Brian Willoughby

Brian Willoughby is a natural musician and artist – the kind that couldn’t quit music if he wanted to. And to be honest, he’s tried. The North Carolina native didn’t touch music for two whole years, even after being offered a label deal that would see him travel around the world. He did just about everything while postponing the songwriting: “I went back to school. I dropped out of college after two years. I tried to start a dot com. That didn't work out. I worked many jobs. One night I just grabbed my guitar and my four track recorder. I started listening to those old tracks of demos that I recorded to send into that label. I just started singing.” 

And boom. Here we are today with Willoughby’s latest self-titled release, a celebration of his return to his passion. We asked Brian to get into it: “It’s laid back. A little bit of this with a little bit of that. You've got soft and soothing and dreaming about good things meets rockin' and tired of talking trash. This album doesn't get too heavy, though. It just gets to the point. If you're in love, there's a song for you. If you've been drug through the mud, there's a song for you.” Check it out. Obviously, since Willoughby was away from music for so long, he’s exploded with new songs. Keep an eye out for another release in the very near future. There’s more to get into below, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Brian Willoughby

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Brian Willoughby : Melodic rock. When you hear my music you should be able to feel true meaning behind the words and the music itself. I write a song and I play notes that come from deep inside me.

PEV: Calling North Carolina home, what kind of music were you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

BW: When I was really young I listened to lots of oldies and 80's rock. When I started playing guitar around thirteen years old I really started digging into rock like Nirvana, Ozzy Osbourne and lots of 90's bands like Vertical Horizon and Matchbox Twenty. My biggest influences would be Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne. My closest to a main influence from those days would be Jimi Hendrix. When I started learning to play Jimi I could feel my soul come out through my fingertips.

PEV: Tell us about your first ever live performance.

BW: My first live performance was at a talent show in high school. I didn't really think much of it. I just did it because my friend was like you should do it. I played the "Star Spangled Banner" Jimi Hendrix style and got a standing ovation from the entire school. It was the most amazing feeling! Everyone in the audience were in bleachers that were at least fifteen rows high and I was standing

flat on the gym floor. When everyone rose it felt like the earth was sinking below my feet. The next day I could hear people whispering in the halls as I passed by saying "That's him." From then on I was known for my guitar playing.

PEV: What was it like for you when you first started out and making the transition to professional musician?

BW: Confusing at first. Not knowing what to expect or what things should be happening or when at that level in my career. Those kind of things went through my mind. It took a lot of learning on my own to understand how things work in reality. There's no overnight success in the music world. Most that made it to the top were playing long before the rest of the world even knew their names. There's a lot to learn in the beginning especially when you grew up with music in your soul and the only dreams you could make up were influenced from what you'd always heard or seen on tv. It's just not enough. You have to experience things for yourself to understand. The transition from dream to reality...becoming a real professional singer and musician was about taking control. Making things happen for myself. Being my own business man. Knocking on doors and proving what I could do. The confidence to do that made people want to work with me. It made people believe in me.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

BW: It was always about what other people thought. I just never truly realized that others really enjoyed what I did so much. I always thought people were just being nice to me until I started playing out on a regular basis. Then I started hearing more of the same. One day it just hit me and I thought to myself, "People really believe in me and it's for real. I've got to do this."

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Brian Willoughby show?

BW: All of Brian Willoughby. You're gonna feel what I'm feeling when I'm singing. You're gonna get the real me and you're gonna leave feeling different in some way.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

BW: I hope the first note I play is the right one. Once I hit the first chord there's nothing to worry about because I'm in another world.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

BW: From dreams...from feeling. I wake up to songs in my head. Songs will jump into the back of my mind at random times. I could be in a conversation and say "Hold on, gotta do something." Whatever I'm feeling at the time will somehow come out on it's own. I carry songs around with me on my phone from all the times I get a song caught in my head and have no other way to keep it and remember it. I record notes. I'll sing, hum or even beat box the songs so I can remember the feeling when I get home later. But when I truly look back it goes to the first song I wrote "No Complaints". My underlining inspiration...hope and developing an understanding of who I am in this world strives me to continue writing. That's when my true feelings come out. Even the ones I didn't know I was feeling.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, self titled, “Brian Willoughby”. What can fans expect from this work?

BW: Laid back. A little bit of this with a little bit of that. You've got soft and soothing and dreaming about good things meets rockin' and tired of taking trash. This album doesn't get too heavy, though. It just gets to the point. If you're in love there's a song for you. If you've been drug through the mud there's a song for you. If you just don't care...well "I Don't Care" says it all.

PEV: Describe the kind of mindset you had to be in to create this album?

BW: I wrote in solitude. All the thoughts of hope, aspiration, loneliness drive me to write from the soul. I have to feel it for it to be worthwhile.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Brian Willoughby?

BW: I'm astonishingly athletic. I used to be put into competitions for mile runs, situps, pullups, things like that in school. I can do 100 pushups, 100 bodyweight squats, 100 situps and 100 inverted pullups in five minutes five seconds. Those one hundred pushups are at one time and in less than a minute. I ran the mile in five minutes seven seconds in fifth grade. Crazy. Don't ask me to run a mile because I could never do that again haha.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew you wanted music to be a large part of your life, if not the biggest part?

BW: When I wrote my first song I was heading to a regional talent show three days later. The show was headed by label representatives and I got some offers. I got one really huge offer and it scared me. They wanted me to go overseas for two years. I was only seventeen and had never been away from my family like that. I let it fade away but ever since then I knew what I should have been doing all along. I eventually quit playing music. I didn't pick up my guitar for two years. I went back to school. I dropped out of college after two years. I tried to start a dot com. That didn't work out. I worked many jobs. One night I just grabbed my guitar and my four track recorder. I started listening to those old tracks of demos that I recorded to send into that label. I just started singing. Years later when I met with my producer, this time from my current label, I said yes...because it felt right. Then I thought back to all that I had been through trying to live a life without music and realized there's nothing I could do better. I had found my true self and I was happy again.

PEV: What one word best describes Brian Willoughby?

BW: Passionate.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

BW: It's wonderful. It's like a vacation. I like seeing new places. I like meeting new people. It makes me feel alive. The worst part is missing family.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

BW: Nashville. I recorded there but I haven't really played out there. I think I could make a really good connection with people there.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

BW: They are just as excited about it as I am. So supportive. It's awesome! I love seeing everybody. Nowadays that's mostly the only time I get to see some of my old friends that I went to school with. And it's nice to see everyone out away from their daily lives with smiles on their faces.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

BW: Spending lots of time with family. Going out to eat. Going to the beach, the fair, going to concerts...

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

BW: Honestly none come to mind at the moment. I've been doing lots of solo gigs and haven't billed with many bands lately. So I haven't got a good chance to listen to what's out there.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

BW: Something with computer programming maybe. Before music became a fulltime job I was learning several computer languages building websites and things like that. I bought some books and went at it for like three years...became very good. I ran into a company that placed their clients into jobs. They gave me some tests and were impressed so they started sending me out to interviews. Around that time I still had a talent agent. She called me up one day and said she had a producer that wanted to meet with me...and that was that.

PEV: So, what is next for Brian Willoughby?

BW: More shows, more music. My computer is bogged down with so many songs it's insane. I have my favorites. When the time is right I'm gonna release some more music. Until then expect me to continue playing...show after show.

 

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