By Erika Iverson
Finnders and Youngberg is a Colorado-based traditional bluegrass band that sticks to its roots. They have a timeless sound and family feel that makes them easy to connect with onstage, and they focus on building a genuine, heartfelt relationship with their audience. With many awards dispersed throughout the group, it’s easy to see why they sound so good: They are world class musicians who want nothing more than to share their passion and pride in bluegrass with all of their loving fans.
Scene: How was Finnders and Youngberg born?
F&Y: Erin and I met Mike in Chicago when we were playing with different bands at the same gig. We liked what we heard, so we decided to keep in touch. He eventually came out to Colorado and played a couple shows with us, and everything went so well that even though he went back to Iowa we recorded an album with him long distance. That was the catalyst that finally made his decision to move out here, and we became a band in 2008.
Scene: Where does the band draw inspiration?
F&Y: Traditional bluegrass music is a passion we all have in common. Our instrumental style and playing is original because of Mike’s background in blues and rock guitar. His roots are in different genres but also in folk and country, which lends especially well to bluegrass. But, to sum it up, by study, we are all traditional bluegrass musicians. When we play as a group it’s not strictly that. We throw in some pre-1960s country-style songs that are usually our originals. They sound old and timeless even though they are brand new, and that’s how we like our music to sound; like it has been passed through the ages; like a story.
Scene: How do you disperse writing responsibilities?
F&Y: Lyrics are mostly Mike, but when he brings in a new song we all spend a few hours together arranging the musicality of it and searching for hooks that sound just right. Erin has also written songs that we’ve recorded. Whoever has a song can bring it to the group; it’s an organic process for the band that keeps us unique and fresh. We all support each other. One time Erin wrote a song that she wasn’t a huge fan of, but once the group collaborated, it transformed and she ended up loving it. Working together that way is what makes us a band.
Scene: How is F&Y unique from other bluegrass/Americana bands?
F&Y: I think our storytelling aspect makes us unique. We work hard at connecting to the audience while we play shows, breaking down that barrier between stage and floor. We don’t want to sing at people, we want them to feel like they are part of what we’re doing. We banter, tell jokes, and generally just draw the audience in to participating as much as possible in during the show so we can build a relationship with them. Also, because we are all acoustic and only have one microphone, it gives us a raw, back porch type of feeling. It’s no smoke and mirrors – we all sing around the one microphone and the audience enjoys seeing us work together that way.
Scene: Collectively you all have won quite a few awards; can you tell us a little about those?
F&Y: Mike Finnders has won first place in a national songwriting contest two years in a row for gospel and bluegrass songwriting at MerleFest; a huge bluegrass festival in North Carolina. Aaron and Erin played in a band together that won the Telluride band contest as well as the Rockygrass band contest, and the band contest for the international SPBGMA festival in Nashville. We were the first band west of the Mississippi to win the SPBGMA festival. Our fiddle player won the Rockygrass fiddle contest and received a Fulbright Scholarship to study Swedish fiddle music, but he will still be recording from afar! Mike Finnders signed onto a Nashville song publishing company recently as well.
Scene: What is the future of F&Y?
F&Y: The immediate future is that Erin Youngberg is having a baby, so she’ll be taking a couple months off after that. We just released a record that we have been touring and promoting it throughout the summer. We hope to release a couple new singles this winter as well, followed by a more extensive tour next summer; hopefully in Europe, California, North Carolina and the East Coast area. [We’d also like to] potentially return to the International Folk Alliance Conference as a showcase band. A couple of local shows coming up this month are at Avogadro’s Number on September 23, and the Nomad Theater in Boulder on September 10.
To find out more Finnders and Youngberg, visit finndersandyoungberg.com. You can see them in action this month when they perform at Avogadro’s Number on September 23.