Is there room in our seemingly endless divisive world for positive transformative change through music these days? “Inspire happy” is the musical mantra that the young and rising band Willow City are bringing to music-listening masses with their infectious Americana folk-pop songwriting and small-town love your neighbor like yourself kind of vibes. Oh, and they just happen to all be brothers and sister.
This family band of Beecher (vocals/guitar), Ezra (vocal/guitar/banjo), Liza (vocals/bass) and youngest Asa (mandolin/percussion) recently released their ambitious new album, produced by indie-music guru Chris Jacobie (Penny & Sparrow).
Willow City’s debut album is not what you may expect from a young a band of siblings that are recording music for the first time together in a studio. The self-titled album pops and shines like they’ve been making records for years now. Sophisticated songwriting hints of the Avett Brothers, complex harmonies that remind us of 70s Fleetwood Mac and the spontaneous millennial fun of Arcade Fire are all packed into this album. The only thing missing might be a more creative album title than the band's name; however, tracks like the anthem-esque “Rise of the Sun” and the ever catchy “Brand New” makeup in a big way and should land somewhere on your Spotify summer jams playlist of 2018.
AXS sat down with brothers Ezra and Beecher Proch of Willow City from their home in Texas to chat about spreading happiness through music, sibling rivalry within the band and their brand new album.
AXS: You guys are a modern-day Jackson 5 or Partridge Family of singers if you get my old-school references. How did three brothers and a sister decide to start a family band?
Ezra Proch: Beecher and I played at a cancer benefit like five years ago, and we thought it was fun and maybe we should do something like that again. People kept calling us to do other shows, so we decided to take this band thing serious (laughs). All four of us kids were trained classically on piano, and then we all branched out playing other instruments (banjo, guitar, mandolin) and kind of formed the band around that.
Beecher Proch: It’s been fun doing what we did as kids like singing and playing music and turning it into an actual business. We love a good challenge (laughs).
AXS: What music were you all listening to in the house growing up that influenced your style of music today?
EP: In 2012 I picked up the banjo and dove head first into the bluegrass world and became a total bluegrass nerd. But, we all grew up listening to Alison Krauss and Union Station and dancing around to bands like the Mavericks and Lyle Lovett. We wanted to combine bluegrass/country with our version of pop music, so that’s kind of how we came up with our sound.
AXS: In our ever-growing divisive world these days, why is important to you as a band to produce songs around what you like to describe as "inspire happy" music?
BP: We look around and see so negativity and so much dystopia in our world today, and we wondered what we were going to do about that as a band. As we were writing this album we really tried to focus on why we're a band and why are we writing songs that may inspire people. There are always going to be people that get in your way of what you feel you're called to do in life. We feel we're called to inspire people through our music, inspire happiness, inspire people to love one another and we respectfully won't let anyone get in our way.
AXS: So, what are some of the themes of this new album?
EP: We wrote more than thirty songs for the album. Our amazing producer Chris Jacobie has a great ear for music and guiding young artists to what they like. He helped us whittle down the songs that fit this album so perfectly. For us as a band, 2017 was a real starting point for us, and we went through a lot of changes, some fun, some not so fun. It felt like it was a new season for us and so that’s really the theme throughout the album.
BP: It all goes back to inspiring happiness, anyway we can (laughs). We just want to do our part.
Willow City’s new album is out now at willowcitymusic.com or wherever you buy or stream music. Catch the band on the road in one of their stellar live shows this summer through the end of 2018.