Mike Willis & The Escape Artists
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Mike Willis & The Escape Artists

Woodstock, Georgia, United States | SELF

Woodstock, Georgia, United States | SELF
Band Pop Rock


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The best kept secret in music


"What are others Saying?"

"Mike Willis is as talented as they come, and he's one of the hardest working musicians I know. Plus, chicks dig him, and that never hurts..."

-Shawn Mullins Columbia Records Recording Artist

"MikeWillis is the truth, a refreshing songwriter with an immense talent"

-Justin Siegel A&M Records

"Mike Willis is what we've been waiting for"

-Aaron Kamin RCA Recording Artist w/ The Calling - Mixture

"Willis sheds solo mantra"


Contributed by PT Umphress
Published , March 31, 2005, 06:00:01 AM EDT

Mike Willis and the Escape Artists will play tonight at Tasty World. (Special - The Red & Black)

When Mike Willis takes the stage at the Washington Street Tavern's Battle of the bands, there is no grand entrance, fireworks or traditional rock power chord to signal his presence.

The room is crammed to the max, but Willis has confidence to match his modesty, and he decided to play an acoustic set in the center of the room without amps or mics.

Although hardly anybody in attendance has heard him play before, Willis manages to get the crowd singing and involved on almost every song.

Willis, 24, who has been playing music around Atlanta since high school, is just back from recording a new promotional CD in Los Angeles.


With: Ruse
When: Thursday at 10:30 p.m.
Where: Tasty World
Admission: $5

For more information, visit (www.mikewillismusic.com)

"My songs are very personal and written, for the most part, straight out of my life," Willis said in an e-mail interview. "But, I also aim to make them accessible enough to apply to just about anyone's life. Everyone has experienced heartache and failure and I'm trying to bring that kind of emotion to a new light."

Willis, who previously performed as a solo act, is now backed by the Escape Artists, a group of his friends that includes a drummer, bassist, rhythm guitarist, saxophonist and even a rapper.

Although Willis' accessible sound will immediately appeal to fans of Gavin DeGraw, John Mayer and other acoustic/pop acts, his style is varied, ranging from soft vocal solo to hard rock to mellow groove.

Mike Willis and the Escape Artists will play this Thursday when they open for Ruse at Tasty World. - Willis sheds solo mantra


Green Eggs & Jam Sessions
In the Red
Holding My Breath (Soon to be Released)


Feeling a bit camera shy


If cool is an ideal, then Mike Willis and the Escape Artists are heroes on the rise. They are relentlessly declaring their vision of what music can and should be. This is no surprise, with shows that seem more like events and songwriting that makes the line between the personal and universal seem as thick as a funky groove.
The Escape Artists are an extension of Mike Willis’s career as a solo singer-songwriter, a thinktank of multi-instrumentalists and songwriters bringing their visions together to create a multifaceted band. You might see them playing a stripped-down acoustic set in a coffee shop one night then turning it up with electric guitars at a rock club the next.
Meet Mike Willis, Ben Farmer, Daniel Gardner, and Jason Currin (but you can just call them by their first names...).
Although the Escape Artists came together in December 2004, there is a long history between the band members before they joined forces. Mike, Daniel, and Ben were in the same fifth grade class together growing up in Decatur, GA. They parted ways after high school, but Mike and Ben ended up in Boston together in 1999, studying at Berklee College of Music at the same time as drummer Jason Currin.
Mike followed the path of the singer-songwriter in Boston and developed his skills and style, releasing two albums, Green Eggs and Jam Sessions and in the red, both of which featured Ben as a collaborator. Jason moved to N.Y.C. in 2001 after graduating and began cutting his teeth in the scene there, playing with indie singer-songwriter Kelly Buchanan. During this time Daniel went to school at the University of Georgia in Athens, becoming an active part of the music scene there with his bands Youth in Asia and Action Attack.
After four semesters, Mike decided to return to his hometown and build his career out of Atlanta, where he quickly became a regular in the local music community. He collaborated with several industry movers and shakers including Donny Mathis (co-writer, producer, and guitarist for Outkast), Clay Cook (co-writer with John Mayer, and multi-instrumentalist with the Marshall Tucker Band), Shawn Mullins (Columbia Records recording artist), Kristian Bush (songwriter and mandolin player for Sugarland), and Chuck Leavell (keyboardist for the Allman Brothers Band, Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton).
Ben stayed in Boston to graduate from Berklee and focused on his own band, Portrait of the Artist. He left Boston in 2003 and headed to Los Angeles, where he developed his skills as a multi-instrumentalist sideman with rocker Alicia Champion and other Southern California up-and-comers such as Kevin Wood, Lauren Derose, Bette Stuy, and Nels.
Mike and Ben were reunited when Mike visited L.A. in the summer of 2004 to work with Aaron Kamin (songwriter and guitarist for The Calling). While developing a relationship with the music industry on the west coast, Mike wrote and jammed with Ben, and from that time together the song “Escape Artist” was born, which was recorded and produced by Jay Bennett (multi-instrumentalist formerly of Wilco) at the famous Loft in Chicago where Wilco recorded Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
It was just a matter of time before Ben ended up back in Atlanta with Mike, who had gotten in touch with Jason through mutual friends from Berklee. The Escape Artists started coming together in November of 2004 but it wasn’t until the end of December that Mike and Ben ran into their old friend Daniel in Atlanta. He quickly became the missing piece the band was looking for, bringing his guitar-texture sensibilities and songwriting to the table.
The band has rounded out its line-up with special guests such as hot up-and-coming rapper Lo, veteran sax player Myron “Hawk” Harvey, Outkast guitarist Donnie Mathis, and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Michael Levine.
Since its inception, the Escape Artists have been a force on the rise in the Atlanta music scene, winning the prestigious Eddie’s Attic Open Mic Night Shoot-out in December and the Athen’s O.P.E.N. Music Project Battle of the Bands in January. They have torn the house down all over Atlanta, playing the important circuit of Atlanta venues; the Ten High, Smith’s Olde Bar, Eddie’s Attic, and the Hard Rock Cafe’s Velvet Underground. The rest of the South has also welcomed them with open arms as they’ve played the Loft in Columbus, GA, Workplay at Birmingham, AL, Bad Ass Coffee in Chattanooga, TN, Jammin’ Java in Columbia, SC, and Tasty World in Athens, GA.
The Escape Artists are driving their own bus (literally and figuratively), writing, performing, booking, promoting and recording their way along the road of success. Passion, innovation, and honesty are at the core of what they do, a call for lovers of music to get on board and enjoy the ride.

Band Members