The Comfort Kings are a local Iowa bluegrass band. I attended one of their shows in Cedar Falls at the Kick Stand, a new coffee shop in town. I liked their music and arranged an interview with John Molseed—the Comfort Kings’ banjo player.
“We started the band back in February when four of us -- Josh Nelson, Amie Steffen, Rick Tibbott and myself -- who all work together in the newsroom at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, started jamming together outside work. We would just grab guitars -- electric and acoustic -- and hang out. We were just friends being goofy. We never really considered playing in public,” he explained to me.
Their band’s name is inspired by a model of Case-International Tractor—the Comfort King. The band debuted in April 2010 when they played at Jameson’s, an Irish pub in Waterloo.
The group likes making music in Iowa because there are a lot of opportunities to play at various venues, such as Jameson’s.
Bluegrass has deep roots in Iowa and is important to the band members for numerous reasons. For John, “learning how to play bluegrass itself is inspirational. The music has such a long, storied history and so many legendary musicians. Anytime I hear it, I just want to grab my banjo and keep practicing and work to sound better.”
As with all bluegrass, each member plays an important role in the band’s overall sound. John broke it down for me:
“Amie has a very powerful voice and a good ear for music. She can figure out chords to nearly any song she hears. Rick is learning the picking styles of great musicians like Townes Van Zandt. He adds great melody to our songs. Josh will deny it, but he is our leader. He knows the genre best and selects songs for us to learn. Chris Schwartz is by far the most talented musician in the band. We became much better overall when he agreed to join us.”
This group plays a fantastic range of bluegrass and folk songs and they truly are, “the best old-timey string band in the Cedar Valley named after a tractor.” Check them out!
To contact The Comfort Kings:
Check out their Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=38209855#!/comfortkings