This Sunday at Telluride Ski Resort, you are going to have an “I saw them when” moment. An example of an “I saw them when” moment would be seeing U2 in Dublin in 1977, the Talking Heads at The Rhode Island School of Design in 1976 or String Cheese Incident at Swede Finn Hall in 1995.
Some day you’ll be saying, “I saw The Commonheart at Telluride Ski Resort in 2018.” Jereb Carter, Telluride’s own local music production guru, has created a few memorable “I saw them when” moments in town himself. Carter brought Nathaniel Rateliff and The Avett Brothers to town well before those bands broke out nationally. And Carter feels The Commonheart may be his “I saw them when” Telluride trifecta.
Carter is as good a musical talent handicapper as I know. He was the road manager for Galactic before anyone knew the difference between the band and a spiral nebula.
Carter calls The Commonheart’s sound a combination of Rateliff and Bob Seger. “They’ve got back-up singers and horns. It’s a nine-piece band. You can expect a big soulful sound.”
After speaking with Carter, I went to YouTube to check out The Commonheart. After an hour of listening and watching the band, I wouldn’t bet against Carter’s predictions of future success. And the videos average around 10,000 hits. If The Commonheart were a stock, I’d be buying.
The Paradigm Agency, the largest and most influential booking agency in the country, just signed The Commonheart, becoming the majority stockowner in The Commonheart. Colorado’s own Madison House, which got its start in Telluride in the mid-1990s, manages the band. In short, The Commonheart is ready to make its move. Paradigm is likely putting a hold on a Red Rocks date for 2020.
The Commonheart is Clinton Clegg (vocals), Shawn McGregor (drums), Ava Lintz (bass), Mike Minda (guitar), Jess Hohman (flute, vocals), Mikey DeLuca (guitar, vocals), Crystal Morgan (vocals) and Buddy Rieger (organ).
Clegg looks like he could play defensive line for the band’s hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. He has been singing in bands in the Iron City since 2005. His soulful vocals recall Joe Cocker or the aforementioned Rateliff. He says his biggest influences are Al Green and B.B. King.
Before starting The Commonheart, Clegg was in a band called Backstabbing Good People that melded rock, blues, funk, reggae and hip-hop. The group broke up, and Clegg took drummer McGregor with him and formed The Commonheart in the fall of 2014 as a five-piece.
The band’s original guitar player Arianna Powell left shortly after joining to move to Los Angeles and pursue rock ’n’ roll dreams in the City of Angels. The Commonheart found her replacement in a 20-year-old ripper named Minda, who was working at a guitar store at the time. Minda spun heads with his dexterous chops. The band brought him on even though he couldn’t legally drink at the bars where they were playing.
“We were really excited to have him.” Clegg said. “Having a killer guitarist isn’t the first thing you think about when you think about a soul band. But it really adds a whole new layer and gives us this rock edge, which I really love having.”
Indeed, Minda gives The Commonheart a Jordan/Pippen kind of musical backcourt. Clegg unleashes his soulful growl and Minda follows with a fiery solo.
After a show last summer, Chicago’s Be in the Loop magazine said this of the dynamic between Clegg and Minda: “Clegg is one of those frontmen that once you started watching you just can’t turn away. He’s full of energy and charisma. … The lead guitarist, Michael Minda, was just as animated as Clegg and every bit as talented. When The Commonheart first went on, the dance floor was pretty scarce. It was early in the night so that’s to be expected, but after the first song ended, they came in droves.”
With Minda in the band, The Commonheart was a five-piece band, but they took it to the next sonic level and added backup singers and horns to create a nine-headed musical monster. And while the music explodes with nine members, the reality of having such a large band means less money per person, smaller per diems, and less room in the van.
“It’s challenging,” Clegg told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “but it’s also rewarding because we’re making the sound we want. The best thing about it is that we all really get along, it’s a good friendly group and everybody’s really focused on the project, and knows that quality comes before money. Being in a great band but taking home 30 bucks instead of 100 — that’s something everyone is willing to do, which is great.”
For Clegg, it’s all about putting on a great show. “People enjoy the songs and that’s cool,” Clegg said, “but we’re here to put on a show for you. I want to be all over the stage. I look at artists like James Brown, Mick Jagger, people like that, they’re putting on a show, and that’s something that I’ve really embraced over the life of this band.”
Local musician Cousin Curtiss starts off the festivities at Heritage Plaza (the base of Lift 4) at 1 p.m., and make sure you’re there at 3 p.m. for your “I saw them when” moment.