By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
For Michael Henneberry and Blake Parks, music can sometimes be a family affair.
Both Parks and Henneberry are members of Steelwind, a Stillwater bluegrass band that also contains members of both men’s family. The other members of Steelwind are Blake’s brother, Sam Parks, mandolin; his father, Kenny Parks, bass; and Michael’s brother, JD Henneberry, viola. They are joined by Bret Franzmann, banjo.
Parks and his family have been involved in music for most of his life. Parks recalls what led him to bluegrass music.
“My parents were big influences on our whole family,” said Parks. “We grew up going to Bluegrass festivals.”
When Parks was 12, he saw a bluegrass band that had members of his own age group.
“It really gave me the motivation to pursue fiddle, which I thought was so interesting,” said Parks.
However, Henneberry had a different introduction to bluegrass music. Henneberry went on a trip to Thailand with a friend who kept speaking about bluegrass and a place in New Mexico called Philmount. So, Henneberry eventually took a trip to Philmount. He said it was there that he fell in love with bluegrass.
Both Parks and Henneberry met through a mutual friend and Facebook. Henneberry had been looking for someone to play music with and Parks name came up.
“I got this random Facebook message one day from this guy and I had no clue who it was,” laughed Parks.
The two began to play music together and attend bluegrass festivals in Guthrie and Winfield, Kan. Parks said it wasn’t long before the two decided to write a song.
“It was during winter when we, kind of depressed that the sun wasn’t shining and you know, it was cold and everything, so we wrote our first song called, ‘Will Winter End?,’” said Parks.
Eventually, more songs were written between the two.
“We really got into the songwriting thing,” said Henneberry. “It was new to both of us. Just kind of dived right in and nine months later the CD was out. So, really it all happened so fast, but been loving every minute of it.”
The CD, titled “The Sound of a Train”, was released in November.
“We’re really, really proud of it,” said Henneberry. “We spent a lot of time on it. It’s all original material. There’s 10 songs.”
Once again, the CD became a family affair. Blake’s brother did the mixing and mastering of the CD. Michael’s brother, JD, wrote a string arrangement for a reprise of one of the CD tracks. A family friend did photography for the CD cover and Park’s cousin did the illustration for the CD, as well.
“It’s so much fun working with your friends and family on a project because it brings you together,” said Parks. “It really creates these memories that you’ll never forget in this product that we all worked together to make.”
Henneberry said that to finally have a CD is a big accomplishment for Steelwind.
“It really is great to be able to sell your CD and more importantly, it’s not even really about selling it,” said Henneberry. “It’s just about getting our music out there and that’s the number one thing to us.”
While both men are busy — Henneberry is in dental school and Parks is nearing graduation from Oklahoma State University this month— they love playing at many of Stillwater’s venues.
“I like playing in Stillwater because one, there really isn’t a definitive (scene),” said Henneberry. “Stillwater is just so random and that’s what’s cool about it. And it’s so random, that when people do see us playing, they’re very open to it.”
Parks sums up what makes the time and effort of Steelwind worth it.
“Well, we both have really busy lives and music is a way to really just enjoy life,” said Parks.
Henneberry agrees with his fellow band member.
“Yeah, we’re having just as much fun playing it as people are listening to it,” said Henneberry. “The feeling of playing an original song that you wrote for someone else and them enjoying it, it’s unique and you don’t get that every day.”
For more information on Steelwind, visit their Facebook page or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.