On The Road Again: Catching Up With Connor Millican Of Wise Old Moon
I first met Connor Millican after inquiring about being involved in his The Old Guitar series that he ran under the Idlewilde Creations umbrella. It wasn’t until much later than I discovered how talented a songwriter and fervent performer he was on stage. While the first record that the frontman put out under the band name Wise Old Moon had a much rootsier vibe than the current line up curates, it had a timeless quality to it and at the heart of it all was the importance of penning a great song and Millican’s vocal in the forefront. There is something incredibly captivating about his voice.
Last year the band expanded and explored it sounds and released “Don’t Take Off” at the tail end of 2015 (landing it a somewhat delayed, but well deserved spot on my favorites of the year and taught me a lesson of not being too hasty when making year end lists!). Dotted with driving acoustic guitar rhythms, howling pedal steel and a swelling energy and impassioned vibrancy that showed the band was more than just another roots act painting in dulled coffee-colored hues, but delved into a palette with red hot rock n’ roll rhythms and downtrodden sapphire and indigo blues.
One theme has remained constant for the band, despite having a few great recordings under their belt, the live experience and passion on stage is what sets them apart from the herd. On stage Millican’s presence is that of a giant, ripping a harmonica out of his pocket, hurricane winding a solo into its reed and throwing it down on the wooden stage floor to re-introduce the hard strummed patterns of his songs. A rhythm section that is as tight as the seam in a ship’s hull and electric guitar riffs that absolutely soar. The dynamic of the live band is constantly evolving and keeping an audience on their toes.
Wise Old Moon hits the road this month for a cluster of shows all over New England. Catch them down at the break and hit up the tour page of WOM’s site to check more, but for now read up what Connor has to say about touring, making friends with like-minded artists and what is coming next for the band…
RLR: The past few years have seen a transformation of sorts for the band in more ways than one. First, lets touch upon the current line up. Who is on the road with you now? The last time you came through our little area up here in VT you guys had adopted a hybrid rock n’ roll-bluesy kind of a vibe. You had an absolutely killer cover of a traditional gospel number, “Up Above My Head”. Can we expect more of that kind of a sound?
CM: Since I started Wise Old Moon in 2013 a lot has changed, but I feel the main goal of creating a band that pays homage to folk, rock, Americana and roots music has stayed strong throughout the process. As far as the line up, one recent change we’ve made is working with Ian Meadows from the Meadows Brothers who will be playing lead guitar with us. I’ve known Ian for a few years now and have always respected his songwriting and guitar playing, so when the opportunity arose to work with him, I jumped at the chance. Ian offers up a gritty, twangy roots/rock vibe that has become a real staple of our live sound as of late. Our rhythm section features long-time Wise Old Moon drummer Stephen Cusano and Greg Lake on electric bass.
RLR: In that same vein, you have been growing as well and building your audience, perhaps the hard way, hitting the road pretty hard. How has that been for you as an artist and business minded person? Do you see it paying off?
CM: Touring has been the main focus of our business since the beginning. We’ve been travelling in the Northeast but we’re beginning to branch out and have plans for a Southeast tour later this year. With support from our manager Brett Marks we handle all booking and promotion in-house, which has been a huge learning experience for me, from accounting to scheduling, routing and beyond. This year we formed an LLC, purchased a van, and made some other big moves towards getting on the road full time and beyond the Northeast.
RLR: This tour in particular sees you with another favorite of ours, Muddy Ruckus, how did you meet up with Erika and Ryan?
CM: Muddy Ruckus is one of those bands that has a huge buzz right now in the Northeast, so we were really excited to link up with them for a few dates on this run. We played in Cambridge, MA at Lizard Lounge with Muddy Ruckus a couple months back and it felt like a great musical fit, so we’re really looking forward to these upcoming dates with them. Ryan and Erika are a perfect example of hard-working musicians who are writing great songs and staying out on the road, which is what we are all about.
RLR: In the past you have kind of had a “sampler platter” of studio work that intrigues me, recording different songs for the same project at different studios…do you think that effects the songs in a different manner? How much of that is purposeful based on the studio and the specific song you are going in to record? What has the experience been like?
CM: We’re still honing in on our studio recording abilities. I think we’ve always been a live band so figuring out how to capture our true essence has been a bit elusive to us, which is maybe why we’ve been experimenting with different locations and producers. A big goal for us in 2017 is to spend more time in the studio writing and recording so we can get more experience with that process as a group.
RLR: What is next for the band, any plans for a new record on the horizon?
CM: We’ve been searching for a producer to work with on our next record. We have lots of new material and have had a few people interested in working with us who we would be honored to be involved with, but nothing is set in stone just yet. We really want to take our time with this release, bridging the gap between our first and second records, to create a more cohesive 3rd album that blends our high-energy live sound with our folk roots. Until then, you can count on us being out on the road in 2017 at a club near you.