Here’s an interesting story about how a chance meeting at World of Bluegrass 2017 put two experienced bluegrass songwriters onto a co-writing opportunity, that is coming full circle at the 2020 virtual event.
Mike Finders and Aaron Bibelhauser saw their co-written song, Time In and Out, selected as one to be featured in this year’s Songwriter Showcase. The song represents the fruits of a partnership launched by IBMA itself in 2017, as the two found themselves in the songwriter track during the conference that year. Since then they have worked together in various ways, constructing a modern day, blue-collar, WOB feel-good story.
Leading into the 2017 event, Mike Finders, songwriter and guitarist with FY5, a Colorado bluegrass and Americana band, was thrilled to be selected for the songwriter showcase with his song, Driftwood. Aaron Bibelhauser, from Louisville, KY and a veteran of the songwriter track at IBMA, had been selected the year before for Blue Collar Dreams, which had gone on to be nominated that year for IBMA Song of the Year as recorded by Balsam Range. It turned out that Aaron would be showcasing again in ’17, with Southwind. In correspondence beforehand, both came to learn that at some point during the conference they would co-lead a songwriting circle in-the-round, as part of their roles that year.
IBMA had been doing this songwriter track for a few years at that point, and offered a series of events, mixers, presentations, and workshops throughout the convention schedule, specifically designed and offered for songwriters attending World of Bluegrass. Some of those events would be hosted by the official showcasing songwriters that year, and were meant to give writers coming for the first time an easy way to follow all songwriter-centered sessions.
Mike and Aaron experienced an immediate easy chemistry working together, aided considerably by a mutual respect and admiration for each others’ songs. They agreed to keep in touch, had coffee the next day, and ran into each other at various events, workshops and mixers, including the awards show Thursday night. By pure chance, FY5 showcased right after Bibelhauser’s slot with fellow Kentuckians, the Wooks, at one of the late-night showcases. They marveled at the serendipity of their meetings, and as the week wound down, the two made more concrete plans to collaborate.
Back home in the weeks after, reaching out across the plains, Mike and Aaron began to share song ideas by swapping voice memos. Their first song, Time In and Out, started as a half-written song idea in Bibelhauser’s archives. Finders finished it. Aaron restyled the Finders version of the song, and Mike liked it even better. Both were relatively amazed that the process could be so easy. The Finders/Bibelhauser friendship has been further nurtured by reciprocal visits touring east to west, with one hosting the other and sharing the stage whenever possible. Not only were Finders and Bibelhauser instant pals and collaborators, the whole Colorado band became friends with Aaron and his wife, Cami. Bibelhauser says that the relationship feels more like extended family, rather than just arbitrary co-hosts chosen randomly for that 2017 IBMA song circle event.
In Spring of 2019, Aaron used the entire FY5 band, including banjoist Aaron Youngberg as engineer at his Swingfingers studio in Fort Collins, CO, for a track on his 2020 release, Lovin and Leavin’ – A Bluegrass Tribute To Mickey Clark. Bibelhauser tapped Youngberg to mix the entire project, which gained favorable reviews and substantial radio play. The two have plans in the works to release another collaborative single in the coming months, featuring Bibelhauser along with the full FY5 lineup.
Finders and Bibelhausers’ collaborations in songwriting continue, with the pair able to work remotely, sharing scraps of songs through voice memos, phone calls, and emails. They’ve cobbled together a few other songs, but it is now, ironically, their very first song, Time In and Out, which has been selected for showcasing at WOB this fall. The songwriting duo say that they are honored and thrilled to have been selected, and are looking forward to presenting their song to the conference participants as a real IBMA success story.
IBMA puts together several of these World of Bluegrass tracks each year for the various constituencies of membership, including broadcasters, event producers, artists, legal issues, and others. Full details can be found online.