photo: Jeff Fasano
Man About a Horse plays traditional bluegrass instruments, but not always traditional bluegrass. The Philadelphia-based group infuses their sound with rock and pop references, funk grooves, and blues roots. They won the 2018 FreshGrass Band Award and were also nominated for an IBMA Band Momentum Award in 2018.
Man About a Horse’s first full-length album debuted at #11 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart in 2017, earning praise from Bluegrass Unlimited, British Bluegrass News, and others. The band notched its first position on the Bluegrass Today radio chart in 2018. They’ve performed at festivals and in venues around the U.S., sharing the stage with Old Crow Medicine Show, Cabinet, Danny Barnes, Hot Buttered Rum, Wood & Wire, Donna the Buffalo, and many more.
A chance meeting and discovery of a shared love of bluegrass by co-founders Matt Thomas (bass) and Matt “Roy” Royles (guitar and vocals) led to the formation of the band in 2014. In addition to Thomas and Royles, Man About a Horse is: Dan Whitener (banjo), Matthew Hiller (mandolin), and Eric Lee (fiddle).
Matt Thomas, Bass
Matt grew up surrounded by music. His uncle and grandfather both played guitar, and his parents introduced him to music festivals at an early age. He joined his elementary school band as a clarinet player, and picked up the bass in 7th grade when everyone else was playing power chords on their electric guitars. He’s been the consummate sideman ever since, playing stints in rock, country, funk, and hip-hop groups before reconnecting with the upright bass and focusing almost exclusively on bluegrass.
Matt “Roy” Royles, Guitar
Matt is a New Englander with deep family roots in the great state of Maine. He grew up in a musical family heavily influenced by his grandmother, who played stride piano and organ. He began singing, playing guitar, and writing songs in his early teens, and was later introduced to bluegrass music in high school. He studied music theory and guitar performance at Bates College, and also sang in the Bates College Deansmen, one of the nation’s oldest a cappella groups. After co-founding Man About a Horse in 2014, Roy found himself immersed even more deeply into the Appalachian music genre and its traditions.
Dan Whitener, Banjo
Dan grew up in the historic bluegrass town of Washington DC, listening to his dad play mandolin and guitar from the time he was born, and joining him when he was old enough to thump a bass fiddle. Dan pursued two music degrees from Bard College and the Bard Conservatory, studying with banjo masters Bill Keith and Tony Trischka while receiving a thorough grounding in classical vocal technique, choral conducting, and a full range of American music from jazz to popular song, opera, and neoclassical composers of the 20th and 21st century. Since graduating, Dan has toured internationally and across the country with Gangstagrass, with whom he continues to perform when not touring with Man About a Horse.
Matthew Hiller, Mandolin
Although he studied guitar and music theory as a child, Matthew is primarily a self-taught musician. In his 20s he switched over to the drumset, before becoming deeply involved with bluegrass mandolin in his 30s. He has done stints as a sideman on guitar in gypsy jazz and Texas swing bands, on drums in classic country and jazz ensembles, and on clawhammer banjo in old-time ensembles. He has also dabbled in metal. Before moving to Philadelphia and joining Man About a Horse in 2016, Matthew founded and performed for seven years with the Scranton, PA-based Coal Town Rounders, gaining a large regional following in the Eastern U.S.
Eric Lee, Fiddle
Some kids want to grow up to be a firefighter, an astronaut, or batman. Eric grew up wanting to be Vassar Clements. A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Lee has enjoyed a unique career, having accompanied such notable artists as Pete & Maura Kennedy, Peter Rowan, and Eric Andersen, among others. He has worked in musical theater, has appeared on numerous recordings, and has been a member of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s house band for over a decade. As a solo artist, Lee has shared the stage with acts including Della Mae, The Gibson Brothers, Yarn, and The Quebe Sisters.