There’s a fine line between “having to” and “choosing it”… and that was the line that made me fall in love with the sound and style of Willi Carlisle. It’s from his latest track “Van Life” on his upcoming album “Peculiar, Missouri” which comes out next month, and it perfectly sums up a dream I’ve been chasing ever since I left the bustling city behind 13 years ago. All my friends thought I was crazy to leave my established desert music scene, uproot my kids and go hide in the woods. My bank account cried over the loss of “city wages”. My mother worried that I was never going to be able to manage the tedium of raising chicken and keeping a garden. But the fact that I chose this life on purpose made all the difference. In fact, once I started listening to more of Willi’s music, it felt like he was telling my story. Mine. Not his. Not some bubblegum pop country generic references to checklists about rural life. MY STORY.
But that’s the mark of a great songwriter, isn’t it? When they tap into the human condition then find a way to spell it out so that it feels both personally and universally true at the same time.
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I managed to catch Willi Carlisle playing at the small Fossil Cove Brewery in Fayetteville, Arkansas last week, and I had the most peculiar thing happen… I got so choked up and emotional during his set that I couldn’t even bring myself to go up and meet him. And let me tell you, that NEVER happens. I’ve been in this game way too long to be star-struck or tongue-tied. If you’ve met me in person you’ve probably already been assaulted and terrified of my forward nature and immediate adoption tactics. But there I was, discreetly soaking my handkerchief during “Life on the Fence” and “Tulsa’s Last Magician”, caught in a place where all my relationships were flashing through my head and the dreams I had as a kid were begging to be revisited. Such is the power of a truly remarkable talent, and that is what Willi is.
Willi Carlisle is one of many artists that I have recently added to my personal playlists thanks to the hardworking folks over at Western AF. SavingCountryMusic already did a fantastic write-up about their ability to highlight what’s great abut the rising tide of modern American folk traditionalists so if you want to know more about that, just head on over. If you still can’t get enough of that darker Ozark storyteller sound, also check out the GemsOnVHS channel on Youtube, or see what Pawns Or Kings has to teach you over on TikTok. There’s plenty of great music to be had if you just turn off the terrestrial noisebox and go digging on your own.
Right now Willi is touring across the UK before coming back stateside to tour with the Lost Dog Street Band and American Aquarium, and of course, to celebrate his album’s release, and you can be sure I’ll be at as many shows as I can reach, off the clock and completely tuned in.
Upcoming Willi Carlisle Tour Dates:
SUPPORTING Lost Dog Street Band
7.5 ASHEVILLE, NC @ The Orange Peel
7.6 SAXAPAHAW, NC The Haw River Ballroom
7.7 CHARLOTTE, NC Neighborhood Theatre
7.9 CHATTANOOGA, TN The Signal
7.13 NASHVILLE, TN Marathon MusicWorks
7.14 SOMERSET, KY The Virginia Theatre
7.15 BLOOMINGTON, IN The Bluebird Theater
7.16 LEXINGTON, KY The Burl
FULL BAND RELEASE SHOWS
7.24 KANSAS CITY, MO W/ Jenna Rae Knuckleheads Kansas City
7.28/7.29 SPRINGFIELD MO (ANNOUNCED SOON)
8.4 TULSA, OK W/TBA Mercury Lounge Tulsa
8.5 FAYETTEVILLE, AR George’s Majestic Lounge
W/ Dylan Earl + Special Guests
8.6 AUSTIN TX W/ Lost Dog / Matt HecklerEmo’s
SUPPORTING American Aquarium
8.9 ALBUQUERQUE, NM Launchpad
8.10 PHOENIX, AZ Crescent Ballroom
8.11 LOS ANGELES, CA @ The Troubadour
8.12 SAN FRANCISCO, CA Great American Music Hall
8.13 BEND, OR @ Midtown Ballroom
8.14 PORTLAND, OR Hawthorne Theatre
8.15 SEATTLE, WA Tractor Tavern
8.16 BOISE, ID The Olympic Venue
8.17 SALT LAKE CITY, UT Soundwell SLC
8.18 DENVER, CO Globe Hall
8.19 WICHITA, KS Wave
8.21 LITTLE ROCK, AR Revolution Music Room (The Rev Room)
How to follow Willi Carlisle:
(*Also, for posterity’s sake, I’m going to include how many followers he has on each of his social platforms as of June 20th, 2022 just so we can all look back and remember when we were on the inside track to this freight train of talent)
YouTube 4,470 Subscribers
Facebook 4,584 Followers
Instagram 13,937 Followers
Twitter 1,049 Followers
TikTok 3,406 Followers
Spotify 58,775 Monthly Listeners
Willi Carlisle’s Official Bio:
Willi Carlisle is a poet and a folk singer for the people. Like his hero Utah Phillips, Carlisle’s extraordinary gift for turning a phrase isn’t about high falutin’ pontificatin’; it’s about looking out for one another and connecting through our shared human condition. On his anticipated second album, the magnum opus Peculiar, Missouri, Carlisle makes the case across twelve epic tracks that love truly can conquer all.
Born and raised on the Midwestern plains, Carlisle is a product of the punk to folk music pipeline that’s long fueled frustrated young men looking to resist. After falling for the rich ballads and tunes of the Ozarks, where he now lives, he began examining the full spectrum of American musical history. This insatiable stylistic diversity is obvious on Peculiar, Missouri which was produced by Grammy-winning engineer and Cajun musician Joel Savoy in rural Louisiana. The songs range from sardonic trucker songs like “Vanlife” to the heartbreaking queer waltz “Life on the Fence.” The album also imbues class consciousness in songs like “Este Mundo,” a cowboy border ballad about water rights, and the title track’s existential talkin’ blues about a surreal panic attack in Walmart’s aisle five.
Though Carlisle’s poetic words evoke the mystical American storytelling of Whitman, Sandburg, and E.E. Cummings, ultimately this is bonafide populist folk music in the tradition of cowboys, frontier fiddlers, and tall-tale tellers. Carlisle recognizes that the only thing holding us back from greatness is each other. With Peculiar, Missouri, he brings us one step closer to breaking down our divides.