By Kevin Alan Lamb
Music is a beating heart with immeasurable reach, pumping blood, and essentially life into those who observe and or devout themselves to its practice. Michigan’s music community is filled with ordinary heroes, people not so different than you and I, who have answered the call to walk off the beaten path and be bold enough to create something that might not have existed otherwise. Sometimes we meet these people and we can feel their beating heart brimming through their smile, shining through their eyes, and other times, we are lucky enough to let them into our lives, and build something together.
Ryan Williams is one of these people. I think comic books got it wrong, or maybe just gave us what we needed in a different time. These days, humanity needs the decent man or woman, with a moral compass pointing in a single, unwavering direction. What’s good today, ought to be good tomorrow, and I think we could all use a little more goodness we can depend on. Working in the music industry rarely offers a certain path, but it sure is a vibrant one, offering the soul solace for the true fortune it seeks, realized in the joyous celebration and empowerment of not few, but many.
Ryan lives in Stanton, Michigan, a city I had never heard of until he entered my life last fall at Handmade Music. We built tents as a team on a 38 degree fall day, accompanied by swirling winds and each of us, a smile on our face as we began to build something we still hope will last. It’s a lyric I’ve often borrowed from Noah and the Whale, but “What you share with the world, is what it keeps of you.”
While Ryan is woven into the fabric of the Michigan festival community, it doesn’t seem to keep him from taking on new endeavors. Most recently, he has partnered with Mustang Junction in Edmore (30 minutes from Wheatland), where he removed layers of brick mortared in concrete, refinished floors, moved pool tables, and poured his blood, sweat, and tears into creating a cultural hub and new home for live music in Mid-Michigan.
Edmore is a village in Montcalm County with a population near 1,200. Its station on the Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad was called “Edmore Junction.” It was incorporated as a village in 1879 with Moore as its first president.
Mustang Junction will host live music every Saturday from 9:00 PM to midnight, asking only a modest $5 cover to start. It will serve as a satellite for White Birch Music Festival, located in nearby Stanton, ramping up for its second year May 17-19, featuring headliners Joshua Davis, Rachel Davis, and The Gasoline Gypsies.
Here’s my interview with Ryan Williams, we hope to see you someday at the Mustang Junction.
Why were you compelled to dive into this new project and put your energy into Mustang Junction?
I love good food and a great place to socialize. Must have happening live scene as well. Mustang has had a few rough years. Been through the ringer. However it is a great establishment that needed some operational tlc. Now I’ve always loved a challenge and it has been one but to be able to turn it around, expand, provide a new updated menu, new brand and most exciting for me, the ability to bring live music to the Edmore area is super important. Mark has a great vision and has been supportive and excited about changing things for the better! We now can offer some of the best band in the state a new area to play in and the folks in the surrounding areas a new cultural hub!
Tell us more about The Slammer?
The Slammer is Mustang’s live room. Newly remodeled and now ready to roll it is where we will be hosting dis, live music, special events etc. We call it “The Slammer” because it is in the building where the jail for Edmore was.
Help give people a feel for the vibe and what life is like in Edmore?
Edmore is a slower small town Michigan community that is growing and has a forward thinking leadership team that run the village. Very modern business, social acceptance and always eager to try something new! It’s not often you get a town with those components that combined with the other food and shopping options in town it is fast becoming a destination.
What’s the history of live music in the region of Michigan?
With Wheatland just up the road 30 minutes and a lot of locals that attend there is a lot of demand for Live music but no major outlet for it until now. I also operate White Birch Music Festival with the help of many like minded individuals. We operate on a hive mind philosophy that each person or worker has the ability to make the hive grow and provide more culture and arts to the surrounding communities.
Walk us through some of the work you’ve done to remodel the place so far?
We have remodeled what use to be the old jail, a task like no other as we had to take out a very large section of brick three layers thick, and mortared with concrete. We’ve moved pool tables, redone floors, and steered away from a poster heavy environment. So a lot of blood, sweat and tears went in to getting it ready!
For those who don’t know, can you elaborate on your experience and commitment to the Michigan music scene that makes you uniquely qualified to create a positive, and quality environment for live music?
I’ve been working in the Michigan Music Festival Community for about 14 years now. Starting working as an entry level position in the beginning doing parking for Earthwork Harvest Gathering. I found I had a knack for it and decided to do more. Fourteen years and I’m estimating 80 festivals later, I sit as president of The Michigan Music Festival Roundtable as well as The President of Farm House Music Organization. Up until last May I was The National Master of Festivals for Brown Paper Tickets. On top of that I am founding member of The Change a touring roots music, original band out of Grand Rapids. So approaching this from years of experience.
Just in case you were listening for, This Is A Good Sound.