Austin Willacy
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Austin Willacy

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF
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by Judy Krueger

Wow! This is a CD that I could hardly get out of my player long enough
to write the review. Austin Willacy is one righteous, been around the block
dude! He is a member of San Francisco based The House Jacks, an a cappella
rock/funk band. page 7 is his second solo release, preceded by american pi
in 2000 (also great.) Imagine if you will, mixing Stevie Wonder and Jonatha Brooke in some cosmic blender. You would get the soulful, funky, literate, passionate lyrics and music of Austin Willacy. His band is deeply rhythmic,
his arrangements are melodic, somewhat hypnotic and his voice is like a tongue in your ear.

I met Austin at a songwriter showcase in Covina in December on the eve
of the release of page 7. He is as captivating in live solo performance as
he is on CD.

- The Creative Line


By Andy Jones

For a musician who lives in San Francisco, Austin Willacy has certainly made an impact in Marin County over the past 10 years.

As director of the Youth in Arts a cappella group Til Dawn, Willacy has helped young Marinites find their voices since 1997. He also serves as one of Youth in Arts "Artists in Schools," bringing a cappella singing demonstrations to sixth- through 12th-graders at local schools and teaching the students to try it themselves.

Willacy will continue to be a catalyst for youth arts in Marin when he performs at San Marin High School on June 8 in the schools auditorium. The show is a fundraiser for the schools arts programs as well as Willacys first all-ages CD release party in the North Bay.

Willacys new album, which officially hit stores on April 3, is called "9 impossible proofs," and it highlights the songwriting and singing skills Willacy first began to develop while he was a psychology student at Dartmouth.

Willacy, who aside from his work with Til Dawn and benefits for student arts programs also makes the college-tour rounds, said that working and performing for young people is something that comes naturally to him.

"I think my whole life Ive been working with youth," said Willacy, fresh off a tour of colleges in New England and the Midwest. "I'm very in touch with my inner teenager. I can connect that part of myself to audiences and I have a lot of fun doing what I'm doing. I feel very lucky doing this and young audiences latch on to that."

After ruling out New York City and Austin because the former was too big and the latter too unfamiliar, Willacy came to San Francisco, in a roundabout way, via Los Angeles.

"I had always loved visiting L.A.," Willacy said. "My friends said its a great place to live and there are so many people there who are pursuing a dream. Its true theres a real energy there, but also, because so many people are pursuing their dreams, its hard to make connections with people who are in a position to help. So while I was visiting Palo Alto, I took a day trip to San Francisco fell in love with it and moved out here. I'm relatively native now."

Music wasn't always the goal for Willacy. There was a time when he considered using his degree and being a psychologist, but he knew fellow classmates who didn't have time for anything else once they entered that realm.

"That was just a horrifying thought," Willacy said, "but I learned what I had used in psychology and I honestly believe it helped me be more empathetic as a writer. It helps me as a lyricist to have different perspectives. I write the song from someone elses perspective, and studying psychology helped me do that better."

Even with psychology out of the way, Willacy still hadn't made the decision to dive completely into music. He had to overcome an inherited impulse to attend law school.

"I came from a whole family of lawyers. I took the LSAT and everything," Willacy said, adding that it took the sage advice of a trusted professor and his best friend to keep him off that path.

"I had this amazing professor named Andrew Garrod and I took this class of his and he asked me to be a teaching assistant. What he said carried a lot of weight, so when he said, ‘Have you ever considered going into music? Youre really good at it, he essentially gave me permission to do what I knew I wanted to do anyway."

Additionally Willacy received a little tough love from his friend Priscilla.

"She said, ‘You're going to be a lawyer? Do you want to be a lawyer? When you think about what youd be doing, writing briefs and stuff, is that something you're excited about? and when I said no, she asked, ‘Then why the hell are you going to be a lawyer? " Willacy said. "So at this point I was getting the message loud and clear. My mentor and my best friend essentially said to give it a go."

Now, after more than 15 years, three solo albums and five albums with San Francisco a cappella group the House Jacks, Willacy has no reason to second-guess his professor or his friend or, least of all, himself.

Being a working musician has provided Willacy with the time to be more involved in the community. Aside from Youth in Arts projects, Willacy also volunteers for Bread and Roses, a Bay Area organization that brings live music to people who live in institutions or are otherwise isolated from society.

Hes also a board member at Freight and Salvage, the nonprofit coffeehouse and performance venue in Berkeley.

But it's the all-teen Til Dawn group, of which Willacy has been the director for over 10 years, that's still the nearest and dearest of Willacy's volunteer activities.

"I got into music through singing a cappella music, and working with Til Dawn has been great," Willacy said. "Its great working with people who are multi-talented, and being in a group and working closely with that group. In many ways, the work of Til Dawn is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life."
- Marin Independent Journal: InScope


What are your inspirations as a singer and songwriter?

1. I’m inspired by many things as a singer and songwriter. I grew up listening to a lot of blues because my dad is a huge blues fan. I also listened to a lot of ‘60s & ‘70s funk, The Ohio Players, The Brothers Johnson, Parliament, Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown & Sly & the Family Stone long before I ever started making music of my own. From a musical standpoint, as I’ve learned more about music and developed an understanding of and proficiency of arranging, beatboxing, bass and guitar I’ve drawn more inspiration from those elements in other music. Though most of the music I write isn’t anything like the music my dad played for me I believe the stamp it put on me was a deep appreciation for the way a song grooves.

From a lyrical standpoint I am often inspired by a simple phrase that a friend says or a passage that I read in a book. Also, a lot of what I write about is inspired by my real or imagined experiences.

Describe your process as a writer. Has it changed over the years?

2. When I first started writing music the lyrics always came first. I’d finalize the lyrics and then try to figure out a way to make the lyrics hang on it. The advantage to that approach was that I was saying exactly what I wanted to say on paper. The disadvantage was that I would sometimes get so attached to what I’d written that it was really challenging to find a melody that allowed the text and the melody to cohere.

Now I usually start with a musical idea, some sort of guitar figure or melody and work on the two components, the lyrical and the musical, at the same time. It’s a more symbiotic process.

How do you feel about giving some of your music away?

3. I offer mp3’s of my music on the web because I believe that previewing music is the best way to determine whether or not you like it. To a certain extent mp3’s exist because people got fed up with liking the 2 songs they heard by a band on the radio and paying $15 - $18 to find out that those were the only 2 good songs on the cd. I want people to be able to make an informed decision about my music. If they like and they want to buy it, that’s great! If they don’t like it and don’t want to buy it that’s too bad for me, but by offering mp3’s on my site I allow them to make up their own minds.

Has the internet helped or hindered your career?

4. The Internet has helped me connect with fans by making it easy and inexpensive to share news, music and tour information with my fanbase. It has allowed me to augment my fanbase through itunes, cdbaby.com, amazon.com, byrnewood.com, npr.com and other sites on which my music is available. The Internet has created the opportunity for easy, direct contact between independent artists and fans all over the world, which simply was not possible before. The travel-related services available online also make orchestrating a tour so much easier.

Have you ever thought of doing something else?

5. I’ve never seriously contemplated giving up music, but I did consider taking a hiatus after the current administration started its pervasive abuse of power. I started wondering whether or not I’d be better able to serve as an activist for change than as a musician. I voiced my concerns with a number of politically active friends who share my views and they unanimously told me to stick with music.

How do you select songs for your albums?

6. I’m a fairly eclectic writer, so aside from the fact that I write my material and like it well enough to record it, I have an even harder time picking a favorite song. On my current album, page 7, I’m particularly pleased with “even now”. On my forthcoming album I’m really digging “you were everything”.

What's in your ipod?

7. Because I travel a lot for music I have the opportunity to meet a lot of other talented musicians. A lot of what I’m listening to right now is music of friends and fellow road dogs. On the independent front I’m really into étienne de rocher, loretta lynch, saucy monky, adrianne, gabriel mann and ali handal. As far as famous musicians are concerned I’m diggin’ maroon 5, tom waits, ben harper and patty griffin.

What was the first album you bought?
What was the first concert you saw?

8. The first album I bought was probably Goofy Gold with “The Monster Mash” on it, but the first album that I bought that wasn’t a novelty album was The Game by Queen. I bought it for “Another One Bites the Dust”. The combination of that bass line and Freddie Mercury’s incredible voice sold me on it in about 15 seconds.

My first concert was James Brown! I saw him with my parents and my brother at the Front Row Theater near Cleveland, OH. The Front Row is one of those theaters where the stage slowly rotates so everyone is right in the center for some of the show. Also, because seating is 360° there are fewer rows, so everyone’s a little closer to the stage. James was wearing a - SirenSong Magazine


On Sunday, the Student Organization for University Programming will present musician Austin Willacy, a singer/songwriter
from the San Francisco Bay Area. Willacy will perform at 8 p.m. in the Underground Coffeehouse as part of his national tour.
Willacy has recorded a total of seven albums, three solo and four with the The House Jack, with whom he has played over 1,500 shows and toured internationally. He has also performed with the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, The Temptations, The Pointer Sisters, LL Cool J, and Run-DMC, among many others. His music has been described by the San Francisco Examiner as "an edgy adult contemporary sound that goes down easily and speaks to the heart."
In addition to his acclaim as a performer,
Willacy has also been recognized for the work he does in the San Francisco community
through his music. He has served as a mentor for many Bay Area high school music programs and also co-produced an album against violence in the wake of the September 11 attacks whose profits went to the American Red Cross.
Interestingly, Willacy also holds a degree in psychology from Dartmouth College. He moved to San Francisco to pursue his music career immediately after graduating. In an interview with Siren Song Magazine, Willacy discussed where he gets his musical inspiration. "I'm inspired by many things as a singer and songwriter," he said. "I grew up listening to a lot of blues because my dad is a huge blues fan ... Though most of the music I write isn't anything
like the music my dad played for me, I believe the stamp it put on me was a deep appreciation for the way a song grooves. ... From a lyrical standpoint, I am often inspired by a simple phrase that a friend says or a passage that I read in a book."
Willacy's mellow style should not be taken as simple background music. SOUP member Kat Kaszpurenko said, "His music style reflects a traditional coffeehouse feel,
but his voice is amazing!" Willacy also knows how to work a crowd, as indicated by another portion of his interview with Siren Song. "A live performance is a linear experience," he said. "It goes by you and you don't return to it. Because of that, I really try to stay in the moment when I'm performing live and really let loose for the audience."
- The Lawrentian


Having recently reviewed San Francisco-based singer/song writer Austin Willacy's album, Page 7, I looked forward to hearing his eclectic follow up EP American Pi. Featuring Willacy's trademark smooth sounding vocals, which carried the first album, American Pi was more funkadellic and eclectic musically and lyrically.

American Pi featured an assortment of instruments from bottles, Wurlitzer's, bongos, jugs, accordions, shakers, along with violins, cellos, guitars, banjos, electric pianos, and drums. The use of conventional instruments in addition to the non-conventional created an interesting new sound that I found completely enjoyable. Anyone who has ever read any of my reviews before will know that I like when a musician refuses to limit themselves to guitars, pianos and drums. I love the new sound that is produced when a musician decides to exit from the norm.

Equally enjoyable on American Pi were the song lyrics, which were much better this time around. In my opinion, the most poignant lyrics on the album can be found in the tracks Away, Them, and my favorite Supertechnology. Supertechnology, a song that shows the duality of the human species feelings toward technology: A piece of paper that bears your name / scanned by a laser on the mainframe / it's in the water and in your brain / it's paranoia, it's paranoia. And we say hey, hey we all wanna be free / of your supertechnology….but I don't know / I don't know where to go.

All in all, I found American Pi to be an enjoyable experience. It is a nice showcase of Willacy's talent as a composer and singer. Just the music alone is enough reason to check out this CD. But don't take my word for it - you can sample Austin Willacy's work on his website, where you can find out more information about the artist and download mp3s.
- YB


Discography

albums
"akw" 1999 (LP)
"american pi" 2000 (LP)
"page 7" 2003 (LP)
"a" 2005 (EP)
"9 impossible proofs" 2007 (LP)

singles
"sad sad song"
"o christmas tree"
"santa claus is back in town"

singles with streaming/airplay
"them"
"you were everything"
"crazy"

Photos

Bio

austin has been endorsed by elixir strings since 2003. He has 3 full-length solo releases, american pi, page 7 and 9 impossible proofs, all of which are available on cdbaby.com and on ITunes. His music has been featured on “Road Rules” in films and he has appeared in Rolling Stone. austin has shared the stage with Bonnie Raitt, Vienna Teng, Eric Martin, Jem, Dan Hicks, Rachael Yamagata, John Corbett and Amos Lee. His songs continue to receive favorable attention:
• “crazy”, a single off of austin’s forthcoming as yet untitled acoustic cd, was awarded an Honourable Mention in We Are Listening’s 2007 Singer/Songwriter Awards.
• “red white & blue” garnered austin a spot as a finalist in the Singer/Songwriter Contest for Solarfest 2007.
• “you were everything”, a single off of austin’s cd, 9 impossible proofs, was runner up in We Are Listening’s 2006 Singer/Songwriter Awards.
• “when the world looks away”, a new single from 9 impossible proofs, won the Reader’s Choice Contest on Jane Magazine’s website in 2005.
• “ain’t you fine”, austin’s lead single off of page 7 was selected for All Songs Considered on NPR’s Online Open Mic in August 2004.
austin has also contributed vocals to several award-winning video games for Xbox & Playstation 2.

Guitar Hero
• austin can be heard as the voices of Incubus (“Stellar”), Queen (“Killer Queen”), The Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Higher Ground”) and Sum 41 (“Fat Lip”) on Red Octane’s hit video game!
• austin can be heard as the voice of Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale (“Woman”) on Guitar Hero 2.
Dance Dance Revolution
• austin can be heard as the voices of The Scissor Sisters (“Don’t Feel Like Dancin’”), Chris Brown (“Yo Excuse Me Miss”), Usher (“Caught Up”) and Boy George (“Karma Chameleon”) on Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party.

Karaoke Revolution
• austin can be heard as the voice of Eagle Eye Cherry (“Save Tonight”) on Karaoke Revolution (vol.1). Karaoke Revolution is a video game by Konami for Playstation 2 that was voted the #1 video game of 2003 by Time Magazine!
• austin can be heard as the voices of Jamiroquai (“Virtual Insanity”) and Simple Plan’s Pierre Bouvier (“Perfect”) on Karaoke Revolution (vol.2) released July 2004!
• austin can be heard as the voices of a pre-pubescent Michael Jackson in the Jackson 5 (“ABC”), a post-pubescent Michael Jackson (“Beat It”), George Michael in his Wham days (“Careless Whisper”) and Freddie Mercury (“Under Pressure”) on Karaoke Revolution (vol.3) released spring 2005!
• austin can be heard as the voices of Gavin DeGraw (“I Don’t Wanna Be”), Jay-Z (“Crazy in Love”), Lenny Kravitz (“American Woman”), Stevie Wonder (“Superstition”), Jimmy Eat World (“Pain”), Incubus (“Drive”), Queen (“You’re My Best Friend”), Billy Joel (“Uptown Girl”) and Boy George “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?”, Karaoke Revolution Party (vol. 4)!
• austin can be heard on “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” as the voice of Big ‘n’ Rich. He can also be heard harmonizing on Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, Brad Paisley’s “Celebrity”, Toby Keith’s “As Good As I Once Was”, Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”, Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” and Tammy Wynette’s enduring classic “Stand By Your Man” on Karaoke Revolution Country (vol. 5)!
• austin can be heard on Karaoke Revolution: American Idol as the voices of Queen (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”), Nelly (“Dilemma”), The Foundations (“Build Me Up Buttercup”), Simply Red (“If You Don’t Know Me By Now”), Ricky Martin (“She Bangs”) and The Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”), released December 2006.
Non-Profit
• austin joined the board of RAN (Rainforest Action Network) in January 2007.
• austin joined the board of The Freight & Salvage in May 2005.
• austin has worked with YES, a social justice non-profit that helps visionary young leaders build a better world, since June 2005.
• austin has volunteered for Bread & Roses since 1993.