This past Saturday at the Eunoia building on JPA, The Willies, a band consisting of six incredibly talented UVA students, performed their first-ever concert. The band consists of 2nd Year Julia Hiser, 4th Year Tyler Hutcherson, 3rd Year Marcellus Wright, 3rd Year Nick Asby, 4th Year Grey O’Neil, and 2nd Year Grant Melchers.
With the turnout for the concert well surpassing expectations, more rows of chairs were brought in, and blankets were provided so audience members could enjoy from the ground as well. The show kicked off with students Micah Iverson and Melina Rapazzini, who brought the Valentine’s spirit to the event with sweet duets and beautiful vocals. Shortly after, The Willies entered the stage to cheers of welcome from an excited audience.
The set kept the audience engaged from start to finish. With a guest brass section accompanying the band, the songs brought soul and energy into the packed building. Powerful arrangements of well-known songs ranging from Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” brought a diverse and eclectic feel to the concert. Additionally, lead vocalist Julia Hiser brought some of her own lyrics to the set, with originals such as “Vulnerability,” “Weak at the Knees,” and “Say My Name.”
“It’s really cool for me, because I can take these songs that I wrote that are basically skeletons that need to have life breathed into them, and I bring it to them and they just flesh it out,” Hiser said of the band’s artistic process. “Like this is so much cooler than I ever imagined it to be.”
When asked how the members would describe the band’s music style, the responses were mixed, ranging from hints of soul to borrowings of indie and alternative to tastes of R&B, jazz and funk. For writing inspirations, Hiser gave credit to artist Ben Rector, and, as a collective, Hutcherson, Hiser, and Wright named artists and bands including Snarky Puppy, Josh Garells, and John Mayer.
The journey for the Willies is just beginning. On Tuesday, February 16th, the band will be competing in a Battle of the Bands at Boylan Heights on the corner, where the winner of the competition, chosen by audience votes, will be given a spot in the Corner Indie Fest scheduled for later this spring. They also have potential plans to perform at an arts festival coming to grounds later this semester.
“For me, I want the audience to feel our passion for what we do,” said Hutcherson, “Whether it’s visibly, like we’re just having a lot of fun, or the way we sound, or whether it’s the design of the space, or the people you meet, all of that just kind of adding up together.”
The band hopes that their audience will take away a sense of love and belonging from their music. They want to bring their personal passion to a public sphere so others can enjoy it as well. Along with the concert itself being free, the band even gave out free copies of their EP, titled Garden Sessions. They announced in a brief break in the set that donations are accepted, joking that they hope “the free Willies can stay free.” With the turnout for the night, the talent of the band members, and the artistic and musical vision of The Willies, this UVA band is just getting started.