Will T. Massey
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Will T. Massey

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"The New Troubadours"

If the new troubadours talk about their music with a high but easy seriousness, the tunes themselves have a driving dynamic that needs only a chorus to shake off any lingering academic taint. Massey, 22, has himself a real sit-up-and-take-notice debut, Will T. Massey (MCA), in which the restless soul of Hank Williams matches up effortlessly with a rock-'n'-roll heart. Co- produced by Roy Bittan, the piano wizard from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, the record thumb-trips across a desert of burned-out hopes. "There's a coffin curse assailing me/ There's a highway hearse tailing me," Massey sings in one of the album's standout cuts, nailing in two fleet lines a spooky vision that owes a little to the Boss and a lot to the likes of Woody Guthrie and Sherwood Anderson.
- Time Magazine


Wayward Lady (2008)
Slow Study (2007)
Letters in the Wind (2006)
Alone (2005)
Acoustic Session (2005)
Will T. Massey (1991)
Slow Study (1989)
Kickin’ up Dust (1988)
Pickin’, Poker and Pickup Trucks (1987)



San Angelo, Texas, native Will T. Massey burst onto the contemporary music scene in 1991, at age 21, with a namesake major-label release that included help from Roy Bittan (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band), Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, John Fogerty).

National and European tours followed, with a music video on Country Music Television and an appearance on Austin City Limits.

"Like some West Texas Springsteen, Massey writes songs that give the commonplace events of life to high drama and delivers them with the grand gestures of a master performer,” gushed the Austin Chronicle.

Rolling Stone magazine called Will T. “an original voice from Texas,” and Time magazine opined that in his music, “the restless soul of Hank Williams matches up effortlessly with a rock ‘n’ roll heart.”

It was an auspicious industry beginning for a precocious songwriter who made his first album (Will T. distributed 150 cassette tapes of Pickin’, Poker and Pickup Trucks) while still in high school and followed it up with Kickin’ up Dust and Slow Study, with Lloyd Maines, Ponty Bone and Tish Hinojosa. Seemingly, overnight, he was catapulted from living in a barn and working as a janitor between gigs at Austin’s late, lamented Chicago House (Peg Miller, Glynda Cox) and similar venues in Dallas and Houston.

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last.

The 1991 major-label release would be the only Will T. recording MCA would put out. Not because the company didn’t want to, but because Massey had stopped taking meetings with producer Peter Philbin (Bangles, Furs, Lone Justice).

“I remember Peter called me up and said we’re ready to release the second record, and I wouldn’t see him,” Massey says. “Then I turned around and asked them to release me from my contract because they were sitting on me.”

Whatever happened to Will T?

It’s a question Massey gets a lot from longtime fans and friends alike, and one he’s decided to answer fully for the first time.

Though he didn’t know it, Will T. had been gripped by a devastating illness. By then living in Seattle, Massey began to distrust everyone around him. Suffering from paranoia and delusions of grandeur (he was pretty good, he now acknowledges with a smile, but not that good), he was hospitalized against his will.

After returning to Texas, he was hospitalized again. Those two involuntary admissions turned the young singer-songwriter away from the medical profession, he says, and it would be 13 years before he had a diagnosis: schizophrenia.

“You know, it’s interesting; the video that was playing on CMT was called ‘I Ain’t Here,’” Massey recalls. “The chorus goes like this: ‘Reality is nowhere near/If you’re looking for me/I don’t know where I’ll be/I ain’t here …’ That was my big song while I actually was going crazy.”

In 1995, MCA released the singer-songwriter from his contract. Will T. was free and clear. Massey continued to make music for a while, but couldn’t get it together enough to put out another album. He drifted around the country, writing furiously, following bus routes and living in cheap hotels or on the street as his illness continued to further estrange him from friends and family. He even pawned his guitars.

By 2000, back in Seattle, Massey made a bargain with God: if an expected check arrived general delivery at the post office, he’d use part of it to buy a guitar and get on a bus back to Texas. The check was there, and Massey headed home, six-string in hand.

A friend – probably the last person in the world, Massey says, he hadn’t driven away – paid his rent and gave him enough money to scrape by. Her only requirement: he had to send songs to her every now and then.

In 2005, the songwriter who had toured with Townes van Zandt, Chris Isaak, Joe Ely, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen and others, teetered on the verge of being evicted from his Austin apartment. That last friend, his “patron saint,” convinced him to seek medical help. This time, with some hand-holding from a cousin, Will T. found a doctor he felt he could trust. Massey walked out with a name for his illness and the medicine to treat it.

“My friend loved my music from the get-go and always helped me out because of the music. I don’t think I would have stayed alive without her help,” Massey says. “In a strange way, it’s because of the music and the fact that one person appreciated it that I’m alive. That’s the truth.”

Comeback kid

Within a year of naming and treating his illness, Massey released two solo, acoustic albums, Acoustic Session in April 2005, and Alone, in November 2005.

Since then, Massey says, his reintegration into the larger world and his music career has been challenging but steady. In 2006 he released Letters in the Wind (produced by Stephen Doster, Will and Charlie Sexton, Tish Hinojosa, Bukka Allen, Kacy Crowley and Lloyd Maines contributed), as well as digitally re-mastering and re-releasing