It’s been quite the week for new releases, both local and global, and for Willie and the Giant, it was a week to unveil two debut singles, “Ain’t Gonna Wait” and “Poor Boy.” It may have gone under your radar with the many releases that occurred this week, seeing as this is their first foray into the scene. But don’t let the fresh start fool you. This four-piece collective has premiered commendable tracks that inspire a smile and resonate with the moods of the 60s and 70s, all while making you lost in the warmth of the sound and the comfort of the groove.
In conversation with Will Stewart (vocals and guitar), hints of an Alabama accent bled through my phone while we talked about the band’s budding start and the singles’ debut from this soulful and “easy like Sunday morning” four-piece. Stewart moved to Nashville from Birmingham in November of 2012, and it just so happened that Jon Poor (vocals and guitar) and Mac Kramer (drums) had also just moved from Birmingham to Tennessee, though they had never known each other before crossing paths here in town. Grant Prettyman (bass) joined the collective about six months later, and Willie and the Giant was complete. The name, which came about from Stewart and Poor’s height, “started as a silly joke, but it is kind of catchy.” And if the name alone doesn’t intrigue you, the first ten seconds and division of the beat of “Poor Boy” will have you hooked.
Recorded in the completely analog space of the Welcome to 1979 studio, “Ain’t Gonna Wait” and “Poor Boy” are filled with nostalgia for soul and melodies as lyrical as the poetry of the songs. Stewart wrote both songs shortly after his move to Nashville, and the more forsaken lyrics are juxtaposed with lively horn tracks and a tempo that makes you groove and smile. With the help of Matt Slocum on keys and the Chad Fisher Group on horns, the songs conjure musical memories of the past. Willie and the Giant recorded the tracks completely live, enhancing the experience and the sound, and it makes you remember early Van Morrison and Curtis Mayfield. In Stewart’s words, “I wouldn’t say it’s like the whole neo-soul thing that’s going around…it really is all over the place.” The “roots with an edge” sounds of the singles mix mellow with vibrancy, and with the tones of the organ and horns layered on this collective’s rock-and-soul disposition, the result is two tracks that make you crave a full-length.
Willie and the Giant is the first band to sign with new label, Cumberland Brothers Music, and Nick Worley, the band’s producer and engineer, will help subside the desires for the first full-length this fall. Entering the studio as we speak, Willie and the Giant is molding the debut LP with wistful soul sounds and audible remnants of the British invasion—think early Stones. And with a combination like that, the early 2015 release will be a much-awaited debut. But in the meantime, “Ain’t Gonna Wait” and “Poor Boy” can hold you over and keep you in a trance.
– Katie A.