ABOUT JOHN WILLIS MUSIC
When I was a young songwriter just starting to figure out my sound, I got so wrapped up in the tug-of-war between wanting to distinguish myself as a creator and wanting to be embraced and understood by an audience that I hid most of my music away. For the majority of my twenties, I could not figure out how to present myself. While I struggled to find my authentic voice as a writer and a performer, I developed a sprawling interest in world folk music cultures, in jazz, in twentieth century minimalist composers, and in choral sacred music from various traditions. In listening over time, I built up a musical palette that would allow me the freedom to create the sounds that I wanted to hear while working within the medium where I shine: the introspective or confessional pop song.
Lyrically, I am a big fan of wordplay, imagery, and allusion. Growing up the son of a church music minister gave me three, enduring gifts: a love for the piano, a sense of the majesty of a phrase of music crafted to be simultaneously profound yet singable for the masses, and a lexicon rich with biblical story and symbol. Much of my work touches on archetypal themes that resonate with people and that help anchor what I am exploring or experiencing within the greater, human story.
Musically, I work in pastiche and collage. I weave fragments of well-worn romantic musical themes into my 21st Century love songs. I infuse Latin or Mediterranean elements into the instrumentation of a song, or I underscore the melody line with a chorus that could be borrowed from Eastern European folk singing traditions or sacred choral composers. To me, genre is not something to which an artist or even a particular work need be limited, though many do choose to limit themselves.
Working within various genres and working-in various sound elements is good fun for me, yet it also lends itself to the complexity of emotional and intellectual experiences that I want to write about. My songs explore one or both sides of relationships-in-progress and the growth that comes through living and relating with other people. More than anything, I want to create beautiful music that helps people to open up and connect emotionally and intellectually with their own process. If something in my collage of sounds grabs a listener’s ear and pulls them into my world, then perhaps they will stay to hear the moment unfold and then return to appreciate their own experience and the people in their lives a little more.