Matt Homan and Bryan Moore fulfilled a dream when they formed The Haybalers.
They had played rock 'n' roll and other types of music over the years, but they both wanted to try something different. Once they started playing together, they couldn't stop.
"We always talked about how fun it would be to play bluegrass," said Homan, who plays guitar and shares singing duties with Moore. "We didn't really know if we should do it or who we would do it with. We just kind of found ourselves in the middle of it all of the sudden. We've been at it ever since."
The Haybalers will play the Great Blue Heron Music Festival this summer. The band began as a bluegrass act, but has since found a more comprehensive sound.
After some lineup changes, stand-up bassist Dylan Derby and fiddle player Stan Barton joined Homan and Moore, who also plays guitar and banjo.
"We've been fortunate to find different musicians who had been playing for a long time and were better than us," Homan said. "They really pushed us. Every time we would lose someone, we'd find another guy who was just on another level than we were. We'd find someone a little better than the last guy, and that really pushed us along. We learned a lot from everyone."
With a slot on The Great Blue Heron Music Festival coming up and a host of original music at their disposal, The Haybalers hope to land more festival gigs this summer and in the future. The band and local musicians Amanda Barton, Warren Sischo and Dan Shanahan have contributed to tracks on Homan's solo album, which he started when Moore moved to Colorado for a year and a half.
The CD, recorded in Frewsburg with Joe Glarner, will be the first studio recording of any kind for the band.
"I had high expectations for it, but it's turned out better than my expectations," Homan said. "It's something that I'm definitely going to be proud of. It will be the best recording I've ever been a part of. It's all my own songs, which makes it kind of nice."
Moore and Homan have created 20 original songs for The Haybalers. The band breaks out the songs throughout its three-hour sets, mixing them in with covers. The Haybalers play bar gigs at venues such as Pine Junction and Southern Tier Brewing Company, occasionally booking private parties and weddings.
Those who check out The Haybalers this summer will hear more than bluegrass. The band likes to experiment.
Sischo, who plays steel guitar, occasionally joins The Haybalers for gigs.
"That's been interesting to have the steel guitar, because it's not really a bluegrass instrument," Homan said. "We've added some different sounds. We started with real traditional bluegrass. Now, we're working in some more honky-tonk, Western swing-type stuff like some old Hank Williams, George Jones and some old country era-type stuff."
The Haybalers also play contemporary bluegrass and rock covers. Moore often comes up with suggestions of non-bluegrass songs for the band to cover.
"We started playing 'Hard to Handle' by The Black Crowes," Homan said. "We kind of do it in the bluegrass style, but at the same time, we try to keep the rock 'n' roll part of it too. It definitely helps for people who don't know much about bluegrass. You play one of those songs and they say, 'I can relate to that.' We're trying to get more songs like that."
The Haybalers used to play 1980s hit "Money for Nothing" and has considered breaking the song back out.
Despite their interests in other genres, The Haybalers still enjoy playing bluegrass.
"I like the harmony singing a lot," Homan said. "I think it's a lot of fun. If you listen to the words, bluegrass is pretty sad, but the music, especially with that banjo, is really kind of happy. So I always say, 'Life's hard, and life's sad, but it's going to be OK.' There's a lot of hope in it."
"Backstage Pass'' is a feature of The Post-Journal showcasing local artists, their music and their accomplishments. Send recommendations for future "Backstage Pass'' subjects to Scott Shelters at email@example.com or call 487-1111, ext. 253.