Originally published on Grand Rapids Social Diary
by Chris Koens, GRSD, 2011

Kari Lynch on stage
Kari Lynch on stage. Photo: Photo-Famous, used with Artist’s permission.

“I don’t care anymore where you go or what you do… Save all your reasons for someone who cares enough to listen. I made up my mind, it’s time I start showing myself some conviction. You have perfected the art of saying ‘sorry’ in so many ways… I never liked you anyway.”

Those melancholy lyrics are belted forth by a petite young lady whose recently released EP contains a sampling of words that seem to suggest she has had experiences beyond her years. She is Kari Lynch, a rising star in Grand Rapids’ music scene, and the self-titled EP contains five songs filled with raw emotion set to a bluesy-country beat. Lynch describes the music as,”country-pop, country-blues.” She adds, “Our sound is traditional Country, but also mixed with that pop. We always try to fall somewhere in the middle so that we have a different sound, but we definitely have a Country core.”

On an unseasonably warm day in June, 2011, Kari Lynch sat down in a hotel lobby with Grand Rapids Social Diary to talk about music, love, style, friendship and what got her started with this dream. We grabbed some cold drinks and sipped as we talked. Kari was quick to mention that Kari Lynch, the band, is actually her and four others who collaborate in the writing of the music, play together on-stage, and on the album. This quintet gets called both, simply, ‘Kari Lynch’ or the ‘Kari Lynch Band.’ Lynch muses, “It started out as a solo project a while ago – you know, my whole life I’ve been doing it myself – but for the past year we’ve been playing as a full band.”

Kari grew up about two hours away from Grand Rapids in Clare, Michigan. She relocated to Grand Rapids for school and hasn’t looked back. Lynch says she is constantly looking forward. Right now, that means looking toward a move to Nashville to take the next career step; a career that is starting to blossom. Lynch and her band have opened for The Band Perry, Jerrod Niemann, and Chuck Wicks; and have just returned from playing at Daytona Speed Week. Their experiences are molding her and helping the band mature, but she remembers her roots – back as far as five years old. Lynch says she finds Coldplay to be one of her most influential current artists, but attributes Patsy Cline’s song “Crazy” as the music that gave her a love of music from an early age. Kari recalls listening to that album over and over and “learning that album front to back,” then she fast-forwards to today saying, “as a band, we’ve gotten to do some really cool things and make some pretty big strides this past year.”

Kari Lynch
Kari Lynch. Photo: Artist. Used with permission.

The strides she refers to include finding the four guys she now collaborates with on a daily basis. “Everybody is really good at what they bring to the table.” Lynch beams as she adds, “The chemistry between us, both on stage and off stage, those guys are my best friends… it just all really fits. It just is. It’s one of those ‘it only happens once’ type of deals; it just works, and it’s really cool.” Those ‘guys’ are, Matthew Kok (acoustic guitar), Ryder Jones (electric guitar), Sam Briggs (drums), and Chris Bardolph (baas). “They are definitely a super important part of all this – they are Kari Lynch,too,” says Lynch about the four she affectionately calls, ‘the guys.’ She genuinely seems to appreciate the guys and the accomplishments they’ve achieved since they started taking the stage together. “We just celebrated our ‘bandiversary’ two weeks ago,” says Lynch. “In a year, so much stuff has happened and it just keeps going up for us. We are still a very young band, and we are doing things that bands who have been together for years aren’t doing. Even our fan base has grown incredibly and keeps growing – the other day we had to answer fan mail from Europe, in Spanish … which was awesome.”

Kari makes it clear, she knows she would be nowhere without the fans, saying, “For us it is all about the music and its all about the people listening to it.” She mentioned their fans frequently throughout the time we sat together, she shared stories of fan interactions and how fans have touched them emotionally by sharing their stories…. And then it happened. Mid-sentence, as we sat in the lobby of the hotel chatting, we were interrupted. “I love your voice,” said a passerby. When GR Social Diary pressed the passerby, he shared, “I like her raspiness; it’s like Chicago-bluesy, jazzy, back-alley sound… with sexy vocals.”

Lynch was obviously appreciative of that particular fan interaction and it was evident that she is still surprised that people know of her and her band and can describe their sound in a way that articulates the style and sound they set out to create.

Kari Lynch
Kari Lynch on stage. Photo: Artist, used with permission.

As we returned to the conversation, we chatted about today’s music industry and artists who are manufactured rather than rise through the ranks. “If I think about that too much it gets a little bit disheartening,” said Lynch. “You do have to think about these artists as products because essentially that is what they are; you have to think of yourself as a product, you are selling your music, yourself, your image; you are selling what you are doing – so you have to think of it all as a product. The way I look at it, there is just a lot of products out there.” Lynch interjected, “But there’s an honesty about Country music, you can strip it all away and it is still a person and their guitar singing a song they wrote when they were heartbroken or happy. With country music, you can take away the band, and the make-up, and the big lights and it is still the artist singing the same song. Big shows are awesome, everyone wants that! But I want to be recognized for the music – not for being crazy or wearing that crazy dress. For us the music will always come first.”

“I’m not going to lie, it is hard to enter this industry with that mindset,” Lynch warns. She continues with this advice, “If that is what you want to do and it is all about the music first, you have be dead set on it. You can’t be wishy-washy… If it is going to be about the music, I need to be true to myself. The minute I’m not being true to myself, I’m probably in it for the wrong reasons.”

With Kari Lynch, what you see is what you get, she is down to earth, approachable and friendly – and has a “sexy, back-alley voice.” If you have a chance to catch Kari Lynch and the guys in concert, you should. If you cannot catch a concert, you can download many of Kari’s & the Kari Lynch Band’s songs on iTunes.

Kari Lynch is playing many Wednesday nights throughout the summer at The Woods Lounge in Grand Rapids. You can also catch Kari and the guys opening for Matt Kerney at The Intersection, Grand Rapids, on June 30.

For more shows and information find Kari Lynch Music on Facebook or visit www.karilynch.com