Louisiana native Willie Jones is one of Nashville’s rising stars and was one of the most talked about artists at last years Country Music Week and during his UK shows with Michael Ray. Bringing a fresh take on country music from being heavily influenced by rap, pop and hip hop music Jones is an out and out entertainer that has the ability to really get a crowd going with his energy on stage and smooth vocals that magically bring a lot of elements together to create an infectious brand of country.
We first met him back in October last year at Bush Hall during Country Music Week in London (which you can check out HERE) which was just after he had released ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (listen HERE) and he was really excited on the progress of his upcoming album and working on building his European fan-base further.
Jamie spent some time catching up with Willie last month in London. Our hang out was after Willie had been in Amsterdam and Berlin for the festival but before the London, Glasgow and Dublin legs of Country to Country were due to take place and at position in time where the global situation was not as severe as it currently is and the festival was still due to take place.
Even with the anticipation before the festival was postponed, the whole experience around C2C is like a strange ecosystem in it’s own right where you almost lose concept of everything that goes on around it and even where you are. For the artists that had spent time for the dates in mainland Europe the weekend before London’s planned festivities this must be even more bizarre when you couple jetlag, foreign languages and moving around so much, trying to establish where he had played last, Willie was thinking “I don’t even know what today is, Wednesday?”
The visits playing in Berlin and Amsterdam were not his first time in either city as last year when playing shows with Tyler Rich and Tenille Arts during Country Music Week he had been able to get around and explore the German capital a little bit whilst the glorious city of sin in The Netherlands was also a repeat trip as he had visited Amsterdam before when attending his DJ and best friends bachelor party.
When you sit and talk to him or when you meet him in and around gigs whether within the industry or as a fan, you definitely see he is a very approachable, down to earth guy that is really sociable which he sees himself as “Just a regular guy that happens to sing songs!” and he reflected this when he described the experience at C2C in Berlin and Amsterdam with how “It was real fun watching everyone perform and meeting people, it kinda felt like I’d been invited to a free festival!” He genuinely is a “real people person that loves meeting fans and telling stories” wherever that may be as he recounted stories of walking around the festival and mingling in the public areas.
One of the things about C2C as a festival is it brings a lot of artists together that may not typically see each other as often as some people may assume about creatives living in Nashville as people are on the road or doing promo but it really still is that Little Big Town with the local bars that people go to except you won’t see people every day. What makes C2C great as a performer is how “It’s cool to see other artists, come and support them and have a beer backstage.” It would have clearly been a disappointment to not be able to continue this into the second weekend as he was due to close the entire festival in London playing the Sunday night Official After Party where like his previous trip would be with his deejay and guitarist but with new songs and even more energy. He had played the party in Berlin which he said was wild and he had deejayed himself at was hoping to do the same in London, jumping in with DJ Hish to make the party be what he described in his best British accent as “Absolutely Mental!” This was the idea based on previous visits to London and Glasgow as being so enjoyable and saying “Everytime I come back, I just wanna top the time before!”
One thing that a lot of artists that I’ve talked to, Abby (Anderson) was here last year and Logan (Mize) who I was on the road with say and I agree with that the European fans of country, like just tune in differently. It’s like they are more tuned into the words and story. It’s not that they are tuned in more, it’s just a different kind of appreciation for country music and for artists in general. Even when I go out to the clubs, I’ll hear an old Ciara song or I hear a song that came out 2 years ago and I’m like damn! They don’t even play this stuff at home no more! The appreciation is just a little more, I feel the love!
We talked about the whole getting to spend time with people and be a music fan once again. He described how dope it was to see Luke Combs and Darius Rucker for first time in Berlin plus how he loves watching Abby Anderson, Jimmie Allen, both Tenille’s (Townes and Arts) and so many other artists he is a fan of himself along with just being able to hang out and check people out for himself:
I can’t wait to see Kassi Ashton! I saw her a while ago on Instagram and remember her fashion stuff being like this country girl makes her clothes and came across her again being like this country girl fine! Then we started following each other then saw she was performing at C2C too and was like I listen to her music, one of my publishers played me some of her stuff and her music is great, her fashion sense is great. She is a star so I can’t wait to see her!
Logan was next door neighbours to my label rep Eric Hurt and I think Logan heard who I was then asked Eric about me or something like that. Then I heard the original song and was like this is dope, I wanna get on it. I just love the song, I’m just a big kid, I feel like a big kid and use my imagination everyday. It’s just something about the song that I love and it was also written by Dallas Davidson, who is one of the co-writers and I just love his writing so I just had to get on it!
Prior to the current global situation, the plan was to have the album out before summer and a similar time to this piece coming out (late April or early May) and potentially launching around Stagecoach Festival (which had already been postponed when we spoke) but things have obviously changed a little so during this period him and his team will work on the release but most importantly it is coming our way soon:
I’m done with the studio for this album, I’m already working towards the next one but who knows I may scratch out all those songs and write a new one but the first album we are working on those final mixes and getting everything fine tuned, I’m getting really particular now so we’re just bunkering down and about to finish it up. The name of the album is “Right Now” and it’s gonna be amazing!
In the meantime he is still writing for future work of his own or for other artists in addition to spending time on a book and even a musical! Which in the current state of lockdown and being unable to play live may even have had more time spent on as that must be a really interesting thing to work on in this unprecedented period. When he brought up the idea of a musical, he talked about sharing ideas and how it was actually musical theatre that brought an insight into country music due to the nature of descriptive storytelling the same as is portrayed in both country and hip-hop.
Whilst we await the arrival of “Right Now” Willie has given us a further teaser of what is to come with his latest single “Back Porch” which he co-wrote with Nick Autry and being produced by Michael Lotten, recently being released (available HERE) via 4 SOUND / EMPIRE. It is a song where the beats hit hard, providing a street-smart backdrop to his authentic country voice, which is capped with a killer banjo solo. The song’s message is enticing grab a cold drink, hang out with someone you love, and embrace one of life’s simplest pleasures.
“I wasn’t in the best place mentally, spiritually or physically but one afternoon, I was on my buddy’s back porch, chilling, in the open air and it really helped me to reassess things” explains Willie. “I think now more than ever people need some peace of mind and being outside, chilling with the ones you love in the comfortability of your own home or back porch is the way to get that. The song is a reminder to be thankful for everything you have.”
To celebrate the launch of the single he celebrated with some friends with a virtual BBQ on his own back porch via Instagram to share with the world as social distancing is essential for us all right now where Lauren Alaina, Walker Hayes, Abby Anderson, Blanco Brown, Filmore and a bunch of other pals came together in the only way they can which portrays the whole beauty of Nashville being such a dynamic and supportive community.
This was something that me and Willie had talked about before the extent of how serious the effects of COVID-19 became apparent in the UK and the United States when we the effect of the tornado that had just hit music city earlier this year where the whole community aspect of music city became so apparent which he summed up by saying “Nashville is just a place where its family and faith” which right now is something really powerful to hold onto and given the current climate of the world is reiterating what is really important to everyone right now.
It was a strange circumstance surrounding the whole C2C experience which became even more surreal given that the event didn’t take place but it was an absolute blast to once again hang out with Willie and really exciting to hear the news on new music and how important he finds working on the UK market along with the reaction he has received over here and we hope that this will long continue and we can catch up again when “Right Now” drops and the global situation changes.