Gig Seeker Pro


Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1996 | INDIE

Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1996
Band Rock Pop




"The Indie Band, WILLAMENA Discuss Their Latest EP, “The Other Side Of Loneliness”, Favorite Memories and Why They Are The Hardest Working Band In Michigan!"

Meet the indie band, Willamena! The band consists of Lukas Ross, Chad Hendrickson, Mickey Calhoun and Ted Mitchell.

Their tracks, “The Other Side of Loneliness” and “Way Back When” from their latest EP “The Light Ahead” have been picking up airplay all over the place lately.

Check out the EP’s five tracks stream on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/willamena

Learn more about Willamena in the following All Access interview here:

Thanks for your time! How’s your summer been going?


Summer has been great! Too short. We spent a lot of time working on the new record with Grammy-winning producer Kevin Beamish (REO Speedwagon, Jefferson Starship, Reba McEntire, etc.) at his place in Arkansas — pre-production and basic tracking, which was pretty intense! We also spent time recording for the new one in Kalamazoo.

Can you talk about your single, “The Other Side Of Loneliness”? Where did the inspiration for it come from? Generally, where does the group get the inspiration for your music?


That song was written in Chicago in 2012, and we were finally able to get it tracked for the most recent Willamena release ‘The Light Ahead.’ At first this tune was kinda seen as a throw-away song, a not-serious tune (if you can believe that!). But our manager Lance Hendrickson does a ton of stuff for us — we call him the “secret weapon.” He heard it and started turning it over in his head and told us that he heard great possibilities. So… we spent more time on it and got our live arrangement together and noticed how strongly and positively people were reacting to it live, even though it was unrecorded at that point. Now it is our highest nationally-charting single to date!

The song was born from a feeling of frustration in general from a world that seems to be better at isolating folks from each other rather than dealing with all the things and emotions we share with each other. In America we have politics that separate interests rather than building coalitions and that is frustrating. We are a band that discusses history (our drummer Ted Mitchell has a PhD in History) and politics often and this song came from some of our band discussions.

To me Bob Dylan, Neil Young and R.E.M. were influences we looked to for this track.

What artists have inspired you and the band’s music? Who would you love to work with in the future? What would be a dream collaboration?


Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers are a big influence on us as well as R.E.M. (especially early R.E.M.), Neil Young, Bob Dylan, U2, John Hiatt, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and many others. The original mission of Willamena was to try to use The Band as an influence in the way their musicianship and honesty really shined through their craft. We also like Lou Reed a lot (particularly Luke!). We try to stay away from allowing any “band of the minute” to influence us, but we all like Ryan Adams, The Black Keys, The Hold Steady, The War on Drugs and other great modern acts.

As far as the future, we should mention that we have worked with a TON of outstanding guys like Kevin Beamish (he worked with us on parts of “Lost in the Shadows” as well). Kevin has become a great friend of Willamena and we trust him on every level. Also, we’ve worked with very talented engineers in West Michigan including Michael Crittenden at his Mackinaw Harvest Studio, and Mike Roche at his Broadside Studio in Kalamazoo, MI. Luke discusses our Grammy-winning friends John Seymour and Cameron Webb below. Honestly, we are lucky to have worked with so many great people to date, and we’d work with them all again (if they will have us back!). I can see us keeping all these relationships going, but we are also open to working with other new connections as well as long as they have open minds and are willing to put in the time necessary to make a great record.

What have been some of your favorite memories playing so far?


We’ve made some awesome memories to date! Winning a very big West Michigan live original band competition was special for us (thanks Aris Hampers!). We’ve played well over 500 shows so far, but headlining Martyrs in Chicago was really cool, playing The Continental in New York shortly after a snow storm was pretty great, showcasing in Nashville last year was a LOT of fun, jamming a packed Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo is always a special night… but I think getting our first nationally-charting Triple A single was special (The Things That I Forgot) and breaking into the top 100 on FMQB’s national Triple A radio chart was also really cool (“The Other Side of Loneliness”), probably because we promoted that record to radio ourselves (and I was the radio promoter!).

And a quick thanks to all the Triple A stations that so far have taken a chance and added Willamena singles these past three years! Too many great stations to list here but we appreciate EVERY station and director supporting Willamena. That is very personal to us as we are making our own connections and we know just how competitive the environment is in radio right now.

What do you hope is the message of your music?


Great question. I have re-written my answer five times now! Honestly, life is tough as nails. It can, will and does break you down. But Willamena is all about how and when you get back up, ‘cause you gotta get back up. Willamena is all about that personal fight and will always be about that fight. The internal fight, Man against Self, and that fight never ends. Keep slugging, and long live indie!

How did you 4 meet each other? What made you think you could start this group together?


Back in ’96 Chad was living in Kalamazoo and started a band with a school buddy of his. They had everything but a singer, and it happened that our first drummer Nate Dynak was the drummer from my High School band. He called me up and we clicked immediately. Playing, writing, everything. Nate moved to Oregon and after a short stint by our second drummer, Brad Frank, we again needed percussion (insert Spinal Tap reference here). Ted Mitchell’s audition consisted of watching a Red Wings game at my place and drinking beer. We had a great time, he also happened to be an outstanding drummer, so we kept him. Years later Ted played with our third bass player Mickey Calhoun in another band in the Outer Banks. Chad drove up from Florida to jam with Mickey one time, and recognized the great fit. He’s since gone out of his way with travel and hospitality to play with us.

Why is Ten Lanes Wide the best label for you now?


Ten Lanes Wide is our company but not a label. But we do just about everything that a small label does, from assigning ISRC numbers to radio promotion to retail distribution. And we’ve out-charted some of the big boys. Ten Lanes Wide is its own label, it’s our “hustle and muscle.” When we find the label for us we’ll be well versed in what we know we want and what we can accomplish. We would be happy to have bigger backing and resources. Lots of the biggest acts today were passed over by just about every label out there at some point, so we’re still very much in the market for the real thing.

How did you come up with your band name? What other names were you considering?


Willamena was the name of a character in one of our first original songs. (It’s also Charles Dickens’ cat’s name, but that sounds more high-brow than the actual truth of how we picked the name.) We started gigging around the Midwest right away, so by the time we thought much about a better name it was too late to change. I think it’s rare for a band to have a name they love and I’ve heard far worse than Willamena. If we had to do it over again I can think of about a dozen names I’d prefer.

What was it like having Grammy winner, John Seymour mix your record? How did that relationship come to be?


Our lawyer/manager Lance Hendrickson (Chad’s brother) knew we needed professional production help when label attention started picking up in ’05, so he contacted Dr. Gene Foley. Gene liked the music and put us in touch with John to produce an EP in New Jersey, and he did a great job. That EP never was released, but three of the four tracks wound up on “Lost in the Shadows” and one is now on “The Light Ahead.”

Lance later found us two more Grammy winners – Kevin Beamish and Cameron Webb (Motorhead, Kelly Clarkson, Matt Costa, etc.). Those three incredibly talented guys have done terrific work with “Lost in the Shadows” (John and Kevin) and now “The Light Ahead” (Cameron and John), even despite our uber-indie “as-and-when-and-how-we-can-record” constraints. I think it’s primarily because they liked what we’re doing. We take their interest and efforts as gigantic compliments; they all could (and do) make a ton more working with their choice of artists.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music?


If we didn’t believe we have the goods, we’d go do something else. But Grammy winners tell us we’ve got something special, our live show is excellent (and an award-winner), the press has called us “the hardest-working band in Michigan,” and even without insider connections or promo money, our records chart nationally and get on the radio around the world. We just need somebody in the industry to look past Facebook likes or Next Big Sound graphs or whatever, listen for themselves, and understand how and why we’ve been doing this on our own.


This band’s been tested many times. We’re living around the country now but we always find a way to push forward. We’ve outlasted scads of A&R reps who’ve told us “we like your music, but we’re passing for now, good luck.” Things got dark when I was diagnosed with colon cancer in early 2013 just as “Lost in the Shadows” was coming out. I was scared and shaken to my core to be honest. But I found my strength, got back up, beat cancer, rallied the band, and we were back playing live shows five months later – in fact, we were out doing radio promotional stops while I was undergoing chemo.

We didn’t stop then, and we won’t stop tomorrow. We are driven to do this, and we’ll all keep making Willamena music for as long as we can; it’s who we are. Thanks to AllAccess, all our fans, and everybody in radio for this opportunity! - Music.AllAccess.com

"Buzzworthy - Bands You Should Know Now"

Genre: Alternative rock
Key tracks: "The Things That I Forgot," 'When Love Rescued Me"
Sounds like: Counting Crows, The Killers

The group's latest single recently scored a 180 rating on Triple A radio, so maybe you should start paying attention, as much of the nation already has. Founded in 1996 in Kalamazoo, the hardest working band in Michigan is finally attracting big names, including producers who have worked with the likes of Dave Matthews and U2. To the tune of lead guitarist Chad Hendrickson's rootsy guitar riffs, vocalist Lukas Ross injects an almost self-effacing honesty into coming-of-age lyrics. Unforgettable hooks represent one of many strengths of a band whose versatility shines live and in the studio. - Revue Magazine

"Village Voice review"


Willamena, who are from some place down in the lower 48, turn the Northern superiority complex against itself with devastating results in "Rock-n-Roll." Dead-on Tragically Sloan cryogenic-retardation vocals interrupt mantric repetitions of "keep it simple" and "it's just gon' be a damn good time" with Coupland references like "I really Doug that loud guitar" over a not very loud guitar. Also, this is the worst possible time to channel the Michael Stanley Band, gas prices being what they are. Then again, it's worse outside the Perimeter, where (as I'll be first on record to predict) we're looking at $8 a gallon by Christmas. - Dave Queen, Village Voice

"NYRock.com Review of "Far From the Current""


Willamena, Far From the Current (© 2003 Ten Lanes Wide)
One of the perks of this job is finding out about great bands that chances are, I never would have heard. Willamena is one of those bands. Probably best described with an "alt" in front of any style, the band has a rootsy, mid-American sound in their songs, occupying a niche somewhere along the lines of bands like Wilco, but more accessible. As song after song emerges from the speakers, I keep thinking, how could a band with this talent and sound not be on a big label? And, again, that's one of the aspects of this job that drives me nuts, seeing talented bands not get support – but I digress. And as the disc continues to play out, I also think, will these guys ever run out of hooks? Most of the impetus comes from the driving guitar of Chad Hendrickson, who plays simple fills and chord chunks, runs lead lines, and beautifully embellishes each song. Against this come the vocals of Lucas Ross, a voice that is slightly gravelly, slightly time worn, but smooth enough when needed, and able to bark when asked to. Fans of bands with an alt-country roots rock sound will find that Willamena fits the bill quite nicely. Make a new friend at www.willamena.net.

- Bill Ribas, NYRock.com

"The Return of Willamena - Local Spins Artist Spotlight"

Some might say Willamena is reveling in its second life as a rock band.
The band never actually went away, but nine years have elapsed since the Kalamazoo-based foursome released its last studio album, so it’s understandable that audiences might have wondered what became of Willamena’s catchy, melodic rock.
Wonder no more.
The band’s new studio album, the appropriately titled “Lost in the Shadows,” brims with hook-filled rockers and ballads that span the musical territory between Matchbox Twenty and The Jayhawks, earning Willamena growing radio airplay across the United States.
“It may seem to some that we fell off the face of the earth, but we’ve played hundreds of shows through the 2000s. We took a break in 2008. Even though we didn’t release a lot of music, we played tons of shows,” says guitarist Chad Hendrickson.
Official Sponsor of the Big List Concert Guide
Official Sponsor of the Local Spins Artist Spotlight
“We’ve weathered some musical changes and we think things have swung back in our direction with just honest good rock with hooks and good lyrics. We felt the time was right to finally put our music together and get back out there with the press and let people know not only are we still alive, but we’re kicking and kicking hard.”
The band, formed in 1996, officially celebrates its new album this week with several Michigan CD-release shows, including Friday night’s affair at The Stache inside The Intersection and a Saturday appearance at CJ’s Pub in Kalamazoo.
Band members – Hendrickson, singer Lukas Ross, bassist Chris Newman and drummer Ted Mitchell – gave a sneak preview of the shows with an acoustic performance Wednesday as part of Local Spins Live on News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW). Listen to the podcast here and check out a video of their rendition of “She’d See Everything” below.

This week’s live shows are the band’s first since July 2012. Its mini-tour in support of the new album actually comes about five months after release of “Lost in the Shadows” due to an unanticipated health scare for Hendrickson.
After suffering serious stomach issues for several months and losing more than 30 pounds, the guitarist and singer was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery to remove the tumor in March. Currently taking a break from chemotherapy, Hendrickson said he feels great and is excited about performing again.
As band members put it, things now seem to be falling into place for Willamena’s comeback, with their rootsy, hook-filled new songs charting and earning radio airplay in places as far-flung as California, Colorado, Missouri and Virginia “and all points in between.”
Willamena, "Lost in the Shadows"
Willamena, “Lost in the Shadows”
Two of the band members still call Michigan home (Ross is a native of Gull Lake who lives in Kalamazoo; Newman grew up in Climax and now resides in Vicksburg), so Willamena still considers West Michigan its foundation. Hendrickson, who grew up in Hesperia, currently lives in Florida, with Mitchell, a Newaygo native, now based in North Carolina.
“The music scene in Michigan is strong, because we do feel the roots here, “ Hendrickson insists. “We take pride in Michigan.”
Their winding journey as a band has been far more arduous than simply covering the miles that separate them now. The award-winning band earned kudos and a devoted audience for earlier albums, but never quite landed the record deal and industry recognition that seemed to be just around the corner.
“It’s always been, ‘Close, but no cigar,’ ” acknowledges Ross. “We believe at this point, especially with this album and some of the additional material that we’ve begun working on, that we actually have the right thing that people are listening to these days. Stylistically, things have come around again to our style of music, to the things that we do well.”
Willamena on Local Spins Live. (Photo/Anna Sinkevics)
Willamena on Local Spins Live. (Photo/Anna Sinkevics)
With independent release of their latest album – produced in part by Kevin Beamish (REO Speedwagon, Kenny Chesney) and John Seymour (U2, Dave Matthews) – band members feel confident they can make a dent commercially now, getting promotional and booking help from Hendrickson’s brother, Lance.
The band plans some touring of the Midwest and East Coast, and even is plotting potential release of “tons” of previously recorded material. “Lost in the Shadows” represents the band’s first studio album since 2004’s “Far from the Current.”
Friday’s Grand Rapids CD-release show begins at 8 p.m. in The Stache inside The Intersection, with a new band, Bello Spark, opening the show. Tickets are $6 in advance, $8 the day of the show. The new album will be available at the concert for a discounted price of $5.
(Willamena also plays at 9 p.m. Thursday at Pub 111 in Whitehall, and at 8 p.m. Saturday at CJ’s Pub in Kalam - John Sinkevics, LocalSpins.com

"Music Revue, 2004 on "Current.""

Text from Music Revue article written by Melissa Hill (March, 2004)

" Spending months in the recording studio has surely paid off for Willamena. The bands third album Far From the Current is an artistic creation that reflects the roots of American rock and roll. The traditional mix of guitar, harmonica, and percussion generates from this album, this kind of music that is real. Like the sounds of Tom Petty and Bob Segar this album isn''t hiding anything, with a varation of instruments and pure vocals this music is both smooth and energetic, lacking computer generated adjustments that have defined modern music. Based in Kalamazoo, the band set out eight years ago to create music from the soul. I highly recommend popping this CD into the car stereo and driving off into the night, great for a road trip or just a chill day when you want to lay back and listen to music that leaves you tapping your foot and whistling along to the melody.
- Melissa Hill


  • EP - "The Light Ahead" - 2015
  • CD -- "Lost in the Shadows" -- 2013
  • CD -- "Far From the Current" -- 2004
  • CD -- "Ghost of July" -- 2002
  • CD -- "High Price to Pay" -- 1996

There's just too much to list.  Before its release date, single "The Other Side of Loneliness" (from "The Light Ahead") hit #5 on Billboard's Triple A indicator adds chart and debuted on the FMQB top-200 AAA singles chart, eventually reaching #87.  "If This is Love" reached FMQB AAA #161.  "Lost in the Shadows" and its tracks charted nationally in six radio formats: AAA (FMQB #115 single, FMQB #174 single), Top 40 (#90 Mediabase activator), Hot AC, Active Rock, College, Americana.  Terrestrial airplay on 200+ stations (in addition to 300+ syndicated-show affiliates) in at least six countries.



Willamena is a rarity -- a nationally-charting genuine indie band.  When the band's fifth release “The Light Ahead” hit the streets and the airwaves in January, 2015, Kalamazoo Michigan’s #1 rock act set out once again to use its award-winning live show and blue-collar work ethic to prove some old wisdom true: a determined underdog will have his day.

Before the EP's release, lead-off single “The Other Side of Loneliness” debuted at #5 on the Billboard AAA indicator most-added chart (1/17/15), started at #3 in AAA downloads and streams on radio-servicer PlayMPE.com (1/2/15), and jumped straight onto the FMQB AAA top-200 singles chart (1/20/15), eventually reaching #87 – all without professional promotion or a publicist.  Follow-up single "If This Is Love" then became the fourth Willamena song to chart nationally, reaching #161 on the FMQB AAA chart.  (Single "Falling Through the Sky (radio mix)" from previous CD "Lost in the Shadows" climbed to #115 FMQB AAA, and "The Things That I Forgot" reached #174.)  As RadioInfo.com observed, “... it’s definitely a marketable sound that makes for some hit triple-A playlists… and hot AC/AC stations that wait patiently for their turn …. We are keeping our ears on them.  So should you.”  (RadioInfo.com Rock “pick of the week” 1/14/15).

The band’s full biography links here: http://goo.gl/mcBXtl

Band Members