Texas Family Band Willow City Burst Onto The Folk Scene With Debut Album
You've never heard a family band like Willow City. Comprised of four talented and creative siblings, this Texas band takes the best parts of pop -- the catchiness, the energy -- and combines it with the best of folk -- the harmony, the sincerity -- for a sugary blend of dancealongs and singalongs.
The Proch siblings (Beecher, Ezra, Liza, and Asa) have thrived on roots music since they were little, four bustling bodies of energy who would one day grow up to channel the creativity and music of their youth. They've been dabbling in music forever -- family singalongs and spontaneous jam sessions, that sort of thing -- but it wasn't until recently that they officially merged as one unit: Willow City, a folk-pop band ready and willing to, as they say, inspire happy in their listeners.
Yesterday, the band released their debut album, a 10-track collection of rollicking, foot-stomping anthems to get that happy going. The record opens with "Rise Of The Sun" (which hit Top 20 on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart, btw), a modest but vibrant introduction to Willow City's talent. Flashes of jangling percussion, strong swells of harmony, and rootsy guitar lines power through four minutes of insistent multi-instrumental magic.
Next comes "Brand New" in which Liza takes lead vocals, soaring strong while percussive thumps and spacey rhythms pulse endlessly. On "More Than You," the band put their high-rolling energy aside for a sweet stunner of a ballad. Here, drawn-out harmonies open the track as heavy slaps and a tender strum roll throughout the song, accompanied by the occasional bloom of piano. Later, "Everybody Falls" returns to its anthemic zest but combines it with some important insights -- that everybody breaks sometimes but we're put back together again by each other -- over organic, knee-slapping percussion and more woozy swells of melody.
On "Faces," we see Willow City's talent as storytellers, narrating heavy subjects sung by soft bursts of harmony, verses shared by folksy croons, and kick-drum shimmers. "All Over The World" comes next, layers of rich rhythmic echoes and upbeat piano chords exploding among the track's choir-like delivery as the Proch siblings join forces for a dynamic pop-rock-folk hybrid.
After ten tracks, Willow City ends, a lively in-your-face introduction to four Texas talents teeming with spirit and creativity. Together, the members of Willow City share the sonic space, building vivid soundscapes courtesy of folk-pop arrangements and exuberant harmonies. On their debut album, Willow City sweetly and happily declare their place in music: one that will surely lead them to radio replays and lead us to the kind of unbridled joy that fuels them.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourselves and your music?
Willow City: Hey guys! Well, first off, you should know that the four of us in Willow City are siblings. Beecher is the oldest followed by me (Ezra), Liza, and last, but not least, Asa. We all grew up in the little Texas town of Fredericksburg (about an hour west of Austin) playing instruments since before I can even remember. We all took piano lessons and I started guitar when I had just turned 4 years old. We were all in the same kids' choir and that's really where we learned to sing and harmonize with each other -- something that, I believe, really sets us apart and keeps things always changing for us.
In 2012 I started to learn the banjo and about a month later we were asked to play our first "gig". We compiled a bunch of bluegrass songs and had a blast. We had no idea what we were doing... but we knew that we loved playing music and offering a little bit of happiness through each song, and that's how it all got started.
Over the past six years, our style has matured and changed with us and we feel like we are finally at a place, musically, where we could play these songs for years to come and still love them. I'd describe our music as pop-folk... a mix of modern-pop mixed with our Americana roots. We grew up listening to so many different kinds of music which you can hear in our album. Our harmonies naturally echo a little gospel resemblance and our songwriting reflects growing up in the Texas Hill country listening to red-dirt country and great artists like Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett.
TMM: Describe each other with just one word each.
WC: Beecher is driven. Ezra is musical. Liza is creative. Asa is happy!
TMM: What’s the music scene like where you’re from in Texas and how has it influenced your work at all?
WC: We live right outside of Austin where there's a plethora of incredible music. There's lots of red-dirt country, roots, and Americana sounds -- we grew up dancing around the dining table to Lyle Lovett, Ricky Skaggs, The Mavericks, and Alison Krauss. That definitely influenced our musical taste early on, and when we were working on this album, we knew that incorporating the roots music sounds we grew up with was important -- so you'll hear banjo right next to electric guitars and big kick drums. It was fun to mix and match styles to adapt our own!
TMM: What was the production process like for your debut album, Willow City?
WC: We went into the studio thinking that we could knock this entire project out in five weeks... that was October 1st, 2017. We finished in February of 2018. The old adage "if you're an entrepreneur, expect everything to take twice as long and cost twice as much" rang true.
But honestly, allowing the project to be developed over those five months was a huge positive -- it was as if it steeped in our brains and we were able to help it evolve, whereas, if we had finished in five weeks, it would've been rushed and I'm not sure if it would have come out the same.
Our team on this was incredible -- our producer is Chris Jacobie (Penny and Sparrow), Elizabeth Chan played drums for us (we love Liz -- she's performed with Keith Urban, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, and so many more -- she blows our minds), and Jake Hildebrand (Miranda Lambert's former guitar player) came in and worked magic on electric guitars.
TMM: Is the songwriting process a collaborative one? Where do you pull inspiration from for your lyrics?
WC: We all love the art of songwriting and, yes, it is most definitely a collaborative process. Beecher and I co-wrote most of the album along with a few other friends and incredible songwriters (Adam Palmer, Ryan Proudfoot, and Clint Tomerlin). Asa and Liza also put in their effort on songs like "All Over the World" and "With One Voice."
TMM: You guys are all crazy creative -- you have a ton of ventures you’re operating outside of the music! Can you talk a little about your other creative pursuits and how they influence your work as musicians and vice versa?
WC: Working together is a blast. And a dream. But occasionally you need some breathing space from each other. Our other ventures allow us to be creative outside of music which fosters even more creativity.
Beecher has a small-batch apparel line which includes unique funky jeans and a line of bow ties all made in the US. Liza has a hand-lettering business and is an incredible artist. Ezra has taken a break from acting recently, but he's been in several great films with actors like Robert Duvall and Lucas Black. Asa... when Asa isn't rehearsing with us or coming up with ideas to "inspire happy" in our listeners, then you'll find him fishing. All the time.
We've found that being able to immerse ourselves in our creative pursuits opens our minds to more ideas and thoughts that can potentially become songs or help us run the band in a more efficient way. As musicians, we get to use what we create in our other ventures! So you'll see Beecher wearing his jeans or Liza creating amazing content for the band. We call our lifestyle "artful living" because there's so much creating going on around here!
TMM: We know this is a tough question but bear with us -- which song off Willow City do you each feel closest to and why?
WC: Ooh. This is a tough question. All of these songs have such a special place with me, but one of my favorites is "Diamond and Thief." It was my first time co-writing with my good friend and incredible songwriter Adam Palmer. I feel like the song expresses its message so simply yet in a beautiful way.
Another song (because I can't just have one) is "More Than You". Beech and I wrote this while in the studio and I think it came out better than either of us were expecting. (Answer by Ezra)
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear ASAP?
WC: Ben Rector, The Avett Brothers, and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. [Editor's note: Agreed. With all of these. Willow City knows their music, right?]
TMM: What has been your most memorable musical moment so far?
WC: There's nothing like having someone send us a video of their kids singing along to our songs in the car or at home. It is the BEST feeling and mind-blowing that these tiny kids have our songs memorized and sing along with them. We never would've imagined that would happen. it puts smiles on our faces.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Willow City?
Willow City: We're heading to California for a tour in September! We'll be up and down the West Coast and are so excited for that. We're part of some amazing festivals coming up... but most importantly we can't wait to get these new songs out and "inspire happy" in folks!