10 Questions with ... Wes Willis
June 23, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- 2007 Rush Of Fools
- 2008 Wonder Of The World
- 2011 We Once Were
- 2014 Carry Us Now
1. Brief history / synopsis
I was born and raised in Montgomery, AL, a city full of life and culture with a checkered past. But, I love it and it's my home. My wife, Michelle, and I spent almost a year in Auburn as she was a senior there (War Eagle!) and spend 3 years in Birmingham. We ultimately found our way back south to Montgomery, as we had kids, so they could be close to grandparents! I never made it to college since the music thing took off while I was 19, but, I proudly graduated from Robert E. Lee High School; lettering in baseball for 4 years! Go Generals! I only worked a couple of local jobs as baseball consumed just about all of my time, from fall ball to travel league to high school baseball. The only two jobs I had were a short stay at a retail sporting goods store and a longer stay at a law firm doing clerical work shortly after graduating high school.
2. What does a normal day at home look like for you?
Depends on if we're on the road or not! A day at home and a day on the road look drastically different! A day on the road often involves the night before having not a lot of sleep if we're traveling in our van. We take shifts but it's not great sleep sleeping in a passenger van carrying a big heavy trailer. We typically load in for a show around 9 or 10AM. We're southern boys who love to be up early! That and we have kids who are up before the crack of dawn. We will load in and soundcheck by noon. Have lunch around noon and come back and check after lunch if needed. Typically our checks move pretty fast. The afternoon is spent in various ways. Sometimes we'll workout, run, go fishing, shoot guns or just any other type of controlled mischief! Haha! Dinner is typically ready by 5 or 5:30 and we're ready to play the show by 7 or so!
A day at home is never boring! My wife and I have been trying to get up about an hour or so earlier than the kids so we can spend time in the word and do some sort of exercise. Right now we're halfway through the T25 workouts and running. Wow. They're not fun until you're done with them! That's typically followed by a loud and rowdy breakfast. You see, all three of our kids are 3 and under. Yes, we're crazy. No, we don't sleep. ha! We're not home enough to have other full-time jobs but I do own a classic car restoration shop (Willis Restorations). It's a part time shop that's QUICKLY growing and nearly full time for a couple of guys. We love classic cars! The family and I will spend time together anytime we want. Which is a great joy being able to be home. My family loves popcorn and movies so the evenings oftentimes have that involved! Bedtimes involve baths for the little ones, story time and prayers before sleep. So, my life is NOT boring at all! I wouldn't trade it for anything. God's good.
3. What's the song that you just can't get out of your head right now?
I tell ya, I'm really enjoying this new Paramore album. I can't get the song "Ain't It Fun" out of my head. I also enjoy the lead track called "Fast In My Car." Fans of their tunes!
4. How much do you travel, what are the challenges? How do you juggle life on the road with wanting to be home?
Our first 2-3 years out on the road were tough. I remember one year we were out on the road for 270 days. That's a LOT. That was in the early days and we were all still trying to figure out the balance of family and road life. It took a while but God was faithful to give us wives who were very understanding and independent. They're amazing and are called just as much as we are. You'll always want to be home. There's no way around that. But if you take a few steps back and see that (apart from those first couple of years) we're actually home more than a typical person with a 9-5 is, it's easier to digest. It initially probably doesn't make sense to you. BUT, when we're home, we're home. We get to spend time with our families. 3 of our band's wives are teachers so they're always able to go out with us at some point during our summer touring, so that's super awesome! It's a challenge, at times. Having kids throws a curve, for sure. But, it's what they've always been used to. I try to explain to my kids that daddys GETS to leave so he can sings songs to people about Jesus. It's hard when they tell you they don't want you to leave, but I love that they get to see their dad being used for kingdom work.
5. What's the biggest "God moment" that you've ever experienced, personal or professional?
I ALWAYS wanted to be a professional baseball player. If not a player then a professional coach. Music was a part of my life from around junior high school when I started picking up a guitar and TRYING to play in our church's youth praise band. I was terrible. Over the years, I was able to play in and out of a couple of Christian bands. At a very pivotal point in my life, I went to a statewide youth convention where a guy named David Nasser was speaking. A band called Big Daddy Weave was doing the worship and a band called Ten Shekel Shirt did the concert. At some point, Nasser challenged those who felt called to ministry to come down and pray with some people. At one moment, he specifically prayed for a few people who were called to "music ministry." My hand went up, but not under my own power. The Holy Spirit lifted my hand. It felt right and so uncomfortable at the same time. That was THE time in my life. I didn't know what it meant then, but a year or two later, I was faced with playing college baseball on scholarship, or trying this "music thing." Well, I turned down baseball opportunities and started playing music with some guys. A year or two later, we signed our first record deal. The rest is still history. The coolest part to me is, since then, I've been able to meet a couple of guys from Ten Shekel Shirt, do numerous shows and tours with the Big Daddy Weave guys and plant a church in Birmingham with David Nasser. God's awesome, huh?
6. What's the last book you read?
Every morning I read through the daily devotion of "Morning by Morning" by Charles Spurgeon. Guy was GOOD! I top that off with reading scripture that goes with that devotional. Spend some time in prayer, then read through business or entrepreneurship books. I LOVE business. In particularly how small business works. My wife and I have a couple of ventures we are growing, now. We love it. So, I just ready through "The E-Myth Revisited" by Michael E. Gerber. Was a very good, eye opening read. The current book I'm reading is " The 4 Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferriss. LOVING this book. There are so many things we're taught about money and business. Then there are things we're not taught and should be. I love to push my brain to think about economics and business in a different way!
7. How & when did you become a believer?
I remember sitting in the same pew every Sunday morning at Open Acres Baptist Church as a kid. It was a VERY, VERY small Southern Baptist church where the preacher would be preaching so loud and hard, he'd have to have his sweat rag out on his head constantly. My grandfather was an associate pastor there and was one of the greatest influences on my life until his passing in high school. I remember one day, asking my family specifically, that I didn't have what they had and I wanted it. So, they prayed with me and at the tender age of 7, I professed Jesus as my savior.
8. Tell us about your newest project, "Carry Us Now" (current single, "Lay Me Down")
We are SO excited about our newest album called "Carry Us Now." God has been SO faithful of this album to come to fruition. We partnered up with our LONG time friend, Jason Ingram to produce this. Alongside him helped the musical genius, Jonathan Smith. Those two guys work wonders together and we were grateful to have them both on this project. We're excited about our newest song called "Lay Me Down." We've NEVER done a cover of a song on any of our records. This record, we wanted to track a song that we sing in our own churches and play on the road. When we first started talking about what song to do, it was NO question that we wanted to do this one. It happened to be written by our buddy Jason Ingram, so, hey, that was perfect! Live, we love to take songs and extend them, spread them out and make moments out of them, apart from what people often hear in a perfectly charted out 3:30 radio song. This song is fast and has a lot of fun stuff like acoustic guitars and mandolin, but it's also super fun to slow it down and make it a slow worship song. People love this song because it's been spreading at a grass roots level. People have been singing it at their churches and in their youth groups. It's an easy transition into radio or even a live show!
9. What organization/service group are you affiliated with?
We are VERY particular about who we partner and align ourselves with. It's all too often that people jump into a partnership for other reasons other than what the main focus should be. We served for years with our friends at StudentLife camps. When Roger Davis asked us to join them and on a trip to the Philippines with Compassion International, we jumped on the chance to scan this organization under the lens of our own microscope. God's funny in moments like that isn't he? We puff up and say, " well, I'LL see what's going on here!" He totally and radically changed our view and world. The one main thing we LOVE about compassion is that when you're there, on the ground level of the poverty, you never see a Compassion sign or banner. Instead, everything penny is funneled through the local church that already has a foothold on the area. I could speak a while about the poverty that we saw, but we've all seen it. On the internet. On television. It's awful. The hope is through the local church and that's where Compassion comes in and partners. At one point, Kevin and I were walking through a slum. We were given no forewarning about just how dangerous the neighborhood was until after the fact. We walked through for some filming and home visits and prayer time. Later one, we were told that it was a heavily populated area for stabbings. They would always, only, stab you in the back in that area. In that area in particular, the local church (which Compassion supports) was such a positive influence on the neighborhood, that if you were to be held up or attacked, you just say that you're with that church and they would withdraw their weapons from you. Does that happen in our country? Does it happen in my city? No. It was truly eye opening. We love partnering with Compassion. it's the REAL deal.
10. Person you'd most like to have a discussion with, living or dead?
Well, obviously, I would love to have a conversation with Jesus. I will one day. My first question will be why he created snakes. I'm an Alabama boy. I hate snakes. :) I would also love to spend time with entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki. Dude is a genius with business and finances. Sorry. The nerd is coming out now. His book "Rich Dad Poor Dad" rocked my world!
1. What artist or pastor has had the greatest impact on you, and why?
There are many pastors who have had impacts on our lives and on my life in particular. I can't nail it down to just one. Rob Turner, Ed Newton, David Nasser, Landon Dowden, Matt Andress and Chad Poe are just a few guys who have absolutely placed Jesus a priority in our lives. They care for us and about our relationships with Jesus. Most of them we get to serve with out on the road. Matt Andress and David Nasser are our own pastors who we've been able to plant churches with!