A fan once described Headway’s music as ‘supercosmic funkagroovistic.’ Once you’ve heard the band, you can’t help but agree. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, Headway is a five-person band with a guitarist (Bryan Harrell), bass guitarist (Ricky Groves), pianist (Jason Woolwine), drummer (Brian Mason), and percussion player (Neil Horne). The band’s live shows embody their fascination with stream-of-consciousness performance, using improvisation to move from one moment to the next–and sometimes from one song to the next! Their high-energy, danceable sets showcase original polyphonic music with jazz, blues, and folk fusions.
Over the past few years Headway has played many venues, including several festivals, and has built a strong local presence and fan base. The band has begun to build a regional audience by playing venues in South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia, and has opened for several national acts, including the Derek Trucks Band, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jazz is Dead, Merl Saunders, The Recipe, David Nelson, and the Jerry Garcia Band.
The band has seen several different incarnations before settling on their current membership and name. Bryan and Neil began playing music together in 1991. In 1993 Jason joined them. Ricky became a part of the band in 2000, when it was known as Humchuck Fire. In late 2001 the band renamed itself Headway. Drummer Brian Mason joined the band in the summer of 2008.
Headway’s members possess a diverse set of musical skills and experiences: Neil plays guitar and mandolin, and Jason plays the Hammond organ, accordion, and banjo. The band does not have a lead vocalist; instead, all of the members sing and have spent a great deal of time developing their harmonizing skills. All five of the band members are committed and experienced musicians who appreciate a range of styles—funk, rock, zydeco, bluegrass, African and Latin music—and these influences are evident in the depth and diversity of their original songs. Their eclectic musical tastes are also reflected in the band’s extensive, varied repertoire of cover songs.
Headway views their shows as opportunities to mold emotion into motion, bring people together, and take their audience on a roller coaster of feeling and rhythm. Their improvisational abilities render each show unique, enticing new listeners and keeping long-time fans intrigued.
With the release of their demo, the band hopes to bring the Headway experience to a broader audience, establishing a fan base throughout the Southeast and playing larger venues. In the words of pianist Jason Woolwine: “We put on a great live show with a mix of good songs and improvisation that’ll blow the roof off the place. And we’ll try to put it back on when we leave.”