Up South, the first band to take the Worthington Regatta and Music Festival on Saturday afternoon, is a Minnesota-based country act with nearly a century of collective experience honing its craft.
“From smoke-filled saloons to festival stages, Up South prides itself on playing like their lives depend on it and, in a way, they do,” describes the website for the band.
Music has been a key part of the life of Up South lead singer/guitarist Mike Villalva for decades,
“I remember being about 9 or 10 years old and seeing 'Jailhouse Rock' on TV," he recalled. "I asked my parents who that was, and they told me it was Elvis Presley. That was the day my life’s purpose was set in stone.”
Up South’s story, however, begins far more recently, Villalva explained.
“I moved to Minnesota from Nashville to be closer to my daughter," he said. "When people hear that I moved from Nashville to Minnesota, they give me a look like I’m doing things backwards. That can’t be further from the truth. I can write songs anywhere. I’d rather have to travel back to Nashville than have to travel to see my daughter.”
Villalva formed Up South shortly after arriving in Minnesota, and the band hasn’t looked back. The band’s recent debut single, “Far Too Long," received airplay on multiple radio stations throughout the Upper Midwest, and a follow-up single, “Paradise,” also garnered radio play. The band’s first EP is also in the works, and a busy touring schedule is also being maintained.
In addition to Villalva, Up South is made up of Jason Biechler, lead guitar/vocals; Logan Mehr, pedal steel/guitar; Howard Mische, bass/vocals; and Danny Mardi, drums.
People who enjoy listening to Up South will have the opportunity to catch the band again this summer at locations around Minnesota and Wisconsin. Upcoming performances include June 23 in Victoria; June 25 at the “Dayz of Thunder” event in Fairfax; June 26 at the Cadott, Wisconsin Country Fest; July 2 in Chetek, Wisconsin; July 3 at the Park Rapids Rodeo; July 8 in Norwood Young America; July 9 in Sauk Rapids; and July 10 in Hallock, among multiple other dates. A combination billed as Mike and Danny (Villalva and Mardi) are also booked for several dates over the course of June, July and August.
“We believe in hard work, paying dues, writing the best songs possible and putting on the best show possible,” Villalva said. “Our music deserves that, and our fans deserve it. That’s what we can control, and that’s what we'll do."
Up South takes the Sailboard Beach at 4 p.m. Saturday as the first of three bands to perform that day.