Indiana Music: Catching up with Chad Mills

Nearing 15 years as a performing musician in Indiana, Chad Mills has done the singer/songwriter thing, the band gigs, and everything in between. Last week, Mills and his band, the Upright Willies, played the side stage at the Deer Creek, before the Jason Aldean/Eric Church show that began the shed season at the Noblesville venue. This Thursday (May 19), he plays in the semi-finals of the Acoustic Live Challenge.

Seemed like a good time to catch up with the Rose-Hulman grad and construction project engineer who grabs his hat and guitar at night, and heads out to play his music. At many shows, he’s being joined by cellist Grover Parido.

ROB: Saw you played some shows with Grover, and opened for Truth and Salvage Co. too.
Chad Mills: Grover is great, isn’t he? I hired Grover to do cello work on my Make the Door album and then talked him into playing the album release, and continue to talk him into playing more with me. What he does with that instrument is incredible; it adds such a rich layer to my music.

My good friend Bob Stewart has been playing percussion with me for several years now. I met William Rood a few years back at a Kammy’s Kause ( and he actually remembered me saying back then that I’d really love to have an upright bass in the band. Having recently acquired one, he contacted me with an interest in playing. I’ll be out there this summer playing as much as I can, both as a solo artist and with the band (The Upright Willies).

ROB: Any new music?
CM: As a matter of fact, I just finished the lyrics to one right before this interview. (I’m) always writing new material whenever I get the opportunity. I released my seventh album (Make the Door) last summer, and if I get my way, will begin work on the next one sometime this year.

ROB: Is it tough to get noticed in Indianapolis?
CM: It’s not easy man. I mean, I know it’s not easy no matter what city you’re in. It’s just tough to find profitable gigs around here where original music is welcome. I know there are good folks out there who are working hard to change that. One avenue for live music I’m really into right now – an exception to that rule – is the local house concert scene. I’ve been in the audience for several of these, as well as performed a few. It’s just a raw, intimate performance from the artist. just me and a guitar, telling stories to a roomful of people and then performing the songs – and they actually listen Crazy, right? Continue reading “Indiana Music: Catching up with Chad Mills”

Indiana Music: Catching up with Frank Dean

Want some attitude with your country rock? Indianapolis-based (well, Franklin, to be correct) songwriter, bandleader and longtime Hoosier Americana roots musician Frank Dean has led that pack of candidates for nearly 30 years.

He plays from the gut and heart as well as any musician, and has proven he will do what he wants, much in the way a Waylon or Merle or Hank Sr. might. Roots rock spun with snarly attitude. His influential bands Blue DeVille and Hillbilly Central gave way to Sindacato, and the most popular section of his career.

Ten years as the leader of that brilliant bluegrass/country/roots rock band supplied Dean the highs (album of the Year for Logan County from both the Indianapolis Star and NUVO; touring with his peer/heroes like Dwight Yoakam, Ralph Stanley, Marty Stuart, Del McCoury and Sam Bush), and the lows (the breakup of the same band after parting ways with longtime friend Gary Wasson; some critics who incorrectly thought the West Virginia-born Dean was a rocker selling out to play bluegrass)

His new band, The Snakehandlers, shifts Dean into a blues-based rock band. Their debut album, released earlier this year, was produced by Eric Lee Johnson at Indianapolis’ The Pop Machine studios. Rock Plus Roll, according to Marc Allen’s review from April in NUVO “leaves you feeling like you stumbled into a roadside bar and discovered an authentic, gritty blues band. You can taste the beer, smell the cigarettes, picture the packed dance floor.”

ROB: How’s the Indianapolis music scene these days for guy like you?
Frank Dean: I don’t have much good to say about the Indy Music Scene. Not that I ever have and that’s always hurt me financially, but it’s the truth. Clubs want free music with no effort or cost to them. They think putting you on their website page is promotion. And even if you have a bar that really digs you, they can’t book you because they signed a contract with a booking agent that only books the people they have on roster. We’ve had clubs tell us how much they dig us but they’re under contract with “you know who”. The Booking Nazis. It’s Miracle Whip on white toast. They’ll go too far with that crap someday. Everything has consequences. Luckily, I’m at the place in my life where ass kissing is not gonna happen. Not that I was ever much for that. Continue reading “Indiana Music: Catching up with Frank Dean”

Bob Seger Doesn’t Disappoint: Reviews from Indianapolis

Almost a week after the Bob Seger show at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, I’m caught myself thinking about the show, and how soulful and energized the Detroit rock icon was. 

Here was my view of the Seger show.

He played 2 hours, 20 minutes, and mixed the setlist up just enough to make it interesting with some deep cuts. Seger played to the back of the hall as much as the front row.  And he did both.   We weren’t standing close, though dead-ahead center with the stage, 20 yards behind the soundboard.

When I saw him in 2006, I found a happy place in the top row of the upper deck, with a  straight on view of the stage.  I had moved four songs into that show that November night, after having heard enough of the muddy sound the venue is so famous – that’s what a cheap upper deck, side stage ticket from a scalper 10 minutes before the show will sometimes get you.  But once I relocated, it was magical.  Because Seger is about the voice, the songs and the band.  Not the flash, the light show or the wardrobe changes.

Last Saturday night, Seger reinvested in the heartland rock and roll that he does better than anyone else, and has formed the template for hundreds (thousands) of bands.  And, defying a bit of age and both the good and band of having spent so much of his life on a stage, he did that magical rock and roll thing again, aided mightily by a crowd that knew that songs, and songs that are still rock and roll relevant.

Is it cool to like Bob Seger? It is to me.

Three good things about the show:
1. No video screens. Makes the crowd follow the music and musicians in a more organic way. I can’t overstate the difference it makes in a show when eyes and ears are your own, not owned by the video director. Continue reading “Bob Seger Doesn’t Disappoint: Reviews from Indianapolis”