20:20 — 20 Questions, 20 Answers

Published August 13, 2021

In part 40 of our continuing Q&A series,

Tenth Mountain Division —a five-person band creating diverse music from Colorado—

joins us to share about gracefully accepting a compliment, their new album Butte La Rose, playing a unique show in Nashville, and more.

Tenth Mountain Division creates a potent alchemy with their music—mixing sounds, pushing boundaries, embracing fun, and exploring heights of possibilities akin to the mountains of their home. Their fusion and lively drive combine to make them a unique force.

Tenth Mountain Division consists of Andrew Cooney (bass, lead vocals, backing vocals, guitar), Tyler Gwynn (drums), Winston Heuga (mandolin, lead vocals), MJ Ouimette (guitar, lead vocals, backing vocals), and Campbell Thomas (piano, organ, synthesizer, lead vocals, backing vocals).

Welcome, Tenth Mountain Division, and thank you for joining us.

~ NoteWorthy Music

Tenth Mountain Division | Photo by Mountain Trout Photography
Tenth Mountain Division L-R: MJ Ouimette, Tyler Gwynn, Winston Heuga, Campbell Thomas, Andrew Cooney | Photo by Mountain Trout Photography | All photos courtesy of Tenth Mountain Division

20:20 with Tenth Mountain Division

NWM 1: Please introduce your band, briefly, as musicians and humans of Earth.
MJ Ouimette: Tenth Mountain Division is an alien meteor sent to earth wielding a composite of volatile musical chemicals: gripping original compositions that are both toe-tapping and derivative of the universe.

NWM 2: Tell us about the origin of your band’s name.
Winston Heuga: Tenth Mountain Division is named after the legendary WW2 infantry that was trained in mountaineering and high alpine warfare. Back in the 1960s, members of the original infantry Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton founded my hometown Vail, Colorado. The band name is a tribute to our hometown and an homage to those that founded the roots in Colorado that we are so deeply tied to.

Tenth Mountain Division is an alien meteor sent to earth wielding a composite of volatile musical chemicals. ~ MJ Ouimette

NWM 3: Name three things that make you smile.
Winston Heuga: Dogs, accomplishing your goals, and overly charismatic gas station employees.

NWM 4: Your third full length album Butte La Rose was released June 18, 2021. Please tell us about this new album and what makes it special.
Campbell Thomas: Our third album is the most work we have ever put in an album. The amount of time and effort we put into developing these songs are much greater than any album we worked on in the past. On this album, particularly, we got to work with our first producer. We had the privilege of working with Tim Carbone from Railroad Earth. His input was great in developing our sound and allowing us to properly put our songs out into the world.

Tenth Mountain Division | Butte La Rose

NWM 5: Where were you and what were you doing when you realized COVID-19 had just changed your life as performance artists?
Winston Heuga: I was skiing at Beaver Creek and the resort employees told us we had to leave the mountain because they were shutting down due to COVID. It was quite the wake up call.

NWM 6: What is a favorite of your songs? Please tell us a little bit about it.
Andrew Cooney: My favorite song off the new album has to be ‘Sad Summer.’ It’s so different from anything we’ve ever done and really came out differently than I ever expected. It reminds me of Ween meets the Beach Boys. … (Ever heard that in the same sentence?) I like it so much that it’s been in my recent searches on Spotify since it came out.

NWM 7: Who might we be surprised to find on your playlist?
Winston Heuga: Dua Lipa, baby
Tyler Gwynn: Lightning Bolt
Andrew Cooney: Etta James

The act that played before us was a man in a skeleton costume playing a saw. ~ Tyler Gwynn

NWM 8: Share about your local music scene in Colorado and what you like most about it.
Andrew Cooney: The Colorado scene is like no other. The musicians, the club owners, the patrons, and the venue/atmosphere have managed to create a space where everyone is welcome and supported. You can find amazing talent any night of the week at a multitude of unique and exciting places. It’s a very big family, and we are extremely lucky to be a part of it.

NWM 9: What are your before-you-go-on-stage rituals?
Tyler Gwynn: The whole band will do a big huddle while cheering ‘T.M.D’—often finding other words that start with those letters resulting in some fun and ridiculous chants prior to performance—’Tasty Minestrone Dish’!

NWM 10: What comes to mind as an unusual or weird show you played?
Tyler Gwynn: One of our first tours we got booked to play a DIY venue in Nashville. We had no idea what we were walking into. We showed up to someone’s house, and when we walked in we found that they had gutted their living room and turned it into a full venue with a stage, lights, and sound. The scene there was pretty different from what we were used to seeing. For example, the act that played before us was a man in a skeleton costume playing a saw.

Tenth Mountain Division | Scott Seifert Photography

NWM 11: Tell us about a particularly memorable or rewarding experience of your career so far.
Tyler Gwynn: One time we played a festival with Randy and Mr. Lahey’s Cheeseburger Party (from Trailer Park Boys). Lahey left early, but Randy stayed and drank all night with us. To this day, we could mention any and all artists we have played with, but no one makes people more excited to hear about like Mr. Lahey and Randy.

NWM 12: What in particular fuels your inspiration? Tell us about your space or what is most necessary for writing and creating your music.
Andrew Cooney: I personally have taken a ‘don’t force it’ approach. If I find myself in a rut, I just try my best to go experience, well, anything. Go to a show, go camping, go rafting, eat an amazing meal, meet new people. I pull inspiration from everyday life and find things that I think everyone can relate with. Sometimes I don’t write a song for weeks, sometimes I write three in a day.

People don’t have to be nice to you or support your craft, so when they do, don’t be a d*ck [self-censored]! ~ Andrew Cooney

NWM 13: Strangest road story?
Tyler Gwynn: My mom might read this, so I’m gonna skip this one.

NWM 14: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that you actually follow?
Andrew Cooney: Someone once told me to always take people’s compliments with a smile. Even if you feel down or like it wasn’t your best show, you can really ruin someone’s day/vision of you or your band with negativity. People don’t have to be nice to you or support your craft, so when they do, don’t be a d*ck [self-censored]!

NWM 15: If you could see anyone from throughout history perform who would it be?
Campbell Thomas: Donny Hathaway.

NWM 16: What message, if any, is integral to your work?
Winston Heuga: Everything in moderation, including moderation.

Tenth Mountain Division | Photo by Mountain Trout Photography
L-R: Andrew Cooney, Campbell Thomas, Winston Heuga, Tyler Gwynn, MJ Ouimette | Photo by Mountain Trout Photography

NWM 17: What is a unique trait or quality that sets your band apart from the crowd?
MJ Ouimette: We have four songwriters and four leads of a five person band. Some fans enjoy watching us because of the diverse styles of music our various writers and singers will prepare for the band.

NWM 18: We often ask: Apart from live music, what are you most looking forward to when things return to ‘normal’? And though we are interested in this answer, we would like to get a sense of what feeling you are getting now playing music in your area—are things beginning to return to normal with a continued element of caution or is everyone openly embracing freedom with a general feeling of being ‘over it’?
Winston Heuga: I’m looking forward to seeing people’s smiles. People look more like themselves when they smile. Their eyes have been quite lovely this last year, but smiles have a big impact on the world and how it interacts with you and vice versa.

Smiles have a big impact on the world and how it interacts with you and vice versa. ~ Winston Heuga

It definitely feels as though people are ‘over it’ here, but depending on the situation, I’d happily put a mask on if the people I’d be with would feel more comfortable. A lot of my close circle and I are vaccinated so I’ve been comfortable returning to normal life.

NWM 19: What is one thing you would want our readers to know about you that we might not know to ask?
Andrew Cooney: I think one thing that we don’t really talk about but is just sort of understood among ourselves is the desire to continue to sort of break the mold. It’s really easy for people to throw a band in a box and hold them there in their mind. We are always evolving as people and musicians and hope that we can be successful while continuing to push ourselves.

NWM 20: What’s next for Tenth Mountain Division?
Winston Heuga: Touring this new album cross country!

My favorite song off the new album has to be ‘Sad Summer.’ … It reminds me of Ween meets the Beach Boys. … ~ Andrew Cooney

Tenth Mountain Division

Tenth Mountain Division

Colorado-based band Tenth Mountain Division is pushing the sound found in the mountains in bold new directions with their high-energy electro-acoustic sound. With Producer Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) at the helm, the band recorded their third studio album, Butte La Rose, with engineer Todd Divel (Hard Working Americans, Fruition) at Silo Sound Studio.

Tenth Mountain Division is built upon the long-friendship of mandolinist Winston Heuga and guitarist MJ Ouimette. The two first met and started playing music together in high school, eventually landing at the University of Colorado in Boulder together where they formed Tenth Mountain Division as an acoustic trio. Over the next few years they added drummer Tyler Gwynn and keyboardist Campbell Thomas. Soon after their debut album (Cracks in the Sky) in 2016, the band’s lineup solidified with the addition of bassist Andrew Cooney and so did their sound: a high-energy fusion of roots-inspired, southern rock boogie that heads into uncharted territories.

This is elevated even more with all members sharing in the songwriting, vocals, and arrangements. The band is named in honor of the famed military unit, the 10th Mountain Division, the WWII pioneers of mountain combat who founded Vail, Colorado, and many other ski areas across the country.

To learn more and buy stuff, visit https://tmdtunes.com/

You may enjoy our previous 20:20 with Mackenzie Shivers

Also from Colorado 20:20 with Daniel Rodriguez

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