Technology with attitude

An Interview with Singer/Songwriter Erin Willett


You may know the soulful songstress Erin Willet from this past season of the TV show The Voice, or maybe you caught one of her shows in Philadelphia.  This chick has got a powerhouse of a voice and an earnest songwriting style, so if you’ve never heard of her at all, listen to her music, come out to her show at MilkBoy Philly on Saturday June 30th, and maybe you’ll fall in love with her.

Like all musicians, Erin had to start somewhere, and her affinity for music began with her father.  “My father first inspired me to play.  He was in a band called The Newports when he was younger.  He just loved music, and so as a kid I was always surrounded by it.  So it naturally just became apart of what I loved,” recalls Erin.  When her father gave her a guitar upon going to college, she would sit in her room and teach herself how to play.  “It became the best thing I ever learned, because from then on I could write on it and play shows without worrying about getting people to play with.  I also taught myself piano in college.”

After she had been playing music for a while, a couple of Erin’s college friends wanted to start a  record label to promote the music they loved.  Erin was one of the first artists they represented.  They would book gigs for her and post videos to YouTube; they did anything they could to spread the word.  The label came to be known as Duck and Drake Records.  “At the same time, they were gaining experience for themselves to do this in the future.  It was like what you hear at conferences- if you want to be a manager, find a band you like and work for them. Create your own job with them, and hopefully they can get you to the next level.  That’s what my friends Ian and Adam did.”

With a fairly simple yet very bluesy songwriting steeze, it’s not hard to fall in love with Erin’s music.  “I like being able to write a song that people can relate to- that they can be inspired by and not get lost in the metaphors.  I want someone to hear my song and say, ‘Shit, I know exactly what she’s talking about.  I didn’t know someone else felt that way,’” Erin explains.  It’s clear that this young songwriter strives to unify people through music.

Perhaps it’s her pure-at-heart intentions in tandem with her sultry, jazzy voice that propelled her into the limelight in The Voice.  If not for her friends Gabi and Rachel who persuaded her to join them to audition for the show, Erin probably would not have gone.  “I really had no expectations, and kinda just thought it would be something fun to do with them.  I ended up getting a call-back, and as they say, the rest is history.”

The budding singer got a chance to work with Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson, as well as vocal coach Romeo Johnson, who sang background vox for Michael Jackson.  He accompanied Erin as a background vocalist in her song “Living for the City”.  The song also involved dancers, so she had the privilege of working with choreographer JaQuel Knight, who works with Beyonce.

Erin released a three-song EP in college called The Erin Willett Demo.  She recorded the songs with two engineer friends of hers, both of whom she paid in beer.  Sometimes it’s a barter economy when you’re trying to record music.  A “name your own price” download of the EP can be found on the Duck and Drake Bandcamp.  She also just released a song called “Home”, “…a don’t forget where you came from song,” something of a thank you to the people who supported her throughout her endeavor on The Voice.  Erin is working on a music video for the song that will come out July 1st.

In terms of how the industry has changed in the last few decades, Erin imparts some insight:

“The music industry isn’t the place to make money anymore, it’s a place where passionate music is coming to the surface.  In this world you have to be innovative in everything you do- in marketing, music, or paying your bills.  So I think it’s not better or worse per se, it’s just not what it used to be.  It’s no longer an artist staying in their genre.  When you ask an artist what kind of music they play, the response isn’t simply rock ‘n’ roll or soul, it’s electronic/soul/pop with a dash of twang.”

Whether pure soul or pop/R&B rooted in jazz and blues, Erin will undoubtedly make an indelible imprint on the music scene.  Her songs can be felt just as much as they can be heard.  Erin explains that through music she wants “…to make people realize all the things we have in common, instead of focusing on the things that make us different.  I didn’t really grasp all the power that music could hold until I started playing piano and guitar.”