When's the last time you were genuinely surprised? No, I mean really surprised. Something that came out of the blue, something unexpected flew in from left field and you were just overcome with joy that it happened. Take your time, ok, now that's just a bit too long. It wasn't that hard of a question, was it?
In today's music landscape it might be hard to say something surprised you. After all, isn't it almost everyday that you hear someone say that artist X sounds just like so and so? Or perhaps, you might hear, "oh, they just stole their sound from these guys, or that sounds just like that song old what-er-name put out last summer." Kind of overwhelming isn't it? Well, is that really the case, or have we just become accustom as a society to believe that there is no such thing as a true original? Or, could it be that we have become reliant on what someone else tells us to listen to, and what we should believe is good music? What do you think? Is music just mediocre these days? Or, could it be you just aren't looking in the right places? That's a lot of questions I know, but seriously, can society just take their blinders off for one minute and take a look around? There is a whole flock of new, original, and fresh artists out there just dying to share their sound, and their brand with you. That is, if you can just stop, and listen. And, for us that live near the DFW metroplex, we can go out and find this music seven nights a week. There are countless venues hosting singer/songwriters nightly, live shows on Friday and Saturday nights, and numerous open-Mic nights and song swaps just about everywhere you look. But that's the key, you, the listener, have to get out there and look.
A few months ago, I was introduced to this name I had never heard of, and enjoyed every thing he was laying down. I then wrote about him to share with you guys his story on our Take Notice Tuesday feature. It was Erick Willis. He had a sound that I couldn't bring comparison to, it really was like no other. So I began to do some research, and found a YouTube channel, caught a show or two, but something was still missing. What was it? Oh yeah, he hadn't recorded any music yet. No live tracks, just a demo of one song. I wanted more, and I wanted it now! Much to my surprise, there was more, there was so much more.
Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout. That hot July day, Erick brought his A game. As impressed as I had previously been, this was on a whole different level. This was that music that was original, clean, different. This was the sound of an artist who knew exactly who he was, and was channeling the soul of so many musicians who had come before him. Erick Willis was in-fact here.
When I sat down with Erick after his performance that Sunday, I asked him how it felt to finally be releasing his first project, and what it was like being in studio. "It was good. It was a great learning experience. Just super thrilled at how it all turned out, and got to work with some amazing musicians. Man I really liked it." The new EP, simply released as self-titled, is filled with soulful tracks front to back. It has a genuine feel of completeness, and has an energy not often found in a freshman release. Erick had done it, he had surprised me. This was probably the first album to be released in the better part of a decade that I enjoyed every track on. No wishy-washy or on the fence feeling about one song or another, I loved it all. I bet I had that CD on repeat for the whole week.
"This EP wasn't really theme-orientated, thats probably why it doesn't have a name. Out of the five songs that are on there, it's probably out of the first ten songs I ever wrote. It's early stuff, but stuff I feel comfortable in putting out. I really am ready to release some of the newer stuff, but these are some of the songs that started me out, and I've had great fan response to them.
Taking cues from the music he was raised on, Erick is blending soulful melodic lyrics, with the deep groove of roots-rock and as the lyric says, with some of the harder stuff. Plans are in the works for a stripped down, all-acoustic EP, set to release later this year, or early next year.
Showcasing a smooth voice, with an excellent upper register, Erick is bringing some soul into the mix, along with uniquely Texas lyrics. If you don't know his name, then you probably still have your blinders on. Erick is an artist I see having great success on this singer/songwriter friendly scene, and being able to bring a constantly evolving, fresh look at melodic song-stylings. The EP is available on ITunes, and everywhere else you can get music digitally. If you aren't planning on grabbing up a copy, then friend, you most certainly are missing out. I'll leave you guys with a glimpse of a great cover, spun in such a way that you can feel his individual touches and approach, yet it still pays homage to the spirit and drive of the songwriter.
There seems to be a trend these days toward being pessimistic. When did we go from hoping for the best, and giving the benefit of the doubt, to expecting the worst in every person and every situation? It's almost like we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Seriously, when is the last time we just accepted something good for what it was? I talk many times about how I feel our culture and society have gone the way-side or taken a turn for the worse, and maybe I have blinders on too. One thing I can tell you, I do try my best to see the best in everyone, and find the good in every situation. The late Coach Jim Valving said it best:"There are three things we all should do everyday, If we do this everyday of our lives, you're gonna, well, what a wonderful life. Number one is laugh, you should laugh everyday. Number two is think, you should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears,be it be happiness or joy. Think about it, if you laugh, you think, you cry, that's a full day, that's a heck of a day. If you do that seven days a week, you're gonna have something special." When is the last time you laughed, you thought, and you cried for all the right reasons? Don't be disconnected from your emotions, instead, connect with something that makes you emotional. Something that makes you laugh, that makes you think, and that something that brings you to tears of happiness. Let music be that catlyst. Laugh at that funny song, think about those deep lyrics, and let the spirt of the songwriter move you, just as it moved them. This is Texas Red Dirt Roads.
For more on Erick Willis visit: Click Here
To Hear Coach Jim Valvano's speech in its entirety: Click Here
To pick up a copy of other great hidden Texas/ Red Dirt gems like Erick: click here
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