By Kierra Pixler
Growing up hearing the soulful voices of artists like Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, and Al Green, it’s no surprise that Horace Willis has had blues music in his blood from the very start. He grew up in the Mississippi Delta and explained that his love for music all started with his dad.
“I got into music through my dad,” said Willis. “He would listen to a lot of soul, R&B, gospel and jazz. Hanging out with him and singing to the vinyl records that he would play all the time is definitely what sparked my life in music now.”
He started playing music during his junior and senior year of High School. His dad was in a gospel group, and they would play at various churches each Sunday.
“One of the Deacons, who was a guitar player, saw that I was interested in his playing and decided to let me borrow one of his spare guitars to learn,” said Willis. “He would also teach me in his free time.”
He credits his Latin/Drama teacher for getting him interested in the different genres of music.
“I ended up telling my latin/drama teacher that I had been playing the guitar and he was into a lot of classic rock like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Elton John,” explained Willis. “Being a kid in a rural school, which was all black, by the way, none of us knew about that kind of music.”
Stevie Wonder is one of his favorite artists and one of the musicians that has influenced him the most. Willis explained that Wonder embodies what it means to be a true musician.
“He’s a great writer, singer, musician and an overall great person,” said Willis. “His songs are so well crafted and have such great musicianship, while also being catchy and memorable enough to people can’t help but sing them for years and year. He’s just a timeless artist.”
While Willis knows the tradition of playing the blues, he also adds a modern mix to his performances. When asked about his favorite memories as a musician, Willis recalls playing at the Grammy Museum in LA.
“The recording academy actually flew out the group of students picked to play as a band and paid for everything,“ explained Willis. “It was really cool being around so many people doing things in the industry and being on a stage that was shared with people like Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and so many more.”
He will also be playing at Taste of Central Texas on March 29. It is a fundraiser to support emergency and crisis services offered by Central Texas Youth Services.
Central Texas Youth Services is a non-profit offering services free of charge to youth in the local community.
“It’s a really cool event,” said Willis. “It’s such a good cause to support, and it was the first gig that I did when I moved to Texas.”