Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-03-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Chris Willis: He has the music in him
2008-08-06

facebook twitter del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


by Mikey Rox

Rejoice! Chris Willis—gospel singer-turned-dancehall hitmaker—finally has something to celebrate.

After years of lending his effervescent vocals to some of the world's most successful acts—including Kelly Clarkson, CeCe Winans, Kenny Rogers and Quincy Jones—the powerhouse, along with his internationally known producing partner French DJ David Guetta, at last has earned a spot among the Billboard elite. In fact, just several weeks after its release, 'Love is Gone,' the club banger that's lifted Willis on high, has peaked on the perennial ( and nearly impossible to penetrate ) Hot 100, Pop 100 and Top 40 Mainstream charts in addition to becoming YouTube's most popular video of all time in the electronic music category.

But—divine intervention aside—how did it get there?

In a recent interview, the wide-eyed Willis spilled the milk on his storied past, including his pursuit of all things musical, raising God's roof and how being gay ultimately turned him away, meeting his match in DJ Guetta, why he'll never be considered a one-hit wonder, processing his success and the most important lesson he's learned so far.

Like how it's never too late for that one big break.

Mikey Rox: Although the mainstream public is just learning your name, you've been performing professionally for the better part of 20 years. What influenced you to pursue music?

Chris Willis: A couple things. My parents were very musical—my mom played piano and my dad was a musician—so there was always music in our house. But it probably wasn't until MTV happened that I was like, 'Ah, that's what I want to do.' That was probably my biggest influence.

MR: As an aspiring artist growing up in Dayton, Ohio, what experiences helped shape who you are today?

CW: I started out in gospel, so we were always in church. I just kinda got involved—the local scene, singing in groups—and my brothers and sisters and I used to sing as a quartet, so we were constantly involved in music. In high school, it was show choir. When I went to college in Alabama I was involved in choirs and groups there; I just kept being involved in music, never really thinking about it as a career until after I finished school. My first job as a singer was out in California with a group that sang in churches, and we did, like, 300 concerts a year for two years. That was the point where I was like, you know what, I can do this for a living.

MR: So from the beginning, until about 2003 when you came to New York, you were primarily performing gospel music?

CW: Up until about 1998 I was doing mostly gospel. It wasn't until after '98 that I signed a deal with a small label. There was this big corporate takeover and they were buying all the small companies and letting go of all the artists that weren't doing as much. I thought, ya know, I'm gonna embrace this as freedom and pursue a mainstream thing.

MR: How did your sexuality affect your gospel career?

CW: Very hard. I was very much in the closet, and I had all this angst inside. I always felt like God really understood—but that wasn't the message I was receiving in the church. So, when I moved out on my own I really internalized that message that God makes us who we are and that it's up to us to embrace that or not. I chose to embrace all those things as freedom, and that freedom begat the freedom I experience now.

MR: Did being gay have anything to do with you transitioning from gospel to more mainstream music?

CW: Absolutely. I think there's this unspoken denial that you go through in gospel—maybe so in other musical art forms too—but I just felt for me it just wasn't easy to keep perpetuating that.

MR: Would you be able to make it as an out gospel artist today?

CW: I don't really think about it that much. I just chose to go in another direction—and I'm really grateful that I did.

MR: All right, so you met DJ David Guetta [ pronounced Get-ta ] —with whom you share credit on your latest hit 'Love is Gone'—in Paris. How did that happen, and when did you start collaborating?

CW: It's part destiny, accident, serendipity. I was working with a band from France in Miami, just after '98 when I finished with gospel, and as a consolation prize I got to go to Paris to do some publicity for them for their album that we had finished. One of the guys just happened to know David, and we were in David's restaurant—David and his wife were running a few restaurants in Paris at the time—and we had a mild introduction. David, at the time, was working on an album and he was looking to do a compilation album with some instrumental tracks and some vocal. I'd been really used to meeting producers, so I sort of brushed it off like, 'Oh, yeah, another producer.' But, he invited to the studio, and said, 'Hey, let's just vibe and see what happens.' Believe it or not, the very next day we wrote 'Just a Little More Love.'

MR: It must nice then, after 10 years or so, to see things come to fruition.

CW: It's always been my ambition to have some noise here in America. I'm so glad to see that happen!

MR: That song—'Love is Gone'—has really taken off here. Can you explain it?

CW: I want more! [ Laughs ] No, it's great! I'm so happy that it's happening, because it's the culmination of a lot of dreams and hopes after being in Europe for a long time. It's nice to have some love at home.

MR: I don't want to jinx you, but how do you plan to avoid being a one-hit wonder?

CW: Strangely enough, this is the only song that's a big hit in America, but we've actually had four or five songs that were huge hits in Europe already. I don't really think about it too much. I'm such a 'live in the moment kind' of person—the pressure obviously is on to recreate what you've done—but I pretend like it didn't happen and just try to write the best song I can come up with. Ya know, I do what I love to do. If people love it, great. If they don't—and it's a great piece of work that I love and it's gonna have legs—then it's gonna do what it's gonna do anyway.

MR: What's been the best of your journey so far?

CW: The journey is an education. I always want to be in a position to learn something new. I love the travel—

MR: What have you learned?

CW: Not to take yourself too seriously. Because, ya know, it's music, and I think when you read Billboard—and we were just at Billboard today, and it's very serious business, a lot of money involved—but if you focus on that, it's very easy to get frustrated. I really just try to dwindle things down to a matter of fun. If I'm not having fun, I don't want to be involved. But as long as I'm having a good time and people respond to that—and it's reflected in my work and my songs—that, I think, is the biggest lesson: Make it fun—have fun!

Visit Mikey Rox at www.mikeyrox.com .


facebook twitter del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

'Night of Noise' variety show April 14 2019-03-15
"Trans Art Is" Trans Day Of Visibility 2019 Launch Celebration March 31 2019-03-15
'Lights, Camera, Sing!' Windy City Performing Arts to perform cinematic scores March 30 2019-03-14
Ravinia announces 2019 summer lineup 2019-03-14
Ravinia Festival Experience Center, immersive-experience theater, to open 2019-03-14
SPRING MUSICAL REVIEW Singing and swinging through spring 2019-03-13
SHOWBIZ: Aguilera, Beyonce, Tribeca Film Festival, Marc Jacobs 2019-03-12
New musical comedy "Once Upon A One More Time" set to Britney Spears music 2019-03-12
Symphony musicians on strike for first time since 2012 2019-03-11
MUSIC Lakeside Pride unveils new agenda at inaugural gala 2019-03-10
Robyn performs at Aragon Ballroom; party continues at Berlin 2019-03-07
NUNN ON ONE, MUSIC. Jess Glynne 'Always' in the mix 2019-03-07
Jonathan Zeng to present Songs that Speak 2019-03-04
MOVIES New Madonna docudrama gets into the groove 2019-03-03
MUSIC Artemis Singers chorus celebrates inspiring women 2019-02-27
SHOWBIZ 'Pose,' actor comes out, Miley Cyrus, Janet Mock 2019-02-27
CONCERT Mike Maimone; Thoom; 'Bowie Celebration' 2019-02-26
MUSIC An evening with Elton John 2019-02-26
PASSAGES Pioneering trans Jackie Shane dies at 78 2019-02-23
MNEK, in his 'Language' 2019-02-21
Michael Jackson musical skipping Chicago 2019-02-14
SHOWBIZ Troye Sivan, 'Perfectionists,' Janelle Monae, Oprah 2019-02-13
NUNN ON ONE, MUSIC. John Cameron Mitchell bringing 'Hedwig'-inspired songs 2019-02-13
SPOTLIGHT on Underscore Theatre's Chicago Musical Theatre Festival 2019-02-12
NUNN ON ONE, MUSIC. Donna Missal talks tattoos, Valentine's Day 2019-02-11
Women rule Grammys 2019-02-11
CONCERT REVIEW Cher entertains in United Center show 2019-02-10
Lipstick & Lyrics: Band Together, live-singing drag show takes up songs of protest 2019-02-07
Alan Menken to perform March 30 2019-02-07
Judy Collins at Raue Center in Crystal Lake Feb. 16 2019-02-06
SHOWBIZ 'The L Word,' 'The Babadook,' Ben Platt, Ellen Page 2019-02-06
GLAAD to honor Madonna May 4 2019-02-05
All That He Was benefit concert March 11 at Pride Arts Center 2019-01-31
Chicago Symphony Orchestra announces 2019/20 season 2019-01-31
Hamilton, The Exhibition tickets on sale 2019-01-31
Nunn on One, TV Kelly Price discusses new series, musical roots 2019-01-30
SHOWBIZ Lilly Wachowski, Greg Berlanti, Audra McDonald, Pink 2019-01-29
CONCERTS Sons of the Silent Age, Fun House, Wing Tips, Michael Shannon 2019-01-28
Artemis Singers March 3 Sheroes concert to celebrate women heroes 2019-01-23
NATIONAL Kansas guv, PFLAG leadership, activist dies, gay chorus 2019-01-23
 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.