Decatur native and Attic regular, Mike Willis, joins forces with fellow Atlanta-Nashville transplants, Connor Rand and Clay Evans, and recent Shootout finalist, Noah Collins, for a special evening of music. Nothing resembling a traditional Nashville-style writer’s round, this high-energy show will also feature some of the finest backing musicians in the US; blending styles of pop, country, gospel and soul.
What was the first gig you ever attended?
If you mean the first show I ever actually attended it was….. (cringe) New Kids on the Block at the stadium at GA Tech. I remember I was so confused to see middle school and high school aged girls screaming “I Love You’s” etcetera to this band made up of total strangers. You might say in that moment, my wheels began turning in the direction of being involved in music somehow.
If you mean MY first show, I began singing publicly in the third grade in operas, musicals, and other classical shows, but my first real show as a singer-songwriter was at Eddie’s Attic. Funny story about that is that a little known up and comer by the name of John Mayer was also on the bill. Well, John, being the enterprising young man that he was, came early to my sound check and offered to “sit-in” on lead guitar during my set. “Sitting-in” means appearing as a guest performer with no real preparation or rehearsal. Instrumentalists with an education or experience in contemporary music do this often. I know that now, but at the time I didn’t even know this was a skill someone could possess.
Immediately I was confused and basically disregarded what he said, but I agreed and he set his guitar and amp up on the stage with the idea that I would call him up to play on some of the songs in my set. Now here’s where it gets stupid… I don’t know if it was my nervousness for having been in the heat of my first real show with paid customers or if it was because I dismissed the notion the moment he proposed it, but I played my entire set and didn’t even think to call John up to the stage. In the end, he handled the situation gracefully and made fun of me for it later. In fact, I came back to the Attic later that night to collect my share of the door money and stepped inside to hear John, and he was hands down the most amazing performer I had ever seen perform live. It was just him and a guitar and I was mesmerized.
What is the best gig that you ever played/performed?
I’ve played in a bunch of cool places which is one of the great benefits of my career choice. Years ago I opened for Darryl Worley at the Macon Cherry Blossom Festival for a crowd of nearly 8,000. That was a blast! This past year I opened for a Hayseed Dixie through England and Scotland. But one of those moments where you almost have to catch your breath and soak it in was this past summer. I play an outdoor festival in a region of China called Inner Mongolia. We got on the stage right at sunset, the crowd was energetic and excited to hear us, and the feeling of peace was unreal. I felt very much at home. To be fair though, as a performer there are many moments like this. We’re blessed to work in situations where people are generally working together to have a good time.
What is the best gig you have ever seen?
Darrell Scott at Eddie’s Attic. Never have I been so inspired.
What is the gig you would most like to play?
June 8th at Eddies Attic. But seriously, every show ends up with its own character and has its own “thing.” Oftentimes the shows for which I have the lowest expectations turn out the best and vice versa. The only way I can stay sane is to approach each show with an open mind.
What would be the lineup for your dream gig?
I’d like to play in-the-round with Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, Sting, Michael Jackson and Elvis. Think you can make that happen?
Catch Mike Willis, tonight at Eddie’s Attic.