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Kelly Willis Kelly Willis


Kelly Willis, named by NPR as 'alternative country's golden goddess,' returns after five years with the much-anticipated Translated From Love. The album is already garnering praise - Performing Songwriter says, "... Willis comes off like the prom queen who's learned how to tell fresh guys where to stick it around ... we find a wiser more experienced singer..."

A video for the album's first single 'Teddy Boys,' was filmed this past June in Brooklyn, NY and included a cameo appearance by Adam Green (Moldy Peaches) who penned the tune. Willis says of the song, "Chuck brought that in, and it was one of the few songs we completely agreed on at the beginning. It was just complete fun, and an obvious nod to my rockabilly days. I wanted to somehow honor and give respect to that." A digital single of 'Teddy Boys' is available now at iTunes and other digital retailers.

Produced by long-time collaborator Chuck Prophet, Translated From Love is Willis' most adventurous album to date. Willis says, "The whole experience was surprising at every turn and challenging, too, doing some material that might not be what people expect out of me." She goes on to say, "I was able to get some songs written that I am proud of and excited about and that give the album some of its depth and personality and soul."

The album's 12 tracks are comprised of originals, covers and collaborations. Willis co-wrote the six original songs including the Willis/Prophet tunes 'Sweet Little One' and 'Losing You,' which feature the Tosca String Quartet and Greg Leisz on the twelve-string guitar and pedal steel. Appearing on the record are Willis' husband and highly regarded country music songwriter Bruce Robison on 'The More Iım Around You' and 'Too Much To Lose' and acclaimed singer-songwriter Jules Shear who contributes as a songwriter and musician on 'Donıt Know Why,' 'Lucky or Something Like It,' and 'Too Much To Lose.'

Translated From Love includes covers of Adam Green's 'Teddy Boys,' Stephen Yerkey's 'Translated From Love,' and a raucous, countrified version of Iggy Popıs 'Success' featuring The Gourds and Michael Ramos.

Translated From Love is the follow-up to the acclaimed Easy (2002), of which Rolling Stone said, "Kelly Willis' sweet, burnished voice practically spells heartache... " Since her debut in 1990, Willis has released six albums. In 1999 Rykodisc released her breakthrough album What I Deserve, of which Time Magazine called the "country record of the year." Willis has spent the five years between Easy and Translated From Love raising her four children.

Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? "Well, when I really started to take music seriously , I was a teenager in D.C. and Rockablilly music took center stage. I liked it all but I was especially fond of the girls...Wanda Jackson, Jo Ann Campbell, Janis Martin..And some soul singers like Etta james. Also around this time I was listening to Rockpile, T-bone Burnett, Lone Justice, Kirtsy McCall, NRBQ and Patsy Cline."

For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying your new CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "I would say I don't fit in easily to any one category but I do fit in to Country, folk and alt. country in various ways."

Your album title 'Translated From Love' is a very interesting choice, but is it a little more personal to you than we know, perhaps? "I just strongly agree with the point of that song. Whatever you do in life, in all your exchanges and interactions, be sure you are assuming the best from people and intending the best towards people. We all deserve that."

It's been stated that once Kelly & the Fireballs moved to Texas to make it big that 6 months later it broke up. In reflection was this a devestating time for you or the right course for that band to have taken at that time? "It was both really. We never would have lasted as a band...I don't know how any bands stick together really ... but it was an ugly break-up that I found pretty painful."

Down the years you've been marketed as a girl-next-door type, as a coquettish pin-up, and quite simply as a country gal, but which one was the most fun ... and which one did you hate the most? "The one I loved and hated the most was the coquettish pin-up (your words!). I was stunned to see what I could be transformed into with the right make-up and wardrobe! What girl wouldn't be? But once that ball got rolling I felt defined by it and hindered by it in my attempt to become an artist and not just a chick singer."

How easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "Ummm ... I'm guessing very hard!"

Please tell us more about a couple of the more important songs on your new album and what they mean to you personally? "I adore "I Don't Know Why" I love the shimmery summertime feel on the chorus. And I love the theme. How do people stay together thru all the stuff life throws at you. "Losing You " is inspired by my fathers death about 7 years ago."

Did you name your 1996 independent label EP, Fading Fast due to how you saw your career at that time, perhaps? And if so, just how did you begin to get back on track? "No that was not intentional. I think it was just the strongest song on the EP."

If there was one always-remarked upon, completely incorrect media-strewn fact about you that you would like to finally put straight - or come clean about - after all these years, what would it be? "The Encyclopedia of Country Music says my birthday is Oct.1, 1967. And that I was born in Annandale Virginia. It is really Oct. 2, 1968. And I was born in Lawton, Oklahoma."

If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today ... and why?! "Maybe "Here Comes The Rain Again" by the Eurythmics. I could let my inner diva out."

Lastly, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "What's not to love?!"

Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk

Kelly Willis on

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