Mike Willis
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Mike Willis

Woodstock, Georgia, United States | SELF

Woodstock, Georgia, United States | SELF
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Otis R. Taylor Jr.

“I’m here to work,” Mike Willis told me in December, the last time he played the White Mule.

Willis, the Nashville-based songwriter who won the Main Street bar and listening room’s inaugural Acoustic Rivalry competition, is back in Columbia tonight.

He’ll open for Corey Crowder at The White Mule, 1530 Main St. The show starts at 9 p.m.

Willis is promoting a five-song EP, “As I Am.” The recording was a leap for him: It cost him a position as an in-house songwriter for a Nashville publishing company.

Here’s what I like about Willis’ music: It gets under your skin. Not like something that’s annoying, but like something that makes you pay attention, think, care.

“Made For You” is a love song any country cowboy playing big stages would love to sing, making the ladies in the audience swoon. But the song, the way Willis sings it, is more personal. It’s eye-contact music.

If work is making beautiful music, than Willis is one of the hardest working musicians out there.

-Otis R. Taylor Jr.

Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2010/02/04/1142590/mike-willis-makes-the-ladies-swoon.html#ixzz0jDEYCk8U
- The State (South Carolina's Homepage)


Listen to the Radio interview here-

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dave-woods/2010/01/28/interview-with-mike-willis-as-i-am - BlogTalkRadio.com


Kevin Oliver-December 16, 2009

There’s much more to Music City than the country music and gospel industries, with plenty of artists operating just under the surface of mainstream success. Mike Willis isn’t an ‘indie’ artist in the music critic sense of the word, as his tunes are as commercially accessible as anything on country or pop radio, but he’s out there in the trenches playing wherever he can to get some recognition.

That includes a number of those songwriting/open mike competitions, which he’s won in places like Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta and here in Columbia at the White Mule earlier this year. Willis grabs an audience with a superb, understated fingerpicking guitar style and a sweet tenor voice that’s capable of delivering the intimate, personal emotions that he expresses in his songwriting. It’s standard girl/guy relationship stuff, but Willis employs turns of phrase that set him apart.

Curious? he has a new album coming out after the first of the year, but you can hear some of his previous work at http://www.mikewillismusic.com

Here’s a fan-filmed video of a recent performance at Nashville’s Listening Room venue, with Willis in the middle of a four-man songwriter’s round. You can hear the same song, “Made For You,” on the website, but this shows how he can put the tune across in person as well as in the studio.
If you’re in Columbia, Willis will be back at the White Mule on December 22nd.

Read More @
http://kevinoliver.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/mike-willis-a-winner-from-nashville/
- Music That Matters


Mike Willis is a Decatur guy - reared within the four square miles of the city limits, a product of the City Schools of Decatur, deep musical roots planted on the legendary Eddie's Attic stage.

Willis began a musical career at Eddie's Open Mic Nights and later graduated to his own headlining gigs. In 2006, after putting out a third independent album, he made a decision to take his music in a new direction - north - to Nashville.

His tenure in the Country Musical Capital has helped to mold him and his music. On December 30, Willis returned home to play again at Eddie's Attic. In the crowd were many familiar Decatur faces. In fact, at one point during the show Willis commented, "You all are family, right?"

The event felt like a homecoming to Willis because it was - complete with a joke from Mike's father Ken.

Willis was kind enough to take time from his busy Winter Tour schedule to participate in an email interview with Decatur News Online. The transcript below has been edited for brevity.



The DNO: Describe your connection to Decatur, Georgia.

Mike Willis (MW): I grew up in Decatur a block or so from the Avondale MARTA Station. Went to Glenwood Elementary when it was still K-5, then to Renfroe, and finally onto DHS where I played basketball, ran cross country and track and was the Drum Major for the marching band. Along the way, I was also actively involved with Decatur First United Methodist Church. My mother moved to Conyers a couple years back but my father is still in Decatur living in a condo right downtown.

The DNO: You had received some notoriety around town before you left for Nashville. Can you describe how Decatur nurtured you as an artist?

MW: Growing up in Decatur had a definite impact on my growth and direction as a musician and artist. The community itself celebrates diversity and has always placed an importance upon the arts.

In particular, my exposure to Eddie Owen and Eddie's Attic has been of fundamental importance. The club has been a home base for MANY successful independent performing songwriters, but has even been the breeding ground for several major national success stories as well. I was inspired by the success of Shawn Mullins then John Mayer and most recently Sugarland to really see my dream through. I consider myself blessed to have had such a special relationship to the club at such an early stage.

The DNO: What prompted the move to Nashville?

MW: I completed my third independent record, Holding My Breath, in 2006 and took it to several of my friends in the music industry. It was funny. They all liked the project but had pretty much the same feedback. They said, "Go to Nashville. Work a little bit more on the craft of songwriting. Get out of your comfort zone." It was hard and required some sacrifice for me and my family but ultimately, it was the best decision I've ever made for my life and career.

The DNO: It seems that you are more on the country path now?

MW: True, the production style on this record leans a bit more "Country" in terms of the instrumentation. For example, I'd never recorded Banjo and Pedal Steel before moving to Nashville. However, to say that I've pulled a 180 is misleading. I've always been influenced by Country music. In fact the producer on my pop/rock record both felt like it had many of the elements of a country record.

Honestly, if anything the music I'm making now is more representative of the music that I love and that has inspired me all along the way. If anything I was misguided before and trying to put a "style" and "sound" out there that would get me recognition. Before I moved to Nashville, I spent far too much time worrying about what other people, specifically people in the music industry, wanted to hear.

My father would always have Country music on in the car and my mother would always have The Beatles or Elton John or Billy Joel or something along those lines. I loved harmonizing and listening to the stories in the Country songs while I also loved the emotion and adventurous production of the Pop music I heard when my mother would drive.

When I got started my natural inclination was towards the emotion and exploration of Pop music, but when I moved to Nashville, my focus shifted towards the actual craft of songwriting with a lyric that tells a story and/or sends a powerful message. I guess I've landed somewhere in the middle between pop and country. Years ago, this would have been scary but now I see there's no other way. At the end of the day, I guess you just have to be yourself and let the other people worry about what to label you.

[My new] record and my current "sound" has elements of country, but it also contains strong elements of Gospel, Pop, Soul and Folk. Ultimately, I have to give credit to both the amazing music community in Nashville and to the time and perspective I've gained from taking a step back. I've been able to accept that I can't change who I am and still be different and I think that Nashville and maybe some growth as a human being can be credited for that discovery.

The DNO: Describe your experience in Nashville.

MW: Nashville is an amazing place. The world's best songwriters, musicians, producers, music business executives, promoters, and more live and work here. I've been exposed to life changing music and experienced firsthand the ying and yang of the music industry. It's a beautifully artistic and cold calculated place all at the same time. I've made friendships and alliances that I'd never dreamed of before, and at the same time seen the reality that not every opportunity out there is worth the taking.

I'm not sure if I am truly "settled" yet. Nashville is my home for now and I fully intend to let it teach me and mold me as much as it will, but my heart tells me that my travels are far from over.

The DNO: What are the major differences between being on stage in Nashville and in Atlanta?

MW: Being on stage in Nashville is different from being on stage just about anywhere else in the world.

At this point, it's still a little daunting to step out on the stage in Nashville, because you're virtually guaranteed to be playing for someone that's passing judgment on you and even potentially making some sort of decision about whether they believe in what it is that you're doing. However, I'm beginning to see that I need to treat a Nashville stage like I would any other. Maybe that's the trick. Go and out and be yourself regardless of who's out there. Anybody can spot a fake, and that can be uncomfortable, but as human beings we also innately know when we're seeing the real thing.

The DNO: What's your new album sound like?

MW: The new record entitled "As I Am" and is an unapologetic statement of where I am today. The production brings in elements of country, soul, folk, and pop. The songs are all written straight out of my life today. The package itself is indicative of where I am both financially and in terms of the time I have to spend on attention to detail, in that each package is unique with its own number. I hand assembled each package by hand with a hot glue gun, and I consider each to be significant in its own way.

I make no apologies for the music I've made in the past, and I make no promises for the music I'll make in the future. Basically the message is that I'm as much in it for the ride as I need for the listener to be. This record and each successive record from here on out is not and will not be "the destination" but an excerpt for the road to getting there.

The DNO: We saw a recent Facebook post about taking the kids on the road. Tell us about your family.

MW: Emily and I were married three years ago this coming June. We had our oldest child, Ben, in 2003 and Grace turned one year old this past September. My two children are my saving grace. They have shown me again and again how important it is to truly LIVE my life as opposed to rushing through it.

The DNO: What is it like to be back on stage at Eddie's?

MW: Eddie's is always special. Maybe it has more to do with me and where I'm at in my journey, but I feel like this is my first real homecoming.

Read More @ http://www.decaturnewsonline.com/arts_and_entertainment/article_89379902-f7d5-11de-a2d9-001cc4c002e0.html?mode=story - Decatur News Online


Discography

Full Circle - Released 2011
051710 Live from The Listening Room Cafe - Released 2010
As I Am - Released 2009
Holding My Breath - Released 2006
In the Red - Released 2003

Photos

Bio

My name is Mike Willis. I was born and raised in Decatur, Georgia which is the closest suburb to Atlanta. I started playing guitar and writing songs in high school because I always felt like I had something to say that required more than just words.
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was enrolling at Berklee College of Music in the winter of 2000. During my time as a student there I learned why the music in my head worked and how to make it stronger.
Two years later, I dropped out just before writing songs began to feel more like an assignment than self-expression. (Also one of the best decisions I’ve ever made)
Since that time, my life has been a whirlwind of mistakes, successes, self-discovery, and hard work. I’ve released four albums and worked with a range of engineers and producers. I’ve played shows in bars, living rooms, and festivals all over the Southeastern U.S. I’ve worked day jobs doing everything from painting houses to waiting tables to providing technical support to law enforcement agencies. I’ve become the lucky father to two children who have been my saving grace and a husband to the most amazingly complex woman I’ve ever encountered.
Over the last three years, I’ve come to realize that in the past I was afraid to fully be myself. Allowing only what I thought might be accepted shine through. You might say that I’ve been hiding.
I’m through hiding and I’m back to doing what I love for the same reason that I started doing it in the first place. The subject material may have changed from picking up girls to the challenges of family life and other internal and worldly struggles and appreciations but the motivation is still the same. Ultimately, I have something to say and I’ve learned I can say it better with words and music than I could with only one.
Whether I know you personally, met you at a show recently, or you just stumbled upon this autobiography somewhere on the internet, this is my story and I’m happy to have you along for the ride.

Band Members