Jammin' In The Ham with Max Millwood of Winston Ramble June 1, 2016 08:42


Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

As we prepare for the upcoming weekend at Jam In The Ham at Zydeco in Birmingham, we are sitting down with several of this year's performers to learn a little more about this year's lineup.  Next up is Max Millwood of Winston Ramble, one of the hottest young bands in Alabama.  Winston Ramble is scheduled to perform on Saturday night at 12:00 AM.

Based in Birmingham, Alabama, Winston Ramble is a homegrown, acoustic, folk-rock band. With members originally hailing from the free state of Winston County, AL, the band aims to interject the raw expression of rock-n-roll into the feel-good vibes of acoustic music.

The sound of an an old southern soul hits you right out of the gate.  Drew "Ben" Benefield's vocals are soulful and still gritty.  Combine that with some mandolin twang, big country bends, and church-like harmonies and you're listening to a mix between a classic rock band and a gospel bluegrass quartet.  Yet, the acoustically driven tunes carry a funky, sometimes psychedelic, but ultimately, and undeniable rock n' roll vibe.

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Let's get started with the early days of Winston Ramble.  You guys have been going strong for four years now.  How did this band get started, and how has it continued to evolve since then?

Max: We all grew up together so that's the most important aspect, but Winston Ramble started out as an acoustic duo of Ben (Drew Benefiled) on guitar, Justin (Oliver) on mandolin, and Justin's brother Cody sitting in on cajón. About that time, the band I was in had stopped playing together. I randomly got a call from Ben asking if Coty (West) and I could sit in for one show. When we got together to practice, Jud (Mize) happened to be there, and he sat in too.

It started by accident really.  I thought it was gonna be one show...we'd have fun and be done. Now looking back, it's sort of crazy how it turned out. We've been extremely blessed as a band, with help from a lot of other musicians in Birmingham and really cool venues giving us a chance. They definitely gave us our start. 

In the last few years, we've gone from strictly playing bars every other weekend to a full schedule including festivals.  Jam in the Ham is a perfect example.  Again, we've been blessed with good management and a lot of help from others. I think it's a real exciting time for us.

Watch Winston Ramble perform "Dreams" here:

While the band is generally an acoustic, folk rock band, your music is also described as carrying "a funky, sometimes psychedelic, but ultimately an undeniable rock n' roll vibe."  Is the band's diverse sound something that comes natural, or do you make a conscious effort to mix things up?

Max: Our sound really comes from the different influences that we all have. Anywhere from Skynyrd, Tom Petty, and the Grateful Dead, to gospel and bluegrass. When we write a song or learn a cover, we try not to map every little thing out. We really just wait to get together and see what we all can come up with. That's the way to have the most fun, I think most of our sound comes from the fact that we try not to expect anything specific

As the Winston Ramble's demand continues to grow, the schedule will only get busier.  What has the band's approach been towards touring in 2016?  Do you guys have a certain amount of shows you'd like to hit for the year?

Max: We play a lot of shows, but we all like that. We don't have specific number to shoot for. In the last few months, we've had more options on bigger gigs, which is where you want to be. Festivals and shows with bands we know is where we have the most fun, and it helps get your name out there when your not playing the same bar every week. So its a win win. Again, we've been blessed with a great manager, Alex Cape. He's great at what he does and Winston Ramble wouldn't be where we are without him.

Photo by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

We're coming up on this weekend's Jam In The Ham in Birmingham.  This two-day festival showcases a great deal of young talent from across Alabama and beyond.  How does an event such as this impact the current Alabama music scene?

Max: Birmingham is great place for music and aspiring musicians. There many venues that will give you a chance to get started. That being said, some of the best bands, not just in Alabama, but from anywhere are playing this weekend...so I know its gonna be a blast. There's a ton of talent that will be there and we're looking forward to it. It's great for Birmingham cause your never see all these bands in one spot. I can't wait.

Many of the bands most loyal fans will be in attendance this weekend.  How would you best describe what Winston Ramble has planned for the big weekend ahead?

Max: We are very excited to be playing in one of the venues that gave us our start with all these other great musicians. We definitely have a surprise in store, so I hope all the Ramble fans make it out to see something new.

Watch Winston Ramble perform "As Long As I Can See The Light" here:

In addition to the upstairs and downstairs stages, Jam In The Ham will also provide a special collaboration stage this weekend.  Can we expect to see you guys spending much time collaborating with other performers?

Max: We love to collaborate...mixing styles and coming up with something unexpected is what we're about. I'm sure we will be right in the mix.

Before we wrap things up, is there anything coming up in the second half of 2016 that has the band particularly excited?  

Max: Really just having the opportunity to play festivals is enough to be excited about. We just finished with the Acoustic Cafe Festival, which was one of the best experiences I've ever had as a musician. But we're looking forward to and hoping for new things to keep happening this year.