No one knows us better than we know ourselves. We’re in our own heads all the time, so we know every facet of our personalities and ways of thinking. That doesn’t mean we always like dealing with some aspects of ourselves. Whether it’s dealing with bad habits or coping with painful memories from our past, it can be tough to process and confront every single part of who we are as a person. People who truly dive deep and embrace every part of themselves are to be commended. That’s doubly true for people who are willing to share the wisdom they find with the world. Jared & The Mill frontman Jared Kolesar is one of those people, and he alongside his bandmates Michael Carter, Larry Gast, Chuck Morriss, and Josh Morin are bringing heaps of wisdom to the people with their Americana-tinged rock sound. Their new album This Story Is No Longer Available finds Jared & The Mill at their most open, emotional, and wise, serving as a testament to the soul-searching they’ve gone through.
I’m aware of that openness before I ever pick up the phone. The Arizona-based band is incredibly active on social media, and they’re equally generous with their release schedule. Since the beginning of 2018, Jared & The Mill have shared nine of the seventeen tracks from This Story Is No Longer Available, and frequently appear live on streaming platform Twitch, including a planned stream of the entire project the night of February 13. The Kolesar you hear on the tracks exploring the deepest parts of his psyche is the same Kolesar you hear in conversation. He is an open book, willing to discuss any and everything. His words flow freely, and at the same time he often searches for those words carefully. This is not so he can guard his thoughts. On the contrary, I get the feeling he picks his words so particularly in order to clearly, openly share a glimpse of his thought process and feelings.
It’s late January when we talk, and Kolesar says up front Jared & The Mill are all overflowing with the endless energy and anticipation that comes with an album release. “We’ve been home since October,” he explains. “It’s been our longest break in six years, and now I think we’re all getting pretty itchy feet. We’re ready to hit it pretty hard in 2019.” That break has given them time to rejuvenate, but has led to some weird side-effects as well. While the imminent release of a big project usually makes everything feel more real, he says with a laugh it’s the opposite for him. “It almost feels more abstract that it’s about to be a thing that everyone has access to,” he says with a bemused chuckle.
For Kolesar, music and writing have always been the way he’s coped with hard times. He talks candidly about how he felt self-hatred through much of his childhood, but didn’t know how to reach out. “I didn’t like dumping my emotions on other people around me so I didn’t really tell anyone about how I felt about myself or how I perceived the world,” he remembers. Instead, he turned to writing. For a long time, there was no end goal for this writing, it was simply something he did to cope. As he wrote more, he naturally became better at it. In school he learned how to play many of the strings you hear in Jared & The Mill’s music, and grew to love that talent as well. At this point, he came to a realization. He says “it manifested itself when I liked singing, I liked playing guitar, and I had written a bunch of poems.” He decided to merge all of those things together, and after performing a few shows as Jared & The Mill, he decided it was something he wanted to seriously invest in. He muses that it’s not a particularly romantic story, but life often gives you what you need subtly, instead of in sweeping gestures.
If sharing that much of yourself sounds scary, you might take comfort in knowing that’s the case for the pros, too. Kolesar says it can still be intimidating for him to share so much of himself. He says the writing on TSINLA is “deep into who [he is] as a person,” which can be scary. Recent single “Chisel” is given as an example. He explains the track is about how he doesn’t believe there’s a higher power guiding life, and how that feeling in and of itself can be scary. Sharing it with a wide audience adds onto that intimidation. That being said, there’s still exhilaration in sharing himself with the world. “It’s exciting to be putting such real individual thoughts into a format that people can listen to and think about. While it is really scary to be so exposed, it’s also very exciting to put it out there and anticipate the ride it takes you on,” he explains.
With a new album comes tour dates, which every member of Jared & The Mill is ecstatic about. “I think to our core we are very much a live band. We excel when it comes to performing and playing our songs for a live audience,” Kolesar says, the excitement pouring out of his words. At multiple points throughout our interview he urges people to come see a live show, and it’s not just to push tickets. There’s a giddy, joyful energy in Kolesar’s demeanor when he talks about live shows. You can tell this is what all of this is about for him. He says he loves the connection they can make with people during a live show that a recording just isn’t capable of. “We’ve met people who have made friends at our shows, we’ve met people who are married now who met at our shows. We’ve had people break down and tell us that our shows meant so much to them for a variety of reasons that are very touching,” he recalls. He tells a story of playing TSINLA album cut “Wilderness Calls” live for the first time, a raw, arresting performance of a raw, arresting song. When the song was over, the crowd reacted with dead quiet. “It was this crazy sense of relief afterwards when someone in the back, I just heard go ‘holy fuck!'” he remembers, and while he laughs at that specific moment, the overall memory still resonants deeply with him. “To know that people feel it and felt it enough to react with absolute silence, it was a very powerful feeling and humbling,” he says solemnly.
On this upcoming tour, Jared & The Mill are giving more than emotional connection. The band is partnering with charity Can’d Aid to donate a dollar per ticket sale to charitable causes. The band will also be holding workshops with schools on some of the stops. Kolesar says these workshops speak to the band members personally, because they see their own childhoods in these children. He says Jared & The Mill “are all products of public education, and we wouldn’t be doing what we do if it weren’t for people who were willing to take time and resources to making sure the schools we went to had arts programs.” He further explains while he knows the larger systematic issues for public arts education funding are largely out of his control, there was no choice for the band when it came to do doing whatever they can for these schools and children. “Why would we not do this? Why would we not just spend a little bit of time and energy making sure we can help kids who want to learn to do the things we love doing? That would be such a silly opportunity to miss out on,” he asks rhetorically.
Jared Kolesar is as open of a person as you’ll find. Whether you get a chance to speak with him or just listen to This Story Is No Longer Available, you will know Kolesar and all the members of Jared & The Mill much more personally after spending some time with them. It takes a lot of heart and courage to share that much of themselves with the world, but the powerful music they release and the genuine connections they make serve as a testament to the rewards from being so forthcoming. Jared & The Mill are not afraid to let us into their brains, and we’re all better for it.