AUSTIN, Texas — Kelly Willis teamed up with husband Bruce Robison to record and produce her first original single in a decade as part of his multi-faceted media company and web series, The Next Waltz. A followup to the launch with Jerry Jeff Walker, the second episode with Willis showcases the true beauty of the series, which lies in the ability to transplant the viewer to Robison’s Lockhart studio, where the singer-songwriter’s ability to engage artists on a peer-to-peer level allows him to draw out stories in a way most journalists can’t. For the first time in history, Robison sat on the other side of the table from his wife, Willis, in the comfort of studio couches, as an interviewer rather than fellow interviewee, delving deep into her inspirations and motivations as a musician.
A true Austin treasure, Willis has had an extensive career dating back more than 25 years, when she first touched down in Texas. Beginning with rockabilly band Radio Ranch, she moved on to a solo stint with a major label and from there into a duo career with Robison, whose credits include writing the No. 1 hits “Travelin’ Soldier” (Dixie Chicks), “Wrapped” (George Strait) and “Angry All the Time” (Tim McGraw). For the first time since her 2007 album Translated From Love, Willis will be releasing new original solo work, a single titled “Flower on the Vine,” on July 8.
Describing the song, Willis says, “It’s something to do with getting older… reflecting my perspective on aging. [My songs] are usually pretty personal. And few and far between.”
The webcast offers some remarkable moments, a result of Robison’s curious nature and familiar demeanor. Kelly shines as a musician who just can’t seem to quit despite life’s challenges — a relatable sentiment to many artists and a startling reality for fans who, during this year in particular, have watched their musical heroes go out with their boots on, so to speak.
“Well, I’ve tried to stop before,” Willis says. “I thought I’m going to take care of these kids, I’m going to retire and do something else with my life because this doesn’t fit, but it didn’t take me long to realize that making music was really my identity.”
As Kelly talks about trying to quit the music business, songwriting, and the changes in her career, one can’t help but be enthralled by her gentle voice and charismatic charms. Through the enchanting short film, visionary video director Spencer Peeples artfully captures an undeniably authentic experience of Kelly Willis as a human being and as a musician. Transported to the seat next to Willis on the couch, viewers catch a rare and intimate glimpse into her life and career.
“Flower on the Vine” plays softly in the background acting as the score to this window onto her life — a fitting role as she reveals her songs are a reflection of her secular experiences. Subscribers who follow along at www.thenextwaltz.com can get a sneak peek of the song.
About The Next Waltz: The Last Waltz, which documented The Band’s farewell concert, was a momentous, one-time collaboration, but that event eventually led to Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble recording sessions — and both helped inspire The Next Waltz, a new web series and multiplatform music delivery concept created by renowned Austin singer-songwriter and producer Bruce Robison. Featuring top country talents telling their stories and recording new musical chapters with handpicked session players, The Next Waltz references a beloved moment in musical history while presenting a forward-thinking vision of audience engagement. Launched on June 17 with Jerry Jeff Walker, The Next Waltz takes viewers and listeners inside Robison’s Lockhart, Texas, studio for interviews and recording sessions with veteran artists such as Rodney Crowell and Jack Ingram, and up-and-comers including the Turnpike Troubadours and Sam Outlaw. Telling the story of country music one song at a time, The Next Waltz is “Where country music still lives.”
The Next Waltz links