Recapturing the raw original jump-joint sounds of the
1950's, Kick Willett transforms us back to those unparalleled
days of Rockabilly and R&B that oozed from the likes
of Sonny Burgess, Carl Perkins, Cash, Orbison and of course
Coming from a quiet suburb in Southern Chicago, Willett
has a genuine humble and friendly personality that is
very rarely found today, along with the commendable attributes
of politeness and strong religious beliefs. Nick has an
amazing ability to sing just about any kind of song with
the charismatic stage presence that instantly draws the
crowd towards him. His haunting expressive voice sends shivers
down the spine of those who have already been fortunately
to see him perform live.
After his performance at Americana 2002, I had the opportunity
for a quick chat with Nick Willett before heset off for
his flight back to the States. I asked Nick why a young
man of 25 is drawn to music from over 40 years ago
"Well! I just have to say that my biggest influence
was my pop; he's now 63 and from Fancy Farm Kentucky, so
there was that Southern influence there. Also the rock 'n'
roll that he played with his brother. It was just a band
that he and his brother had together in that rock 'n' roll,
rockabilly kind of thing and he was into the country end
of things too. So I was brought up with that kind of music
and I've always enjoyed listening to it. I was very quiet
growing up and didn't start to sing until about five years
ago, maybe late 20-year-old. It was one of those things
the Lord opens up in you to do...you never thought you could
do and something I've got to go full ahead with. I just
want to say: You know my pop brought me up with Rick Nelson,
Roy Orbison, The Patters...Presley stuff. The thing is,
I probably would never sing a note in my life if it wasn't
for listening to that music.
I identify with the Presley style type of thing was; he
was his own man and I plan to be my own man as well, as
far as material, vocal style and everything. Because if
you don't have a vehicle to get from one point to another
to even start singing, then I wouldn't have been singing.
So I would kind of sing along with things, just the rhythm
and feel of that music that I really identify with, but
I mean to strive to be my own man. I liked guys like Dean
Martin and Jackie Wilson and things like that.
So that's my taste of music and it seems like that raw
pure rock 'n' roll, rhythm and blues that fits music with
feel. Even when I'm playing, things don't have to be right
on the money or picture perfect notes play-wise. Because
if you can play the song perfect with no feeling, it doesn't
mean anything, because you don't feel it and the crowd doesn't
feel it. So that is what I aim to do with my live shows
You say that you only started singing about 5 years
ago, but you must have been singing in your earlier days
as a youngster in church or school?
(laughing) "Well that's a funny story. I'll tell
you what happened. When I was about six years old or even
younger than that. I caught my pop playing rhythm guitar
and singing in front of us when we were little kids. I would
catch myself and my sister playing on a recorder, just laughing
and goofing around. Actually I heard the playback at six
years of myself old messing around with my sister and I
sounded like a little girl.
That kept me quiet all the years to follow, because
I was very self-conscience about my voice after hearing
it. But of course you sound like a little girl because you're
only six. Even in church growing up. I was very quiet, just
reading along with the hymnal with the songs. I enjoyed
it and felt it, but never opened my mouth, until I one day
when I was around early 20 years old and it came out and
kind of set the fire.
To know how I am as a person...kinda reserved in that
way and to be able to get up and do what I now do, is something
that you know is a 180-degree turn and the Lord has opened
that up. That's the reason and that's why I do it. I just
get such a thrill...thankful that he has chosen me to pull
Tell me what has brought you over to the Europe, because
this isn't your first trip over here.
This here is my second major trip. The first one was September
18th of last year (2001). I just came over to do a month's
tour....no one knew me and it was just one of those things.
I told my guitar player...hey we'll just do the best we
can, nobody knows me so we'll just get along and see what
happens. There is an event called Hemsby. We played a couple
of shows in England to start with and Hemsby was like two
weeks later. I was invited to do a 45-minute spot just out
of the blue. There was nothing planned, and it was at 2-00
in the afternoon...a little early for me. (Hemsby doesn't
come alive until early evening). We went out and played
this thing, and sure enough people showed-up. It was something;
because let alone me showing up, I couldn't imagine all
these people showing up this early. We pulled it off and
I guess things have sparked from there. People enjoyed it
and I guess word got around. People would contact me here
and there, which was just a treat to hear from them...it
kinda sparked interest I believe. I had some calls before
I got home. It's been scattered around a bit, Germany, Sweden
and Switzerland and I just go through the doors that are
opened. I don't know when they'll be opened or how...I'm
not too good at setting a program or schedule for the future,
because it's all spur of the moment for me."
I enquired whether Nick was using an agent to book him
in the various countries for his tours, or was he doing
"Up to this point...for the first tour my guitar
player had a lot of ties and ran up a nice little tour.
Then when I got to meet everyone in person, it was where
I was able to make some contact and all. Doing this tour
was a big feat, I was able to pull it off on my own. And
I'll tell you it wasn't easy! I felt like the father of
three or four guys. (laughs) I had a headache trying to
take care of everything. I can see why people need managers
and help, because it was a lot, not only to be a performer,
but to be the business man before the show, after it and
to take care of everything. It was two months...I left May
8th and now it is July 6th and I pulled it off and I go
home Monday. I can take a deep breath now and look back
on it all!!!"
What do you look forward to when you go back home?
"I go back Monday and take a couple of days rest
at home. Then I have to take a three hour ride up North
to Green Bay, Wisconsin and have to play the big all-nighter
Casino rock 'n' roll festival on Saturday night the 13th.
After the show there, I can relax. My sister gets married
on July 26th and I've got an old car to work on, so I might
be getting my hands dirty again."
Is this an old classic car you're talking about.
"Well actually, believe it or not. Maybe 5-6 years
ago I worked on a 52 Chevy. My buddy Tim and I put that
together and I've been driving it for the past 5 years.
I always had an eye for one of those old Cadillacs. I was
fortunate to get hold of a 50 Cadillac, two door hardtop
coupe devilled. (laughs) At night on this tour you know...I'd
just picked it up before the tour and I wanted to get into
it and tear it apart...so I had something to dream, about
when I go to bed. (laughs)
How have you found the audiences in Europe?
it has been a real treat. Because sometimes you never know
what to expect at given a show. Especially on the first
tour. You would go into a hall earlier in the day and it's
empty. Then you go backstage...change some strings and come
out and it's showtime and it's a great crowd. They have
all been very hospitable and kind. It's been very nice and
everyone has been kind. I've been thankful for that. A lot
of times you don't always know how you're putting it across,
to an audience...not sure how it is going to be received
and they have been very warm to me!!!"
I know that you have get away for your journey back
home, so thanks very much for your time.
"Thank you very much also."