In Wichita Falls, there is a small Methodist church located next to Rotary Park where part of the Texas Soul sound was being born. Within that church a young Erick Willis was first inspired to share his voice with the world. Erick recalls an early childhood memory of his grandmother singing in the church choir as he tells me of those humble beginnings in the business. Despite being only 4 years old, he began singing at church, evolving into performing 3-4 times a year at local events. He leaps forward roughly 17 years, to an older much more determined version of Erick fronting a local group dubbed Anchored Rose. He informs me that the group rocked multiple local and regional events, but it wasn’t long until Erick’s journey led him down a much different path. Crafting real-life, genuine lyrics and soulful melodies, he was moving in a new direction that would make a huge impact on the Texas Soul scene.
With a fresh perspective, he moved on to the next chapter in his musical career. This was the time period that I met Erick, living in Wichita Falls and gigging constantly. One thing that set Erick apart from the rest of us is that he dared to be different. While most of us were trying to be the next big band in Texas, Erick was impressing crowds all on his own with just his powerful, soulful voice and acoustic guitar. After the start of his solo career, he recorded his first solo recording titled Summer EP 2012 at Fort Worth Sound with Bart Rose. This five track collection included the talents of several local Fort Worth musicians, along with a few regional studio musicians. A year hadn’t passed before Erick stepped back into Fort Worth Sound to record a trio of acoustic songs known as Spring EP 2013. “The acoustic EP was fun and it was a breeze recording it” he says while explaining to me his different approaches to each of the two EPs that symbolize the genisis of his solo career. Without missing a beat, the very next year Erick released his ten track freshman album, Please, that included several familiar Willis tunes and a handful of songs that made their debut on this album. “We recorded Please in Austin with Patrick Herzfeld and released it first digitally in October of 2014 and released the first radio single later in December. It’s doing really well on radio even though we are currently doing the radio promotion ourselves”. “I didn’t use as many studio musicians on this most recent album as I had with the previous two EPs and I think this project came together really well because of that.”
There is movement labeled Texas Soul happening right now in Texas thats much different than the traditional sound we’ve heard in the past. With bands like Prophets & Outlaws, Zac Wilkerson, Grady Spencer, and Erick Willis at the forefront, it won’t be long until more musicians follow the lead of these Soul-filled pioneers. If you enjoy genuine lyrics, powerful melodies, and groovy music, I can guarantee that Erick will more than satisfy your musical taste buds. Pick up a copy of his latest release, Please, at one of his shows, online, or come by your local record store Chief Records and buy your copy before they’re all gone. TC