Written by: Mikala Lugen | Photo(s) by: Natalie Jo Gray (Cover Photo) // Others Via Facebook
How Big Richard Is Smashing The Patriarchy One Raging Fiddle Tune At A Time
When you hear the name “Big Richard,” an all-female, neo-acoustic bluegrass group probably comes to mind. No? Well get your mind out of the gutter, because Big Richard is here and isn’t messing around. In fact, the Colorado-based quartet is here to deliver raging fiddle tunes while smashing the patriarchy.
What began as an all-female collaboration performance last May at Colorado’s McAwesome Fest quickly blossomed into a full-time passion project driven by sisterhood, harmony, and humor. Now coming up on their one-year anniversary as a band, Big Richard is bringing their own unique flare into the male-dominated mountain music scene, one roaring, high-energy pickin’ tune at a time.
With a name like Big Richard, you shouldn’t be surprised by the band’s big and powerful yet light-hearted and fun chemistry on and off the stage. The four musicians all came from music-centric childhoods and have been playing in their own respective projects in the Front Range for years. Comprised of Bonnie Sims on mandolin and vocals (Everybody Loves An Outlaw, Bonnie and The Clydes), Joy Adams on cello and vocals (Nathaniel Rateliff, Half Pelican, Darol Angor), Emma Rose on upright bass, guitar, and vocals (Sound Of Honey, Daniel Rodriguez), and Eve Panning on fiddle (Lonesome Days), the supergroup represents a new powerful emergence into the Intermountain West music scene.
“I think a lot of people expect women to play this sweet, meek, pretty role onstage,” Joy Adams told Volume in a recent interview. “And what we want to argue is that women can be anything. We can have masculine energy and can be balls to the wall with confidence. And of course, we can be really sensitive and sweet. There’s a whole range and we like to play with that onstage.”
With their mix of fun and boisterous onstage camaraderie alongside powerful vocals and fiery playing, Big Richard has been smashing its own glass ceilings the past year. Since their first performance as a band last May, Big Richard has rocketed to playing sold-out headlining shows across the West, getting booked at multiple local and national staple festivals, and signing with Thundering Herd Artists earlier this year. However, Big Richard is quick to be modest among their fast rise to fame, noting their current role wouldn’t be possible without the strong headed female musicians that helped pave that path in such a male-driven industry.
“We’re very honored, excited, and humbled to be in the position that we’re in. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do take our role very seriously. We understand that there’s a lot of power where we’re sitting and that’s intimidating. We’re totally ready to take it on,” Adams remarked. “You have to have representation in everything, and women have to see other women kill it in music to continue that and get the next generation going. It’s not that we’re incapable, but we need someone to pave the path. For Big Richard, we’re not the first ones. Della Mae, Uncle Earl…there’s some really stellar female groups who have gone before us and fought the hardest battles. And we’re really thankful to be walking in their footsteps. We’re trying to break the next level of walls. Women can send it really hard, we can embrace our own sexuality onstage, and put out any kind of energy we want to in that moment.”
In embodying their own energy as a band while playing tribute to their processors, Big Richard is continuing their busy performance schedule, gearing up for a jam-packed summer and fall of performances alongside some of the biggest names in the folk and bluegrass music collective. In addition to their own headlining shows, Big Richard will be joining the stages of New Mexico’s Tico Time Bluegrass Festival alongside The Lil Smokies and Willie Watson, Utah’s own bluegrass showcase Ogden Music Festival alongside Sam Bush, The Travelin’ McCourys, and Missy Raines, performing at the Moab Free Concert Series, and Planet Bluegrass’ world-class Telluride Bluegrass Festival and RockyGrass Festival, both of which boast exceptional lineups, including Tenacious D, Bela Fleck, Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Hot Rize, Uncle Earl, Elephant Revival, Phil Lesh and Friends, and more. What about international bluegrass? Check. The band will also head South to Mexico at the end of the year to join the sold-out Strings & Sol celebration with The Wood Brothers, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Kitchen Dwellers, and more.
“It’s overwhelming at times…None of us could have foreseen that,” Adams admitted. “It feels like a bit of magic. It’s funny being propelled onto these massive stages with our friends and heroes next to us and knowing we have to send it. But when you find the right people, it just works. It’s like the fairytale we’ve all been told and didn’t believe actually existed.”
While their fairytale reality is getting booked full of shows, when does Big Richard have time to write and practice new music you ask? Right now, actually. Currently, the band has around 50 to 60 songs in their catalog, representing a full range of traditional bluegrass ballads to witty and creative pop covers with an authentic twist. The band already has three covers released, Peter Rowan’s “Walls Of Time,” the old Appalachian tune, “The Blackest Crow,” and today’s just-released haunting Ernie Carpenter cover “Elk River Blues.” While some newer bands shrug off showcasing themselves in the studio, Big Richard already has five live videos from their recording session at Colorado’s Cinders Sound Studio, furthering their sincerity and legitimacy as individuals and as a collective group.
“All The Good Girls Go To Hell” – Big Richard (Live At Cinders Sound Studio)
[Video: Big Richard]
“We’re all very strong songwriters all with different styles. With four distinct voices, it makes for a diverse playlist. We’re currently coming together to co-write some new material all while still playing the traditional bluegrass tunes we love and the fun pop and rock covers. We refuse to put any of our music into a box,” Adams said. “A whole album is in the works, which will be a mix of originals as well as our favorite, traditional bluegrass staples. We’re all so influenced by traditional bluegrass and it would almost feel wrong to release something that didn’t have any of those seeds for us.”
There’s plenty of opportunity to see Big Richard perform this upcoming summer and fall season, with tickets still remaining for their upcoming appearance at Utah’s Ogden Music Festival here. For a full list of upcoming shows and festival performances, visit the band’s website. Listen and stream the band’s new cover of “Elk River Blues” below.