Divided We Stand offers a different brand of rock via ‘Maryville Lives’ concept
By Steve Wildsmith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It may not seem very rock ‘n’ roll for a drummer to work as a house parent for Smoky Mountain Children’s Home.
Think again. Mike Russell of Divided We Stand is probably one of the most rock ‘n’ roll dudes out there, precisely because of the work that he does.
“It’s kind of weird, I know, but I’ve worked with foster kids all my life,” Russell told The Daily Times this week. “That’s what my parents did, and that’s what I went into. I get them at about 16 or 17, and I try to help turn them into something that’s not prison.”
That’s his day job; by night, he and his bandmates in Divided We Stand — Phil Zimny, Trevor Tucker, Randy Krouse and Joe Turner — hustle, grind and scrape to get their group noticed in the local heavy music scene.
Russell was born and raised in Blount County; he attended Alcoa schools until his senior year, when he transferred to Heritage High before graduating in 2003. During his teens, he said, the local music scene was populated by a number of original rock acts that cultivated a healthy following of all-ages fans.
Four years ago, he moved to Kentucky for 12 months, reflecting on his future; when he returned, he said, things weren’t as he remembered.
“I noticed, ‘Wow, there’s nothing to do,’” Russell said. “There’s nothing wrong with cover music, but sometimes I want to expand my mind. As a musician, I want to experience something I’ve never heard before.”
He started looking around for fellow musicians; as a drummer who also writes songs, he knew he needed a unique lineup of individuals, as well as a crew as dedicated as he felt about making things happen. A brief stint playing with Jared Homant (now of the local band WarClown) led to his meeting with Zimny, and out at East Tennessee Storage Complex, the two started jamming.
Familiar with Krouse from the Blount County scene, Russell pursued him and brought him into the fold; after the breakup of the band Scorned, which practiced in the adjacent storage building, Tucker threw his lot in with Divided We Stand. All they needed next was a vocalist.
The band tried out a number of singers, Russell said — including Amy Bromfield from Gatlinburg, who was one of the contestants on Season 11 of “American Idol” — but it wasn’t until finding Turner that everything started to click for the band. His style is different — clean, steady as steel support beams and heavy as battleship chains — but it changed the band’s entire dynamic, Russell said.
“He’s just an amazing singer, and we’re truly blessed to find him,” he said. “I’m surrounded by great musicians in this band. It literally takes only 20 minutes to write a masterpiece with these guys.”
The Divided We Stand lineup has only been solid for a year, but already they’re making waves, booking shows as far away as Morristown and locally at Maryville Rock Academy, which endorses and supports the band. Now, Russell and his bandmates want to give the Maryville rock scene a shot in the arm, so they’re starting up “Maryville Lives,” a concert series that debuts Saturday night at Rackoons in downtown Maryville.
It’s the inaugural show, and future “Maryville Lives” gigs will depend on the turnout. But with the lineup of established rockers on the bill, he’s confident that the show will serve as a welcome alternative to those who are ready for something different.
“So many of my friends refer to Maryville as ‘country music hell,’ and while there’s nothing wrong with country music, there’s more that this town has to offer,” he said. “We just want people to have a good time and have a place where they can come enjoy some original music.