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By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | March 2, 2021

Under the trees at La Grande Orange, Jared Kolesar looks like he’s about to jump off the picnic table bench. Kolesar, wearing a black T-shirt that says “Deport all racists,” is getting ready to announce Jared & the Mill is no more.

He’s excited about renewing his “solo project,” Wheelwright. It’s “solo project” in quotes because the same musicians will co-write and perform when it’s convenient for them.

“We’re changing the way that we do everything,” says Kolesar, whose nails on his left hand are painted black. “Last year hit super hard. We had a little chat. We have a new manager now and she asked me, ‘What do you want as a band? What do you want spiritually? What are you trying to achieve? What do we see in five years?’

“As a manager, it’s good to know how your clients feel. I didn’t know the answer to that.”

The band sat in a circle on drummer Josh Morin’s front yard and discussed the future of Jared & the Mill. Guitarist Larry Gast III wanted to retreat from touring and move to Minneapolis to be near his girlfriend. Morin said his partner was pregnant.

“I was super happy for them, but, obviously in my mind, I’ve only been thinking about my music career for 10 years,” Kolesar says.

“I don’t know if that’s healthy or not. I was pretty stressed for a couple of days, but I realized it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to take a step back and reassess; just spend a week not thinking about it. I feel like I make my best decisions when I’m not thinking about it.

“I thought, ‘What if we kept doing things as a band, but we slapped my mug on the face of it and said it’s a solo project, but the guys stayed around me as a creative force.”

The musicians were on board, as they could pick and choose how much they wanted to be involved and when they wanted to tour. Kolesar is now performing — once again — under the moniker Wheelwright.

“It gives me the freedom to go out and do things that I want to do,” he says. “I can go to LA and write, if I want. I could do a tour. I could do a holiday tour. Usually, people want to be home over the holidays. I’m just trying to be as productive as possible.

“It gives me the ability to act as my own artist, which is something I’ve never really been able to do.”

Jared & the Mill’s music isn’t going away. It will stay on streaming platforms. On March 3, the handles and names will switch on social media and Wheelwright will release music on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music and other streaming services.

“Just Like You” is certainly a departure from Jared & the Mill. Kolesar describes the song as having a “dance vibe” and taking inspiration from contemporary R&B and grittier genres like Western, punk, grunge and hip-hop. Call it a funky version of Jared & the Mill.

The Wheelwright logo is more aggressive, too, having a switchblade through the second W.

“It’s the sickest thing in the world and I can’t wait for it to be a sticker,” says Kolesar, who recently started the company PastaClique (@pastaclique on Instagram). “There have already been a couple of fans who thought it was aggressive. I said, ‘Well, I love it. I’m so sorry.’”

Kolesar is hoping most fans enjoy the music — and the logo for that matter. He believes in the 20-plus songs he’s written, and he thinks they’re “super killer.”

He briefly stops to comment on a La Grande Orange customer’s beautiful dog. The animal lover in him is emerging.

Without a pause, Kolesar returns to “Just Like You,” which he calls the perfect introduction to Wheelwright’s music.

“It’s my thesis statement,” he says with a smile. “It’s going to be a really great way to set the ship off to sea. It still feels like a band, honestly. Nothing has changed much spiritually between me and the guys, which is great. I just feel like I’m getting the best of both worlds.”