Jared Kolesar is looking forward to a month-long tour in October, where he plans to play acoustic sets across the country, including a solo stop at Stella’s in Downtown Greeley – a new, intimate venue beneath the Moxi Theater, where he’s used to playing with a full rock band. The tour will give him a chance to play some new material for the first time, but he’s also looking forward to the solitude.
“I’ll be all alone in my car,” Kolesar said. “It’s a long time traveling.”
Kolesar welcomes the opportunity to rage solo these days. In fact, it’s what he’s done since the pandemic, when real life caught up to his popular regional band, Jared & The Mill, and they realized that the long tour they’d just completed right before the coronavirus would be their last.
He remains best friends with the group, and they still play with him when they can, but he’s in charge of himself now. He calls his new project Wheelwright, and he’s released eight singles under that name, including a few reworked tracks from Jared & The Mill. He’s essentially a solo artist.
“I think there’s an element of a lonely cowboy out on the trail,” he tells BandWagon in a phone interview. “There’s many songs now with a story that is best told while I’m alone with my guitar.”
The reworked songs give his fans a chance to preview his new sound, one he calls more sonically interesting, with more synth and more effects to his vocals to go with some new hip-hop vibes. He calls the sound Neo-Western and compares it to a mix of 80’s futurism and Americana. Or, in his own words, “like Blade Runner with more cowboy vibes.”
“It’s pretty unique to be honest with you,” Kolesar said. “I’m doing whatever the fuck I want, and it feels good.”
Indeed, his solo career means he can do things his way, which he finds refreshing as well as challenging.
“There are times I don’t know what to do,” Kolesar said. “But at the same time, I can sit in silence in the studio for 20 minutes and figure out what I need to do. I don’t need to campaign for my ideas in the studio.”
He’s spent a decent amount of time in the studio with a couple of producers as of late, sessions he hopes will begin to come together for an album, ultimately. But he has no real plans to release one just yet.
“Before I jump in and make a record, I want to identify spiritually where I am as an artist,” he said. “Plus we live in a world of singles now. I’ve just been putting those out. Every time I do that, I get a little bit more interest.”
Regardless of Kolesar defining himself as separate from The Mill, the friendships in the band continue to endure. He even uses their original text thread when he sends out information about upcoming gigs to inquire if anyone wants to join him. But like many band constellations, it’s not all that simple. Times change, people grow up and deep-set dynamics can lead to strong feelings when trying to keep things the way they were in the past. He believes he might have started to resent his bandmates given their hesitation to leave their families — some have young children now — and tour. But letting go while keeping the door open seems to be the way forward for Kolesar, and for the former Mill.
“My thinking was, ‘Why don’t I do my own thing and they can make music when it makes sense for them?” he said.
For now, it works. And going it alone, or semi-alone, has also given him an opportunity for more exposure – in both senses of the word. He’s able to play more gigs, with only himself to schedule, and as a solo performer he makes himself more vulnerable to his audiences each night.
“I’m just a songwriter trying to sing my song,” Kolesar said. “I don’t have the band to hide behind anymore.”