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 (kammyskause.org) 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?
ROB: What have you been listening to recently?
CM: I’m really into the grass rock/newgrass/rockabilly sounds of Old Crow Medicine Show, Trampled by Turtles, Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers. I’ve been a pretty big – some folks might say ‘obsessive’ – fan of the Avett boys since they showed up for the Midwest Music Summit in ’05 and rocked that tiny little outdoor stage at the Monkey’s Tale.
ROB: How do you do record your own music?
CM: My goal with recording, sad as it may be, has always been doing it as inexpensively as possible. I don’t have the luxury of a home studio, so I’ve had to seek out places to lay down my songs. The first few albums were pretty ‘grass rootsy’. It wasn’t until my 2 Places @ Once release in 2006 when I finally started putting some money into the albums. The budget was still very limited, but I managed to scrounge up enough to at least have it professionally recorded and pressed.
ROB: What’s 2011 got for you?
CM: I recently started working with Tinderbox Music (Minneapolis, MN) on some college radio promotion, as well as going after some television licensing. I’ve already shown up on a few college radio charts, which is pretty exciting. Get The Upright Willies some exposure. I’d just encourage everyone to get out there and take in the local scene. Host a house concert! If anyone wants to chat about that, or anything else, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.