Interview By Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor
What happens when you mix music with military service? BLUE MOUNTAIN TRIBE, a tremendously talented band that is reaching international audiences. Motivated by a strong message, a mission to serve others and stirring songs, this great Native Band is poised to make a mark on the music scene!
DK: You ROCK!!! Will you
please introduce yourself to us? What do you want us to know
BMT: We are “BLUE MOUNTAIN TRIBE” Indigenous Blues/Rock band Out of Edwards AFB. We represent not only the Dept. of Defense, but also our Indigenous Veterans and “Wounded Warriors” through retired Sgt. Robin Hairston on Harmonica, who was also a 1st Responder to Hurricane Katrina. Caleb Hairston, on Lead Guitar is a person with AUTISM and ADD who wants to represent not only our Native Youth, but with special emphasis on our Native Youth with Disabilities, so they may redefine themselves in this world by their “ABILITIES”. Caleb not only arranged all music on the new album “ALL OUR RELATIONS” but is also its “Executive Producer” and is the youngest civilian ever hired by the Dept. of Defense at Edwards AFB. Both Caleb and his father are Chiricahua Apache.
DK: You embrace your Native culture and Identity in every aspect of your
life and it shows in your positive attitude and uplifting tunes! Tell us about your journey in
BMT: Each of us had our own individual experience. For Robin, the start came at the age of 13 when his mother bought him a used harmonica out of an old thrift store. For Caleb, he walked into his now “mom's” house for the 1st time at 12 and went straight to the corner where a guitar was, picked it up and played the whole song “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath on 1 string. Paris (now MOM) stated, “I didn't know you played guitar?” He replied, “I don't.” I asked him when he had learned to play and he said he hadn't ever. I asked him when he had been around guitars and he replied, “NEVER.” I told him “Congratulations…you just got your 1st guitar” and bought him a wall chart of chords telling him when he knew all those chords I would get him lessons. He had the chart memorized in less then 2 weeks!
DK: Wow! Truly inspiring!
BMT: Vocalist Joseph Sandoval (Pascua Yaqui) has spent the better part of his life singing to his wife Saundra. He lives to sing, help others and ride that HARLEY! We were tipped off that there was this “BIG YAQUI INDIAN” that sings a mean Karaoke, when we asked who it was, it turned out to be our own neighbor…WHO KNEW! He was fantastic!
DK) Sounds meant to be! Since you've been performing, what are some of your favorite
accomplishments? Please give us the highlight
BMT: BLUE MOUNTAIN TRIBE is proud to have played for many charitable events including “BAGS FOR KIDS” “THUNDER ON THE LOT”, “INDEPENDENT LIVING OF KERN COUNTY” sponsored by the Mayor of Bakersfield & Senator Kevin McCarthy and are more then proud and honored to be “Doing for The Greater Good.” Since we have spent the better part of the last year working on the material for our latest album entitled “ALL OUR RELATIONS,” we do hope to have some video very soon. The CD itself, was solely written and arranged by Caleb himself with all lyrics written by his father, Robin. Recorded at the world famous “Studio City Sound” by Grammy award winning Tom Weir, who is the engineer of the stars having recorded legends like Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, and Kelly Clarkson, to name a few. “ALL OUR RELATIONS” is already acquiring an international listenership and is being played in Rome, Italy.
DK: Thrilling! What does being Native mean to y'all, especially as you are achieving international renown?
BMT: It permeates every aspect of our life and it is who we are and what we are of. It comprises our passion for our history, which reflects in our music. For instance, some songs may reflect certain rhythms we incorporate from Drum circle, or we may write lyrics that take us back to a point in time that is monumental to us and the people, things only other “NATIVES” can relate to, but all people can empathize with. It paints a picture of our struggles, pain, & triumphs. We suffered a lot of pain, but we have made many triumphs also and we need to celebrate them!
DK: I agree! We need to show the positive side of our wonderful Native lifestyle! What do you hope your music does in the lives of your listeners?
BMT: First, we hope to prove to the people that we are still a “VIBRANT ESSENTIAL” People with a strong culture, proud traditions, and cultural values that are still essential and integral parts of our lives and cultural identities as a people. Also, to prove to our “WOUNDED WARRIORS” that there is life after war and to pursue your passion, which will get you through it.
BUT MOST IMPORTANT is for all our Native families that have a member struggling with any disability to know that THEY ARE RELEVANT and VIABLE Contributors to society and that they CAN redefine themselves by their “ABILITIES” through Caleb Hairston, a person with Autism and ADD. He is the youngest civilian ever hired by the Dept. of Defense at Edwards AFB, where he works along with his father and drummer Pat Mata (Northern band Chumash-Yokuts). All three take their service to their country very seriously. Bassist James Bixler (Cherokee-Scotch) has spent a good portion of his musical life mentoring youth through music, education, and love of the Arts.
DK: Such a powerful message, especially for our youth! What do you want to share to uplift our young people today?
BMT: It is NOW, more then ever, essential for our YOUTH to realize that they need to embrace their “INDIGENOUS ANCESTRY” for the sake of their own self worth and for the continued existence of our people. It IS cool to be ‘”WHO YOU ARE” and to embrace it fully, learn your traditions and values and continue to hand them down. This is how we “HONOR” all the ancestors that paid the ultimate price for our very existence today. We must “HONOR” their sacrifice, made for our sake. They fought hard, suffered greatly, and sacrificed so much just so we could continue. And Continue we must.
DK: Well said! Challenges and obstacles come to all of us, and it seems that your group is no exception. How did you find the inner strength to press past problems and to achieve your dreams?
BMT: Years of trials & perseverance and a lot of time to finally find the “RIGHT” group of Brothers that all believe in the same thing, playing good meaningful music and doing what we can when called upon to help. There is NO ROOM in BLUE MOUNTAIN TRIBE for personal agendas or egos. We answer to our CREATOR.
Most important to achieving your dreams is being dedicated to your craft but not to the point of selfishness. The most destructive is thinking that it's “ALL ABOUT YOU” because it isn't, it's about “THE PEOPLE” and their struggles and bringing them into the mainstream of a Nation that has ALWAYS been theirs to begin with.
DK: Powerful words! Very inspiring! Now, that you're inspiring others, who inspires you?
BMT: First, we have to acknowledge the fact that if it weren't for Tom Bee and the Band XIT, we wouldn't even be doing this interview. They were a monumental inspiration and literally were the sign in the fork in the road that pointed our direction. They were monumental. Then, there are beautiful people like Gary Moore, Eric Clapton, Paul Butterfield, Little Walter, Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamasa, Charlie Musselwhite…the list of consummate artists goes on. They have been the conduit for Caleb's talent and drive.
DK: Speak to somebody reading right now who wants to follow their dreams. How would you encourage them?
BMT: You must be patient, passionate and persistent. You can't be “Allergic” to the word NO. Just take it as meaning you have more work to do and keep moving forward.#1 is “BELIEVE IN YOURSELF” and be passionate at what you do or it will never happen.
Do not allow yourself to be taken for granted. If it doesn't feel right in your gut, don't do it. Never take someone's word for anything. Always do your homework and do not leave your “affairs” to someone else. Get legal advice, don't be afraid to pay for it, it may save your butt!
DK: Yes!!! Great wise words! What would you like to tell us about your band that we might not already know?
BMT: That our first love is “THE PEOPLE”. First and foremost. That we hope to show all our Indigenous youth it is time to come home! It is COOL TO BE NATIVE and COOL to show it!
All five members are proud and honored to represent not just their own individual Nations but all 500+ Nations of the Americas and Pacific Islands and Australia. All who have “HONORED” us with their following…we hope to make you all PROUD because we LOVE YOU ALL!
DK: Thank you so much for your service and Thank you for sharing with all of us!
BMT: Thank you. Feel free to find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bluemountaintribefanclub and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/blue_mtn_tribe and visit our website at http://bluemountaintribe.com/ !