The MountainCity Story, Part Two

This is the story of how a married couple became the singing-songwriting duo known as MountainCity, the band. Part Two.

(Denver, CO)  They might have ended up as 2-Story, because they are two people who like to tell stories. We could be learning about Count the Ways, because that sounded like a romantic love-song singing couple. But it also sounded more like a song title than a band name. So they passed on that. They even toyed with Together, because, they are. And there was a brief flirtation with Road Thirteen, the name of a road that runs through their north Metro-Denver community. But when Dave pointed out that it sounded like a perfect country-band name, Tara agreed and pulled the plug, then and there. Because they are more than country.

They are MountainCity, a married, singing-songwriting duo with a multi-genre style as varied as the peaks of the glorious Colorado Rockies. People have described their musical style as folk-pop with a scoop of country, a splash of EDM, and a generous sprinkle of soul. This modern, eclectic mixtape of-a-band is a self-contained playlist all on their own.

Screenshot from one of MountainCity’s Facebook Live broadcasts. Wednesday nights at 7:30pm MST

A quick look back

Last week we looked at the unlikely path that sparked Dave and Tara’s imaginations of maybe?…possibly?…one day?…what would it look like if they started a band?

From the “surprise” performance at an adoption advocacy fundraiser, November of 2013, to the Christmas show of 2014, Dave and Tara knew they were having a lot of fun. And that they found life in singing love songs with each other for audiences. They were beginning to realize how it impacted the people they were singing to, as well.

Dave and Tara were still a cover band then, and hadn’t even really started writing their own love songs. But they were selling out small venues as audience anticipation was growing. At the end of each concert, people wanted to know when and where they’d play again.

They called a series of concerts in early 2015 their “This is Love” tour.

2015 starts off with a bang!

Dave and Tara were asked to do about 4 shows at the beginning of the year. Those included another adoption fundraiser, and some Valentine’s Day related performances. They also did a big couples-only Valentine’s Concert in Boulder, February of that year.

They were covering bands and artists as varied as Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Lonestar, Elvis, Amy Grant, Michael Buble, Johnny and June and even had a Disney medley they’d throw into the mix.

But something was changing. They experienced a pivotal moment early in the year.

Tara recalls, “We were sitting in our garage and I told Dave, ‘We have to make time to write music.’ We had zero space for it in our lives right then. But I was really feeling it, like, I want to write songs.”

Dave was feeling it, too, so they sat right down in their garage and scheduled out a week each month to write music. April, then May, then June and onward – they were writing their first songs, ones like:

“A lot of great songs came out of those songwriting days in 2015. Really, all the songs we’re recording right now,” Dave recounts. “2015 was a major writing year for us and it started me thinking, what are we going to do with this?”

Secret dreams and sacred stories

It was around this time that Ken Janke, a friend of Dave and Tara’s, came to town and they attended his Story Lab. The website explains, “Story Lab is a facilitated weekend event to help you author the story you want to live. At Story Lab we help you discover how to create a vocation that is less about what you do and more about who you are…This workshop will help you begin to live your story and author your personal mission…”

This event ignited Dave and Tara’s thinking.

“It was an incredible process, “ Dave remembers. “By the time the weekend was coming to a close, we were answering the question, ‘Is there something that’s been hanging around in your heart, maybe something you’ve dreamed about in secret? Maybe it’s something you always believed you could do if you ever actually tried, but you haven’t had the courage yet to try?’”

Without hesitation, Tara shares how she responded. “My answer was about songwriting. It felt kind of ridiculous at the time because we had just started writing songs. But I said, ‘I secretly believe I can write songs that major artists sing.’ It felt so weird to say it out loud, it just made me giggle.”

Dave came up with two things. He says, “I secretly believed and had never tried these and was kind of freaked out to try. But I believe I can be mayor of the small town I live in someday…so I’ll probably try that when I’m like 60 or 65.”

“But secondly,” Dave continued, “I secretly believed that we could have a band that would be successful and create jobs.”

Tara was surprised by that. They hadn’t even really been talking about creating a band. They were just playing together as a couple when opportunities arose and were wondering what was next. But Dave says that Story Lab weekend turned a tide and they started dreaming more about having a band and thinking about what it would look like. He started trying to come up with band names.

And even though Tara was hearing all the band talk, she figured they’d never be a real band. She thought they would just keep singing cover songs, doing what they were doing.

What’s in a name?

For months, they talked about it, though. This was Dave’s dream, remember.

They discussed their values and tried to capture a band name that would express the fact that they were songwriters and storytellers, and that they sang love songs and told love stories. They went through an extensive thought process about creating a something that would express their values and capture the heart of who they were as a couple, and as a band.

By August, as they were driving through the Rocky Mountains near Winter Park, Tara suddenly realized, “We’re actually going to have a band.”

Soon she asked Dave, “What do you think about ‘MountainCity?’” He didn’t really care for it at all.

But she felt it covered all the bases: “We’re from Denver, we have the mountains just a few minutes away, and we love living in Colorado! We love the city and we love nature!”

It wasn’t long before Dave felt exactly the same about the name, MountainCity. “It felt like us. It felt timeless, classic, folksy. It was us. So we decided, that’s what we’ll be.”

The plot thickens

Once they decided to be a band and had a name, they started looking more closely at their why, their purpose. Using principles taught by Donald Miller (StoryBrand, Storyline), Dave and Tara knew they didn’t just want to record and sell songs.

When they sang love songs, Dave and Tara could see people’s hearts opening. They saw that their music had the possibility to inspire and reconnect people with what love really is, even if they’ve lost sight of it in their lives. And they observed that their music was bringing peace to people who were experiencing stress.

Love and peace became a personal, as well as musical, identity for MountainCity. But they also saw that people needed community.


“Using Donald Miller’s thought processes here,” Dave said, “we asked ourselves, ‘What does it look like to create a culture around our art?’” That’s what they set out to do.

The StoryBrand principles taught them how to build a platform that doesn’t just shine a spotlight on them and their music. They determined to create a culture of honor and kindness, generosity and good communication. And they committed to use whatever influence came to them as a band to shine a light on others, giving noteworthy artists and causes a place to be seen and heard.

As the year was winding down, Dave and Tara finally had a definitive answer to the question: What does it look like to have a band and live out our values? Now to tell everyone else…

A Colorado Christmas, 2015

MountainCity – It’s Official! 12/02/15

As they were getting ready for the annual Christmas show, Dave and Tara were at work behind the scenes with their good friend, Luke Bodley, creating a logo, building a website and getting social media accounts in place.

They walked into the sold-out auditorium on December 2, 2015 with a big surprise for the audience. They performed a couple of their original songs, including Dave’s “It’s Christmas Time,” and took a deep breath.

Dave and Tara announced they were becoming a band, and they would officially be known as, “MountainCity.” The news was met with cheering and applause.

A Colorado Christmas, 12-2-2015: MountainCity announced!

“It was a great night,” Dave remembers. “On December 2nd, we launched our band name, our social media accounts, and our first single, ‘This is Love.’”

“Even then, after we announced it, I still didn’t know exactly what it meant, or how we’d do it,” Tara reflects. “Even that exciting night, it was still an unknown – like a beautiful present waiting to be opened.”

Fitting, at Christmas.

Next week, we’ll look at 2016 up to the present and you’ll get to see what happens next. You’ll get a peek into how life looks for a married, singing-songwriting duo and band-in-the-making.

See part one HERE.


Dave would like to thank his sponsor Shubb Capos

Dave says:
“I’m blown away to be a part of the Shubb Family of Artists! I’ve literally had the same Shubb capo for over 20 years and it’s still rockin’! Serious quality! And, they are made in the good ol’ U.S.A.” Check them out!

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