Grammy Nominee Tim Eriksen Brings a World of Musical Styles to the Ten Pound Fiddle

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Thursday, March 22, 2018, 9:03 am
Christopher A. Wardell

There aren’t a lot of people who can claim to be the only musician in the world to share a stage both Kurt Cobain and Doc Watson, but Grammy- nominated singer-songwriter Tim Eriksen can. Eriksen will perform a Ten Pound Fiddle solo set on Friday, March 23 at the MSU Community Music School.

As an ethnomusicologist and musician, Eriksen started with the noise-punk-folk outfit Cordelia’s Dad, and the “shape-note-quartet” Zabe i Babe (Bosnian Folk and Pop). Eventually he established himself as a world-renowned solo artist in his own right, and contributed to the soundtrack for the 2004 Oscar winning film Cold Mountain.

“The work I did for Cold Mountain was interesting.” Eriksen said. “Mostly, it was fun. I have home video footage of Nicole Kidman chasing a giant bear under a full moon in Transylvania. It’s on my YouTube channel.”


Eriksen regularly teaches college courses around the country where he touches on a wide array of topics including American Balladry, Global Sounds, American Music, and in Northampton, Massachusetts, he is the founder of the world’s largest Sacred Harp singing convention.

“Pretty early on I was playing punk rock and singing unaccompanied ballads at the same time I was studying South Indian music seriously,” Eriksen said. “Singing sacred harp, family music from the Balkans, and collaborations with a crazy array of great people continue to be very influential.”

According to Eriksen, anyone can sing or be in a band, and he makes sure to stress this point to his students. Or anyone who’s thinking about taking the plunge into music, and attempting to become a performer.

“Sing and sing a lot,” Eriksen said. “ Also, if you ever wished you had started a metal band, start a metal band. If you think, well, it’s too late, that’s not me or whatever, then start an imaginary metal band. All you need is two songs and a logo.”

Eriksen certainly has more than two songs in his back catalogue; he’s worked with Sting, Allison Krauss, and Elvis Costello, among others. Cordelia’s Dad along with fellow contemporaries like Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown, helped to blaze the trail for the “No Depression” country-punk of the late 80s and early 90s. Eriksen has even worked with legendary producers T-Bone Burnett, and noise-rock perfectionist Steve Albini, who helped the musician on a few projects.

Although Cordelia’s Dad is now on an extended hiatus, in its heyday, the band played the legendary punk bar CBGB’s in New York City. CBGB’s was famous for breaking such bands as The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, and DEVO.

Currently, Eriksen anticipates new musical projects including another album with the Afro-Cuban, world-jazz pianist Omar Sosa.

After the album with Sosa, Eriksen plans to enter the studio to record his next solo album, but not until after recording an album with accomplished fiddler Zoe Darrow and Episcopal priest and musician Peter Irvine. There’s also what Eriksen calls, an “experimental classical thing” in London.

The travel and side projects don’t stop the songwriting process for Eriksen.

“I wrote three good songs one day because I decided I was going to,” Eriksen said. “And there have been times when I haven’t written anything for years. I realized when I was about 20 that I thought there were too many songs, so I’ve never tried to make a lot of them. The easiest thing to do is to write for someone who asks. I did that for Alison Krauss, and would love to hear what she does with it.”

Erkisen is excited to be heading back to East Lansing, and he promises patrons of the show a night of different music genres they’re not going to forget anytime soon.

“I’m planning on performing acoustic music from Pumpkintown (Connecticut), and elsewhere in the United States.” Eriksen said. “As well as probably some songs from Bosnia or Macedonia and a bunch of original stuff. People usually laugh a lot, and cry sometimes. I’ll try to strike a balance.”

Ten Pound Fiddle’s Booking Manager Sally Potter is looking forward to Eriksen’s return to East Lansing.

“Tim is an acoustic renaissance man,” Potter said. “He digs up wonderful songs, from decades or centuries ago, and arranges and presents them on fiddle, banjo, guitar or sings them a cappella. As an ethnomusicologist, his shows are peppered with small, interesting summations of the music's origins.”

“During his performances, you never know what is coming next. But it doesn't really matter. It's all really, really good,” Potter said.


Tickets are $18 for the general public, $15 for Ten Pound Fiddle Members; and $5 for Students. They are available online or at the box office starting at 6:30 PM.

MSU’s Community Music School is located at 4930 Hagadorn Road.

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