Louisiana-born Willie Jones rose to fame when he made it through to the live shows on The X Factor US in 2012.
Since then he’s signed a record deal and he made his first trip over to the UK to perform live as part of Country Music Week. Jones opened for Michael Ray’s first-ever UK headline tour and he played at the Country Hits Radio Daytime Hub too.
I caught up with Willie before his first show at Bush Hall in London to talk about his expectations of the UK, find out about his upcoming debut album, and to discuss his favourite Christmas song.
Welcome to the UK. Is this your first time here?
No, I actually came here three or four years ago but this is my first time playing original music on stages like this one at Bush Hall.
How does it feel to be part of Country Music Week?
Yeah, it’s really cool. I love to see Country music expanding, especially out here. It’s an honour to be a part of it, especially at the beginning of something I see just growing to be massive here.
You’re on tour with Michael Ray and he went down a storm at C2C in March so you’re going to get very enthusiastic audiences. Are you ready for that?
Yeah, I’m really excited. I’m all about enthusiastic people. Michael’s cool man. I played a show with him and I think we did Country Jam in Colorado. That’s actually when we met. He’s a great guy and I’m excited to just be on the road with him in Europe.
We have quite a reputation here in the UK. What are you expecting from UK fans?
Well, I got a chance to go to the C2C announcement party yesterday and I just saw how when the names and the faces of the people – Luke Combs, Darius Rucker and Old Dominion – would pop up, just how excited people were and just how excited they were to even listen to the music. Even going out here, the DJs play older songs that I totally forgot about. I just feel like out here, y’all just appreciate good music a lot.
That’s pretty accurate. You’ll find after you’ve played your shows this week that you’ll be getting lots of messages on social media and people will be looking you up on Spotify. It must be exciting to be introducing your music to a whole new group of people?
Yeah man, it’s definitely just an honour to be out there. Even before I came into Bush Hall this afternoon, there were fans already outside and they were listening to my music and they were watching my live (videos) and they just got turned on to me. It’s cool to see new fans who are engaging as well as supporting the music so soon.
When we show up, we show up. We do our research and you’ll have people singing along to your songs tonight…
Heck, yeah. Let’s go! Let’s go!
For our readers that perhaps don’t know that much about you yet, tell us a little bit about your journey so far…
Originally I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana and I auditioned for a singing show in 2012. That’s when I got introduced to the world. Since then it’s just been a lot of hard work. I moved out to California. I’ve been trying to figure it out, trying to manoeuvre my way to find the right people who believed in me to help actually grow. You can have the followers and you can have the likes, and people can know who you are but if you need to have a team of people who really believe in you, who can make connections and help you expand what your initial dream is and get you in the rooms you need to be in. I moved to California about two and a half years ago and linked up with 4Sound. I’ve been making a lot of good music and here I am. It’s been a beautiful journey so far.
Speaking of making good music, the new single Whole Lotta Love is a tune! It’s a really good, soulful country track and I’ve not heard anything like it. How did the track come to be?
I heard the chords in my head and told my guitar player, Sean, who produced the track. We figured out how to play the chords and the song just poured out of me. I would just freestyle and it just came out. and I got this bluesy, country, hip-hop trap type of vibe to it and it just feels good. It’s definitely Willie Jones for sure.
The song definitely makes me feel like I want summer to continue. We’ve not seen the sun in weeks and today you’re here and it’s shining brightly…
Oh wow. It brings up the vibe and it elevates it. Since I’ve been out here it’s been raining so it’s cool that the opening night of the show the sun is out. I think it’s a sign.
Are you working towards an EP or just releasing singles in the immediate future?
I might do a couple more singles before the year’s out and I’m wrapping up the album to put out at the top of next year.
Is the album going to be along the lines of the songs we’ve heard so far or are you tweaking your sound based on how fans react to the singles?
The music kind of follows suit of the previous tracks, but they’re all songs that I personally love and my friends love and my family loves in. We’re putting the final touches on them and tuning them up. I actually might write a couple more to swap out, but it’s my debut so I’m excited.
What vibe can we expect from a Willie Jones live show?
The vibe for tonight is pretty high energy. I brought my DJ with me, Kermit Young, and my acoustic player. It’s pretty high energy so a lot of good party songs, a couple of love songs and I’m playing the songs that are out as well. It’ll be a party.
As Christmas is just around the corner, what’s your all-time favourite Christmas song that maybe you’d even like to record one day?
Ooh! The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). I just love that song and I’ve always wanted to do a recording of it. I think either this year or next year I might it but The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole is like the jam, but you can’t go wrong with the Mariah Carey Christmas album. I’m looking forward to the holidays for sure.
Well somebody needs to take Mariah on. She’s been the Queen of Christmas for 25 years hasn’t she?
Yeah but Jessie J dropped a Christmas album last year and it was really good too.
Christmas seems to be dominated by Mariah and Michael Bublé…
Yeah Bublé. That album came out I think in 2012, his Christmas album. Those two are definitely in the battle (laughs).
How is 2020 shaping up for you? Will you be on tour?
We don’t have a tour yet, but I’m definitely going to hit the road at some point. We’ve got a couple of artists in mind that actually might happen. I’m looking forward to being on the road. I’m playing at Stagecoach and a few other festivals. I think 2020 is going to be probably the busiest year of my life.
Will we see you back here?
For sure. Heck, yeah! I think I might try to come to C2C even just to watch. I definitely would love to come back.
Willie Jones’ new single Whole Lotta Love is out now. Take a listen to it below: