The Upright Willies: A real hootenanny 

click to enlarge 1335495545-uprightwillies.jpg

Let me be honest: I will listen to anything cellist Grover Parido does. He can play with a rock band or quietly with Cara Jean Marcy. He could be playing in front of the club and his sound would stop me.

With his sublime yet beautifully rowdy play, Parido comes together with the Americana rock heart of Chad Mills to form the core of the band The Upright Willies, a group that finds itself making a unique sound that could resonate with roots, alt-country and Americana fans in Indianapolis.

It was about a year ago that Mills was asked to play a show at Radio Radio with a full band. The group he pulled together has been together ever since.

Mills has nearly 20 years of solo and band gigs behind him. He and Grover have proven themselves musically in Indy with Mills' solo releases and Parido's album contributions. They've even got an upright bass player who is actually named Willie.

They are headed into the studio to lay down tracks for their first album together. Musically, they blend sounds that are greasy, poignant, rocking and soulful. Here, Mills discusses the upcoming record, the constant writing process and the origin of the band's name.

click to enlarge Chad Mills
  • Chad Mills
NUVO: I dig the lineup and instrumentation of the band. How are the live shows going?
CHAD MILLS: We joke a lot after shows about all the "What the -" looks we often get while we're playing. I don't think people who haven't seen us before quite know what to expect, but so far the response has been great. Hopefully the venues we play keep getting bigger and the Willie Nation continues to grow. After our first rehearsal, I think it was evident to all of us that we had the potential for something pretty special.

NUVO: Tell me about the legend of the bass player named Willie.
MILLS: Well we're called The Upright Willie's, and every time I tell someone our name, they laugh. I know - not nice, right? Our upright bass player, William Rood - aka "Willie"- approached me after my set at Kammy's Kause a number of years ago. I don't recall exactly how the conversation went, but he seemed to remember me saying that I was looking for an upright player.

Now I can't say for sure whether or not this directly influenced him to go out and purchase an upright bass years later, (but) I like to think it did.

In 2010, I got this e-mail from him saying he'd bought one and asked if I wanted to jam sometime. So we hung out in my basement one night and played some of my tunes. Although he claimed to still be getting used to it, he was able to pretty much play from memory an old album of mine. I was sold.

click to enlarge Grover Parido
  • Grover Parido

NUVO: I think influences make the band. What does everyone have bring to this lineup?
MILLS: We're under the influence of a lot of things. We're kinda all over the place (and) tend to favor the hard drivin' stuff - songs with attitude. The Avett Brothers, Drive-by Truckers, Bach and Beethoven, David Gray, Tom Waits, Zeppelin, Mumford, Stones.

NUVO: I find beauty in Grover's playing. He's been getting more known as a go-to guy for bands that want his mix of elegance and rock and roll. How'd you get him?
MILLS: I had heard how great he was, playing with folks like Blueprint Music, Maple Trio, Re-collective and Cara Jean Wahlers. I got the chance to meet him one night at Locals Only, and asked if he'd ever consider helping me out on an album I was getting ready to record. To my surprise and delight, he agreed. Through that recording process, I got a first-hand look at just how incredibly talented he is.

NUVO: There is a Clarence Clemons-like quality on the first-time meeting the band's drummer. As the Springsteen legend goes, Clemons swung open the door of a bar where Bruce was playing on a really windy night on the Jersey Shore. The door comes off the hinges. The music stops and Clarence joins Bruce on stage as the brilliant final piece to his band. Upright Willies' drimmer Bob Stewart has a similar story, minus the door flying off the handle, and the fact that he is an Infrastructure Project Manager in Information Technology during the day.
MILLS: I met our drummer Bob one night about 7 or 8 years ago while playing a show at Moe & Johnny's. He asked me between songs if he could run home, grab a djembe & join me for a few minutes. He seemed normal enough, so I agreed.

click to enlarge Willie
  • Willie

I think he played the rest of the show with me that night, and we've been playing together since.

NUVO: Are you guys working an album? Who's writing the songs for that project?
MILLS: I'm writing new material specifically for the band. We've done it a couple different ways. And while I may bring the framework of a song to rehearsal one night, the exciting part is when the other guys put their brand on it, the song starts to grow. There's times where I'll have a pretty specific idea of how I want a song to sound. Most of the time, though, I give ‘em free reign to do with it what they please and they never disappoint.

I'm super excited to get into the studio with these guys. I'm hoping we'll be hitting the record button in the next month or so. Our goal is a full length album; it's gonna be a real hootenanny.

NUVO: Have you decided on a studio or producer yet?
MILLS: We're still kinda trying to figure that all out. I've got a Facebook message in to Rick Rubin.

NUVO: How is it finding places to play for the band?
MILLS: I tell you, we are built for festivals. We can pack a Willie-load of energy into a 45-minute set. As of now, it's mostly the bars. Our next show is back up at Chatham on May 12. Then Friday, May 18, we'll make our debut at The Monkey's Tale.

click to enlarge Bob
  • Bob

There are a few other venues that we've been really fortunate to play in the last year like Radio Radio, the Vogue & Klipsch Music Center. We always cherish opportunities to play venues like that with such rich history

House concerts too, would be great As a solo singer-songwriter who's recently had the opportunity to play a few, I know how special they can be. Anybody out there that's wants to give us a whirl, please track us down.

NUVO: OK, we're done. Anything else you need to let Indy know?
MILLS: I'll leave you with this: Give us a listen. It's definitely not your typical rock show. It's a unique sound that we bring. And we're bringing it on a bullet train.

"Rockin' the Free World"

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About The Author

Rob Nichols

Rob Nichols

A music writer for more than 30 years, Rob began as a rock radio jock at age 17. Born in central Indiana, Rob moved north and spent his college years in Hillsdale, Michigan. That meant traveling to Detroit for all the good rock shows, and explains his affinity for Seger, the J. Geils Band, and Mitch Ryder. He's... more

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