With carefree lyrics, driving instrumentation and cruising melodies, Big Time Grain Company provides the ultimate cross-country joy ride.
The Kansas City country-rock quintet zooms along life’s two-lane highway with a caravan of uplifting Americana singles and EPs that travel far and wide. Behind the wheel are Big Time Grain Company frontmen and brothers Bret Bourquin and Chad Bourquin who accelerate on their latest free-spirited single, “I’ll Take You with Me.”
This three-minute country adventure revs with traveling drums, resonant electric guitar and bouncy banjo as Bret Bourquin euphorically sings, “We’ll leave my big bus, take your Volkswagen van/Don’t need a suitcase, don’t need a backup plan/Oh won’t need my MapQuest to straighten out these wheels/You can pick the direction/We’ll put this town on our heels.”
“We’ve got a lot of songs that fit that same category that are in the hopper that have not been released yet. The subplot to that is opposites attract to make a relationship exciting. The line in there, ‘We’ll leave my big bus, take your Volkswagen van,’ my wife wanted a Volkswagen van for years,” said Chad Bourquin, Big Time Grain Company’s guitarist and co-lead vocalist.
“She doesn’t have one yet, but they’re coming out with a new one. We’re thinking they should adopt this song for their commercial and provide us all Volkswagen vans. It’s those differences that really make a relationship work, and in spite of those differences, I’m going to take you with me wherever I go.”
After embarking on a fun road trip, Big Time Grain Company briefly returns home for a family visit on “Sunday Morning,” which blends uplifting electric guitar, steady drums, jamming bass and vibrant acoustic guitar into this weekend domestic track.
Bret Bourquin and Chad Bourquin eloquently reflect on the joys and comforts of coming home, “40 days I’m on the road and playing songs/Making friends that’s cool/I wouldn’t trade it for a day gig/I wouldn’t turn back if I thought I could/But your picture crosses my mind a time or two/This beer I’m drinking don’t erase the truth/That the only place my heart rests is right here with you.”
“We’ve been really fortunate to have designed this to be the way we want it to be. In other words, we’re not gone for long bouts of time because we’re completely independent. We go out for a few days and then we come home because we like being home,” said Chad Bourquin, who has three children.
“We like being with our families, but we also love playing and love traveling. It’s a big shift every time you crawl off that bus and get back home, especially with Bret because his kids are so young now. It’s an even bigger shift for him.”
Outside of their latest two infectious singles, Big Time Grain Company released their acclaimed stuck-in-your-head, four-track EP, 401k, in 2018. Two standout 401k gems include the forlorn romantic ballad, “Yesterday’s Mirage,” and the divine ditty, “Little Redemption.”
As an added bonus for 401k, the Bourquin brothers brought in two collaborators, Nashville drummer Lester Estelle and Kansas songwriter-guitarist David Hill, to create an expansive sound layered with heartfelt lyrics.
“We used to play in church with Lester here in Kansas City. Lester moved to Nashville, and within six months, he was playing with Big & Rich,” said Chad Bourquin. “‘Little Redemption’ and ‘Yesterday’s Mirage’ were co-written with a friend of ours named David Hill. David makes a lot of trips down to Nashville and does a lot of songwriting stuff, but he happens to live here.”
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
For the Bourquin brothers, Kansas continues to influence, shape and grow their driving country-rock sound. While growing up in their hometown of Colby, Chad Bourquin and his younger brother, Bret Bourquin, joined their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents in hoedown-style jam sessions. Guitars, banjos, mandolins and fiddles filled their home as they sang along with family members.
The Bourquin brothers also absorbed John Denver 8-tracks in their motor home as they traveled cross-country with their creative and inventive father who developed the Bourquin Weedpuller. The timeless country sounds of Alabama, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton quietly shaped their unacknowledged love of the genre as well.
By high school, Bret Bourquin played bass while Chad Bourquin studied guitar and admired the style and technique of Eddie Van Halen and George Lynch. They each performed with different bands and took turns joining a Kansas City rock group called LipRiddle.
“Every once in a while, we would end up in the same town, and we would sit in with each other, and there was something that I just noticed when that happened,” said Chad Bourquin, who also performed with his brother in church. “I think he noticed it, too. There’s something about when brothers play together that there’s just something there.”
While noticing a musical connection with his brother, Chad Bourquin started writing country music on the side and became influenced by the sonic storytelling prowess of Brad Paisley. At that same time, Bret Bourquin joined country acts while living in Dallas and Kansas City. It was only a matter of time before the two formed their own country music project.
“The gist of it was I had been writing songs for a couple of years on my own that I could tell did not even fit LipRiddle. I didn’t even take them to LipRiddle. We were a three-piece rock band, and I was like, ‘There’s no way these are even going to fit into that,’ so I kept them off to the side,” said Chad Bourquin.
“One morning I woke up after going through a series of events that got me thinking about this whole country thing, and I thought, ‘You know, I wonder if I’m writing country songs here, and I’m just not even aware of it.’”
Big Time Dreams
By 2012, Chad Bourquin decided to form Big Time Grain Company with Bret Bourquin and invited Colin Ridge (electric, acoustic and cigar box guitar, mandolin) and brothers Max Penichet (electric and upright bass) and Nick Penichet (drums, percussion) into the fold.
Interestingly, Big Time Grain Company has a special dynamic with two sets of brothers in the band – the Bourquins and the Penichets. Both sets of brothers are well in tune with their siblings personally and professionally.
“There’s a big age difference between the sets of brothers. Bret and I have worked through most everything, and we’re at least experienced on how to do it right,” said Chad Bourquin with a laugh. “The other two, they’re really fun, but Max is way more detailed and on top of things in most areas, and Nick is the free spirit.”
With Big Time Grain Company’s lineup intact, the band released their 2016 five-track debut EP, 100lbs Net Weight, which eloquently showcased the solid musicianship, creative songwriting and emerging sound of the Bourquin brothers. It also allowed them to explore more of a country-rock fusion on successive EPs and singles.
“Bret’s gonna start more with a melody and maybe a groove, and I’ve got more of a start with lyrics. Then, when we come together and once we have an idea ready to bring to the other one, we each interject our own gifts,” said Chad Bourquin.
“By the time we get to that phase, the foundation is there, the melody is there, the arrangement is there, but we definitely give our band members some creative input on their parts as far as how they see it.”
Big Time Grain Company also tours extensively throughout Kansas, Colorado and the Midwest. They’ve opened for Gary Allan, Dan + Shay and Night Ranger and headlined the Plaza Art Fair, the American Royal Rodeo and other music festivals.
Some of their tours also include stops at schools, companies and community groups as part of the Dream Big Series, an organization devoted to inspiring people to pursue their passions and goals. Together, the Bourquin brothers deliver motivational keynote speeches and concerts to inspire fans of all ages.
Initially, they identified the Dream Big Series idea after Chad Bourquin spoke at a school career day about working in sales and performing in a rock band. Having a new band in place allowed the Bourquin brothers to pursue another professional goal.
“When we started Big Time Grain Company, the idea was always there, and then we had a consultant we got on the phone with who knew nothing about us ever doing this. She said, ‘Here’s what I would do, I would start booking these schools and concerts, and I think you guys would be good at that.’ It was confirmation that we needed to research this with Big Time Grain Company,” said Chad Bourquin.
In addition to dreaming big with fans of all ages, the Bourquin brothers will continue to write, record and release new material this year. They’re planning to share three new singles and license their music to TV shows and commercials, movies and video games.
“We’re releasing a training program for other bands to help them build independent music careers with what we’ve learned. We’ll also release those other three songs, get some more videos out there and just keep doing what we’re doing. We’re having fun, and that makes a big difference,” said Chad Bourquin.