Kelly Willis
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Kelly Willis

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"TRANSLATED FROM LOVE"

"...singing about heartache, aspiration and reassurance against an impeccable backdrop.."
- NEW YORK TIMES


"TRANSLATED FROM LOVE"

"Whether she's singing country waltzes or riding atop '60's grooves, Willis has a glorious tear in her voice that's easy to mistake for heartbreak. It's not; it's something better." - USA TODAY


"TRANSLATED FROM LOVE"

"Translated From Love is a statement about transcendence as both a family woman and a careerist, alleviating as it does the burden of stereotypical mainstream country music with fresh invigorating frankness." - NY VILLAGE VOICE


"TRANSLATED FROM LOVE"

"..a teriffic piece of pop opera.." - NPR WEEKEND EDITION


Discography

Listen for her new single "I Don't Know Why" on radio everywhere!

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Kelly Willis
Translated From Love

As Kelly Willis planned to go into the studio last fall, she really didn’t know what to expect. She had spent the four years since co-producing her 2002 album, the lovely, laid-back Easy, on family matters: her oldest son Deral, born in 2001, got three siblings – twins Abby and Ben born in 2004 and baby Joseph, whose birth followed in early 2006. “This time around, I had absolutely no time or energy to be involved in the producer role at all,” Willis recalls. So she called a guy “who lives and breathes music,” whose instincts she loved and who she felt “really comfortable around:” Chuck Prophet, the edgy singer-songwriter who contributed guitar to both Easy and 1999’s acclaimed What I Deserve. Together, they would create the most sonically adventurous album of Kelly Willis’ seventeen-plus-year recording career, Translated From Love.

In the beginning, Willis assumed she would cut an album of covers since she’d been too busy changing diapers to write songs. Once Prophet arrived at Willis’ Austin, Texas, home things changed. Half of the richly textured album’s dozen tracks are originals, co-written by Kelly and her collaborators. Willis found herself pleasantly surprised that “I was able to get some songs written that I am proud of and excited about and that give the album some of its depth and personality and soul…” As Prophet describes it, “We cooked up a cool record. Wrote a mess of songs. We got all ‘housewife goth’ with it – gingham aprons and bad blood.”

Indeed, among the engaging originals and intriguing covers – derived from such tunesmiths as Adam Green, Damon Bramblett, Jules Shear, and – yes, you heard it right – Iggy Pop – there are musical nods to five decades of rock, pop, and country: girl-group drum sounds one minute, strings-drenched C&W angst the next.

“We wrote some songs that just lent themselves to that encyclopedia of sounds,” says Willis, “plus Chuck really did his research about my history and my career and he knew that when I first started out I was doing rockabilly music.” Hence, the nod to Willis’ first band (at age 16!), Kelly and the Fireballs, via Adam Green’s retro-cool “Teddy Boys,” with its wry, ‘80s-style Moog synthesizer.

Another of Willis’ former combos, Austin’s roots-rockin’ Radio Ranch, was represented by its former guitarist Michael Hardwick, who played dobro on “I Must Be Lucky.” The bluesy original (by Willis, Prophet, and Jules Shear) features a gutsy reading by Willis who “comes off like Link Wray’s girlfriend ,” according to Prophet. Imbued with been-there-done-that attitude, it’s a kind of companion piece to a song Prophet played for her on guitar one day – the sarcastic “Success.” Says Prophet, “She lit up when she heard that Iggy song, especially when it came to that line. ‘Here comes my face/it’s plain bizarre’.” “I’d never heard it before and it just cracked me up,” Kelly agrees. Fueled by Michael Ramos’s vintage Vox organ (“96 Tears” style) and the Gourds’ slaphappy background vocals, Willis sasses Iggy’s taunting lyrics with hard-won conviction. “In the beginning, I was a little worried about doing ‘Success’ and ‘I Must Be Lucky,’” says Willis, “because I hadn’t done that kind of thing in a long time. But then Chuck showed me this picture of me on Wikipedia – it’s a photo from my first record [in 1990]. I’m wearing this leather jacket and I have this fake pompadour, and he was like, ‘That girl could do it.’ He was right – they ended up being some of my favorites. It was so much fun!”

The yin to those songs’ yang are such tearjerkers as the Willis-Prophet co-write “Losing You,” accented by Greg Leisz’s emotive pedal steel. “There’s a sadness below Kelly, as if she’s been touched by fire a time too many,” says Prophet. “You can hear it in her voice.” That yearning, triste quality really comes across in the bittersweet title track, with its evocative accordion and acoustic guitars. “Chuck brought that song in and I thought it was just stunning,” says Willis.

It was Willis’ remarkable voice that stunned those in the studio, according to Prophet. “She’s one of those singers who can make a track come alive. She’s got that kind of charisma.”

Translated From Love documents Willis really cutting loose, perhaps more than she ever did back in the 1990s, over the course of three country albums for MCA. “I came from the school of Nashville where you try to get as many tracks as you can in a day,” says Willis, “but this time we would spend an entire day on one song, just play it to death, over and over, backwards and forwards, and the songs would kind of morph into something else. It was a real organic process and the songs found their natural little niche.” Thus the Bobbie Gentry-esque arrangement of Willis’ ode to a lost love, “Sweet Little One;” the catchy pop-rock bounce of “Don’t Know Why,” a collaboration with Prophet and Shear; and the torchy waltz “Stones Throw Away,” another Willis-Prophet compos