Kelly Willis

Kelly Willis

Infobox Musical artist
Name = Kelly Willis
Background = solo_singer

Birth_name =
Born = birth date and age|1968|10|2
Origin = Annandale, Virginia, USA
Genre = Country
Occupation = Singer-songwriter
Years_active = 1990-present
Label = MCA
Associated_acts =
URL = [ Kelly Willis]

Kelly Willis (born October 2, 1968) is an American country music singer-songwriter, whose music has been described as contemporary country, alternative country and new traditionalist.

Early life

Born in Lawton, Oklahoma, U.S., Willis was the youngest of three children. While her father was a U.S. Army colonel, Willis’ mother had a strong interest in music and sang and acted in amateur musicals. Willis began singing when she was nine as a way to comfort herself after her parents divorced. After the divorce, Willis and her siblings lived with her dad and moved around the country to accommodate her father’s military job. She spent her middle school years in North Carolina and her high school years in Annandale, Virginia.


Willis joined her first band in high school. Her boyfriend, drummer Mas Palermo, introduced Willis to his rockabilly band. The band took her on as the lead vocalist and soon rechristened the band Kelly Willis & the Fireballs. After Willis’ high school graduation, the band decided to move to Austin, Texas, to participate in the vibrant Austin music scene. After a few months in Austin, however, the band broke up. Willis and Palermo, married in 1989, formed a new band called Radio Ranch. In Austin, Willis attracted the notice of several influential Texas singer-songwriters including Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett. Griffith introduced MCA producer Tony Brown to Willis. Brown was very impressed with Willis’ vocal abilities and signed her to the MCA label in 1989.

MCA embarked on a big marketing campaign to tout Willis after she recorded her first album on the label, the 1990 album "Well Travelled Love". MCA ensured that Willis was interviewed by several national magazines including unusual venues like "Vogue" and "Mademoiselle". Her voice appeared in the 1991 Ridley Scott-produced movie "Thelma and Louise", singing "Little Honey." Willis also had a small part in Tim Robbins1992 film "Bob Roberts". Despite of all the publicity and positive reviews from most reviewers, "Well Travelled Love" and Willis’ subsequent albums for MCA ("Bang Bang" in 1991 and "Kelly Willis" in 1993) sold modestly and received very little radio play. During this time, Willis felt uncomfortable with the way she was marketed by MCA. In 1994, MCA released Willis from her contract.

Willis continued to pursue her music career after leaving MCA. In 1996, she recorded an EP for A&M Records entitled "Fading Fast". However, her relationship with A&M was short-lived; after working with two major labels, Willis decided to record her next album on her own. Her efforts resulted in the 1999 album "What I Deserve", which Willis sold to Rykodisc after finishing the album. "What I Deserve" received quite a bit of press after the album’s release. It was commonly seen as Willis’ response to her history with MCA, and was uniformly praised by critics, becoming a hit for Willis.

In 2003, Willis and Bruce Robison, her husband and fellow country musician, released the record "Happy Holidays", a cover album of Christmas songs. Starting in 2005, Willis and Robison appeared in television and radio commercials for the anti-allergy product Claritin. [ : Kelly Willis : Willis and Robison: A Texas Family Christmas ] ]

In Fall 2007, Willis released "Translated From Love". It was recorded at Robison's studio, Premium Recording Services, in Austin, TX.cite web | author= Doole, Kerry | title= “Kelly Willis Web Interview "| url=| work = "Exclaim!"| year=2007| accessdate=2007-09-18] and produced by Chuck Prophet, formerly of the band Green On Red. The album is co-written by Willis, Prophet and notable songwriter Jules Shear, and includes a cover version of Iggy Pop's "Success."

In early 2008, Willis announced she would take an indefinite hiatus from live performances due to family obligations. Said Willis in a website announcement, "Being a traveling musician with four kids may not make an extremely compelling reality TV show but it is kicking my butt. I plan to continue making records. And I may do the occasional holiday show/song swap/benefit here and there.... Happy trails...until we meet again." Her winter / spring 2008 scheduled dates continued as planned until the final show May 2, 2008.

Personal life

Willis has experienced upheaval in her personal life. After marrying high school boyfriend Mas Palermo in 1989, he and Willis divorced in 1991. In 1992, Willis met Austin singer-songwriter Bruce Robison. They had a tumultuous relationship for the next few years. After several years of dating, Willis and Robison married in 1996.

After spending years on working, Willis turned to her family. She went through in vitro fertilization treatments, and gave birth to son Deral Otis in Jan 2001. Willis' experience with raising a child led to a different sort of album than the earlier "What I Deserve". In 2002, Willis released "Easy". The album expresses Willis' contentment with her new life through songs with a relaxed, mellow vibe. After the album’s release, Willis became pregnant again and gave birth to twins Abigail Esme and Benjamin James [] on March 24, 2003 [] [ [ Mothers who rock - ] ] On January 11, 2006 Kelly welcomed 4th child Joseph Willis Robison; he weighed 8 pounds, 14 ounces was 19.75 inches long. [ [ : Bruce Robison : Robison, Willis Welcome Fourth Child ] ] []




See also

* Music of Austin

Further reading

* Corcoran, Michael. “Happy holidays, from Kelly and Bruce; A songwriting duo's Christmas: The children will nestle all snug in their beds, while Mom and Dad's records dance in our heads.” "The Austin American-Statesman" 25 Nov. 2003: E1+.
* House, Silas. “Nothing to Fear.” "No Depression" July-Aug. 2002: 72-81.
* Manheim, James M. “Kelly Willis.” "Contemporary Musicians". Vol. 12. Detroit: Gale, 1994. 278-280.
* Patoski, Joe Nick. “What She Deserves.” "Texas Monthly" Mar. 1999: 114-116.
* [ of twins Abigail Esme and Benjamin James]


External links

* [ Kelly Willis official website]
* [ Kelly Willis at]
* [ "Exclaim!" - Interview with Kelly Willis] - "Exclaim!" September 2007

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