Featured Artist of the Month
December 2022 - Full Cord
About Full Cord
You could say that West Michigan based bluegrass band Full Cord is having one of those overnight sensation moments. By that I mean – you work and work, practice and play and play for years, then one day you find that your band won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Contest and BOOM – “overnight sensation”. Full Cord had been playing for 14 years when they took home the top prize at last year’s Telluride Festival with their brand of bluegrass.
Full Cord was one of ten bands that were given the opportunity to play three songs in two different rounds of competition at Telluride. The win came with $750.00 in prize money and some studio time to record. The best part is that they also get to play a full set on the main stage at the 2023 Festival. Your faithful scribe has attended this event once in his life and the memory of the music is almost crowded out by the incredible beauty of the venue that is tucked away in the Rocky Mountains.
“Oh my, Telluride is a dream venue,” Katie Kirchner gushed as we discussed the amazing 365-foot Bridal Veil Falls that can be seen there. “We really had no idea of the size of the crowd until after we played and took the time to look at pictures.” The festival, which started in 1974, limits the crowd to 10,000 people a day.
Katie does double duty as a singer in the band and the manager. “They are good at what they do,” she remarked. “I handle all the details and let them focus on what they do best.”
“They” would be guitar player Eric Langejans who co-founded the band with bass player Todd Kirchner. Grant Flick plays the fiddle and Brian Oberlin the mandolin. 2023 might see the addition of Coloradoan Ricky Mier on banjo. He will be playing some shows with the band in the near future to see how the chemistry goes.
The detectives among you probably noticed a similar last name in the line-up of the band. Katie and Todd live in Grand Haven and have two children. With tongue firmly in cheek, we had to ask if she had a favorite band member. “Not always,” Katie joked. “There are times when I book separate beds.”
Langejans is responsible for the band name. When he is not perfecting his lightning-fast guitar licks, Eric is a sawyer and carpenter. The story goes that when they were hanging out kicking around names, Eric took a look at the “pile” of their collective instruments and said, “Oh look, we nearly have a full cord of wood”.
Eric and his bandmates have parlayed that full cord of instruments into a band that is tickling ears all over the country. What began in Michigan soon spread to the Mid-West and now the band is playing fifty or so gigs a year covering the country from Maine to Arizona and Colorado. They have won awards and recognition for their unique contribution to the bluegrass genre.
In terms of natural beauty, few if any music venues can compete with Telluride, but speaking from her position of performer and manager, Katie told us that her favorite place for the band to play is the Park Theatre in Holland. “The Park is truly a hidden gem in West Michigan,” Katie said. “They have a great [sound and stage] crew there.”
Speaking of the importance of sound crews, later in the conversation Katie told me that the worst venues they play are those where the sound crew thinks he or she needs to control the volume and dynamics as the band plays. She said that her bandmates are very skilled at moving toward and away from microphones in order to control the dynamics and they are firm believers in the “set it and forget it” approach to live sound.
Another outstanding moment in the history of the band came when they played their first “Silent Disco” at the Hoxieville Festival. Katie explained that the Silent Disco was born out of the tradition of various musicians playing long into the night at the festival. Participants are given headphones and the band plays into microphones and the music is sent to the headphones rather than being broadcast over a PA system. She explained that because the PA system is not used, the band not only can watch people dancing to the music, but they can hear them singing along as well. Sounds like musical magic.
Full Cord will be playing their favorite venue on New Years’ Eve, you can get information at https://fullcord.bandzoogle.com/ and click on “Shows”. When we asked Katie for the best way fans can support the band, her first answer was “buy tickets for a show”. She also urged people to purchase the tickets early, because that sends a good message to the band and the venue. It also helps the show from getting cancelled due to slow advance ticket sales.
While we are on the subject of supporting bands, it is worth noting that the amount of revenue going to bands from online platforms like Spotify is very minimal. Katie reported that Spotify pays Full Cord 9/10ths of .01 penny for every spin. She continued on by saying that the band just got their music on Sirius XM and that this platform pays more than the rest of them. Merchandise purchases help Full Cord as well as selling physical and downloaded copies of their music. Get over to their website and get busy!
Full Cord will be adding to their discography very soon. They have two completed independently issued albums on their website; “Hindsight” and “Choremania”. They have recently signed with Dark Shadow Recording and will be recording a new CD with the label as you read this with the goal of a release in the early part of 2023.
As our conversation was drawing to a close, Katie took the time to emphasize that the members of the band contribute to the health and growth of music in general and bluegrass specifically.
“They are not just musicians,” Katie commented. “They are educators and composers. They are involved in teaching programs.”
We are very excited to share a bit of the story of Full Cord with you. If you like what you have read so far, visit their website or buy some tickets to an upcoming show. They would love to hear from you on social media as well. We wish them all the best as they perfect their music and garner attention all across the nation.