After winning the prestigious 2022 Telluride Bluegrass Band Competition in Colorado, the Michigan-based group followed with another much-coveted honor when the International Bluegrass Music Association named Full Cord its “Momentum Award Band of the Year.”
“The music is new and fresh to the ears of seasoned bluegrass fans,” suggests mandolinist Brian Oberlin “but still takes hold because the music is ultimately grounded in the traditions of American bluegrass, swing, country and folk.”
Indeed, while the accolades are fresh, the bluegrass traditions in Full Cord have deep roots.
The group’s principal players – Oberlin, guitarist Eric Langejans, bassist Todd Kirchner, fiddler Grant Flick – boast decades of musical artistry, with experience in popular performing bands from Michigan to Oregon.
And with the recent addition of award-winning, Colorado-based banjoist Ricky Mier, Full Cord is poised to take the next step in its journey as a bluegrass powerhouse: The band’s debut album on Nashville’s Dark Shadow Recording is set to drop in 2023 following a series of independent releases.
It’s a far cry from the band’s humble beginnings in the lakeshore Michigan town of Grand Haven “as a group of mutual pickers showing up to play some accompaniment with friends for fun,” says Katie Kirchner.
“Over 15 years, the progression into songwriting has been the tipping point. The strong backbeat and rhythm has remained constant in the longtime friendship of Eric and Todd – and that drive has been attractive to folks like Brian, so he can do what he does best with melody.”
Indeed, Oberlin’s vast repertoire and robust experience added a new dimension to Full Cord’s approach.
With varied influences such as Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Merle Haggard, Johnny Gimble and Tiny Moore, the Michigan native has honed his craft for more than 20 years. He’s performed with acclaimed bands such as Grasshoppah, The Journeymen, Ger Mandolin Orchestra and Twin Mandolin Slingers while also founding the River of the West Mandolin Camp, Great Lakes Mandolin Camp and Oregon Mandolin Orchestra. He was also a Top 10 finalist in the 2013 Telluride Troubadour Contest.
Hailing from Bowling Green, Ohio, Flick matches Oberlin’s impressive resume: He won the 2013 Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin award and is a past finalist in the Walnut Valley Festival Fiddle Competition and Freshgrass Fiddle Competition, while performing in a host of prestigious bluegrass festivals.
Langejans and Todd Kirchner, meanwhile, cut their teeth with various Michigan acts such as Down Home, Woodpile, Rusty Thimbles, Continental Blue and Who Hit John? along with plenty of requisite jamming at music festivals.
Together, the current band lineup is “just hitting its stride,” says Oberlin, unfurling music that’s “unique by way of harmonies, melodies, rhythm and gait.”