Michigan natives Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys (from left to right: PJ George, Lindsay Lou Rilko, Joshua Rilko and Mark “Huggy Bear” Lavengood) make a stop in East Lansing Friday.
Photo by John Hanson


If you want to be a professional, you need to go where the action is. That was the thinking when Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys packed its bags and headed to Nashville.

“I’d liken it to when you’re trying to learn Spanish, and you move to a Spanish-speaking country where everyone around you is speaking that language,” said Lindsay Lou Rilko, frontwoman for folk/Americana group Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys. “I moved to Music City to be a musician. I’m learning and writing a lot.”

The group, originally based in Mid- Michigan, was born at a popular watering hole in Lansing. MSU student Joshua Rilko, a founding member of the band and now husband of Lindsay Lou Rilko, connected with some local musicians through a popular open mic night.

“I discovered Dagwood’s open mic run by Jen Sygit, and through that I found more acoustic musicians around Lansing and Michigan,” said Joshua Rilko. “I joined up with two guys, and that was the start of the Flatbellys. That’s also where I met Lindsay.”

The Flatbellys — without Lindsay Lou Rilko — released a self-produced album, “Get ‘Round,” in 2009. Over the next few years, the band saw some restructuring and a year-long hiatus, but in 2013 the current lineup — guitarist/vocalist Lindsay Lou Rilko; Joshua Rilko on mandolin, banjo and guitar; Mark “Huggy Bear” Lavengood on dobro and guitar; and PJ George on upright bass — was solidified. The band moved to Nashville in early 2015.

Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys comes home for a nine-day tour of Michigan this week, including a show Friday hosted by Ten Pound Fiddle. Before moving to Nashville, the band recorded its most recent album, “Ionia,” inside Rilko’s home in the Michigan city of — no surprise here — Ionia.

“We didn’t leave the house for those four days except to walk around the block and get some air,” Lindsay Lou Rilko said.

The band’s next album is already in the works.

“We’re going to record a new album in November with a lot of new songs that we’re playing in Michigan, including with Ten Pound Fiddle’s show,” Rilko said.

The group hopes to release the album by spring.

In the meantime, the band members are keeping busy with tours and side projects. Lavengood has a solo project, and the Rilkos frequently perform as a duo. Lindsay Lou Rilko is also a member of the Sweetwater Warblers, a trio of Michigan performers comprising Rilko, May Erlewine and Rachael Davis. The group just finished a mini-tour and hopes to head out again later this year.

Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys have performed far beyond Nashville and Michigan, including tours across the country and overseas to play in festivals in Germany and Scotland. The band picked up its moniker at a Michigan bluegrass festival, where the musicians were some of the youngest performers on the bill. An older musician told Joshua Rilko, “It’s good to see you flatbellys out here pickin’ with us greybeards.”

“It was a comment on our youth,” Rilko said. “It was a very traditional bluegrass festival. And those particular kinds of festivals tend to be slated with older folks.”

But the musicians don’t see a generational divide in the folk music scene, however.

“It’s a continuum,” said Lindsay Lou Rilko. “And music is one of the most beautiful things I’ve found for the integration of the generations.”

Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys

7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21
$18/$15 members/$5 students
MSU Community Music School
1930 S. Hagadorn Road, East Lansing
(517) 337-7744, tenpoundfiddle.org

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