Like so many young people hoping to make it in the music business, Will Vance left home to try his luck in Nashville, Tennessee.
Vance spent about two years in Music City before coming home to Louisiana. Since 2012, he’s been the frontman and principle songwriter with the Hammond-based Will Vance and the Kinfolk.
A rock band that filters many musical flavors into its mostly original set lists, including Southern rock, the group performs from Orlando, Florida, to Beaumont, Texas. The band headlines a show Saturday at the Varsity Theatre.
Vance and the Kinfolk have played nearly 40 shows this year.
“We’ve stayed pretty busy,” Vance said. “One thing we go by, if we’re selling merchandise at the end of the show, then we’re doing something good. To win a fan here or there is always good, especially for these out-of-town shows.”
Of course, performing original songs, rather than the usual staples of local bands, current hits and classics, is always a challenge.
“If people start dancing and want to buy your stuff, people who aren’t your friends or neighbors, that’s a big vote of confidence,” Vance said.
So far, the band’s better markets are close to home.
“Baton Rouge, New Orleans, we do pretty well,” Vance said. “But the newer markets, every place we’ve played wants us back. Every place we’ve played, we sold merchandise.”
In addition to performing throughout the deep South, Vance and the Kinfolk are building a discography. The group released a seven-song EP, “Broken Promise Land,” in May 2014, in digital and physical editions. Follow-up singles appeared this year. The band also recorded a song for the Louisiana distillery Louisiana Lightning. The whiskey company may use the song in TV and radio commercials.
Except for the Kinfolk’s new bass player, Tyler Davis, all of its members are co-founders.
In the do-it-yourself organization, Vance handles most of the band’s booking. Guitarist John-Mark Gray handles the group’s PA system. Drummer Garland Hoover designs the band’s website.
“This group has been around the block,” Vance said. “We all know what we want. It’s the first time I can say that I’m in a band where all the members are on the same page. That’s what it takes.”
Despite growing up with country music in Amite and his time in Nashville, Vance isn’t creating country songs with Kinfolk.
“It’s got some Southern flavor to it, but I wouldn’t call it country,” he said. “I’ve always been a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, an Allman Brothers fan, and always wanted to be one of those types of bands.”
But if circumstances had been different, Vance said, if his truck hadn’t broken down and if his roommate hadn’t left, he might still be in Nashville.
“But I found out in Nashville they either want you to be a singer or a songwriter — not both,” he said. “I licked my wounds and came back, but I had to go there to learn how to write songs. It was a good experience.”
Now that Kinfolk is making regional headway, Vance sounds less likely to leave Louisiana for Nashville or any other music city.
“This group of guys in Kinfolk is the best band I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “We get along so well.”