Til Willis

Interrupting Aim

"The one rule for this album was that, as soon as a song started sounding too much like one genre, we'd deliberately switch gears. Much of this album started life as percussion jams, and then I'd build songs on top of those. This was a way to liberate me from old forms and habits. In the end, I feel like this album is a world unto itself." -Til Willis

 

Habit of Being EP - Four song EP

Our first piece of vinyl is this 7" EP containing four songs about unhip topics. Each record is a different color of vinyl, and each record has individualized hand drawn art on the inner sleeve. There is also includes a note about how to receive a bonus track. Also available as a digital album.

Tears In Paris - 3 song single

 The free single, Tears In Paris b/w Wild Beasts of Sleep, was written in reaction to the attacks in Paris in November 2015, and is a call to peace and rationality more than anything. It would feel wrong getting money for this one, so download it free.

Double Eye EP - Digital EP

A Dada infused funky three song EP. Challenged to write and record a song a day, Til Willis quickly whipped up this fun funky bit of indie rock.

Cars Etcetera

A very American album that’s digesting itself, its thoughts, its sentiment as fast and hopeful as it is warily spitting it out. The ground is uneven, and there is no steady peace socially or emotionally with the characters that populate the songs. It seems that the image of the Erratic Cowboy drifting through modern times that was started on the album Rumors of A City, has not only become a source for a band’s identification, but a mirror to reflect a country. 

That said, this is not so much an outward facing album, as it is an inward one. Seems like there are a lot of moments where the characters are trying in some small way to define home, both as a worldly place, and as a personal place. There’s also a heavy seasonal element with winter, New Year’s Eve, springtime birthdays, and summer romances all making a appearance. After all, most of us live our lives on a rigid schedule of hastily disappearing years mapped out in seasons, and that’s where this album is coming from. It also has the feeling of a postcard.

Hackles

If most albums have all the continuity and structure of a novel, then Hackles is a collection of short stories. Rough around the edges, sometimes rambling, and sometimes so straight to the point it’s unnerving. This is a desert island album in that it jumps styles so many times one could just pick sections of it to enjoy separately from the others. From the opening, where an earthbound savior introduces the audience to a world barely hanging together to blues tinged tales of interracial romance circa 1932, these songs come across like half remembered smoky campfire stories. It’s worth mentioning that all the major themes are covered; love, lust, longing and murder. Including a moment where the narrator confesses to killing off part of himself, the part his significant other is in love with, to make room for the real him. Finally, at the end of the album our narrator lifts an old carnival barker’s line, that “if you can’t stay late, come again tomorrow,” perhaps suggesting that if this nineteen song affair is too much to take in one sitting, you can always come back to it. Or, it could simply be saying, “hey, this album has a lot to offer if you listen close.” 

Tin Star

A solitary, “I’m my own best friend,” kind of album, where the artist plays all the instruments and characters himself. Sometimes one must seek solitude to mull over life’s details. How are you going to say what needs to be said? How can one deal with woes that have dropped like a double-decker busload of sad elephants? Or a broke-down car in a town you’re not familiar with? It’s not a sad, or self-pitying album. It does stand very close to a still pond starring deep and long at the reflection. The title itself being a reference to old western sheriffs, and their portrayal in movies such as High Noon, as men left alone in their decisions and inner turmoil.

Live at Davey's Uptown Rambler's Club

Recorded live at Davey's Uptown Ramblers Club in Kansas City, MO 4/5/15

credits

released 22 April 2014 
Til Willis-Guitar/Vocal 
Eric Binkley-Bass 
Matt Otting-Drums

Crow, Soldier - album

After only a year together, Til Willis and Erratic Cowboy releases second album
by Chance Dibben

Performing at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Okla., a few years back, the power went out on Til Wilis. The singer-songwriter was faced with a dilemma: vacate his cool basement platform for the steamy bar upstairs and perform unamplified, or lose his turn to play altogether. Willis decided to play.
“I walk in front of these tables — it’s kind of a restaurant bar upstairs, huge high ceilings, hot as can be up there, big picture of Woody Guthrie in the back — got up there and just started playing.”
Willis performed his set, rousing the crowd despite the heat and setbacks. At the end of the show, one of Woody Guthrie’s granddaughters approached Willis, explaining a family belief that Woody only kills the power on people he likes.
“It had happened to so many people when they start playing Woody Guthrie songs… It happened to Bruce Springsteen three times. Here he is having the big bucks to pay for stadium sound, for some reason when he starts playing Woody, the power goes. [Woody’s granddaughter said] ‘We take that as a big endorsement from beyond the grave.”
“You’re family, I guess I’ll take your word for it,” Willis told her.
For somebody once described by a concertgoer as Lawrence’s Bruce Springsteen (a reputation he takes with wry bemusement), Willis has learned to make the most out of a little, applying a practical and forward-thinking approach to songcraft, performance and recording. This has led to numerous shows throughout the region, a bevy of solo releases, and a fruitful relationship with his current band, Erratic Cowboy.

When we spoke to Willis nine months ago about the group’s first release, The Land of Sawdust and Spangles, the songwriter mentioned that he had two albums in the works. The group’s new album, "Crow, Soldier", to be self-released June 1, is not one of those albums.
Willis says that the songwriting process for this project snowballed quickly. Initially it started off as one or two songs to record for a single, a way to have something new coming out. “But,” Willis explains, “by the time we actually got around to record, it was OK, well, now I got five songs ready to go, by the time we recorded those five, well I’ve got these as well. Next thing you know we’ve got 14 tracks.”

Like many songwriters worth their salt, lyrics and song ideas flow out of Willis. He says that while he knows some songwriters are successful in releasing 10 solid songs in a year, “at given day I’ve got 10 songs laying around.”
“I always figured ... if you’re gonna call yourself a songwriter then you need to write songs.”
Hence the new album, which formed organically between those other two projects Willis is prepping. One is an eclectic disc of solo material that should get released this year, and the other is something his band may assist with.
“I kind of like being on that 1960s schedule for recording. Every six months we need an album. You better be working” Willis jokes. Nearly all of the songs on "Crow, Soldier" were written since the last album. “Some of them just 24 hours before they were recorded,” says Willis. He explains that for independent artists like his band, it is a huge benefit to always have something new coming out, a philosophy of music production shared by many of this generation, especially as technology has made creating and distributing music easier.

Like the band's last album, "Crow, Solider" was recorded in Wilis’s home in Lawrence, but with a crucial difference. “ [For] this album we wanted everything to be a little sharper… Not so loose, so we took time to not record all things live in the same room so we could have better control over it. Just [to] make it more professional sounding.”
The band also started discussing how to create music more in terms of dance and funk. While "The Land of Sawdust and Spangles" certainly has a few foot-jumping tracks, Willis reflects that the group intended that album to be a loose and ragged batch of songs.
“With this one we talked about wanting to have stuff that maybe you can even dance to, that was tight, that if you’re thinking about where you have to go in your part, think dance and grooveability.”
Willis mentions that key points of references for Crow, Solider were some of The Clash’s funkier tracks and the boogie of seventies-era Rolling Stones.
“It’s rock and roll, but has that swagger,” Willis explains.
The 14 tracks on "Crow, Soldier" are drawn from strong images and a hurtling sense of urgency, enhancing the band’s dynamism. Once he was comfortable with the click track levels, Willis would bump them up about three notches so his performances would be a little more off-kilter and sped up.

In addition, drummer Matt Otting and bassist Eric Binkley seemed to have eased more into their roles.
“They’re both real quick at picking up their parts and they’re committed to making original music…We’re pretty good at reading one another in the room,” Willis says.
“With this I think we concentrate a bit more, I think this is a lot more of a focused album — not to say The Land of Sawdust and Spangles is bad, it was almost a learning experience to get into this album,” says Otting. With "Crow, Soldier’s" groove-focused sound, the rhythm section that is Erratic Cowboy becomes more pronounced and expressive, something listeners will find immediate on powerhouse tracks like opener “Best We Can,” “Blue Impala” and “Working Down." Says Binkley, “compared to our last album, which had some more laid back stuff, this one is definitely more of a toe-tapper. As far as my basslines, I would say it’s got more of a funk feel.”

"Crow, Soldier" manages to cross a wide swath of styles and genres, with some tracks, like “California Widow,” evoking the dirge of a good Tom Waits song. Other tracks make serious good on the group’s promise of danceability. For a rock group rooted in standard formats, Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy conjure up some wild noises, with the presence of cheap pocket synths used to great effect on a few songs. The range of styles and sounds on "Crow, Solider" demonstrate that Til Willis and his bandmates are unafraid to write sincere songs while also indulging in noisy and abstract impulses.
The result is high-impact and affecting, building off of the lessons learned in their short time together. As Binkley says, the album “represents Til and our band, and what we can do.”

Land of Sawdust and Spangles - album

“So many delicate fears run through an election year.” So begins the first song on singer-songwriter Til Willis’s new album Land of Sawdust and Spangles. It might seem too keen and appropriate, given that the presidential election only is 45 days away, but that line certainly reflects a frustrating truth about our country’s election cycle.

Willis explains the line as expressing the kind of things people tend to get really focused on during an election year, “out of some kind of in-grained civic duty” that exposes them “to all these suggestive things like all the hope and fear that different parties and ads and crap like that can inspire.” I’ve been thinking about that line every since he told it to me, and as we near election time, it has become all the more resonant. The 32 year-old Willis, who has lived in Lawrence for the last three years, describes Sawdust and Spangles as a “kind of a dark after-hours political album.”

The title is lifted from an article on circuses published in National Geographic way back in 1931 that Willis happened to come across, and his appropriation of the phrase speaks to absurd sideshow of America politics.

“I thought ‘sawdust and spangles’ really sums up a political album, because no matter how far we’ve made changes [or] advances, in the end there’s still sawdust on the ground to hide the fact that we’re waking on uneasy ground that may or may not be sh*t and spangles to distract and attract us in to the show.”

While Willis emphasizes the “after-hours, political vibe” of the album, he did not set out to make a strictly political work. That killer first line, from the song “Uniform,” was something he had written during the last election. He had a few holdover songs that didn’t fit on his previous albums and thought that recording an EP of these remainders might make it easier to work with his new backing band, Erratic Cowboy. But as he says, “we recorded all that…and it just kind of evolved.”

With Matt Otting, of Leavenworth, on drums and Eric Binkley, of Shawnee, on bass, Erratic Cowboy, takes its name after a lyric from one of Willis’ songs. “I already had [the phrase] printed on T-shirts and stuff and so when these guys were ‘well can we have a name?’ I said how about ‘erratic cowboy?’ ‘Oh that sounds pretty f**king cool. Let’s go with that.’” 

In their six months together, the trio has certainly settled into a groove, and it’s more or less a happy accident that album’s content is timely. That is not to say that The Land of Sawdust and Spangles hits you over the head with its political characteristics; the album is more balanced and less obvious than what the adjective “political” connotes when applied to a creative work. Willis explains “it’s more of an introspective political thing…there’s some songs that might even be confused with relationship songs.”

Politics aside, it is clear, at least from the portions of Sawdust and Spangles Willis played for me, that the band really has something together. The album combines the best of Willis’ influences into one loose, funky package. Springsteen, Velvet Underground, Dylan and Dean Wareham, can all be heard throughout and Willis’ wide range of vocal styles is a stark contrast to his genial conversation voice.

And amazingly, for an album that was recorded in Willis’ living room, Sawdust and Spangles sounds full-fledged and dynamic, with psychedelic and noisy flourishes that give it a compelling and huge-sounding atmosphere, while retaining the intimacy of three dudes drinking and making music. Willis says that a lot of work went into the album and that this is the first record in a while that he’s completely engineered himself.

“The danger with that is a lot of times that leaves you open to people saying ‘oh yeah well I can tell it’s a home-done job.” Aside from certain (great) details like Willis’ wife Stephanie laughing at the end of one track or a small THUNK on another where the couple’s cat knocked down a mic stand—you would never have sense that this was a “home job,” and these details only enhance the record’s loose after-hours vibe. (written by Chance Dibben, and taken from http://www.lawrence.com/weblogs/loud-and-local/tags/til-willis/)

Cartoon Shadows - single

Cartoon Shadows b/w Dangerously Sweet is a fun yet dark little bit of music ripe with mystery. Don't be fooled by the titles... these songs are velvet covered bricks ready to leave a mark.

Rumors of A City - Album

Take U2, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seger, roll them into one, and you’ve got Til Willis. As an advocate of indie artists who write and play their own music, I was only too willing to write up a review on Til’s newest album, ‘Rumors Of A City’. From beginning to end, this album has my foot tapping and each song leaves me anticipating the next. This studio album not only plays well on the digital medium, it brings you the kind of music that also plays well on the live stage.

Taking five years to complete and recorded in six different cities (Memphis, Santa Cruz, Cotati, Denver, Ouray, Sebastapol), it is clear that Til Willis put his entire soul into the craftsmanship of every track and every instrumental aspect. As one who isn’t necessarily easy to please when being introduced to new music and is a huge fan of American blue-collar blues and rock, this album failed to disappoint me, in any way.

Promises and Poison, the opening track, sets the tone for the album.  This track is a mix of acoustic and electric guitar work throughout and vocals that always hit the mark. Following the opening track are eleven more tracks, all similar, but all having their own personality. Featuring a cohesive rhythm section and exceptional horns by Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns, there is absolutely nothing boring about this album, right down to the epic track, The Ways, which is over seven minutes long.

Below is a track listing and link to purchase the album.  You can preview each song on CD Baby, to see for yourself that this album is worth every penny.

Til Willis – Rumors of a City – Track Listing

- Promises and Poison 4.48

- Dirty Little Spectacle 4.15

- April 25th 5.09

- Studyin’ The Rain 4.06

- Victimless Crimes 4.57

- Sensation 4.26

- Seven Ladies 3.48

- Till Last Night 3.40

- Dust 4.08

- Flashes Of Light 4.02

- This Side Of The Truth 4.12

- The Ways 7.30

Cindershine - album

After a year of recovering from a car accident that had left Til unable to walk for two and half months, he needed to work., and had been writing since he came home from the hospital. Not to mention, having several songs left over from the previous year. The idea of an acoustic album started to formulate. And, where better to begin musical rejuvenation than the town and studio that started it all, Sun Studio, Memphis, TN. The studio that gave the world the Rock ‘n’ Roll that change everything. 
Standing in the same building where Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis became legends, Cindershine was born. Eight songs recorded in two hours, one take apiece, just like the old days. However, before the album would come to fruition it would have to undergo an augmentation. 
John Magnie, Tim Cook, Steve Amedee (of the Subdudes) had been working with Til on a handful of songs for close to three years. Two of which, John and Til wrote together. Shortly after returning from Memphis, They finally got the opportunity to finish them in a way that made them a perfect addition to Cindershine. 
All that was left was to get a great mix job. “I had planned to use Grammy nominated engineer Butch Hause, as he had been recommended by John Magnie, for my fourth album, Crimson Wind,” says Til, “ but that didn’t work out. So I decided to give him a callfor this project.” Now the difference between a good album and a great album is the mix/mastering, and Til found that for Cindershine in Mr. Hause. He was able to capture the earthiness, and spontaneity that was envisioned, without losing any dynamic or funk. Ultimately producing an album with echoes of The Basement Tapes, and Nebraska

Crimson Wind - album

The pen sweats blood, and the demons howl in the bones of this album... Crimson Wind is the fourth by singer/songwriter Til Willis, and one of personal scrutiny and jaded world view that doesn't fail on delivering the rock and soul it should. Far too vast in influence and genre to dissect, it moves from the up-tempo guitar driven rock of "Shot Through You" and "Crowding in the Temple" to dirt road acoustic ballads like, "Blood in My Eyes", and then onto far out Captain Beefheart like moments on "Far, Far, Far".

Lovesick - album

With echoes of 70's rock albums by the Faces, and Springsteen, this album sparkles with words and music from a young man standing in his own orchard of sound.