beach Boys “Pet Sounds,” the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album, the soundtrack to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” The Allman Brothers Band “At Fillmore East,” De La Soul “3 Feet High and Rising” and The Byrds “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo.”
KW: What is your most treasured possession?
SM: Spiritually, the love of family and friends. Materially, this past winter, it was my amazing, responsive and versatile custom Wagner Skis (Thanks, Pete).
KW: What is your motto?
SM: Wear A Helmet, Look Uphill And Put The Bar Down, Kids, This Mountain Can Be Dangerous When School’s Out.
KW: What/who inspires you?
SM: A night of crazy snow followed by the hoots and hollers of happy skiers; a full, sweaty, diverse dance floor; my kids’ singing in the car when they think I’m not listening; Sunsets above Wilson; My mom.
KW: What did you want to be when you grew up?
SM: Half the skier and person my dad was (I’m maybe about halfway there).
KW: What album are you currently listening to?
SM: Mostly the new Kasey Musgraves album and I’m with Her back and forth. Also the classic Charlie Daniels Band. “Fire On The Mountain” has been working for me this spring.
KW: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
SM: Fifty people in my kitchen, with my wife Emily and I on guitars, singing along to songs we all love, with people we love, here in paradise.
KW: What artist is your guilty pleasure?
SM: I love a lot of new, squeaky EDM-y pop in the car and I crank early Indigo Girls up like Tom Cruise in “Risky Business” when I’m home alone. My twin busted me singing into a hairbrush to Mandolin Rain” in the mirror in eighth grade, and I still love that song, too, even publicly now.
KW: What is your ultimate road trip album?
SM: Either The Meters “Live On The Queen Mary” or Widespread Panic “Everyday.”
KW: What genre of music do you most enjoy playing?
SM: I love playing and writing country, rock, soul and blues, but I love playing hardcore funk the most. In the style of Funkadelic, Curtis Mayfield, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Zappa is where I prefer to lodge on stage.
KW: What artist would you most like to share a stage with?
SM: Globally, I want to play “Let Me Roll It” with Macca or “Brown Sugar” with the Stones. Locally, I think I could nail that little harmony in that eggs and pancakes song by Jewel.
KW: What was the first concert you attended?
SM: Weird Al Yankovic at the Hampton Beach Club Casino. “Eat it, eat it, eat it
Get yourself an egg and beat it.” Genius.
KW: What was the first album you purchased?
SM: I saved my lawnmowing money and rode my Huffy three miles to Kmart to buy “Freeze Frame” by The J. Geils Band on tape. “My blood runs cold.”