About the band
songs and stories from the north country.
Hailing from Minneapolis, Rocket Club is a band of seasoned songwriters and performers known for their unforgettable live performances, rich 4-part harmonies, and a catalog of songs that can boost your spirits, break your heart, and restore your belief in the connective power of music – especially music that tells a good story.
Listeners could describe Rocket Club as Americana or Country or Rock & Roll – or any combination of the three – and they would be correct. Across its 5 albums, the band has shown a consistent ability to avoid easy labels. Their song subjects are as diverse and surprising as life itself, drawing in listeners and fans from across musical categories. But Rocket Club’s sound can perhaps best be described by their signature song, North Country. It’s both a category of music and a library of life stories told from the unique vantage point of due north.
Formed in 2008 as a casual songwriting project among friends, the band’s first self-titled album immediately caught fire with fans who recognized the unique combination of hook-laden rock with the storytelling sensibility of great country music. Things accelerated quickly in 2009 when Rocket Club – as an unsigned independent band from Minneapolis – landed on the Country Billboard Charts with their single “One More Day.”
In the years that followed, Rocket Club achieved something that no other Minnesota band has before or since: three songs on the Billboard country charts, a large and loyal Midwest following, and the opportunity to share the stage with many of Nashville’s biggest acts – and all of it as an independent act that relied entirely on their own ability to write, produce and promote the music they wanted to make and to do it their own way.
In 2023, Rocket Club launched their first album, Come On Home, and their first tour since 2014, selling out venues and delighting fans that have been anxious to see their favorite band from the North together again on stage.
Rocket Club (From Left to Right)
Chris Hawkey - Vocals
Billy Thommes - Drums
Matt Kirkwold - Guitars, Vocals
Don Smithmier - Vocals, Keyboards
Brian Kroening - Guitars
Joel Sayles - Vocals, Bass, Guitars
The Back Story
The self-titled debut release, Rocket Club, introduces audiences to a country original. From the hard-driving energy of “Heart Won’t Stop” to the soul and poetry of “Holdin’ On,” founding members Don Smithmier, Brian Kroening, Chris Hawkey and Matt Kirkwold reveal a shared love of the songwriting craft and a gift for vocal harmony.
Two world-class players, Billy Thommes on drums and Joel Sayles on bass/vocals, join Rocket Club. In one of the first collaborations in its new formation, the band writes “One More Day” and stations around the country add it to their playlists in response to a groundswell of fan support. The song lands on the Billboard Hot Country chart for nine weeks, breaking the Top 50. The unexpected success caught the country music movers and shakers in Nashville by surprise, and they wanted more.
Momentum multiplies with the release of the EP American Serenade and the single, “One Thing Beautiful.” The band’s second nationally-charting country music radio hit spent 14 weeks on Billboard’s Hot Country chart. The success of that single sent the band across America playing live shows with some of country music's biggest stars.