Nashville singer-songwriter Mike Willis admits he wasn’t looking for a second home when 2012 began, but that’s exactly what the Georgia native and aspiring artist found in Port Clinton.
To be specific, his love affair with Ottawa County is centered around The Listening Room, which allows musicians to play their music in a venue where audiences actually come to hear, well, music. Willis played the club two times over the past six months.
Now comes word that Willis, along with his new bandmates Mickey Kelley and Matt Rogers, as well as fiddler Forest Miller, will be returning to Port Clinton for a two-night New Year’s Eve celebration.
Want to go?
WHAT: New Year's Eve with Kelly, Willis, Rogers and Miller
WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30 and 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31
WHERE: The Listening Room (located inside the OurGuest Inn & Suites), 220 East Perry St., Port Clinton
COST: Sunday show: $10/person; Monday dinner and show: $69.95/person; NYE after party: $10/person
INFO: thelisteningroompc.com or 419-734-7050
Funcoast talked to Willis about the new trio Kelly, Willis and Rogers and how he’s willing to risk shrinkage to ring in 2013.
Funcoast: First of all, in looking over your bio material, there aren’t many country artists who list Radiohead’s “The Bends” as an influential album. What gives?
Mike Willis (MW): I don’t necessarily consider myself a country artist in the commercial country sense of the world. All of us kind of write with little care for what’s necessarily played on commercial country radio. It’s more about writing songs that mean something to us. That’s a powerful record, “The Bends.”
Funcoast: You started off in Nashville as a songwriter working for a publishing company. This means you were writing songs for others to cut. Now that aspect of the business is behind you. What happened?
MW: Every person is different about what makes you tick. For me, when I moved to town I stopped performing. I just wrote. And what I realized after a year and a half of doing that, I didn’t really have any bearings on whether my songs were any good or powerful or saying the right things. It didn’t do it for me to just play it for a bunch of people in the industry and to have them say “yes” or “no.” I wanted to be able to share those with an audience and get their reaction.
Funcoast: So what’s new in your career?
MW: I just released a solo EP called “Confluence.” The new EP has a ‘70s R&B groovy kind of feel that is intermingled with some Lyle Lovett singer-songwriter tunes.
Funcoast: That’s an odd pairing. How’d you land on an R&B and country mix?
MW: The R&B thing is more like a Memphis groovy kind of sound. I always tell people, “It’s funny. I moved to Nashville to learn how to write country music only to discover what I’m really meant to do is write R&B music.”
Funcoast: What’s up with this new trio Kelly, Willis and Rogers?
MW: We all kind of came together. It’s new but it’s something we intend to do regularly. It’s everything from good time music to heart and soul, singer-songwriter country. It’s original.
Funcoast: We notice Kelly, Willis and Rogers but no Young [as in Neil Young].
MW: [laughs] We’re working on Young. It’s in contract negotiations.
Funcoast: So you’re bringing KWR to PC for NYE. Whatcha got planned?
MW: We intend to play the Walleye Drop at 11:30, and we intend to play wearing nothing but bathing suits.
Funcoast: Are you going to turn it into a polar bear club event where you take a plunge into a freezing Lake Erie?
MW: Oh, does that happen?
Funcoast: It could. Maybe you should start a tradition this year.
MW: OK, Let’s do it.
Sunday's show is a special beer showcase event with featuring Christmas Ale and an assorted beer selection. On New Years Eve, after the celebrations downtown, there will be an after party at The Listening Room 12:30-2:30 a.m.