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Finally, Kelly Willis returns

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2007

Page 2...

Prophet apparently had a surprise in store for Willis because she did not expect to start writing songs with him. "He kind of just sprung it on me that we were going to write together. I thought we were going to do other people's songs. I'm really glad he forced the issue there and that we sat down and wrote together."

Willis wrote for about three days with Prophet in their first session, which proved successful because all three songs they wrote ended up on 'Translated..."

For a second session, Prophet brought in Jules Shear, a songwriter who has recorded individually and once upon a time with Jules and the Polar Bears.

The writing experience was different for Willis, who heretofore was used to writing with people she knew.

"Poor Chuck. He sent me these CDs just chockfull of all these different songs. I'd just email him back, ''Um. I don't think so.' Not even one. I think he was really getting frustrated about it. The first song that we agreed on was 'The More That I'm Around You,' which was a Jules Shear song."

They thought to bring Shear in for writing, thinking "maybe he'd be the magic ingredient for us. I think he really turned out to be the magic ingredient."

Willis recorded "Don't Know Why," which the three penned.

"It's unusual for me to sit down with people and start a song from scratch. Usually, if I'm going to write with somebody, I'm going to bring in the bulk of the song, and we'll finish it together."

"The songs we just created out of thin air. I had a melody for a chorus, but that was about it. We sat around and talked and chatted and shared our experiences together."

"I don't co-write with a lot of different people. I do co-write, but it's usually somebody I'm really comfortable with. And (Shear) doesn't co-write. We were both really out of our element. It was good. We both rose to the occasion."

Willis is not a studio freak, only recording for albums or doing harmony vocals, such as for her husband's releases.

Willis had no problem getting back in the swing of recording.

"It's pretty easy to get back in there. It's a fun place to be. It can be stressful because sometimes it feels like there's a lot riding on it. Ultimately, I'm getting to go in and create. It is our studio, and it's not like I'm in some unfamiliar environment. The fact that I have this big family, I knew that my time was limited. As soon as we're in the studio, I'm focused, and I'm working. I have to be there, and I have to leave in a certain amount of time."

Recording took two two-week sessions plus about a week for mixing the songs.

As for the music itself, "Easy" was a heavily acoustic-based album, a different feel than "Translated From Love."

"It is very drastic from 'Easy,' but I do think all the things on this record would fit in on 'Easy' or 'What I Deserve.' But I did really want to have a light, fun record. 'Easy' I feel was a really beautiful, lush record of acoustic music - that was my intention. I really wanted to do that so that it would be different from 'What I Deserve.' I had been touring for six months with 'What I Deserve,' and I just wanted to do something different."

As for the sonic changes, Willis indicates that it was not pre-planned.

"A lot of that was really organic. It was just the songs we wrote...Chuck had a lot of ideas, actually had a lot of specific ideas for each player. He'd go over and have a private conversation with the drummer and have something that he'd want the drummer to be doing that didn't involve the rest of the band, and then when it happened, it would be real fresh, and the rest of the band would respond to that. It was very very involved musically."

"The record just sort of shaped itself based on the stuff we brought in," Willis says.

While the disc starts off harder edged and uptempo with Damon Bramblett's "Nobody Wants to Go to the Moon Anymore," Willis mixes it up with softer songs as well, including "Sweet Little One."

"A lot of people think that's a song I wrote about my kids, but it's not. It's a romantic song. It's about love. All of us have those moments when we can't do what we want to do, and it's not working out right. It's just a song of love and encouragement."

Interestingly, this is not the original version of "Sweet Little One," according to Willis.

"I actually started that song many many years ago. I'd actually completed a different version of it. I recorded it...and then rewrote it. I just took the chorus alone out of it. I said to Chuck, 'I know we can make this a better song.'"

"It just wasn't as good as it is now. Chuck brought in that really cool bridge and changed the whole feel of it. It's a different song now."

Willis mixes it up on "I Must Be Lucky." "We'd written 'Don't Know Why' and 'Too Much to Lose.' Chuck thought they were the same kind of topic and style, and he said, 'let's do something else. Let's do something up and rocking.'"

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