Bill Worrell
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Bill Worrell

Nashville, TN | Established. Jan 01, 2017

Nashville, TN
Established on Jan, 2017
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The best kept secret in music


"45 years on and America, the band that dominated the 70s, have never sounded better"

AMERICA never disappoint. Well, except for that show at the Opera House a decade ago which they recorded live for a DVD. Of all the times I have seen them in concert, they had never looked so wooden. OK, I know there are heaps of fans who disagree with me.

I wish it could have been re-recorded last night at the State Theatre in Sydney. It was America at their best. They were, as they usually are, brilliant. On their 45th anniversary tour, do not expect two older dudes strumming guitars and singing ballads. They rock. It also helps that Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley were just 17 and 18 when they started the band in 1970 with the late Dan Peek so they look younger than some of their audience.

The harmonies were as strong as ever, the show was tight but never looked over-rehearsed. They were having fun up there. They do around 100 shows a year — that’s singing Horse With No Name and Sister Golden Hair 4500 times — but still look fresh.

The great Willie Leacox has been replaced on drums by Ryland Steen, best known as the former drummer of ska punk band Reel Big Fish. On guitar, banjo and keyboards is Bill Worrell, striking guitar-hero poses: the band’s “cougar” as Beckley called him. The changes work.

They came onto stage to Tin Man and ran through all the favourites with a few surprises thrown in like Bunnell’s Green Monkey which for me was a highlight of the night with the band coming, as Beckley said, “close to jamming”.

They ran through some of their albums, starting with Bunnell’s Riverside, track one on the first album, the self-titled America, onto Hollywood from the Holiday album, The Border from Your Move and a couple from Back Pages including a terrific version of Woodstock. If I highlight Bunnell’s songs, it’s because he wrote the soundtrack to my escaping from the north of England with lines like “There’s a world waiting just for you to unfold. How are you to know, if you don’t see.” His songs are all about moving.

Last night’s sold-out show at the State Theatre is followed by another one tonight. They just get better.

Don’t miss Sharon Corr as support. - JANET FIFE-YEOMANS, The Daily Telegraph

"America at The Palais Theatre"

When news came through that I would have the opportunity to get along to see the Grammy award winning America, consisting of original co-founders Gerry Beckley and Dewey Burnell, I was beyond excited. After all, this was formative music we were talking about…the lyrics to songs like 'Sister Golden Hair’, 'Sandman' and 'Ventura Highway' are seared into the memory cells and despite getting on in years and apt to forget the simplest things, all I need to hear is the opening chords of any of these songs and the lyrics involuntarily come flooding back. I worked out tonight I've been waiting exactly 40 years and one month to finally see this band, having been gifted the George Martin produced ‘History - America's Greatest Hits' from an enlightened uncle who owned ‘Fusion’ Records back in the day. In the past, something had always conspired against the stars aligning but tonight I was actually going! Scarcely believing my luck, like a good boy scout I stowed a Sharpie and the CD cover of the same album in my bag, prepared for any eventuality.

Arriving at St Kilda's gorgeous Palais Theatre on a cold and blustery Melbourne evening, we quickly took our seats in the orchestra just in time to see Sharon Corr take to the stage. Ably backed by a trio on drums, bass and guitar, Sharon delivered a beautiful 10 song set which included originals and a smattering of cover songs – some of them old Corrs' numbers. As impressions go, she looked every bit as stunning as she did back in the day when she fronted her three siblings in The Corrs, but more importantly, her voice was incredibly pure and pristine, and when I closed my eyes briefly to focus on just what I was hearing during the first few songs, I swore I could be listening to Karen Carpenter. Sharon's voice shares a very similar timbre and purity. It quickly became apparent that all her years treading the boards as a youth and then later fronting The Corrs has meant Sharon is consummately confident and she managed to engage the audience on the very first song – getting them to sing along to the refrain of her solo tune ‘We Could Be Lovers’. She belted out familiar Corr’s hits like ‘Say’, ‘Radio’ and ‘So Young’ which struck a familiar chord with the audience. Topically, after joking about packing the wrong kind of clothes for Melbourne’s inclement weather, she nailed a cover of Fleetwood Macs’ ‘Dreams’, and the 'thunder only happens when it’s raining’ refrain, whilst a topical reminder of the dreadful weather today, was a timely reminder that we will once again be seeing the fully reunited Mac on our shores later in the year. During interval, I was happy to see the foyer was jammed with fans queueing to get copies of her latest CD signed and a photo with Sharon. A successful gig in all respects.

Fans of America realise the group have been around the block more than a few times and tonight they were back in Melbourne celebrating 45 years in the business. Since forming in London in 1970 as kids when their Dads were in the airforce, Dewey Bunnell and his partner Gerry Beckley have covered a lot of miles, releasing 29 albums, traversed lineup changes, the passing of their bandmate Dan Peek, and seen their share of highs and lows. For any show to truly reflect that, there is a kaleidoscope of history to cover off.

The show began with a short montage of images depicting the band at various stages in their career and there were collective sighs from trainspotting fans around me as familiar album covers flashed up.

The band walked on to rapturous applause as Gerry and Dewey launched into the glorious strains of ‘Tin Man’ from 1974’s 'Holiday', one of their landmark releases, the first album produced in the Caribbean by George Martin. The familiar two-part harmonies were sublime, with Bunnell’s unique vocal underpinned by Beckley’s sweet do-do’s. The dual acoustics like two old friends – warm and welcoming. Without pause, from there it was into the one-two punch of 1982’s ‘You Can Do Magic’ and ‘Don’t Cross The River’, the latter’s distinctive banjo part being masterfully plucked by Billy 'the Kid’ Worrell who despite his youth, immediately made a huge impression.

It was then onto keys for Beckley for the sweetly amorous ‘Daisy Jane’. The band welcomed support Sharon Corr back on stage to accompany them on violin. Whilst a gorgeous rendition, it was sadly hampered by a faulty lead which buzzed through the quieter parts of the song and was somewhat distracting. To Jeff Worrell, the master soundman's credit, the problem had been fixed by the second verse.

The band then served up the rollicking ‘Riverside’ and ‘I Need You’. I glanced around the audience to see if in fact I was the only one feeling the vibe and was reassured that many were singing along with eyes closed. Yep, I guess it’s just one of those classic love songs that people can’t help but get lost in. Gerry and Dewey’s voices are so distinctive, I don’t really think anyone else could really sing these songs in quite the same way.

It was now time for some brief historical introspection. The next track ‘Here’, became an almost autobiographical ode to their lost brother in song, and visually was accompanied by a clever morphing montage of the trio through various stages of their career. Starting slow and melancholy, it quickly broke into a joyous celebration of shared times together. The band really opened up on this tune allowing the young trio of Ryland Steen (Reel Big Fish) on drums, Billy 'the Kid’ Worrell on guitars and Richard Campbell (Natalie Cole, Three Dog Night, Dave Mason) on bass an opportunity to show off their chops. They delighted in taking it to the audience, with each revelling in their extended solos. Gerry and Dewey have chosen wisely – these guys play like maestros and whilst Richard Campbell’s bass is some of the lowest, raunchiest around – by contrast – his backing vocals are among the highest I can recall hearing in a long while – which for a harmonies band like America, has to be worth it’s weight in gold.

Keeping it in chronological order, the next song was the first single off the second album, 'Homecoming', the iconic ‘Ventura Highway' and as expected, it was glorious – eliciting more ‘aahs’ of recognition from the audience. Keen to demonstrate that they're still writing great material and not just resting on past laurels, they followed up that classic very swiftly with a series of tracks, the first being from this year’s ‘Lost and Found' called ‘Driving’ – It featured a forceful and equally spritely solo from young whizz Worrell. An audience request for ‘Chasing The Rainbow’ was a soft respite before the guys then whipped through a heartfelt tribute to sick friend Joni Mitchell in the form of her song ‘Woodstock’ performed in a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young style.

'Cornwall Blank/Hollywood' and a Gin Blossom’s cover of ’Til I Hear it From You’ lifted from their covers album Back Pages were well received. As were ‘The Border’ and the seldom heard ‘Green Monkey’ from the third album ‘HatTrick’.

It was then that the vibe lifted another notch as young Worrell put down his trusty white Stratocaster and took to the keyboards to share vocals with his bosses, standing in for departed Peek on the evergreen ‘Woman Tonight’. It was a delight. Every bit as poppy and vibrant as when I first heard it back in the day. The smoulderingly deep bass solo that characterises the track was absolutely walloped by Campbell and was a personal highlight of the evening.

It was back-to-back hits time. 'Only In Your Heart’ followed with another gorgeous backwards guitar solo by Worrell – the band’s resident 'Cougar-Catcher’ (‘Every band needs one and we’ve got ours’ according to Beckley) there anything this young prodigy can’t do?

Nostalgic cover time: a gutsy cover of The Mamas & the Papas' ‘California Dreaming’ from back in the day when they worked as a High School dance combo and as kids used to take the Tube down to Kings Cross in swinging London and frequent clubs in the early London Scene…seeing bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Royal Albert Hall, early King Crimson when they were first forming before their first album, The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in '69, Lots of Led Zeppelin Living at the Airforce base, they would delight in getting all the new records before the british kids and they would spend hours picking apart the latest Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield and Beach Boys.

I sensed we were approaching the finish line now, as the hits continued to come thick and fast. The blissful ‘Lonely People’ with a lovely keyboard and harmonica part by the immensely talented Gerry. ‘Sandman’ resplendent with full-on band rock-out with phased guitar solos accompanied by visceral period footage of Vietnam Choppers and Hippiedom at it’s peak. Powerful stuff.

The final song of the main set, the inimitable ‘Sister Golden Hair’ was met with an ecstatic reception, with hands in the air all over the glorious Palais Theatre. A joyous celebration.

A short break ensued and then the boys were back for one last R&B styled song culled from their covers album Back Pages called ‘Dream Come True’… but I think everyone in the place instinctively knew what had to come next…and there it was… period Death Valley footage to the plaintive lyric of a certain horse, that despite over forty five years aimlessly wandering the desert, still remained unnamed. The fact that we didn’t hear ‘Muskrat Love’ I don’t think was missed at all.

Overall a stellar evening that I thought couldn’t be topped – that was, until I had the good fortune to catch Gerry and Dewey as they left the Palais Theatre on the way to their hotel and had them both graciously scribble on my CD cover! If you get the chance to catch America on this or any other tour, jump at the opportunity. You will be richly rewarded. - Harry: The Dwarf

"Bill Worrell and The Nashville Sessions"

P: Hi Bill, at first thanks for sharing this interview with BigMusic. You’ve recently released your first EP, “The Nashville sessions”, really an impressive work! But what is the real starting point in your artistic life? Is there a specific starting point or were you always merged in this kind of context?

B: Yeah, I mean, my dad was playing guitar for Natalie Cole, back in the eighties. One of my earliest memories is sitting on stage with him. Actually, the drums were right next to me, and they were so loud! And what, 5 years old, I remember thinking: oh my gosh, the drums look so loud! But you know, he would have these people around the house. Natalie would come and he started to work with Edgar Winner and Pat Benatar. And these were people that would come over to the house. So I was always around it. But it was really when, he went on tour with Pat Benatar, and I was old enough for him to take me with him, on the summer tour, that I saw it every night and I said: “Wow, this is what I want to do!”

P: Fantastic!

B: Yeah, and it has kind of been all downhill or uphill – however you think about it– from there. Hehehe.

P: How was it to travel all around the States with such big rock stars, sharing the stage with such big stars?

B: Well, it definitely set a bar, you know, so many bands have to go through living in a van, playing these dingy-clubs and everything. She, you know, she was at the point in her career where there were tour buses, nice hotels... So it kind of set the bar for when I started with my own band. I had been so young and I sort of expected: oh yeah, we’re just staying at the Ritz-Carlton or at the Four Seasons. Oh wait a minute … can’t quite do that. So, you know, it was a lot of fun to see it all and to be part of it. But I definitely had to learn that; okay, that’s a certain level and there are a lot of steps that you have to take before you get to that point.
And even touring with America, I was very lucky when I got on the road with them. Because they are also on a similar level, nice hotels, everybody gets their own room. You know, these are things that not every band can do. A lot of people have to share rooms. It is a lot of close quarters. But I guess I was very lucky with that. But, I have also had a lot of very humbling experiences too, it’s not all wine and roses. And there are things that let you know not to take that for granted. So…

P: Yes. And perhaps your dad has transmitted a lot of things to you about the difficulties you could face on this path; or how to address the challenges? Was he a teacher to you, or not?

B: Yeah, definitely. He definitely taught me a lot about guitar. He never forced it on me, but he was always there if I had a question. He would always help, you know, from someone who is a working professional, he knew a lot of course, so he could always impart some knowledge. And I would always… to this day; I still pick up the phone and will ask him: “This is going on, what do I do about this?” He is always a sounding board for questions, whether it is music or dealing with the road, travelling or whatever.

P: Wow!

B: So, yeah, very much of a teacher!

P: I’ve seen that you are keen on several instruments like keyboards, I see Hammond B3 and other instruments too. So you are talented with keyboards, with strings… is there anything that you prefer especially?

B: Well, I mean, guitar is the main thing. That’s what kind of gets me up in the morning. And I’m always thinking about practicing, and I’m always trying to get better. I mean, look, I’ve got this whole shelve of music books here, and these are all things that I always try to dive into, and learn even more. But you know, I like keyboards as well, I’m good enough to play the keyboards, let’s put it that way. To play the basic parts and get by, I’m not a virtuoso on keyboard! But I can learn a part and play it.

P: Fine. And your musical path, there is a kind of evolution. In this EP there are various contributions. There are parts that are very “country”, there are some funky aspects, there is a break, a jazz piano style in “You got me”.

B: Yeah!

Bill Worrell
Bill Worrell - The America P: So, how do you come to include all these kinds of different contributions? Is it your choice, is it something that you accept from others in a certain kind of collaboration? Is it a research on your part, is it a kind of musical research or something like that?

B: Absolutely man! I mean, I am constantly trying to learn more, listening to more music. Jazz especially is just an endless well of, inspiration, really. And I talk about this with a lot of people. And it gets difficult sometimes when you have so many styles that you enjoy and you do; to combine them under one umbrella. But I’m just continually trying to do that, because I just like it all. I have studied it all, I enjoy it all. I mean, to me, it’s boring to hear an artist with just one type of song for every song. I mean, they may have a couple of hits and good for them and that’s great. But if I go to a show, I like hearing diversity. If I listen to an album, I like hearing diversity. So, that’s just me though, and I like putting all that stuff in there. I mean, that song “You Got Me”, was very… it is sort of inspired by Chicago, if you can believe that or not. And Chicago of course, has keyboard and stuff, so I always like having keyboards in the songs.

P: Yes yes yes.

B: And hell, quite frankly, we’d done a lot of the other songs, we’d recorded all the other songs already, and they all have guitar solos, so I figured well alright, it’s time to have something different, let’s get a keyboard-solo on there.

P: Yes, I like it very much, really! Speaking about the EP, are there some songs that are the core of the EP, or is there a specific song that was the starting point of the whole EP?

B: No, I mean, I have so much material, I honestly have the next two albums written and partially recorded already.

P: Okay.

B: I’m constantly writing, I’m constantly demoing songs, so these just happened to be the ones that we picked out there. It wasn’t just one song that started it all. What it was, because I had so many songs, I knew that I just needed some help kind of sorting through them and picking some of the more special ones and making an album. And that’s when I was on tour with America, and I was talking to Gerry and Dewey, the two main guys, talking a little bit about this. And they said: “Hey, you are out in Nashville now, you ought to get in touch with Fred Mollin? Oh yes, Freddy Mollin, yeah, give him a call, tell him we say hi!”. So I did. And you know, we sorted through a lot of material. It was originally supposed to be a full-length album. But we just didn’t quite have the budget at the time to do the full-length, but we were able to do the EP, and this is what we picked out!

P: You were speaking about Nashville. Was Nashville a choice, was it by chance? Why Nashville in this point of your lifetime?

B: Well, I think there is so much going on here. And I think all around the country people are starting to hear more about this place called Nashville, and all the music that is coming out of there. And so I had to check it out, and I came to visit it once and I liked it a lot. And decided, alright well, maybe I oughta move here, let’s try it out. And sure enough, what is great about it, it is very centralized. I mean, you can walk into the coffee shop and you meet a publicist. You go walk into the grocery store and you meet a marketing specialist. You know, there are all these people in a small area, I mean that’s what you want as a musician.

P: It’s fantastic, the seat of music really!

B: Yeah!

P: So your plans are to remain in Nashville? For the moment?

B: Well, you never know. You know, I love it here. I could. Who knows what the future holds?

P: What about the influence of your producer? I’ve seen that he is present in some tracks too.

B: Yeah, of course, I have a pretty strong vision for each of my songs, what I want in them. But sometimes it’s nice to have someone to work with... someone to bounce ideas off… someone who is not ‘you’ that can give you an outsider perspective on it.

P: Of course, you are not alone.

B: Yeah, exactly. I mean, here at home I can do a lot of things. I can record drums, I can record bass, you know, even keyboards and guitar and even vocals. But sometimes you need that guiding person that says: “Maybe you shouldn’t record keyboards on this, maybe this isn’t a keyboard song”. And can present it in a different light that makes you go “Oh, that’s so much better, I didn’t even think of that!” So that’s what I really like to lean on in a producer. And you know, yeah, as far as Fred goes, he was great as far as that went. We’d done all the tracks, we’d done bass, drum, guitar, vocals. And we basically met up at his studio and we were sitting back and we just decided to throw in a couple of extra textures, maybe it was percussion, like a shaker, or his little banjo on there, he added a little acoustic guitar… so just those final little elements help, are just the salt and pepper on the song. And he is very good at that sort of thing… Fred. That was his… so far as him playing on there, that’s what he was doing.

P: So if I understand correctly, in a sense he helps to guide you, but he leaves you the needed freedom to create?

B: Fred was very good about that. Yeah, making his suggestions, saying I think we should do this... but also letting me… be me. And letting me be a guitar player, especially. Not dumbing me down as a player, saying “I don’t think you should go that fast of a solo.” yeah, he is very good at that.

P: And I’ve seen that you had some great collaborations for the EP, from Toto, Pat Coil, not so easy to reach those guys.

B: No, and I’m a big Toto fan too. You know, they have an album - that not as many people know about - but it’s called “Mindfields”. And it came out, I think in the late nineties I wanna say. And it is one of my favorite albums of all time, I mean, talk about great songs, great playing and I can put that record on repeat. I mean, of course Toto has got all the classic songs: Africa, Rosanna, I’ll Be Over You. I loved… their first album was great too! Anyway, I’m a huge fan of theirs. So at the prospect of having Shannon Forest, who’s been their drummer for I think a few years now, playing on this record; it was perfect! I knew I wanted more than just the bare bone drums, I wanted someone who is really gonna play some fills, play some intricate parts. And he was the guy to do that!

P: So it is a great collaboration that is inspiring you, at some level?

B: Oh yeah! Well it definitely makes me rise to the challenge, hehe! You know, it’s one thing to kind of play in your studio here, and write all the stuff and record it, you know, in the Pro Tools, but playing with great musicians, definitely makes you raise your own bar and holds you to a standard. So yeah that was great!

P: Yes, and playing with those musicians, you do not have the idea to form a group on your own?

B: Well, you know, basically, I have the freedom to do that. That is exactly what I’ve done and am always doing. Where I’m now at a point where I am doing shows of my own, working on a tour. And I can form a band, such as that. I’ve got some great people I’m working with right now and it is always fun to cross paths with someone like a Shannon Forest. Because you never know, if you need a drummer, he may be available, that would be a blast, sure!

P: Is there anything concerning the social aspects of your music, perhaps?

B: Yes, hehe! You know, I’ve got my songs about love, and those are important to me and others. There are certain people in my life who I’ve written songs about, sure. But I definitely have been one to observe the world – the good things and the bad things- I have a song and I’m hoping that it will be a single very soon here, that is definitely a social commentary. And it is called “Time to Change”. You know, with what is going on in the world, I think for a lot of people it can really affect you. And I definitely have more than one song about… basically social commentary, yeah. You will have to hear the song to fully understand what I am talking about, but in a nutshell: yes, it is social commentary. And I’m hoping more of my songs that I have written like that will be coming out very soon. I think the next album will have quite a bit of that.

P: Great! So we will wait for your next album!

B: Yeah!

P: And speaking about your EP, “The Nashville sessions”, how do you see it as a whole? How do you consider it as regards your future artistic evolution?

B: It’s a fire-starter, man! This album has really opened some doors for me. From the people that were on it, to everybody who has contributed to it, I mean this album is largely fan-funded. It’s been a really big jumping point, for me. I mean, I’m doing a live TV-show, on Thursday. I was able to get my publicist through this album, you know, she’s just got me the TV-show, she’s able to get me some radio interviews. We are able to break beyond the initial America fans. I mean, the America audience has been to my mind the most loyal fans, and I’m so thankful for them. They continue to support me, they continue to buy the albums, they’re always leaving positive comments on Facebook… and other social media gigs too. But now we are at the point where we need to break beyond that – and so this album… and anybody who’d seen the America shows, I think, saw and felt that: Okay Bill can play guitar! Hehe, you know? So I already kind of had them in my camp there. So now again, we’re at the point where we’re breaking beyond that; to the people who don’t really know me. And that’s what this album I think, has allowed me to do.

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Bill Worrell publicist: Elizabeth (Liz) Motley at +1(615) 574-3398 or - Big Music


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