top of page
Ty Helbach Photography Blue Ox  2nd 2022 CWE.jpeg


Born in Wisconsin, Chicken Wire Empire began as a traditional bluegrass band. The band honed its traditional sound in 2014 with their debut album Chicken Wire Empire. With half of the group rooted in bluegrass, and the other half steeped in jamband music, a change occurred when CWE performed an Old & In The Way tribute show. A new sound was found in Milwaukee, and Chicken Wire Empire joined the roster of high energy acoustic music happening across the nation.  This journey from traditional to progressive was documented by director Ross Monagle in the film ”All It Takes,” premiering in 2016 at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee. Recorded and mixed by sound engineer Sam Donoghue, the film follows the band around Wisconsin and includes performances in Milwaukee’s historic Riverside Theatre.  In 2018, the band returned to the studio, recording their sophomore album “What Moves Mountains” at Axis Recording Studios with engineer Vinny Millevolte and the mastering talents of Justin Perkins. With support from their family and friends, What Moves Mountains was released January 1st of 2019.


"The new Chicken Wire Empire record is a technically proficient, well-crafted mixture of modern original songwriting and time earned classics. They seem to have taken on some wonderfully exciting elements of modern progressive bluegrass while also retaining their original character, born of their greater Milwaukee town roots." - Adam Greuel of Horseshoes & Hand Grenades


In November of 2019, Chicken Wire Empire toured Germany, Austria, and Switzerland as part of the 9th annual Bluegrass Jamboree, hosted by Rainier Zellner. While the band fell in love with Christmas markets, the European audiences were enamored with the CWE sound. Arriving back in America, the band sifted through recordings of all 24 shows.  With the help of their engineer Daniel Machnik, the tour was encapsulated in two live 2021 releases, ”Live from Deutschland Vol. 1 & 2.”

"The new Chicken Wire Empire live recordings rock! What a great show they put on! The flow of the recordings makes one feel like you are sitting in the audience in the auditorium for the live performance. I especially enjoyed their unique take on some of the traditional songs found in the bluegrass repertoire – made them truly sound like their own. The somewhat non-traditional grass tracks are what might be considered “progressive traditional” bluegrass, where they stretch out a bit while keeping the traditional feel. I thoroughly enjoyed these “funkytrad” recordings by Chicken Wire Empire!" - Greg Cahill (Special Consensus)


In 2020, as live shows were drying up, the band turned to live-streaming, and were featured showcase artists in virtual renditions of the IBMA and Folk Alliance International conferences. The band used their time to arrange and record an album with Minnesota songsmith Chris Castino (The Big Wu) at NeonBrown with Ryan Young (Trampled by Turtles) engineering. The album features guests Peter Rowan, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Andy Hall, Tim O’Brien, and Nick Forester. Entitled “Fresh Pickles,” it was released in February 2022.  


​​"Fresh Pickles aims to satisfy your cravings and is just the beginning of Castino’s heartfelt and fulfilling voyage into bluegrass. Always true to the tradition and authentic in presentation, Fresh Pickles is packed with great music." - (


Chicken Wire Empire has been blessed to share the stage with renowned musicians Yonder Mountain String Band, 30db, The Big Wu, Peter Rowan, The Travelin’ McCourys, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, and more.  With love from their local scene, friends, and families, Chicken Wire Empire  looks to the future, with a goal to strengthen Wisconsin’s bluegrass scene, and further the appreciation of acoustic music.


bottom of page