Finding Light in Dark Days

Kalispell natives release second album with their Minneapolis-based band Going to the Sun

By Maggie Dresser
David Young and Zach Young of Going to the Sun. Courtesy photo

When David Young left Kalispell in 1995 after graduating from Flathead High School, his older brother gave him some unconventional advice: Don’t go to college.

While David doesn’t pass this advice along to others, it worked out for him in the long run. He now lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Amber, where he moved 25 years ago to pursue a career in music. His band, Going to the Sun, just released its second album.

David and his co-band member, Zach Young (no relation), both grew up in Kalispell, and their band name pays tribute to their Flathead Valley roots.

“We aren’t related, but we might as well be,” David said of Zach.

The band name also gives them the opportunity to talk about their Montana home, and David says a surprising number of people in Minneapolis are familiar with the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

The band released “Love Letters from the Western Gate” this spring, six years after releasing its first album and seven years after forming Going to the Sun in 2013. David says “finding light in dark days” has been a central theme in the group’s music.

Album cover for Going to the Sun’s Love Letters from the Western Gate. Courtesy image.

“(The Western Gate) is a place that’s held separate by native Chumash people in California as this physical place where souls depart life and enter into the next realm after death,” David said. “So much of the album is about throwing messages to the other side of the Western Gate and listening to the voices from that other side.”

Before forming Going to the Sun, David played in a rock band for several years, but as he was experiencing a family tragedy, he redirected his energy toward a softer approach to music. His sister-in-law was killed along with her teenage son and unborn baby in a head-on collision in the Flathead Valley in 2009. The driver, Justine Winter, was convicted on two counts of deliberate homicide for causing the crash and sent to prison.

Following the tragedy, David used music as a healing tool.

“It was a cathartic part of how I was dealing with that loss,” he said. “I wanted to start writing songs that had a little more sensitivity that dealt with the complicated feelings that go with life and loss and the sadness of that, but also the celebration of life.”

In contrast to the rock band he formerly played in, Down and Above, David describes Going to the Sun as “a little more earthy.” There’s also a strong emphasis on harmonies with inspiration drawn from artists like Willie Nelson and The Beach Boys. David most often plays guitar but is a multi-instrumentalist, while Zach plays the drums. The band often has a “floating cast” of musicians who play with them, David says.

David’s wife also plays a critical role as the band’s executive producer, and as a painter, David says she gets to the heart of the music.

“None of these songs would be (possible) without Amber,” David said. “She really gets the music … she’ll relate to it in terms of art. She’s supportive but also challenges me, too.”

David says COVID disrupted their album release plans, which included playing a show in the Flathead. This will be the first album David has ever released without an accompanying  live show, but he and Zach still wanted to share it despite not being able to play in front of an audience.

“Music venues are going to be one of the last things to come back online as we recover from this pandemic,” David said. “We finally realized we didn’t want to wait for that to happen.”

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