At some capacity, this particular collection of band members has existed together and created stunning music for the last decade. The act now known simply by its leader’s name - Lindsay Lou - has morphed from slightly more humble beginnings. Lindsay first encountered the original lineup of her band Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys at an open mic night in 2008, where her now-husband Joshua Rilko and Spencer Cain playing as members of bluegrass band The Flatbellys. Lindsay had adored bluegrass music growing up, but hadn’t focused on it, so that experience spurred a true interest. “Learning bluegrass was so amazing,” admits Lou. “It educated me by tightening up my rhythm and my chops on the guitar.”
Shortly after The Flatbellys released their album The Flatbellys Get Round in 2008, Lou released her own stunner of a debut titled Lindsay Lou “A Different Tune” with the help of Josh, Spencer, and a slew of other Michigan artists. When The Flatbellys disbanded post-college, Lou, Spencer, and Josh teamed up to form Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys. Since then, members of the band have included Keith Bilik, Mark Lavengood, and PJ George - who Lous says, “plays the dirty, nasty, groovy bass lines that you don’t necessarily find in a standard bluegrass band.” The band has two other albums under their belts under the moniker Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys: the 2012 Release Your Shrouds, and 2015 Ionia. As of right now, the band consists of Lindsay, Josh, PJ and a drummer. They’ve made the move to Tennessee to continue their pursuit of expression through music, dropping “& The Flatbellys” from their name.
But the build up to this point - to where the band exists together now - didn’t simply start a decade ago. Born the daughter of a coal miner in middle Missouri, Lindsay Lou’s family moved back north to Michigan shortly after she was brought into the world. She describes her family as close knit and musical, their lives influenced heavily by her maternal grandmother’s radical ideals and zest for life. In fact, if you ask Lindsay, her grandmother - a woman who was once put in jail during the Civil Rights Movement for teaching a lesson on the “f” word as a high school literature teacher - is one of her greatest influences to this day. Lou’s grandmother took her activism to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and set up a Christian commune for her growing family of twelve as well as some stragglers in a big farmhouse. The woman her grandmother bought the farm from was Lou’s father’s grandmother, and her dad happened to live just across the street.
Raised with a sense of community that was built on that farm, Lou was surrounded by music and frivolity. She built her repertoire by practicing her vocals, and she picked up the guitar so she could play with her Uncle Stuckey, perhaps most musically influential on her of her mother’s siblings. The skills she honed during the days of learning to sing and play with her family led to a wide variety of musical opportunities, singing in choir in high school, attending an elite summer program at Interlochen on scholarship, and winning awards for her talents.
Her most noted talent - that gorgeous, amazing voice - is more than what she calls “a party trick.” It has the unique ability to open up the soundscape and make every word she sings feel powerful and freeing. Take lead track on the group’s upcoming album Southland, a track titled “Roll With Me”, for example. The robust, intense flare to her vocals creates this open - almost more breathable - space in the atmosphere for the listener to really feel through its emotions. Beginning the album with this track is almost kismet, as Lou describes the attainment of the track as such:
I heard it at the first faculty concert of Miles of Music the year I attended. Laura Cortese and Zak Hickman performed it with a band, and later I told her I loved it and asked if I could have it. Then Sam, our producer, produced her record and somehow - without knowing I had talked to Laura about it - thought the song would fit our band and recommended it not for her record but for ours. After that my attention to it was even more elevated. So I learned it and brought it to the dudes.
Southland - you’ll come to find - is full of those great moments of kismet, much like Lou’s life. But the identity for this particular record - the beauty with which its sound slips into the ether - didn’t come by crazy random happenstance. The year leading up to its recording, 2016, was a rough year emotionally for several of the band members so - after taking a beat to really delve into the roots of it all and work on themselves - the band is re-emerging with material written during that time in a cathartic and transformative light. The band entered the studio and re-emerged with a ten track stunner that will undoubtedly work its magic on any music lover. “Go There Alone” was written during an “Immersion Composition Society” experiment that Lou does from time to time, and the sound fully developed with the band a little later on. The lazy, beautiful harmonies pull at your heartstrings in a way that feels like home, despite the lonely and bittersweet message. And though songs like “The Voice” and “Southland” were spurred on by more abstract ideas and words, they transformed when collaborators would start freestyling with their instruments and Lou simply sang what came to mind. Impressively enough, Lou played electric bass, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar on “Southland”, which the singer admits was written about the beauty of nature, especially in the South, and its ability to create a sense of peace and kinship in a culture that has been known to promote division and prejudice in the face diversity. Moving South to Nashville, where the band now resides, definitely played a roll in developing this perspective.
With their transition into a more genre-bending style and a new perspective on life, Lindsay Lou and her band are ready to completely take over the world. Southland is a refreshing glass of water on a hot summer’s day, and will fill you with warmth during the harshest winter storm.