Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
Lukas Ross and Chad Hendrickson share songwriting credit in Willamena. We got together to make music and write songs based on a love for rock music's great writers like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, The Band, REM, U2 and so on. We wanted to be branded as a songwriter group who also know how to rock! Our songwriting voice and lyrics come first for us as we think that is what is most important. Then we try to bring in our talents as musicians next to bring our songs to life in a way that feels right to us.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career? Of the things that are legal to talk about (!) a batch of bad luck stories about van breakdowns, close calls with fame and playing for important people, dealing with awful weather/snow/ice, fights about getting paid with clubs and bands...pretty normal band stuff I guess. Winning a huge band competition in the early 2000s in West MI was BIG for us...but we have been around long enough and played enough shows to remember having a show booked the day after 9-11 in 2001. Wondering if our heads were in the right place to play, was it right to play? Was it okay to have fun that soon after the attack? We decided we needed to play to get that energy and emotion out of us and people were HUGE into the show that night! We were on stage in Chicago when the Iraq War broke out. Watching the war on TV while playing our music was wild.
On another level I fought through colon cancer in 2012/2013 and that was a very, very tough period. We released "Lost in the Shadows" while I was going through that process and that made everything important and difficult! I am beyond glad to still be alive, making music with people I love and respect and making new memories. That was a CRAZY time that was hard on the people around us for sure.
What has been the high point of your music path?
What has been the high point of your music path? Many of our recording experiences overall. Working with Gravity Studios in Chicago with Doug McBride was incredible. That led to our first national single that turned heads in a serious way. Working in Hoboken with John Seymour (Grammy winner) was incredible and that led to our first nationally charting single in Triple A radio. Working with Kevin Beamish (100+ million selling producer) in Nashville at various studios was killer. Working in Franklin, TN with Erik Lutkins (million selling engineer) was a great experience that led to Willamena's new record was amazing as we also did that safely during Covid. Recording in Kalamazoo, MI is always amazing...hearing our tunes on the radio for the first time was a highpoint. Hearing our first national single in syndication in an amazing show called Undercurrent was an out-of-this-world feeling. For us making and releasing is what this is all about so those experiences are high points for us. We love writing, working, recording and releasing music!
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like? We start with a mostly complete tune roughly set as a folk tune...and then we amp it up. The song, the lyrics, and the melody come first for Willamena. Then we add rock music around that. We are not a jam band in the sense we don't build lyrics around cool live band parts. We write songs then we sculpt that around what works for a rock and roll band. Luke and I (Chad Hendrickson) work in advance together on a song. Once we like what is happening we bring it to a group or we start a studio demo process to begin to find a final voice for the tune.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
A band needs to put their best songs out to the world with the best writing possible with the best engineering and production possible. Then bands need to try hard to get exposed and that is almost impossible. There is a crushing wave of amazing music coming out from label acts and Indy acts and we need to be able to compete with that wave in quality and marketing and that is very, very hard to do.
I'm not sure change is necessary. Luck has always mattered, talent has always mattered, ambition has always mattered and it still does. Writers need to do what they can do to bring their music to the world s long as they can. That is what Willamena is doing. It has been a slow process for us. But now we have six nationally charting Triple A tunes including breaking the top 90 in that format and a couple other tunes that received serious attention...and we are still working that same process. We are taking our time to release the best material we can and then we are working with our earned connections to get this music to the world as best we can. I don't think anything needs to change overall....but a little luckier break would have been nice!!
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers because we have so much in common. We love the fight in Petty's songs and we love how the Heartbreakers bring those tunes to life. We were playing his stuff LONG before Tom died because he is just that good.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Get the song right in the studio then work to find the live voice for the tune then start to string songs together that feel right next to each other.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
In general, writing over time is very, very hard. Working to find your OWN voice, your own brand outside your influences is almost impossible. And once you feel like your writing voice is being developed you have to have musical chops too. Arranging chops. Serving the song. So once all that is in place (many fall short of those lofty targets) you need to keep going and that is really, really hard. Being honest enough to write what HAS to be written is critical Writing bad songs is VERY important. You have to write the bad ones to get to the good ones. Also, learning WHEN to set a song aside is critical. The best songs often write themselves in minutes. But some songs hide themselves. They don't want to be written so you have to know how to step aside and wait for that song to reveal itself. When the time is right, and you are patient as a writer then those kinds of songs can be written.
Willamena has developed thick skin over time and that is critical for writing. I have also promoted Willamena to radio and I have heard tough things often that I have used to make our songs better. But being able to accept tough criticisms is difficult and necessary.
What's coming up in the future?
Promoting Willamena's new album "Broken Songs" and our lead single "I Know Nothing" is our focus right now. Touring in our current climate is not on our agenda but a new album has already been started and we may turn to working on that soon as we promote the new record as we have a new batch of tunes that are all exciting too.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
People can find Willamena's new album "Broken Songs" everywhere music is sold online including Apple Music.
Spotify, Pandora, CD Baby, Amazon, SoundCloud, Youtube and so on. Search Willamena and Broken Songs and we will be there. Thank you!!!
On July 19th, 2021, Willamena is releasing “Broken Songs” their first full-length music release since their “Lost in the Shadows” album broke out with three nationally charting Triple-A radio singles in 2013. “Broken Songs” is Willamena’s first release since their critically acclaimed 2017 EP “Strong Enough to Last” which earned more charting Triple-A radio success and additional national attention including write-ups in Paste and other national music outlets.
“Broken Songs” is Willamena’s seventh studio album with four full-length albums and three EPs to their credit. Over the last eight years, seven Willamena singles charted nationally (FMQB AAA radio), including breaking the top 90, highlighting Willamena’s award-winning live show and critically acclaimed songs.
“Broken Songs” is a reflection on Willamena’s unique folk/pop/rock brand including new studio material combined with live tracks and some lost Willamena studio tracks too.
For more information, please visit Willamena's website
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