If you’ve been a musician asked what you accomplished during the COVID-19 shutdown and the answer isn’t to record an album of original material, play all but one part and mix them up, then you need to level up to Willa Maes.
It’s the performance nickname of 18-year-old Willa McCollough who decided six months ago to take the large collection of original songs she’s composed over the past year and turn it into an album of 12 songs titled Kids, now streaming on most major music. platforms. It’s a dreamy lo-fi bedroom pop collection that is a natural evolution of McCollough’s roots as a musical prodigy.
Her parents, Sean McCollough and Steph Gunnoe, are members of the Knoxville-based Appalachian rock n roll band The Lonetones, and as a young girl, McCollough has formed close friendships with Lucy, Roxie and Eliza Abernathy, who perform together. in the rock band. The Pinklets.
I was best friends with them, and our fathers were both musicians, so we grew up around a lot of music, McCollough, who lives in Knoxville, told The Daily Times this week. I have vivid memories of being in my old house with Lucy, an electric guitar in our lap because we had no idea what we were doing, just plucking the strings. This was the start of the Pinklets.
As a member of this group, McCollough grew up as a musician and performer. The Pinklets have played regularly around Knoxville and their mutual talents have evolved together. Eventually, however, McCollough decided to follow his own muse.
I don’t think it was a conscious moment where I thought, Oh, I want to do a different kind of music, she said. I started to write and record on my own, but I can’t really identify a genre either. I just did what I did until I thought, Oh, that sounds good to me.
She took inspiration from do-it-yourself lo-fi artists who found creative expression in bedroom compositions. Her songs have been compared to those of Clairo, the stage name of Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Claire Cottrill.
Like other lo-fi artists, you don’t necessarily need to know what you’re doing to make music; you can just sit in front of a laptop and create something, she says.
The simplicity of the construction belies the complexity of McColloughs songs, however. Layers are warm, rich currents of infectious sound, combined with a voice that is both croon and languid rumination. There’s a delicate balance in the interplay between music and lyrics that gives kids a particularly distinct vibe, and it all started, McCollough said, when the third track, 99, grabbed attention.
I wrote it in one day and recorded it one day and then posted it on Soundcloud, she said. It was the first thing I’d released since The Pinklets, and after sharing it with my friends, it got a pretty decent amount of plays, and my friends were really excited that I was making music again. This song is quite important to me because it is the beginning of my creation and my recording of music. It’s the song that made me realize, I love it, and I’m going to do this every day of my life.
And that’s what she did. She is currently enrolled in online courses for audio production (with a minor in commercial composition) at Middle Tennessee State University, and she is already considering her next release. She’s recording something every day, even though she’s not planning on releasing it, and her laptop is full of ideas and sounds that could provide a template for a future Willa Mae release or a song for her. group, Deans Dream.
The kids were gathered in the home studio her parents use (and her father’s tutelage helped her through the mixing process), and guest strings were provided by longtime Lonetones player Cecilia Wright. Reaction to the record was swift and positive, and it’s the kind of validation McCollough needed to plant his flag as one of East Tennessee’s vibrant new musical voices.
By the end of the album, I went from being proud of what I had just done to thinking, it’s horrible, and I can’t let anyone hear that, ever! she laughs. I was just extremely tired of listening to all the songs over and over again, so when I started to hear the reaction of others, I felt great. It was really very pleasant to hear.