A little more than three years ago, Grantsville country band Kindle Creek wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Their then-band name — 40 Days — was something most people told them they didn’t like, they practiced in their drummer’s basement and they hardly knew how to set up a stage for a performance.
But Kindle Creek has come a long way since it was first formed in the spring of 2009. Although the band still practices in their drummer’s basement, they’ve learned the ins and outs of how to create an award-winning band, and in a few weeks, they’re headed to a competition that could garner them some national recognition.
The competition, called the Texaco Country Showdown, has been around since the early 1980s. Country greats such as Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley, Martina McBride and Tim McGraw gained their legendary statuses by competing in the showdown over the past few decades.
Kindle Creek won the local and state levels of the competition over the summer, and on Nov. 10, they’re headed to Coos Bay, Ore., to compete against five other acts in the Western Region for a chance to compete at the national competition in Nashville, Tenn., in January. The Western Region will consist of other bands or soloists from Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. Whoever wins the regional competition will compete against the four other regional winners from the Midwest, Southwest, Southeast and Northeast Regions at the national level.
If the band wins the regional competition, they’ll get an all-expenses paid trip to Nashville to compete at the national level. If Kindle Creek wins the national competition, they will win $100,000 and get the exposure they’ve been looking for.
“Probably everyone who’s ever won it has gotten a record deal out of it,” said Dillon Hurst, a Stansbury Park resident and lead singer and rhythm guitar player for the band. “That exposure and the history of the contest and the quality of people that come out of it is just amazing.”
The four other band members that make up Kindle Creek are Grantsville resident and drummer Bryce Jensen, Grantsville resident Joseph Shumway, who sings back-up vocals and plays the violin, fiddle, mandolin and keys, Murray resident Mical Bracken, who plays bass guitar and sings back-up vocals, and Midvale resident and lead guitarist David Crowley.
Hurst, Jensen and Shumway are the three original band members. They were individually asked to perform at the Tooele County Fair in 2008, and after listening to each other perform, decided to try doing something together. They’ve been inseparable ever since, and along the way have added their additional band members as well as Salt Lake City resident Ian DuClos, a Grantsville native, as their sound technician.
Hurst said the band has talked about entering the Texaco Country Showdown for a couple of years, and this year finally decided to bite the bullet and enter. The two songs they performed that helped them win the state level — and $1,000 to help them get to Oregon for the regional competition — were an original song the band wrote called “Jump” and a cover of the song “Fishing in the Dark,” which was originally performed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
“I think ‘Jump’ has a lot of energy and it’s an upbeat song,” Hurst said. “The song is about my dad, [Tooele County Commissioner] Jerry Hurst. It’s a bunch of sayings he used to say to me when I was a kid. The whole band has put together the instrumentation and music to it. We came up with a song we’re proud of and the crowd really gets into. The cover song we did, ‘Fishing in the Dark,’ had our own Kindle Creek spin on it. We used some of our genius to make it unique.”
Shumway said it took the band a while to realize they had won the state competition after their name was announced.
“It took a little bit to sink in,” he said. “It’s validating. We’ve known we’ve got something. We’re thrilled to even be considered for the [regional] competition.”
Although this is the first major competition the band has entered, the members of Kindle Creek are no strangers to competition. They’ve entered several online contests and also vied for a spot to perform at the Stadium of Fire in 2011 for the Fourth of July. The band did not win the competition, but they credit the experience for giving them much-needed exposure.
“We were amazed at the exposure you get,” Jensen said. “We’re hoping the same thing results from this competition. Exposure for any entertainer is huge. This is going to be worth it.”
The band sticks to a country sound with a bit of a rock twist, said Hurst.
“The sort of sound we have is really popular right now,” he said. “But we have a unique spin on what we do.”
Jensen said even though the band sticks to country music, the band members’ different backgrounds help to create their unique sound.
“We come from varied influences,” he said. “I was a passionate country hater for a long time, but I had a friend convert me. I bring a more rock background. Joseph is classically trained, and Dillon is full on country — but he did sneak some Kiss into his house when he was a kid.”
The reason the band’s name was originally 40 Days was because when the band first formed, it literally rained for 40 days while the band held its first practices, Jensen said.
“We had a different band name before and no one ever liked, so we decided to change it to something fresh,” Hurst said. “We all made a list of possible band names. We had hundreds, but 95 percent were already other band’s names. Kindle Creek is a hybrid of two names we liked. Kindle has to do with fire and starting something new and fresh. Creek came from Willow Creek, which is Grantsville’s original name.”
The band has released one album and has recorded a total of nine songs. Kindle Creek’s album is available on iTunes, cdbaby.com and amazon.com.
The band members agreed that picking a favorite song is like picking a favorite child. All of their original songs are written by Hurst, Jensen and Shumway. They pull from their personal lives and experiences.
“We have a song called ‘40 Days.’ I was in a meeting at work that was quite boring so I wrote out the lyrics and realized it was cool,” Jensen said. “I showed it to Joseph and he had a tune for it. Then Dillon said he had a bridge for it and all of a sudden we had a song. It took everybody’s little piece to put it together.”
The creative process for the band mates is usually fairly simple, but occasionally working together can get tough when someone gets writer’s block or they get stumped in the middle of a chorus.
“Sometimes it’s easier to break apart and come up with things on our own,” Hurst said. “We have a friendship and work ethic that works well together.”
The band members understand that family is important — and because they are all married with children and have full-time jobs — they make sure to put their families first. The band only practices together once a week in Jensen’s basement, but sometimes the practices last until midnight or 1 a.m. because they also understand how important this competition is and what it could do for them if they win.
“There’s a pretty long line of people who’ve gotten famous from being in the competition,” said Shumway. “It’s the largest country music talent search around.”
Hurst believes the band’s confidence is sitting where it needs to be to win the competition.
“To have something we created hit the charts and have the world hear it — that would be amazing,” he said.