Country cover band Hillbilly Thunder recently played their first gig and hopes to incorporate original music in their sets soon.
Country cover band Hillbilly Thunder recently played their first gig and hopes to incorporate original music in their sets soon. (Submitted)
Band: Hillbilly Thunder

Members: Ryan Moody, lead vocals; Duffy Morehead, keyboard; Dick Rohrbaugh, drums; Mike Sanders, bass; Brad Sneeringer, lead guitar

Who we talked to: Moody, 21

How long have you been performing? I've been into music for a while now. I really didn't get that heavy into it until last year with my old group. Then I started playing more and more acoustic (songs), and that's when all of my original stuff came out.

Who are your influences? A lot of my influences came from country music. (I listen to) a lot of guys like Jason Aldean, Alan Jackson (and) way back in the day George Strait. There (were) a lot of people that I could look to. In today's music, I look at Chris Daughtry and (people) like that (and) how they can take their kind of Southern style and make it their own. That really appeals to me a lot as well.

Is your acoustic music influenced by country, too? Right now, I'm going back to country with my new band . . . Hillbilly Thunder. We (had) our first gig (May 15). It's a few guys out of the Hanover/Spring Grove area. They've been playing for years (and) really know what's going on with the music business. They're helping me make a name for myself, and I'm helping them make a name for the band. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'll keep doing my acoustic stuff on the side, and eventually I'll take some of that acoustic stuff and turn it into some of the band's music.

How did you come up with the name? We were sitting at practice one day, and we needed a new band name. We wanted to do something with "hillbilly" and to kind of give it some kind of plug. We came up with Hillbilly Thunder because when you think thunder, you think loud; you think power. (We) have that rock-type edge to it.

Have you guys written any original songs? We're working on it. Right now, we're kind of focused on doing the whole cover thing. Down the road, we will start incorporating some originals in just to give the show a little bit of a new flavor. In our catalog, we have a lot of old songs . . . mixed with a lot of new songs. A lot of them are Top 40 on the radio right now, for example "The Truth" by Jason Aldean. We go all the way back to play "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash.

Have you seen a lot of changes in country music over the years? Absolutely. If you go back 10 years ago . . . you had guys like George Strait and Alan Jackson (who) were still dominating the country charts with, you know, their old-school twang feel. Now you've got guys like Dierks Bentley. They're rocking out a little bit more, but it's still a country flavor. It has the crowds going. If you look at . . . groups like Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift . . . you might even hear on pop radio.

Where are you looking to play in the area? We just got a promo pack done. We're sending them out now. We have a demo out now that we sent to all the clubs and all the agents. Down the road, once we start getting our originals in, I definitely see recording those as a possibility. Our first gig (was) at the Littlestown Eagles Club. Then we have another gig that's coming up that's in Virginia. We're looking to play a big area for country music.

Is summertime a good time for country music? Summertime is probably the best time to start. Hopefully . . . the sun's either out or it's warm outside. People want to come out and watch a band play or just come out and have a good time and that's what we're here to do. We're here to entertain them.

What is your biggest challenge? I think one of the big things is that you all have to be on the same page. There has to be a market for your music. (The market for country) is there. You just have to find it. You would hope (bars) want to open up their variety. Boondocks (Club) . . . wants to start looking into a . . . country-bluegrass type of thing. I think it's a great idea because there is not much (country) around here in this particular area. To have some of those all-ages venues . . . kick in with country . . . may actually turn out pretty well.

You seem to be a big Jason Aldean fan. Are you going to see him at the York Fair? I've got front-row seats for that show. He's one of my favorites. I've seen him quite a bit, and he never lets you down.

- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF

On the Web

For details about Ryan Moody's acoustic project, visit www.myspace.com/rjmoodymusic.

To read more meet-the-artist interview, visit www.flipsidepa.com/musicdirectory.