While by no means minimizing the accomplishment, the least surprising development of this year’s Review Awards Ceremony was The Family Tradition Band walking away with a couple arm loads of trophies.
Anyone paying attention to the regional music scene over the last year could see this coming. You can flash back to the band’s tour de force performance at last year’s Awards Show, scroll through their members’ social media feeds or make your way out to one of their shows for all the evidence that you need. This is an act on an upward trajectory.
The band, which consists of Kyle Andrew, Randy Badour, Tom Furbacher, Ken Kudsin, Billy Hamblin, and Brian Everett, is now a fixture on the scene, with a growing following, incrementally bigger stages and an ever-improving show. The last year has seen the group begin to layer some high-class original material into a set of people pleasing classic country.
A more surprising development happened as I prepared to write this story. I really intended to delve into how my old buddy Randy had found a group of kindred spirits who needed his exact skillset. A musical version of peanut butter discovering chocolate. Then I talked to Andrew and Badour in preparation for this article and it brought back memories – but not of other band interviews. It reminded me of my days in corporate life or as a consultant who offered services to entrepreneurs and aspiring businessmen.
Everybody reading this who knows one of the names listed above knows he is a pretty great guy, so it occurred to me that the real story here was how these guys run their band.
Here is my quick distillation of some of the headlines of their method.
Shared Vision / Shared Vocabulary
The first thing that you realize talking to Kyle and Randy separately about Family Tradition is it really has the feel that you are talking to the same guy twice. It is noticeable how they use the same words and phrases and express goals in a similar way. They have a consistent way of talking about the band, the steps it has taken and their plans in the near term.
These are things I always noticed in the best organizations. They are careful with their words and realistic in their view of the horizon. They keep people on the same page by using a common vocabulary.
It’s very interesting to listen to how measured the pair are in their approach, especially when compared to a lot of bands that begin to experience this kind of buzz. If there is talk of Nashville, it’s as a benchmark for sound quality or as a source of inspiration for new marketing methods, as opposed to a destination, an aspiration or a potential proving ground. As Andrew put it, “we are using proven formulas, but on a smaller scale.”
Some of the shared vision comes from the fact that it consists of a group of guys who have spent the bulk of their musical careers as “side men.” They hired into other bands and supported singers who needed a “Tonto,” whether or not they were actually The Lone Ranger. They did a lot of the work and suffered a disproportionate number of the bruises. But these are also the circumstances that allowed them to learn and catalog the things they’d do when they slid over a spot and fronted their own band.
Right now, the band sees a real opportunity to be one of the best entertainment options in this area. Andrew summarized their attitude on this front with the comment, ““We are going to continue to focus on bettering ourselves and to improve anything we have control over. Whatever else happens as a result of that, we’ll be ready for.”
Focus On Value
Hang out with a gigging musician very long and you will probably find yourself in a discussion about money. It is a much less common experience to have a discussion about value. This is where you really feel like you may have been parachuted into a corporate meeting (albeit in ball caps and blue jeans) when you talk to these guys. One minute Andrew will be telling you they are “making an effort to build value in our brand” and then Badour will bend your ear about the importance of being consistent and reliable.
As an example, Badour offered up “Consistency is so important in this business. I've pushed myself to stay focused on improvement. When someone seeks a product of any kind they want the same quality or better than the last time.”
Andrew echoes the same sentiment. ““We are constantly trying to improve and grow the brand year over year. Whether it’s creating new original material, coming up with our own unique versions of popular cover songs, new merchandise ideas, or expanding our light and stage show, we continually try to top whatever we did the previous season to keep things fresh and exciting for the fans.”
Like a growing number of bands in the area, Family Tradition considers their crew to be an integral part of the band. Robert Muccino (Sound / Production Tech) and Brian Phillips (Lighting / Production Tech) were namechecked by the group as the pair most likely to be working this end of the gig.
Their hope is that when you see their band on a stage anywhere they provide an experience which has the look, sound and feel of a much bigger act, but at a cost to hometown fans and local events that won’t break the family budget.
Success Associates With Success
“You are who you hang out with.” You’ve probably heard something along that line a million times in your life. This also has become part of the band’s formula, especially as their name grows, and events and organizations reach out to them for bookings. As Andrew explained, “we want to be associated with and be a part of successful events.”
“We are in a situation now where gigs are starting to find us as much as us booking them. We have to manage the requests and calls. Michigan has such a small window for outdoor events, we have to be careful with how we use that time.”
This does not mean that the band automatically goes out looking for the highest bidder for their open weekends. “We listen to their pitch and if we like what they are doing, we’ll get involved. If that means we have to sell tickets or whatever to make it a success, we will do that.”
Don’t Give Up
Most people think of music as something that will make you dance or sing along. You know what else music can do, especially if you are the one making it? It can actually make you want to quit. For every rush or satisfying moment, you will have ro put up with an ego, a technical difficulty, a physical malady, a financial hardship or worse. And this, honestly, goes on for years.
Some of your willingness to do this will come down to your original motivations for getting into music. If you did so for cash, “fame,” to increase your dating pool, or “for the party,” it’s pretty easy to get worn down by doing the work. It’s a break-even job at best for most people in most years. You probably aren’t going to get signed to a record contract and, even if you are, that probably doesn’t play out the way it does in cinema. You are just as apt to meet the wrong people in music as the right ones. It’s not actually a job you can do at a high level if you are a hard partier, no matter what the myth says.
There are a lot of reasons to quit. And then there are the people who are still standing once all that dust clears.
There is a term in music and similar vocations we use to describe the people who keep at it past all of that clutter – a “lifer.”
They are musicians because they ARE musicians. It’s not a job or a hobby; it’s a personality, a lifestyle and a set of aptitudes that let them keep going.
The requirements for this kind of success comes from internal motivations and, in general, a positivity that you can impart to the others around you. This was summed up by Badour: “In general, in life, people want to be around positive, friendly folks with good attitudes. The music business is no different. The old narrative of the "cool, high maintenance rock star" is over in my opinion. I didn't get involved in music to get everything for me selfishly. I want to motivate and inspire people to let go; to allow joy and good times back into their life. Negativity is normal now and I don't want to be ‘normal’.”
As mentioned, the band now has a full schedule, with bookings that stretch into 2023. They are supporting their live act with recorded original material and music video releases, including the now award winning “Whiskey Shakedown.”
The band’s attitude is they are not only going to ride this wave, they are going to try and build on it.
“As success comes, it creates a snowball effect,” said Badour, “and I've seen so many people pull up as that happens, when in reality the opposite is what's needed! “
Look for the Family Tradition Band on a stage near you or check out their releases on Youtube and all of the popular streaming platforms. You can also keep up with the band and their progress at thefamilytraditionband.com.
And here's their Award Winning Video for Whiskey Shakedown.