Flatt Lonesome

Few bands ever get to enjoy the kind of attention the kids from Flatt Lonesome have received in the past few years. Since their debut in 2011, they have released two CDs (working on a third); won the SPBGMA band competition (2012); won Merlefest’s Chris Austin songwriting contest; and was awarded the Emerging Artists of the Year Award this past fall at the IBMA’s.

Tim Stafford of Blue Highway calls them “the real deal,” and Sirius XM Bluegrass Junction’s Kyle Cantrell says they are “one of the most compelling and entertaining groups I’ve seen in bluegrass in a long time.” For anyone who thinks Flatt Lonesome has reached their peak, Cindy Baucom of Knee Deep In Bluegrass disagrees: “They just keep getting better and better.”
We Grew Into It
Siblings, Kelsi, Buddy, and Charli Robertson grew up in a traditional family in Florida. Dad was a preacher, and was looking for something he and the kids could do together as a family. “Our dad was our biggest influence in our musical career – he kind of just picked out the instruments for us, honestly,” Kelsi told me recently. “He wanted something we could do as a family and on weeknights hanging out. My brother started first, with the banjo, at around 10 or 11. I was 13 when I got my first Mandolin, but I didn’t get real serious about it until I was 15. It was a process, it wasn’t an immediate thing – we grew into it,” she remembers. Kelsi recalls her dad saying, “You don’t have to do this, I’m not pushing anything on you, I just thought it would be something we could try out – and now here we are, playing music for a living.”
The band got formed when the siblings were teenagers, and along with dad, they started playing at local events and in churches around the area. “We got really busy playing as a family band during the week and in our church on the weekends,” Kelsi said. “We finally just got too busy for dad to travel with us, so he encouraged us to start our own band and see what we could do out on our own.”
New Horizons
They formed the new band with a few childhood acquaintances. Three of the gang had just graduated high school, and three were still in school. In 2011, they decided to enter the band competition at the SPBGMA convention in Nashville, TN. “It was the first time we had ever played on stage together,” she mused. “We got third place, and it really lit the fire in us to want to see if we could make this work professionally.”
After that win, they went home to Florida, determined to pursue a career in music. “We played a few little shows here and there throughout the year, and decided we should go back to SPBGMA the next year and enter again. We won! That was encouraging. And while we were there, we met the people who would end up being our label and managers.” Flatt Lonesome left Nashville (now home) with a first place award, a management team, and a record deal.
The Fast Track
In the fall of 2014, Flatt Lonesome won IBMA’s Emerging Artists of the Year award. “That was a huge surprise and honor for us,” Kelsi said. “This part of it has come quickly. We’re still riding very high on all of it. It’s very exciting for us.” And while the goal is full time, all but one in the band is still holding a part time job to supplement their income. “I work for Toyota Monday through Wednesday,” Kelsi said. We’re all very blessed to have flexible schedules. We usually travel the rest of the weekend. We don’t really get a day off, but we love the music, so it’s a worth while trade. I think all of us will always do some other things from time to time, but our goal is to be able to do this full time as soon as we can. We already have over 50 dates booked for 2015, so it’s really looking up for us.”
Seize The Moment
Kelsi said that none of the folks in the band have actually been to college yet, and that’s okay. That probably sounds bad,” she laughed. “We don’t recommend that. But with the timing of how the music came into our lives, and everything that happened with the awards and the attention, we just all decided and do believe that when music comes and shows an opportunity, you’ve got to take it while it’s there. School’s always going to be there. This is what we’re doing right now, and we’re enjoying it.”
Flatt Lonesome has a distinctly unique sound. Just about anyone can pick up an instrument and learn to recreate the music they love. But to get to the next level, you have to have something special. You have to sound like no one else, but yourself – and not be trying to sound like someone you want to be like. And while these guys are cranking out a progressive-traditional brand of bluegrass, their obvious sibling harmonies and stellar instrumentation set them clearly a notch above.
Who We Are
“It’s just who we are,” Kelsi said. “It’s the music we gravitate towards. It’s just the vibe we feel naturally. I don’t think we really come together and say, ‘okay, this is what we’re trying to put out.’ It just all evolves around bluegrass, but we try to put a youthful vibe into it. And I think that honestly comes from the fact that we’re all in our twenties. Without being too progressive about it; we like the progressive stuff, but we also love the traditional. We just try to stay true to what we like to listen to.”
“Dad brought us up on old country, so we all really enjoy listening to old country,” she said. “We grew up listening to Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson and George Jones. But we do listen to everything – we even like some of the pop stuff. We really don’t drive down the road listening to bluegrass 24/7. We enjoy other things, and I think those influences show up in our music in subtle ways.”
Why So Quickly
“We would obviously give God the credit first,” she said. “He’s the one that gave us the talent in the first place. We don’t ever take that for granted. And obviously there’s a lot of our own hard work that goes into this too. It hasn’t come easy. This didn’t happen over night. We also have incredible managers and booking agents, and a record label that’s pushing us, and letting us be the kind of band that we are and play the kind of music that we enjoy. Our managers, Danny and Andrea Roberts, are a huge part of why we are where we are right now. When we came into this, we knew nothing about the music world. We grew up playing much differently than playing on the road at festivals and theaters, and being around promoters. So we’ve had to learn the ropes along the way, and just try to be who we are.”
The band’s current CD, Too, produced three top five singles last year; “So Far,” “Dangerous Dan,” and “I Can’t Be Bothered.” And “So Far” reached number one. They are considered by some as “the rising voice in bluegrass music.” Mature beyond their years, and with hearts of passion for their craft, one would do well to pay close attention to this young, up and coming band.