Simply put, after “… Current” came out, tough times got tougher. Willamena’s home base between the coasts and lack of industry connections (or cash) had always hampered the band; what turned out to be “the big crash” didn’t help. Neither did Napster, or NAFTA, or club closings, or slashed label rosters, or the cratered economy which scattered so many Michiganders, and the band, around the country seeking work. In mid-2009 the band went on a reluctant hiatus.
So despite winning the 142-band WBFX/Aris Hampers Rock Search in 2001… and despite making head-turning original rock like the 2002 CD “Ghost of July” which produced rave reviews like these:
“Willamena are the Derek Jeters of local music… Along with their kick-butt live shows… “Ghost of July” is putting these cats on the bus that says “Major League…” Buddah Worthmore, Music Revue, 5/2002
“’Ghost of July’ could be the most solid release from a local band this year – a sonically-superior recording showcasing emotional performances and… gifted songwriting… highly recommended…” Recoil Magazine, 6/2002
… and despite headlining at premier clubs from Milwaukee to Manhattan and outdoor festivals, and opening for national acts like Fishbone, The Why Store, and SR-71… and despite earning “… the reputation of being the hardest-working act in Michigan…” (The Buzz, TheIndustryResource.com 12/22/04)… and despite maintaining the title of “… the hardest-working band in Michigan…” (Carly Plank, Revue Magazine 6/20/13) years later… Willamena remained unsigned and, largely, undiscovered.
Undiscovered, that is, until the rise of internet radio, and LPFM, and the Triple A radio format, and accessible technology that brought Willamena’s music out of obscurity. Beginning in 2011, world-class recording pros including Gravity Studios’ Doug McBride (Fall Out Boy, Rachael Yamagata, Veruca Salt), Grammy winner John Seymour (U2, Santana, Dave Matthews Band) and Grammy winner Cameron Webb (Kelly Clarkson, Social Distortion, Motorhead) began to take an interest in the band, contributing their talents on various tracks (and on decidedly non-major-label budgets). Throughout 2012, ‘13, and ‘14 radio stations all over the U.S. and internationally-syndicated programs latched on to Willamena’s hook-filled songs, and the stage was set for 2015’s “The Light Ahead.”
Music fans around the world have been figuring out what the major labels have missed so far: Willamena has the goods. “Strong Enough to Last” is another collection of original, radio-ready Midwestern rock n’ roll, and it’s set to line the band up toe-to-toe with major-label acts on radio playlists around the globe.
“‘… Clearly, Lucas Ross is a great rock vocalist, and carries dynamics the way that Fred Neil did, and Rob Thomas and Bono still do…” KZHP Sacramento
“There is plenty to like here and these guys should really make a splash on the music scene… Expect great things from Willamena. They’ve got the chops to achieve them… 4.5 stars (out of 5).” – G.W. Hill re: “Lost in the Shadows”
“… Their music is ready made to fill arenas…” John Verburg, WestMichiganIndie.com
Listen to the interview here: