By, Kelby Zendejas
New single, “Carry On, Carry On” just released
Happy Landing, an alternative folk band originating its roots in Oxford, MS, is full steam ahead as they are about to embark on a national headlining tour in the United States starting fall of 2023.
The story starts with five Ole Miss college students all sharing a dream. How they’ve managed to garner a mass amount of fans, hundreds of thousands of listens on music streaming platforms, and now a new national headlining tour is a story in itself.
Of course, they’re only “Just Kids at Heart.”
Oxford Magazine introduces the five-band members: lead-singer and acoustic guitar player Matty Hendley, bassist, pianist, and lead-singer Keegan Lyle Christensen, bassist, electric guitar player and vocalist Wilson Moyer, drummer and newly wed to Keegan Lyle – Jacob Christensen, and Oxford-native fiddler, mandolinist, and backup vocalist Andrew Gardner are the brains behind this operation.
The band made waves as they finally got to take the home stage of the famous Double Decker Arts Festival last April, slotting the first spot on the grand stage and letting Oxford know that their home and community is the reason for this band’s inception and much-deserved growth.
The band also earned its reputation to finally take on another one of Oxford’s music venues, The Lyric in March of this year.
With music pulling from influences of indie rock, punk, bluegrass, and lots of folk roots, fans have grasped onto the feelings of nostalgia, nature-loving, and adventurous attitudes that exudes from the band members themselves and not just from their music.
An ensemble of best-friends hitting the stage and performing from their own energies is what sets this band apart from any other live band performances we’ve seen in Oxford.
“Playing live music is one of the most fun things on the planet,” Gardner said. “I think people see that when we’re on stage together. Something that I’m really proud that we do is we try to show you how much fun we’re having. We want the audience to have as much fun as we do. And frankly, the audience won’t have fun if we don’t.”
Fans for Happy Landing are called, “Happy Campers” due to the music being categorized as “canyon rock” – the kind of music that makes fans want to join a car ride to a new place or share a picnic outside on a sunny day. These feelings are essentially what the band wants people to feel when listening to their buoyant, yet insightful songs.
“The genre of ‘canyon rock’ even embodies that spirit of true Americana influences,” Hendley said. “When people come to our show and listen to our music, we want them to encounter real life. The reality is life has a bunch of ups and downs, but there can always be joy found in it. That’s what really is the nuance of ‘Happy Landing.’ It’s meant to make you feel good, but it doesn’t mean that everything’s perfect all of the time.”
Starting off, the band played their first few shows during the COVID-19 era at Oxford’s Proud Larry’s music venue. After years of spreading word and getting on as many stages as they possibly could, they’ve paved a path to scoring a new touring agent, several fall, summer, and spring tours, and now an upcoming EP for fans.
Happy Landing currently has two released EPs, the first being birthed to the world in 2020 titled, “Just Kids at Heart”, and the second being self-titled as “HAPPY LANDING”, that made its debut on streaming services in 2022. Spotify added one of the band’s singles titled “October” to a new music playlist and added an extra 900,000 listens. Their most recent single titled, “Carry On, Carry On” came to fans in March of 2023 in honor of their newest EP coming in May of 2023.
Hendley, the humbled mastermind behind the band at its beginning, was interning at 60 Minutes in New York City where he wrote the band’s first single “She’s Got Brooklyn.” Knowing his love for journalism was still in his heart, there was another pulse beating to find his spotlight on the stage and share the music he’s always wanted to create.
Coming back to Oxford after his stint in New York City, he knew the moment to create Happy Landing was now. He had finally found the recipe for the band’s success – adding the Christensen’s, Gardner, and Moyer.
“I hope you have a happy landing,” a phrase that became the inspiration behind this band’s name and overall persona, came from a longstanding family value. Hendley shared stories of the land his grandfather owned and called, “Happy Landing” due to his time in the military.
The band actually spent time there writing songs for their newest EP.
How this name reflects the band itself is interesting for some of the members, stating the name reflects their own individual positive personalities, but also what happens when they turn the knobs up to 11 at performances. That’s where the magic of this band’s name lives – tangled within their own excitement, affection for each other, and their undeniable love for music itself.
To Gardner, the name can be a fixture of irony, yet truthful to their nature as people and artists.
“For our name, we have “Happy Landing” but sometimes we’re playing really aggressive music but also keeping this positive folk thing going,” Gardner said. “It feels layered and intriguing, and almost ironic at the same time. We have fun exploring that.”
The Recent Tour
As for performances, the band’s shared their music in cities such as Chicago, Nashville, Charleston, Denver, and other major cities. The energy at every show is definitely the most notable – sometimes they even dress up in astronaut spacesuits and Hendley told Oxford Magazine that they just got new ones.
Whether fans see Gardner shredding a fiddle or Christensen slamming the drums, the Happy Landing crew knows how to bring all of the vibes to a live show and always leaves fans with huge smiles and pulses racing.
The quintet has been on the road for the past several months, embarking on a huge minivan adventure throughout the U.S. Shared stories from Jacob Christensen and Gardner about their accidental boat trip around the entirety of Chicago or how they watched a rocketship take the sky in Cape Canaveral, have put the entire experience into perspective for them all.
Although they are rocking the stage most of the time, the band also wants to be friendly faces and owes much of their success to God, the Oxford community, their friends, and their supportive families.
For them, there’s too many names to mention for how grateful they are. To those they’ve borrowed a night’s worth of couch space on the road, the owners of the music venues in Oxford, all the way down to the people they’ve met along the way, Happy Landing expressed so much gratitude.
“I do believe in divine providence, and I would have never thought I would be doing this, not making hardly any money as a 24 year old,” Hendley said. “There’s just been so many things that didn’t go the way we thought, but went way better than we could have ever imagined. Wherever this road takes us, we’re going to follow it.”
With much deserved recognition and success happening already, this is just the start of what the band plans to do. Whether it’s crossing “State Line” (s), jamming in the fall of month of “October”, or “Shakin’” their instruments on stage, the Happy Landing band definitely wants fans and family to know that they “Love Your Guts.”