eMusic : 2009
“His studious songwriting and theater-trained vocal chops slotted him in the Too Slick for Indie Rock box, and his obvious fondness for obscure sounds beloved by record collectors tagged him too offbeat for the mainstream.”
By asking himself throughout the recording process of his latest album if the Beatles could have played his new songs on the Apple Records rooftop at the end of Let It Be, Wisely finally found his proper sound. He stripped away the gloss that coated his previous discs to reveal a classicism that suits the timelessness of his tunes. Low-key and confidential where he once was hammy, Wisely piles on the harmonies, layering his arrangements like a hairdresser would sculpt a shag hairdo. There’s nothing here that’s too deep, and that’s okay: Sunny tracks like “California” float on a breezy lyricism that befits a loving craftsman, not a tortured artist. At a time when even Avril Lavigne hits reference bygone power-pop, Wisely’s nostalgia for a soft-rockin’ bell-bottomed groove no longer seems like a liability.
Popdose : March 17, 2008
Popdose Interview: Willie Wisely
by Jeff Giles
“There’ll never be a time when you put it on and it sounds dated, or wrong. Whatever it doesn’t accomplish in ’08, I think it’ll accomplish in 2010.”
Popdose: Where are you right now?
PD: Sounds like you’re in the thick of promoting the new album.
I was sort of the point man for keeping Andy involved in the promotion of the record, and I got to see what a great label Oglio is– and they got to see that I’m easy to work with. I sent them a rough edit of the video for “Through Any Window” before I sent them the album, actually, and asked them what I should do with it. Mark at Oglio said “Holy shit! What should you do? We should sign you!” We signed up pretty quickly after that. I sent them the rough edit of the album, and it all came together. There were no attorneys involved. (Laughs)
PD:Andy Dick! There are obviously hidden depths to your career that I didn’t know about.
PD: When I saw that “Through Any Window” was on this album, I briefly assumed this was a reissue of 2006′s Parador.
It’s kind of neat– I got together that original band back in February, and we actually re-recorded some things, so it’ll be this sort of crazy, over-a-decade-between-sessions finishing of the album. Now that we’re not all drunk and neurotic, we can make sense of what was a great band.
PD:For a guy like you, who has seen titles go in and out of print, the Internet must be a real boon.
For my next record, I’m definitely considering plans for a late CD release. I’m feeling like a digital release might be the way to start out. Or I might go vinyl, digital, CD. What pisses me off about CDs– to me, mp3s are a substandard item, so the fact that they’re kinda bought, sold, traded and passed around in kind of a casual way doesn’t really piss me off. But what really does piss me off is all those promo copies of CDs being sold on Amazon. I mean, I work so hard on an album, and the day it’s released, there are a couple dozen copies for sale at half the price with the barcode punched out. It’s insulting enough that people chose not to review it, or not to play it on the radio station, but then to turn around and make a buck off of me…
PD:This new album feels to me– as you kind of alluded to in your comment about “Through Any Window” fitting in– like it’s of a piece with PARADOR, which marked the debut of a new, more…pensive Willie Wisely.
California changed me, though– it’s just that simple. I wanted to choose a mood, and you know, I think I’ve failed at that. When I sequence records, I actually enjoy that feeling of boom, pow, make ‘em laugh; boom, pow, make ‘em cry. I don’t listen to one-trick pony recording artists, and I don’t intend to be one myself. Whether that makes me more or less marketable, you can pretty much guess.
PD:Obviously, you were dealing with a pretty significant backlog of material when you started making albums again. How old are the songs on Wisely?
And the whole record, besides the tracks we did in Sweden, the whole thing was recorded in Laurel Canyon. The album’s California feel also occurred by dint of me working with my co-producer, Petur Smith– he and I really wanted to make a record that was stripped as much as possible of nostalgia or any sense of showing off. I believe that my ’90s releases were very showy, and I’m not necessarily ashamed of that; I just wanted to see how my songs floated without being showboats.
I don’t know what to say. The song “It’s Gonna Be Beautiful” is about what happens when two people hit the sheets– I don’t know how sad that is. And the last song, “I’ll Be Singing” (download), I wrote to my wife for our wedding. It’s so emotional, it’s almost silly to me. I’ve never even played it live in all the dates I’ve done since the record’s been out. To show that much emotion…you know, I was listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” and sort of marveling at how it’s just flat out, you know, “I had a baby girl and I love her.” The song is so simple that for decades I missed that. It’s funny how joy can go unseen, but arch sadness sometimes pokes through much more quickly. People love their artists to be tortured, you know, and that drives me up the wall. It really does. You know, I hope you’re digging Chet Baker because of that distinct tone and that amazing voice. Please don’t love him for falling out of a window, or being able to play with dentures or whatever. Music should be judged for musical reasons, not its backstory or its supposed vibe.
PD:With the new album, it feels like you’re asking– trusting– your audience to follow you somewhere, and stay there for a certain period of time. It isn’t an album that fully reveals itself to you during the first listen.
Pop-Rock Candy Mountain : March 13, 2008
“Chuck actually delivered us the same record with a totally different sound on his first draft. We then asked for a different treatment and within days came a wholey different beast.”
From his home page: “With a foot in Silverlake and a hand in Hollywood Wisely played Twister under the palm fronds. He chatted up Beck at parties, enthused about Eleni Mandell, and got cast in the first episode Six Feet Under. He released another album with now fellow Midwest expat Fields, composed a few indie soundtracks, and produced a wide range of artists. Time flew. The opportunity came to work with producer Linus of Hollywood and the resulting PARADOR revealed another leap forward. The LA Times quickly declared it his “most accomplished album.” Jenna Fischer of The Office enthused on her blog and wait, that’s her in the video for “Through Any Window.”
“In the meantime Wisely became Mr. Wisely with a Mrs. and, some time later, Daddy Wisely, soon to be double deluxe gate-fold. He wrote, recorded, erased, recorded, and wrote. With 76 acoustic demos in-hand Wisely called his friend Petur Smith and they went down into the basement.
“I was painfully aware that spending six months working on an album, earning little or no money, was gonna be a huge burden on my family, while Kay sat listening to drum takes through the floor, gestating our 2nd kid. There could be no artifice. Just beauty. All architecture. No musicals.”
Pop-Rock Candy Mountain recently spent some time chatting with its good buddy Wisely about the new record, really geeky technical stuff and what’s next for the LA Troubadour ( and no, not the popular nightclub).
PRCM: Describe your creative process—do you use a four-track recorder or Pro-Tools? How do things go from ideas to a Wisely song?
PRCM: What are some things that influenced both the sound and songwriting of Wisely?
PRCM: How were you able to give Wisely such a warm feel? Did you use vintage gear? Why do Fender Rhodes always sound so amazing?
The vintage sound of the tracks comes mostly from Chuck Zwicky, who treated the record with a fantastical series of analog compressors and amps. Chuck actually delivered us the same record with a totally different sound on his first draft. We then asked for a different treatment and within days came a wholey different beast. Chuck is wildly versatile. Again, you’d be surprised at how much mixers can influence a record. Maybe one day I’ll release those mixes for fun.
PRCM: Did you play a majority of the instruments on the new album?
PRCM: You’ve told me that you’ve played “living rooms” etc. across America. Do you enjoy touring and meeting new people along the way?
PRCM:What’s your vision for Wisely in 2008?
Pop-Rock Candy Mountain : March 2, 2008
“…it reminds one of going to the grocery store with their mother in 1975, listening to “Top Of The World” by The Carpenters…”
I love Am radio rock– The Carpenters, Sweet, Andy Kim, America, Bread, The Box Tops, The Archies, etc. Although Wisely may be the perfect soundtrack for riding the California coast, it is way more than that. Like Fancey, the brainchild of New Pornographers member Todd Fancey, which is one of my favorite bands, it reaches far beyond the warm production values with songs that are extremely well-written and catchy, so catchy in fact, you’re going to want to hear them again…and again and again.
“It’s Gonna Be Beautiful” is another standout track on an album full of great songs, as is “Through Any Window”, a piece of acoustic pop that’s very reminiscent of The Beatles and has a video starring Jenna Fisher.
Like Beck’s The Golden Age, Fancey’s Fancey, The Autumn Defense’s Circles and the Neil Young masterpiece Harvest, Wisely is an album that will fit perfectly against the backdrop of a setting sun, whether you’re in California or Alabama. But while sunsets never last, Wisely shall always exist.
Future Sounds : February 14, 2008
Future Sounds 31 Finally Released
“…Wisely has this familiar feeling to it, kind of like the band, America, and their big hit, ‘Ventura Highway’… A gorgeous song!”
Portland Center Stage : February 7, 2008
Songs That Bring Stories To Life In Unexpected Ways
by Tim DuRoche
“…exceptionally well-crafted songwriting ethic– brimming with heartfelt immediacy, melody, with a finish that is deliciously hummable.”
Fans of Michael Penn’s raw, reflective snapshots of the human condition (or those of Jason Falkner and Owsley for that matter) will appreciate Wisely’s exceptionally well-crafted songwriting ethic– brimming with heartfelt immediacy, melody, with a finish that is deliciously hummable. According to Entertainment News, his is music “Like Lennon and McCartney, Ray Davies and others of that ilk, he knows how to weave his way through songs that are straight-ahead, and yet still sensuous and seductive.”
Powerpopaholic : January 31, 2008
” I grew up under the liquor cabinet where my parents kept James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, Donovan, Rod Stewart and the Beatles. NO big surprises there. “
Tell me about your experiences with PARADOR and this album. All this activity the past two years and not much of a peep since 1997 (TURBOSHERBET). What happened during the “lost years” other than a greatest hits album?
WW: Recently the speed at which I work increased. Don’t know why… maybe having kids now. WISELY was cut quickly compared to PARADOR. Basically, it took me half a decade to discover that I will never stop being a recording artist and that I must commit 100% to it. The new label sensed this, and that’s why “Wisely” is gonna take a long walk on my behalf, and bringing new people to my music. I do love this new record so much. It’s breezy and spacious!
Also during those quiet years, my vinyl-only band The Conquerors (1996-1999) was very active with a couple releases on Get Hip. We really only played in the Twin Cities, and rocked the Vox Continental and other period-piece instruments, and slacks. I wanted to be in a “band” for a while, where it wasn’t my face at stake all the time. It ended in an on-stage fist fight in Atlanta with me and the guitarist… so I’m assuming it didn’t work out very well. They still play without me, and without my songs, and without my slacks. I also wrote like mad, wrote a couple hundred songs in those 8 years, and established myself in LA as a producer (produced a record for comedian Andy Dick… among others.
Do you think the internet has granted you more or less control over your music and how it’s released?
Who do you think your harshest critic has been (aside from yourself, of course)?
What artists inspire you, or inspire competitive feelings in you?
You’ve been recently married and had a baby (congratulations, by the way), which are pretty mature, adult things to do. Will you still be able to write from the same perspectives and the same themes as you have in the past?
The new album “Wisely” has a very West Coast feel. Where did you grow up and what where your influences at that point and how have they changed?
Do you prefer “William” or “Willie”??
Are you in touch with any band-mates of the Willie Wisely Trio?
Thanks for the interview, I can’t wait to hear the next solo project or the reunited Trio.
Detour : January 30, 2008
by Johnny Loftus
“This might also be why he self-titled a record at this veteran point in his career– in a way, WISELY is his reintroduction.”
You can’t make a record this California without including a tribute to the state and its aesthetic, and Wisely does with “California,” which he gets away with rhyming with “I adore ya” and “how come no one warns ya” on the strength of the song’s slick but unpredictable arrangement. There are quieter moments here, too; his first-person vocal is right in your ear on “Nothing but Wind,” which craftily blends moody plunks of piano with weird snippets of backwards guitar, vintage keys, and the sense of driving east into the sunrise. “I’d like, no I’d love to have a writer’s career,” he sings, almost like a conversation on the edge of an argument. “Topping your insults and growing my beard.” It’s the sort of velvety self-reflection that a guy who’s been around this much is allowed. Other album highlights include “Vanilla,” where Wisely’s power-pop background rings out once again, and “Through Any Window,” which returns again to his two main muses, this time around the Paul-ish vocal tinging the song’s promise of sunlight grayer with the suggestion that getting older can even make the prettiest mornings seem a little bleak sometimes. Luckily, this is followed by the effortless and bright closer “I’ll be Singing,” where Wisely sings of the first time he and his main squeeze first made love. The persistence of memory is a value-add to aging.
Paste Magazine : January 23, 2008
Video of the Day
“I love this song. I love this video. I completely agree with all the previous comments.”
cool… that’s the chick from the office!
Pop vocal perfection + pop sensibility in production + solid pop lyrics = best pop record of 2008.
Great song, great video with Jenna, see him live too if you can, good show.
I absolutely love this song! I first heard it a couple of years ago and bought the last album, “Parador”, on the strength of it alone. Judging by the sample tracks on his website, the new one looks like it’s going to be exceptional too. Wisely is severely underrated!
This new Wisely album is good.
I love this song. I love this video. I completely agree with all the previous comments. Definitely see him live if you can. He puts on a good show and he’s a nice guy too, always willing to chat with the fans.
This song has been around awhile…remixed for the new album…and it’s really grown on me. The video is one of the best I’ve seen in the past year…an idea well-executed. My favorite Wisely video so far. Jenna must be pleased to be in this video, as she’d been very open about liking the song for some time. Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to this guy for twelve years, so the exposure that this new album is getting makes me smile. I hope it makes you smile, too.
Great song, great video. Nice to see Wisely getting some of the recognition he’s long had coming as one of my favorite songwriters and performers.
Wisely is the best-kept secret on the pop-rock scene. He’s ridiculously talented.
His music is great and he always willing to talk to his fans . I wish him the best and hope he gets his much deserved recognition. Have him over for a House Party
Amazing, amazing, amazing. But that’s what you always get with a Wisely album.
I’ve been a Wisely fan for years and think this is his best album yet. Pop mastery without pretension. Highly recommended.
This video is very well done, like everything Wisely. I first picked up on Willie back in the days of the Willie Wisely Trio, and I’ve been driving everyone I know crazy ever since spreading the good word about him. Do yourself a favor and BUY WISELY!
amazing song! cool video!
Wisely is an amazingly talented songwriter and performer. People hear him and immediately ask, “Who is that?” Definitely worth your time and money!
Awesome Album! Well written and played. My kids and I enjoy listening to the music every chance we can get.
This is such a great song. Willie Wisely is a brilliant writer and musician. I’ve thought so for years.
Wisely is as much incredibly talented as he is a sweet man; he appreciates his fans much more than I had expected. I had a great time at a house party, it was fun and Wisely was incredibly entertaining! Love you, Willie!
Wisely delivers again, with an even better album than “Parador.” No small feat! Add to that a great vid featuring America’s Sweetheart and a killer live show. What’s not to like?
This is one of my favorite songs ever! Willie’s music is phenomenal! He’s a fabulous musician, and a wonderful person. I highly recommend any of his music, but especially his newest album!
I love this song and video!
I love this song and it should be on radio stations across the country! I had the pleasure to see Wisely play this month and he is not to be missed!
I first saw Wisely with his “Trio” around 1992. Been hooked ever since. This guy bleeds talent, both live and in the studio. Music that’ll move you, in more ways than one.
Great, amazing song. The video is also lovely and sad. Willie’s awesome!
Wisely is pure genius. Artists of this caliber come along once in a blue moon. (You saw me standing alone…). I’ve been a friend and a fan of his since 1937! Like a fine Brunello, he just keeps getting better and better! Awe inspiring!
Flippin’ rad! Jenna’s HOT, Wisely’s Coool. A match made in Nirvana.
Present Magazine : January 22, 2008
“Although his British Invasion influences are obvious, he’s taken them a step further toward a distinctive power-pop sound recalling Big Star and Badfinger.”
Denver Westword : January 17, 2008
“Although his British Invasion influences are obvious, he’s taken them a step further toward a distinctive power-pop sound recalling Big Star and Badfinger.”
Powerpopaholic : January 16, 2008
“Every song is a light gem, and fans of Andrew Gold, Paul Simon or Sondre Lerche would love this album.”
NoEvilTwin.com : January 14, 2008
Cleaning Out The Closet
“…his voice sounds a lot like the lead singer of Barenaked Ladies in this song.”
DCist : January 14, 2008
Steve Kiviat & Chris Snyder
Weekly Music Agenda
“You may have seen him in such films as Austin Powers in Goldmember, or making a cameo in the first episode of HBO’s Six Feet Under”
Express | Washington Post : January 14, 2008
Here Comes the Son: William Wisely
“I discovered The Beatles when I was 15 and I can’t get over it. I feel so deeply in love with their music that I had to wonder, ‘Am I gay?”
“Oh, God — 11,” admits the L.A.-based pop-rocker, gigging at The Red & The Black on Monday.
“I discovered The Beatles when I was 15 and I can’t get over it. I feel so deeply in love with their music that I had to wonder, ‘Am I gay? This is so weird.’ It still weirds me out that I see a Beatles book or the postcard from Yoko Ono that I have framed on the wall and I just melt. I stayed with The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and all these really conservative influences.”
The singer-songwriter’s new CD is the relaxed, self-assured, sunny — and, yes, Beatlesque — “Wisely.” The standout track is, by far, “Through Any Window” (see fan Jenna Fischer from “The Office” in the song’s video below), but the album is nonetheless an appealing effort brimming with memorable melodies, tasteful instrumentation and lyrics wise to the many incarnations of love.
Wisely concedes, though, that “Through Any Window” is the record’s peak.
“When I wrote it, I knew something about it was resonating with the universe,” he says. “I wanted to write a song about how our visual sense and memory collide. I was very inspired by a Paul McCartney demo from the late ’60s called ‘Goodbye.’ I sat down and tried to figure out the song and thought, ‘No. Write your own.’ So, I tried to imagine what he’d play on guitar and came up with an extremely different song, but I used the purity of his moment to inspire the song and brought my idea about light and memory to it.
“Insinuated in the picking pattern I chose on the guitar is a whole rhythm section and harmony,” the lanky singer continues. “There’s a whole band in my right hand in that song.”
Wisely discussed producing Andy Dick, songs about California, pop-rock and the meaning of “genius” with Express.
WISELY: I finished producing an Andy Dick record in August and I kinda swore off doing more production for people. I do own a studio — by and large the record “Wisely” was recorded there — and it’s not really open to the pubic anymore. There’s been no day job since I got signed to Oglio. We’ve been very busy putting me out on tours.
EXPRESS: What kind of relationship do you have with Andy Dick?
WISELY: He and I have become buddies. We were set up by a mutual friend to write together and then I started producing his record. You know, the thing that bugs me about producing in L.A. is that everyone comes to you and says, “I want to sound like the Foo Fighters,” or whatever. I’m over that. I’ve got my own style and it’s hard for me to sound like other people. So it was really fun taking on Andy, because I could be very irreverent in my production. But I really don’t want to talk about his record. I want to talk about my new record.
EXPRESS: You got it. I’ll start with the song “California.” Does the world need another song about California?
WISELY: I know. I know! I know. I just heard another one. It’s just the fact that picking up roots and moving here after feeling like I had done all I could in Minneapolis — bands can thrive in Minneapolis, but songwriters really thrive on the coasts — I just had to move here, but it was a joyous thing: The sky is wide open, everybody’s unforgivably ambitious here and the sky’s the limit. And that’s great, but, of course, with that you get the worst in people as well. I just needed to write a song about the contradictions of this heavenly place.
EXPRESS: What sub-genres of pop and rock does your record touch on?
WISELY: How would John Mayer answer that question? I’m genuinely curious. I look at him and it’s like, “Is that rock? Is that pop? Is that power-pop? Is that singer-songwriter? Is that balladeer?” I wish I could be treated like him and have my music accepted as widely lovable as his. I see him as the guy sitting on top of the singer-songwriter genre who doesn’t have to define himself. The artist is the brand. I want to be my own brand.
EXPRESS: Of all the musical forms in the world, why choose pop-rock?
WISELY: Because what I most enjoy about music is the juxtaposition of melody against harmony. You have harmonic structures — the guitar is a very simple instrument, and it’s a great basis for melody to fly over it. I’m greatly influenced by jazz, so I like to be ambitious with my chord progressions and pop-rock is suitable for that. And the melodies that were brought to us by the great pop-rock acts of the ’60s — there’s so much for the ears. There needs to be some sort of innovation in the way that melody hits the harmonic structure and I only finish a song when I’ve hit upon that.
EXPRESS: How old are you?
WISELY: Almost 43 and it’s so fun to brag about that and say, “I’m old! And I’m excited to be doing this when I’m 83.” There’s gonna be this catalog of music and being an independent artist will just feel more wonderful as the years go on. I spent the ’90s trying to get signed and waiting for people to swoop down and help me. About five years ago, I realized, “No. It’s about me and art and waiting for no one.”
EXPRESS: Your Web site calls you a genius. Do you think that’s true?
WISELY: My Web site calls me a genius!? Jeez, that’s terrible. Was that somebody else’s quote?
EXPRESS: No, it’s in the bio.
WISELY: Jesus Christ. I have to read that. The label put that up.
EXPRESS: On that note, I’ll let you go.
WISELY: Yeah, I gotta go edit my Web site.
Whittling Fog : January 13, 2008
Michael A. Murphy, photos Jenny Whyme
Wisely In Ellsworth, Maine
“…an entertaining mix of pop songs and stories in a loose, freewheeling, almost-stream-of-consciousness delivery…”
(Willie) Wisely played solo for most of the evening. He had a percussionist join in for a couple of songs (as you can tell from the photographic evidence above). His set was an entertaining mix of pop songs and stories in a loose, freewheeling, almost-stream-of-consciousness delivery, which was probably three parts Willie’s personality and one part lack of sleep. Willie gigged in Massachusetts the night before and drove here after the gig. He might’ve gotten a few hours of sleep before appearing live on three different area radio stations (early morning on KISS, lunchtime on WERU and late afternoon on WHSN – next time we’ll have to get him to squeeze in a visit to WMEB and really test his endurance!).
Willie performed songs from his two most recent albums (PARADOR from 2006 and the brand new Wisely) along with a few older tunes. The set included (among others) Erase Me, Ella, Cracked World View, California, Who Blew Out the Sun, Vagabond, and Through Any Window.
Willie is an engaging performer who knows his way around a hook and a lyric. I don’t think I’d ever consider Wisely’s songs to be retro, but if you’ve ever
(I wish I’d thought to get a set list from him or take some notes. Maybe I should crib from Emily as I saw her with notepad in hand at the show. I didn’t really plan on writing too much about the gig, but figured the pictures ought to have some commentary)
As you can see from the following photos, the fun didn’t stop when Willie’s set was done. A group of local musicians took over (I didn’t catch their name, though things ended up being more like a jam session as several other musicians joined in for a song or two (including Willie on harp for a bit)).
Jonk Music : January 11, 2008
“A flawless effort from start to end, Wisely affirms the fact that its namesake remains one of pop’s most shamefully overlooked artisans.”
Hi-fi Heart : January 11, 2008
“…if Badly Drawn Boy made an album full 70s AOR.”
CMJ : January 8, 2008
“…a celebration of love and life through easily appealing power-pop ballads
True, most of the lyrics are incomprehensible– though you’ll understand what is being said, figuring out what it means is a lot harder. For example, in “Nothing But Wind” he sings, “I’d like, no I’d love to be a forest tonight/Ageless, erotic, a good place to die/Bending no fences to guard my frontier/Pissing on moss marks the end of the year.” He hasn’t bothered to translate his primal urges into something entirely understandable. But, even so, the listener can connect the dots and recognize those primal urges and, therefore, the album is a welcome reminder of the universality of human experience.
On a different level, a pure pop hum runs throughout. Wisely is a genius with instrumentation, so much so that his songs can feel predictable, but in the most natural way. An almost jazzy breakdown in “California” comes just when you need it, while the delicate and subdued acoustic strumming in “Through Any Window” gives the Shins’ “New Slang” a run for its money as a song that sounds best as the sun goes down on the last night of summer.
How Was The Show : January 8, 2008
David de Young
Willie Wisely Interview and Performance
“…How Was The Show joined Willie in his mother’s basement in St. Louis Park as the singer/songrwriter talked about his new album, the tour and played a few songs.”
All Music Guide : January 8, 2008
“…as if Emitt Rhodes and Ron Sexsmith had decided to collaborate… ranking with this underrated artist’s best work.”
Amplifier : January 8, 2008
“…his is a more thoughtful delivery that probes the subtler undercurrents of those ’60s sensibilities… A flawless effort from start to end.”
HowWasTheShow.com : January 5, 2008
David de Young (article & photo)
Willie Wisely CD Release Show at Bryant Lake Bowl on 1/5/08
“[Wisely]… not only trimmed the fat, but also cranked everything up a notch in wisdom and craftsmanship.”
Wisely’s 2008 tour kicked off with a show at the Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis Saturday. It was an informal and intimate affair that consisted of Wisely solo and as well as him teaming up with guest musicians Peter Anderson on drums (with whom Wisely has played off and on going back all the way to Willie Wisely Trio days), guitarist Justin McGuinn and pianist Tommy Barbarella. Barberalla is featured prominently on new the disc, most notably, perhaps, playing the gorgeous piano part on the track “California.”
“Only Losing Me” was the first of the tracks from his new disc Wisely would pull out tonight. In fact, though tonight’s set showcased many brand new songs, it was still a thoughtful overview of his whole career. Despite there being what looked like a set-list on stage, Wisely seemed to be taking an organic approach this night as far as which songs to play, perhaps evidenced further by the fact that the backing musicians were often called out (literally) from behind the curtain to join in. It was in just such a way that guitarist Justin McGuinn appeared for “Who Blew Out The Sun” from PARADOR.
Peter Anderson soon joined in on drums for the lovely ballad “Ella,” a song Wisely wrote for his young daughter. “Love Is Wrong” was done as a duet with McGuinn, and Wisely performed an uncannily perfect Bruce Springsteen imitation from the “Dancing In the Dark” video of the Boss extending his hand to grab that cute woman from the front row. (Those who got it found it hilarious, but I’m sure that went totally over the heads of anyone who didn’t. I’d never really thought of it before, but that was kind of a gargantuan pop culture moment, was it not?) Next up the title song from PARADOR included a sing-along – as it frequently does at Wisely’s shows – on the “oh no” part at the end.
Tommy Barbarella joined on piano for “California,” a song so ready-made for TV someone should make up a show just so this can be its theme song. Had it existed at the time, it could easily have replaced the Phantom Planet song that introduced “The OC” when it was on the air. Peter Anderson returned for the lead-off track of the new disc “On My Way,” a song that reminds me structurally of Lloyd Cole’s work, Cole being one of my favorite songwriters. It’s a journey song, as much about beginnings as it is about leaving things behind, and a perfect way to start out the album. For this song, Wisely switched to his Gibson, and we had an almost full band electric number while still retaining the pared down feel of the entire show.
Wrapping up the show, Wisely proved he’s as much of a family man these days as a showman by dedicating his last song “Flowers For The Lady” to his mother-in-law, who was in the audience. But not to be let go so quickly, another fan called “time out” during the set’s applause and veritably demanded “Vagabond” (one of my personal Willie favorites) as an encore, to which Wisely graciously obliged despite being almost two hours into the set without a single break.
The show was a real treat for hometown fans, and if the fans on the road get anything like this show they are sure to come away feeling fulfilled and humming some great songs on their way out the door.
Be sure to check out the HowWasTheShow artist podcast featuring Willie Wisely.
Santa Fe New Mexican : January 4, 2008
“…overflows with breezy acoustic intros and melancholy lyrics, but his luscious instrumental arrangements and catchy choruses earn him distinction from the dim and dull singer-songwriter camp he recently escaped.”
A stint in a mod pop band, a film-score contribution (Troma Entertainment’s Tromeo and Juliet), and a few solo albums later, a more world-traveled Wisely has dropped his full name (fellow Minnesota native Prince will be so proud) while continuing to build his pop-music cred. Wisely’s newest release overflows with breezy acoustic intros and melancholy lyrics, but his luscious instrumental arrangements and catchy choruses earn him distinction from the dim and dull singer-songwriter camp he recently escaped. Comparisons to Paul McCartney are fitting, especially with numbers like the higher- octave “Cracked World View” and the Wurlitzer piano-tinged opener, “On My Way.” Perhaps because Wisely doesn’t have a platinum back catalog staring him in the face every morning he’s still able to write outstanding melodies, harmonies, and lyrics that McCartney will only dream of concocting in what is left of his career. Standout tracks on Wisely include “Through Any Window,” “Ella,” and the Bad Company-esque “It’s Gonna Be Beautiful.”
Reveille Magazine : January 1, 2008
Rob van Alstyne
“Wisely, feels Californian through and through. It’s smooth and breezy adult pop of the first order.”
“I definitely still feel like a Minneapolis guy,” claims Wisely from the California home he shares with his wife and two children. “I grew up there and spent a long time making music there. The musical ties I made in Minneapolis and the things I learned there are still the formative experiences that have led to everything I’m doing now. In L.A. it’s harder to hook up with people; everyone is so busy working on their own thing.”
At this point no stranger to the world of celebrity, Wisely’s found a new high profile champion in the form of Jenna Fischer (better known as Pam on NBC’s hit show, The Office). Fischer’s apparently such a die-hard Wisely friend and fan that she volunteered her services to star in the music video for “Through Any Window.” It’s safe to say not too many Minnesota natives have Pam in their rolodex, but Wisely comes across as anything but starry-eyed about his Hollywood connections. “In L.A. you’re surrounded by ambitious people and you don’t have to apologize for it,” states Wisely, “in Minnesota it’s almost like people feel they have to apologize for being ambitious. People still give me attitude and talk shit about me behind my back about moving out here. I don’t worry about, I’m too busy building new songs and moving forward to care.”
Busy would be an understatement, in addition to the just-released Wisely, there are two other records nearly in the can, one of which was recorded in Minneapolis at Ed Ackerson’s Flower Studios with the original members of the Willie Wisely Trio (bassist James Voss, drummer Peter Anderson). Throw fatherhood into the mix and you’ve got a plenty full plate. And although many before him have had problems reconciling being a family man with life as a rock ‘n’ roller Wisely appears to suffer from no such identity crisis, going so far as to name his record label after his daughter, Ella, and penning a tasteful slice of Americana on the new album in her honor.
“Since having kids I think my writing has more clarity and more universality at the same time,” says Wisely. “The youngest person in the family is still me, I still kind of have the child role in our family. The dictum in my family is, ‘Willie follows his dreams,’ that’s not to say I’m a bad father, I definitely help around the house. I feel lucky that my metabolism makes it so I only need five hours of sleep a night. I do wonder how people who like to sleep pull it off. Balancing a family with a music career, particularly where you’re really trying to make it happen, it isn’t easy. But when the kids go to bed I can get down to the basement and work on music until two in the morning.”
Now that Wisely is being unveiled to the world it means plenty of touring in support, with a six week jaunt already planned that includes plenty of informal and non-traditional concert venues. “The new record was such a personal statement for me that it made more sense to tour this way,” explains Wisely. “I wind up playing in art galleries and photo studios, in people’s living rooms, at bed and breakfasts. It sounds folky but that’s not what it is, they’re deep connects between me and the fans, particularly since touring with a band isn’t something I feel like doing right now. Not every recording artist’s personality is going to be built for those situations. Sometimes you’re performing to 14 year olds and 80 year olds and they’re both in the front row. It doesn’t work for people that are sociopaths or fear their audience. Luckily I don’t have that problem.”
Harp Magazine : January 1, 2008
Willie Wisely & Jenna Fischer: Kodak Moment
“Jenna: But this song is one of those “lay on the bed and just let it seep in” kinds of songs.”
Jenna Fischer: What made you think of me?
Wisely: I knew it was gonna be a special song and I wanted [the video] to be smart and sad and maybe a little funny or clever. Jenna, that’s you!
JF: Yay! What was your inspiration?
W: I wanted to write about lights and how they affect memory, so there are some metaphysical questions embedded in there, but in the bridge it talks about school buses and stuff, and that was the result of my wife and I talking about bringing kids into this sad, crazy world called Los Angeles.
JF: It has a meditative quality, where you can listen to the song [repeatedly] and it continues to inspire a number of different thoughts. And I’m not a person who normally listens to [lyrics]. I’m more like, “Is it peppy enough to walk down to the corner to get coffee?” But this song is one of those “lay on the bed and just let it seep in” kinds of songs. I remember sitting around and talking about what are we going to communicate in this video. We had a bunch of ideas but nothing ever quite seemed right.
W: We owe such a great debt to [director] John Cabrera and [writer] Lee Kirk. These guys wrought something that was so knotty and [had] just snakes eating snakes’ worth of meaning. Every time I watch the video, I’m just amazed at every little detail and nuance.
JF: Lee came up with the idea to have these Polaroids develop in front of us. I love that idea because it’s very symbolic of the song because… it’s not a super-clear snapshot; it develops over time.
W: Yeah, the Polaroids were a brilliant stroke ’cause they [enabled] that surprise ending. People always tell me they sort of get a little verklempt right at that moment. I have a question. You are so busy: how could you find 19 hours—
JF: It took 19 hours? It was so long! I have actually a group photo on my wall. We all look really tired. And I was sick—I remember taking a nap. I have a very funny photo of you sticking your head in and giving a big smile over my sleeping, lifeless, sick body.
W: Your nose was a little faucet.
JF: Luckily [not] until we were doing the Polaroid part. But you make time for the things that are important to you, and it’s not every day that a person gets to star in the music video of their favorite song. And I think we did it on a Sunday, during a holiday week[end]. Of course, now I have all the time in the world because of the writers’ strike.
Orlando Sentinel : December 28, 2007
Jim Abbott, Sentinel Pop Music Critic
“…energetic, lovely and thoughtful…”
Cardboard Sea : November 25, 2007
“I fell in love with both the song and the video. I’m a huge fan and consumer of Polaroid film so to see something like this being done with it was really wonderful to me.”
mp3hugger.com : November 24, 2007
Wisely – Through Any Window
“Wisely proves a pleasant antidote to the blunt troubadours who fill stadiums with their forgettable diary entries put to sub-standard musical backdrops.”
andysullivan.com : October 24, 2007
Wisely rocks Silver Spring
“It was a revelatory performance, reminding me of why I completely flipped for Willie when I first heard him…”
It was a revelatory performance, reminding me of why I completely flipped for Willie when I first heard him in 1990. He’s an incredibly polished songwriter, but a wonderfully loosey-goosey performer with a great, innate sense of swing and improvisation. Sometimes the two sides seem to be at war — polish has won out over vibe on his last few recordings, and the bands he’s played with over the last 10 years have been stocked with too many noodledick-y LA session types who treat their fretboards like typewriters.
Solo, Willie was completely unfettered. He played moldy oldies like “Six Buckets of Kerosene,” as well as beautiful newer songs.
Click on the links to see him perform “Through Any Window” and “Drink Up.”
Too Poppy : September 24, 2007
Songs Of Love
“It was as personal a concert I have ever and will likely ever experience, and it was unforgettable.”
Seconds later, we were informed the show was pushed back to 9:45. Refund, right? Yeah, not so much. Nonetheless, the bartender encouraged Willie to play a few tunes for us – and shockingly, he did. Class act. We got to sit back and enjoy 5 or 6 great Wisely tunes (I forgot – I was a bit excited). It was as personal a concert I have ever and will likely ever experience, and it was unforgettable. It was a truly interactive experience as Willie asked for requests. He was about to finish with my new favorite tune Through Any Window before Mrs. 2poppy made some wiseass remark about my geek-crush on Jenna Fischer. Willie had lost the desire to do the tune. Dammit.
We come back a few hours later to see the rescheduled show. Yep, another $5. Really, Mews, really? But it’s only $5 and it is Wisely, so be it. The crowd has engorged to about a dozen or so, not counting the night’s next band moving in all their equipment right in front of the stage. We were rewarded with about an hour of excellent Wisely tunes until the Mews basically forced him offstage to make way for that other band. He sounds as good live as you’d expect. And we got Through Any Window.
Thanks, Willie. I’ve seen so many concerts that I’ve lost count (not that I ever kept count). Yours was truly a unique experience and one that renewed my passion for music in ways I never expected. Plus Mrs. 2poppy now has a crush – and keep in mind she picks her music crushes quite carefully.
BabySue : September 20, 2007
“Wisely worked with some heavyweights on this one… (Rating: 5++)”
USA Today : Pop Candy : September 7, 2007
An ‘Office’ Star’s Musical Crossover
“…in this behind-the-scenes video, the two artists say that’s how the project came about.”
A Socialite’s Life : August 27, 2007
Music in the Morning: Wisely – “Through Any Window”
“We now have this gorgeous video to start off our week.”
Wongie’s Music World : August 22, 2007
New Video Wednesday
“When the ever cool actress Jenna Fischer fawns over a band, she’s pretty whole hearted about it.”
Jenna Fischer’s Myspace Blog : August 20, 2007
Wisely, The Office & Photos
“…the music video I did with Willie Wisely is online! If you are a faithful reader of this blog you know how much I love this guy’s music.”
We’ve been working a lot of overtime to produce hour long episodes to kick off the season. There will be 4 of them! Our usual 12 hour days have expanded to 14 or 15 hour days. Crazy! Our crew is working like mad. But the scripts are amazing and SO funny. We just read a scene from the third episode that made my heart skip a beat. SO GOOD!
In other news… the music video I did with Willie Wisely is online! If you are a faithful reader of this blog you know how much I love this guy’s music. Back in January we shot a music video for my favorite song – Through Any Window. I was THRILLED when he asked me to participate and even more excited when I heard the concept for the video. The entire thing is only ONE shot. No cuts. Screenwriter, Lee Kirk (“Sad Happy Sucker” in my Top Friends)
We shot the video over 2 days. The first day was all rehearsal. John made an animated version of the song with a little cartoon me and cartoon Willie. Here we are studying the video. That’s Willie on the left and John in the blue. Our Director of Photography, Scooter, is on the floor.
Next was blocking. We spent about 3 hours trying to hit all of our marks on time with the song. I loved working this way. It made the project very exciting. I got my start in theater and I was in a ballet company when I was little so this was a lot of fun for me.
The next day we arrived early and started shooting the Polaroids. This took longer than expected. Lots of wardrobe changes and set ups. But it was fun. They are real Polaroid photos. As you can see in John’s hands below.
We started shooting the actual music video around noon. We messed up a ton in the beginning. Willie and I ran into each other in the stairwell and missed an entrance. A lot of times you could see our shadows as we tried to sneak past the camera as it panned. And, Willie had a hard time putting the photos down on the table straight. After over a dozen tries, we broke for lunch. Here I am crashing at lunch. I was a little sick that day too. But it helped me keep the sniffly sad look on my face.
Oh… after you watch the video, if you are wondering about the face behind the hands on the table…that’s our writer/hand model Lee Kirk. Here I am expressing my awe. He had never done hand acting before. Nice huh?
In the end…I LOVE this video. And, I’m tickled to have been a part of it. It was a very creative experience. I love Willie’s music and our crew could not have been nicer. Here is the whole gang at the end of a very long day. I hope you like it! Let me know what you think. I do read all my blog comments. (But, I only read them in order. I don’t read the first page over and over again. So if you comment another comment, I’ll probably miss it.)
Enjoy! (And, thanks to Tori for teaching me how to put the video into this blog! See…I told you I read my blog comments!)
A Note from our Director…So, to clarify: The video was indeed all done in one take. In fact, it was take 37 that we ended up using. However, the picture you see above is of us watching take 35. We got pretty close with it, but if you notice in the shot, my mouth is moving. And it was not welcomed news for this tired crew, I’m afraid. Luckily, though, we got it two takes later.
The Big Takeover : December, 2006
Wisely – PARADOR
“Willie Wisely’s first album in eight years suggests that he stayed sharp in the interim.”
Us Weekly Online : September 23, 2006
Jenna Fischer: Her work as a video vixen
” …this one song in particular called “Through Any Window” that I have been flipping out over.”
Playboy : September, 2006
“Playmate of the Year to play your wife…”
Performing Songwriter : July 7, 2006
by Abby White
“PARADOR is a perfect album of intelligent, captivating pop music.”
Adapt Magazine : July 1, 2006
“…emotionally powerful and deeply memorable”
Bullz-Eye : June 4, 2006
by Will Harris
“Wisely’s most significant achievement on PARADOR is that it manages to hint at sadness without dragging things down musically.”
“Pop” is short for popular, and while everyone wants to be popular, the problem is that once you are popular, you’re right around the corner from being mainstream… and nobody wants to be mainstream, because then, all of a sudden, everything you do has to be more successful than what’s preceded it, and the first time it isn’t, bam, you’re labeled a has-been, your label stops promoting your album, your contract isn’t renewed, and suddenly you’re telling interviewers that you’re “going indie” for your next release, even though the reality is that you didnÕt actually have any choice in the matter, and you’re steadfastly avoiding mention that you’ve had to go back to your job at the bookstore because the music isn’t paying the bills anymore.
You think I’m overreacting? Man, I wish I was. And, okay, perhaps I am just a tad. But just in case, let’s call Willie Wisely — oh, right, sorry, he just goes by Wisely now — an adult alternative artist who knows his way around a hook. It’s just safer that way.
Wisely has been puttering around the fringes of the Minneapolis music scene since the ’80s, but it wasn’t until 1994 that he released his first solo album, PARLEZ-VOUS FRAN≠AIS?, on Pravda Records. From there, he bounced to Twin/Tone for 1996′s SHE, then to October for 1997′s TURBOSHERBET. It wasn’t until musician/producer Linus of Hollywood stepped in, sang Wisely’s praises, and put his money where his mouth was in 2003 by releasing a compilation of some of Wisely’s best work — GO! — on the Franklin Castle label.
Now, Wisely’s back with his first proper album in almost a decade, and, once more, Linus of Hollywood has come through, serving as producer for over 90% of PARADOR. Given that Linus and Wisely are probably equally talented when it comes to writing a catchy chorus, you can imagine that the combination has resulted in some of the catchiest tunes in recent memory. Helping to flesh them out are guest appearances from guitar god Paul Gilbert, former that dog frontwoman Anna Waronker, and Wondermints wunderkind Probyn Gregory on French horn. (The latter does particularly nice work on “Erase Me.”)
Wisely’s musical reference points used to be more obvious — Paul McCartney and Squeeze were always crucial touchstones — but, while they’re still there on occasion (Macca’s influence is definitely felt on “Through Any Window” — but, now, his sound is more stylistically expansive. Opener “This Is Everything” is sufficiently dramatic as to warrant its all-encompassing title, with a sweeping chorus. “Joke,” “Let Me Run Wild,” and “Stayin’ Home Again” are particularly propulsive numbers, but the tone of much of the album is decidedly melancholy. Wisely’s most significant achievement on PARADOR is that it manages to hint at sadness without dragging things down musically.
Fans of artists like Jon Brion and the Pernice Brothers should pay a visit to PARADOR. Just try to avoid the instinct to call it power pop; Wisely deserves better than that, and so does his album.
Neufutur : June 29, 2006
” …the one thing that Wisely is is not predictable.”
The almost-falsetto achieved during “Stayin’ Home Again” plays the perfect light side to the deeper, world-weary vocals and scratchy guitars that are the common sound during the track. At some point during “Stayin’ Home Again”, Wisely throws in that wonderful bit of synthesizer. DonÕt get me wrong, this is not the dance-rock that captured the minds and hearts of youths a few years back with acts like The Rapture, but rather Wisely uses electronic sounds as a garnish to a guitar-driven brand of rock. Even when Wisely plays a slower brand of rock, as is the case with “Erase Me”, there is enough material present during the track to allow for individuals to hold on and never let go.
The insertion of drums and a bass during the second movement of the track really locks individuals in, and instead of being a slow ballad that rehashes the same theme over and over, it is a dynamic track that increases the range that Wisely is capable of. The use of a morose brand of brass during the track puts the icing on the cake, and is the best counterpoint to the much more loud and brash follow-up to the track, in “Altitudes”. Wisely is the type of individual that looks very predictable from the onset, but after listening to PARADOR a few times, one will learn that the one thing that Wisely is is not predictable. Here’s to hoping that Wisely can cut another batch of eir pleasant and pointed, but still ultimately friendly guitar-laden indie rock. Without anything really weak on PARADOR, it seems like Wisely has reached a plateau; it will only be a matter of time to see whether Wisely can continue along this high path of achievement.
Top Tracks: Stayin’ Home Again, Altitudes
Amplifier : May 22, 2006
by Mark Hershberger
“Wisely is one of those rare artists that are truly unpredictable.”
Men.Style.com : May 22, 2006
“Pop hero Willie Wisely convinced 2006 Playmate of the Year Kara Monaco to appear in the screwball video for his latest single.”
Pop On XTC: Willie Wisely Gets Back To His Power-Pop Core In Parador
Louisville Eccentric Observer : May 17, 2006
by Anthony Bowman
“I think with the crumbling of the music industry as we know it, all this ageism is going to go away.”
In the more recent world of popular music, Wisely’s songs resemble those of a slightly older, wiser and more world-weary Fountains of Wayne. Wisely has moved far beyond the schoolboy infatuation with the high school sweetheart’s mother. He’s already had the marriage, the mortgage, the divorce and the drinking problem, and now he’s developed the sense of humor and perspective necessary to tell the stories.
It’s been a while since Wisely released 1997′s TURBOSHERBET, but he definitely hasn’t been slacking. He’s been living in Los Angeles where he’s had his hand in about every media outlet L.A. has to offer, including working as a music producer, scoring several films like “Tromeo and Juliet” (Andy Dick’s newest comedy) and two Scooby Doo flicks, and working as an actor in numerous films and television shows, including HBO’s “Six Feet Under.” After all that, however, Wisely is glad to return to making pop music.
“I’ve always really only wanted to be a recording artist first,” he said. “All that other stuff was just me testing my legs in Los Angeles and seeing what my heart wanted to do. It just seems like all those other projects, acting included, involved stifling your personality somehow. It just seems like when I write songs, there’s none of that. It’s pure expression.”
These days, Wisely’s main concern is writing complex songs about real emotions, and challenging the commonly perceived notions of what popular music can be and who is allowed to make it.
“It’s unfortunate that pop music is considered a young person’s art form,” Wisely said. “I wanted to make a record that was emotionally dense. I’ve made records that were very bright and colorful, that were full of splashy ideas, but I’d never made a record that had a lot of emotional gravity, and I set out to do that [with PARADOR]. And I’m not worried about the age thing. I think with the crumbling of the music industry as we know it, all this ageism is going to go away.”
With Wisely working diligently to make his music more emotionally dense, I asked him how much of this record was biographical. At first, he said most of the record was autobiographical, but that there are a few exceptions, notably the beautifully sad narrative “Too Quick to Love.” Then, after pausing in thought, Wisely changed his mind: “You know what?,” he said, “‘Too Quick to Love’ is totally autobiographical about me, too. I wanted to write a song called that because all my life – I remember I would freak girls out because I wanted to get so hyper-committed, and I’ve always been such a ‘husband,’ you know? And I’ve always been too quick to call it love and it would ruin it, it would ruin the fun.”
Wisely set a daunting goal for himself with PARADOR, and for the most part, he has succeeded brilliantly. The album possesses a distinct ability to tell you a true, heartbreaking story that maintains its emotional depth while simultaneously being so catchy that you’ll find yourself smiling and humming the tune days later. This didn’t come without a certain amount of hard work and perfectionism on Wisely’s part.
“A lot of stuff wound up on the editing room floor,” he said. “So much so that there’s a separate CD released called PARADOR ALTERNATE TAKES. It’s all the same songs, but completely different versions of every one of them. It’s all the rage now to have your fans mix or remix your record or whatever. Well, this is neither of those. It’s literally the same record twice. But two different ways.”
I noted the similarity to XTC’s Homespun and Homegrown records, which he said he wasn’t familiar with, but wasn’t surprised that they’d beaten him to the idea. I pointed out that it wasn’t so bad to have something in common with XTC, to which Wisely replied, “Amen, brother.”
Wisely Takes Time From Acting For Tour; It’s The Musician’s First Solo Project In More Than Eight Years.
The Vindicator : May 16, 2006
by John Benson
“PARADOR has a very cinematic approach… where so much is being evoked that it becomes visual at some point.”
The Minneapolis native and Los Angeles resident has spent the last few years either on a concert stage or in front of a camera. After all, when you live near Hollywood, you’d be shortchanging yourself not to give acting a shot. So Wisely has, and, well, he’s learned something about himself – or rather the reflection he gives off to casting directors.
“I always get booked as the crack dealers and drug addicts,” said Wisely, calling from Los Angeles. “I guess I’m doomed.”
While not necessarily doomed, Wisely enjoyed limited success as an actor (appearances includes “Six Feet Under“), which may have had an adverse effect on his acting career.
“I’m taking respite from that while I work this record,” Wisely said.
“One art form is challenging enough to live for, and there’s enough struggle in being an artist where I don’t need to struggle in acting and struggle in music. It’s too much.”
With his focus back on music, Wisely is touring PARADOR – his first solo project in more than eight years – with a Midwest swing that brings him to Youngstown on Wednesday at The Royal Oaks.
Not surprisingly, considering his background, PARADOR has a very cinematic approach that not only creates an alluring “bed of sound” but also a vibrancy where “so much is being evoked that it becomes visual at some point,” he said.
Wisely Returns For Varsity Gig
American Jewish World : May 19, 2006
by Mordecai Spekctor
“More of the Minneapolis native’s masterful tunesmithing.”
Fufkin : April 1, 2006
by Mike Bennett
“…this album is up to the gold standard that he and others set in the ’90s.”
Willie Wisely was part of that great era (I’m making it sound like it was a long time ago…) and has been quiet for a while. He is quiet no more, and this album is up to the gold standard that he and others set in the ’90s. Working with a sympathetic producer, the brilliant Linus Of Hollywood, Wisely makes a gem of a disc.
So what does Wisely sound like? He brings to mind Jason Falkner, but with a bit more adherence to rigid power pop standards – maybe Falkner with some Cliff Hillis mixed in (and these comparisons are made only because of a general similarity – kind of the Recommended If You Like type of comparison). He has a deceptively terrific voice. He tends to sing in his midrange. There is a real normal guy quality to his voice. Only when he gets into the higher end of his range is it obvious what a talented vocalist he really is.
The Wisely sound is displayed in its full glory on “Stayin’ Home Again”. The track begins with a strummed acoustic with the accent of a lead guitar. The song has a tried-and-true rock structure, with the melodic verse leading into a chorus that takes the melody higher, with an accompanying added energy. This fits the lyrics to a ‘T,’ as the song is about a guy who’s been looking for love. Now he’s finally found it, a woman worth staying home with for the night. Wisely sounds like someone who’s finally found the right woman, exuding a mix of weariness or uncertainty, spun into joy (colored by slight disbelief).
Whereas “Stayin’ Home” builds, the structure is reversed on “Altitude”. This song bursts right out of the gate, with Wisely singing these memorable words over frisky guitars: “Some call her quiet/others call her just plain weird.” The song then simmers down, to a pleasant mid-tempo pace. The melody moves gracefully, ascending in just the right spots. Wisely sketches in just enough details – his woman apparently tried to do herself in, and he’s waiting by her hospital bed. The only time to crunchy guitar riff comes back in is when he confronts her father: “I visit her father/silent in his wheelchair/told him I know what he’d done/to her sophomore year.” This is a song with an array of moods, from the initial happiness of falling for the girl to the despair of seeing her helpless.
It’s songs like this that exemplify what makes Wisely so special. He crafts songs that are immediately appealing. But some songs clearly have a lot more going on, whether it’s the layers of instruments, or the depth of the lyrics. For example, listen to all the different elements that coalesce on “Joke”, a percolating rock tune that Owsley would be proud to call his own. This song is a real testament to the production, as the song is dominated by the guitars of Wisely and Paul Gilbert, but there’s lots of interesting stuff going on underneath, from the bass playing to the backing vocals, none of it obscured in the mix, put in just the right place.
This attention to detail doesn’t suck the life out of songs, often a problem when so much effort has been expended, it instead enhances the effect of the song. While the aching “Too Quick to Love” would sound great if it were just Wisely playing it on his acoustic, the precise drumming of Peter Anderson and the subtly integrated cello part played by Peggy Baldwin enhance this tale of a busted romance. The subject of the song, set forth in its title, is familiar. Wisely simply does a great job of describing the situation, which may hit close to home for many.
On “Who Blew Out the Sun”, Wisely conjures up a song made for a jazzy French cafe, with a melody reminiscent of Paul McCartney. This song has a melody that begs for a cover by a French chanteuse (maybe one of the Nouvelle Vague gals could have a crack at it). The tune sounds like a standard. It sets up the album closing title track. This is a big pop number, which could be called ballad-y, I suppose. It’s another sad and lonely night, and Wisely is left to playing a Mario Lanza album to try to keep his mind off an old flame. Clearly, she’s the most recent old flame. This song has one of those choruses that is big and expansive. And heading into the final chorus, Wisely raises the emotional temperature. He wants to be with her, he knows that it’s wrong, and he doesn’t want to think about her, but he is thinking about her…the break up Catch-22.
Like the best pop records, even in the face of heartbreak, the quality of the melody and the songs provides some degree of uplift. This is a guitar pop album for grown ups, showing that you can be catchy and mature at the same time.
Cityview : May 5, 2006
by Michael Swanger
“PARADOR is a powerful reminder that pop music, when not reduced to its most despicable, sugar-coated level, can actually serve as a meaningful form of music.”
AllMusic : April 18, 2006
by Tim Sendra
“It is a record for people who have lived, loved, lost and found, a record with deep, melancholy shadings that would do nothing but scare the pajamas off of anyone in the middle of enjoying their youth.”
Weekly Volcano : April 4, 2006
“In person, he is engaging, with a child-like enthusiasm and the fashion style of a pop dandy.”
On his tour Wisely, who last played Olympia in 2004, will be performing solo. In person, he is engaging, with a child-like enthusiasm and the fashion style of a pop dandy. His performance is always a surprise, and since Fertile Ground has a piano, concretgoers can probably expect to see Wisely tickle the ivories as well as strum and pluck the strings. Speaking of Fertile Ground, this will be the first of what they hope will be many more house concrets. If you are planning on attending make sure to get there in time. The show has a 10pm curfew.
Mi2n : April 26, 2006
“Wisely has been evolving a singular musical style across the considerable span of his broad career, initiating a musical movement called EVOCativePOP.”
Released under the moniker Wisely, Parador sparkles with irresistible melodies and lyrical artistry, spurred by producer and fellow pop wizard Linus of Hollywood and with help from the exceptional talents of Ben Eshbach (Sugarplastic), Probyn Gregory (Brian Wilson), Anna Waronker (that dog.), Heather Reid (Gush) and Paul Gilbert (Racer-X, Mr. Big).
Originally hailing from Minneapolis and now based in L.A., Wisely has been evolving a singular musical style across the considerable span of his broad career, initiating a musical movement called EVOCativePOP, a phrase Joan Anderman of the Boston Globe first used to describe WiselyÕs emotionally powerful and deeply memorable music.
Although Parador marks WiselyÕs first solo effort in eight years, heÕs done an astounding amount of diverse work in that time as a highly sought-after music producer, a film score composer for projects such as WarnerÕs Scooby-Doo animated features and Jenna FischerÕs (of The Office) Lollilove, and as an actor for films and television, including a role in the award-winning HBO series Six Feet Under.
ParadorÕs lead-off track, ÒThis Is Everything?is featured in the most pivotal scene which emphasizes the climactic moment in the new Andy Dick comedy Danny Roane: First Time Director, which debuted at the Õ06 SXSW Film Festival. Wisely songs can also be heard in FoxÕs new hit series The Loop. WiselyÕs 2005 tour of Japan, with San Francisco’s John Vanderslice and multi-platinum selling Japanese artists Quruli, was a sold-out smash.
UPCOMING WISELY TOUR DATES:
Willamette Weekly : April 6, 2006
by Tim DuRoche
“…a tireless craftsman of pure pop music and could Indian leg-wrestle with the likes of Ray Davies, Burt Bacharach, Difford/Tilbrook, or the great Jules Styne any day of the week.”
Smother.net : April 3, 2006
Pops Best Kept Secret Wisely Releases a Classic Pop Record
Americana UK : March 23, 2006
by Andy Riggs
“…this record stands out on its own merits, as all the songs are stand outs.”
Recorded in 2006 with producer Linus of Hollywood, Willie uses French Horn, Cello, Violin, plus the usual suspects of guitar and drums to create 37 minutes of classic pop music. There’s no need to be a snob here, numerous Brit Pop bands would pay a fortune for songs of this calibre. Astute, sharp lyrics combine with soaring choruses and melodies that grow with each listen.
After 2-3 plays this record works its way into your eardrums, not available in the UK at the moment – it’s worth paying the air freight on second thoughts I’ll pop over to the US and grab a handful and sell’m with The Big Issue!
Reviewers Rating: 10 of 10 stars
Meet Singer-Songwriter Willy Wisely
KXAN NBC-4, Austin TX : March 15, 2006
“I go to a lot of music conferences all over the country, and there just isn’t the sense of ‘music first’ at those.”
Willie Wisely is one of many showcase artists who have been churning out great music for years and who are now finding new audiences in Austin.
The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter stopped by the KXAN studio to share a little of what he’s offering at South By Southwest. Namely, some fresh tunes.
“I’m really excited to be at SXSW with a new album in the stores next month,” Wisely said. “It’s a great time to be here. There’s a lot of excitement, and I feel support from a lot of the people, and I guess it’s so fun to come here. I go to a lot of music conferences all over the country, and there just isn’t the sense of ‘music first’ at those other conferences.”
Click on the video links to see Wisely perform two of his songs in full, plus an extended interview.
Sampler With a Mission
Editorial Emergency Presents : March 20, 2006
by Simon Glickman
“A gifted writer, musician, arranger and singer, Wisely is arguably the leading talent of the pop underground.”
Willie Wisely, On the Upswing
World Cafe from WXPN : March 20, 2006
by David Dye
“He’s been busy, touring and playing at the SxSW conference in support of his new CD, PARADOR“
A Minneapolis native who has relocated to Los Angeles, Wisely has scored and produced music for a variety of film projects, including comedian Andy Dick’s directing debut, Danny Roane: First Time Director. He has also appeared in a number of film and stage productions, from the Bob Crane bio-pic Auto Focus to Lovelace: The Musical.
Willie Wisely at the 400 Bar
HowWasTheShow.com : March 8, 2006
by Kristine Lambert
“Wisely is a successful songster because he’s tapped into universals.”
Wisely’s back-up band took the stage next with Karen Paurus on back-up vocals, David Hawkenson on bass, Rovert Pavlicsek on guitar and Christopher McGuire on drums with a flashy five-foot-high cymbal. Appropriately, they started out with the dynamic “This Is Everything,” the first song off PARADOR, segueing into “Drink Up,” which gave license to “drink up all your sorrow; drink up it’s almost tomorrow” because, “tomorrow we’re through.”
One of the final songs of the night was the title track off PARADOR, and Wisely invited the audience to “slip inside this dream of mine.” The gentle bass part lent itself perfectly to Hawkenson’s fretless. From the intro to the final background vocals I couldn’t help but be reminded a bit of Cocteau Twins’ vocal effect. Wisely is a successful songster because he’s tapped into universals that make him attainable to his listeners. Whether it’s a song as simple as “Stayin’ Home Again,” or a song as complex as the emotional pitfalls of infatuation in “Too Quick To Love,” Wisely never hides his lyrics behind heavy guitar solos, but rather puts his imagery out there with smart musical accompaniment.
StarTribune : March 3, 2006
by Chris Riemenschneider
“It’s hard to control your own focus in L.A., because so many… interesting new opportunities can come your way.”
It’s hard to believe that Willie Wisely — who’ll be back in town promoting his new CD at the 400 Bar on Saturday — actually hasn’t released an album in eight years. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2000, the once heavily touted local rocker’s activities have ranged from a small acting role on “Six Feet Under” to soundtrack work for the “Scooby-Doo” movies to performing in “Lovelace: The Musical,” which had “Family Ties” kid-actor Tina Yothers in the role of the porn star. Yikes.
It’s been fun, but Wisely was eager to get back to being a songwriter and bandleader.
“It’s hard to control your own focus in L.A., because so many fun or interesting new opportunities can come your way,” he said.
Wisely seems to have gotten his focus back, though: “I already have the next album written,” he bragged.
The CD that’s out now, “Parador,” is full of guitar-drenched sob-rock, sort of the Matthew Sweet sound that was still getting played on the radio when Wisely last put out an album. It’s available at www.wiselymusic.com.
Willie Wisely w/The Owls, 400 Bar
The Onion : March 2, 2006
“PARADOR… shows he hasn’t lost his gift for sweet melody.”
Before he moved west to pursue a career in Hollywood’s music biz, troubadour Willie Wisely lived in Minneapolis and made a name for himself with a series of marvelously crafted pop discs. (His wryly funny song ÒDinkytown?is still the best one ever written about the U of M neighborhood.) He’s coming back to town this week with a brand-new disc, PARADOR, which shows he hasn’t lost his gift for sweet melody despite writing soundtracks for Troma horror flicks and playing in comedian Andy Dick’s backing band. On PARADOR, Wisely gets help from several other worthies with local ties, including fellow L.A. expatriate Mike Ruekberg of Rex Daisy and Anna Waronker, sister of ex-Walt Mink drummer Joey Waronker and former member of that dog.
City Pages : March 1, 2006
by Lindsey Thomas
“Lately Willie Wisely has been busy scoring films for Andy Dick and Jenna Fischer (Pam from NBC’s The Office). What a starfucker.”
Lately Willie Wisely has been busy scoring films for Andy Dick and Jenna Fischer (Pam from NBC’s The Office). What a starfucker. But the ex-local musician (and current Los Angeles resident) still found time to record Parador (Ella/Not Lame Recordings), his latest album of familiar pop-rock. One listen and his success in the film industry makes sense. Wisely’s voice is inviting and unassuming, befitting an evening resigned to hermitage (“Stayin’ Home Again”) or a night of two-for-ones and one-night stands (“Drink Up”). For confused/lusty/frustrated young people in independent movies, those are always the most critical moments of their lives–good thing they have the perfect soundtrack. With the Owls. 21+. $8/$10 at the door. 8:00 p.m.
City Pages : February 25, 2006
by Jim Walsh
“Former Minneapolitan Willie Wisely has always had a knack for a pop hook, but this beautiful one soars so high… it should come with a hit of Dramamine.”
“Altitudes” by Wisely. Former Minneapolitan Willie Wisely has always had a knack for a pop hook, but this beautiful one soars so high — on the wings of a buttery vocal and the ever-seductive civil union between a gentle acoustic guitar and a squalling electric guitar – it should come with a hit of Dramamine. From his new one Parador, which drops March 14.
Entertainment News & Reviews : February 24, 2006
by Lee Zimmerman
“Wisely… remains a master of his craft.”
The enigmatic Willie Wisely may be Pop’s best-kept secret but with any luck, Parador, his ever-so-enjoyable new release, will dissolve some of the mystery. It’s been a full ten years since the release of She, the album many of his admirers have acknowledged as his masterpiece, and his absence suggests that Wisely may have to start from scratch to reconnect with his following. Nevertheless, given some proper promotion, Parador could move him several yards forward.
Fortunately, there’s no need to dwell on long-term consequences. Considering the immediate impact that Parador produces on first encounter, it’s evident at the outset that Wisely, wherever he’s been, remains a master of his craft. With songs such as tangled “This is Everything,” the beautiful ballads “Too Quick to Love” and “Erase Me” and the breezy acoustic title track, Wisely extends a rapturous melodic embrace, a pull so deliriously intoxicating that it practically seems timeless. This is an artist that seems to write on instinct, as if his hooks have been here all along, merely waiting for an artist like Wisely to come along and pluck them from their resting place. Like Lennon and McCartney, Ray Davies and others of that ilk, he knows how to weave his way through songs that are straight-ahead, and yet still sensuous and seductive. If it’s been too long between releases, there’s some compensation in the fact that this is indeed an artist who seems to belong to the ages.
Ultimately, one can only suggest as way of commendation that anyone reading these words would be well-advised to latch on to Wisely. Quite simply, he’s too good to get away.
“Disc of the Day”
Kurt’s Krap : February 21, 2006
by Kurt Torster
“Buy a few copies, send them to friends…send them to radio stations. This is one that needs to be heard and you’ll make some happy in the process.”
Wow…where do I begin? Old school comparisons equal the poppier side of Sir Paul McCartney, Squeeze and some Jellyfish while simulating the newish Owsley and Bleu. Now, any pop fan not wetting themselves after that needs to check their pulse. Parador is an album of both the immediate and of growth. There are many songs that will hit you first time out (This Is Everything, Stayin’ Home Again and Drink Up step up to the plate and smack it right out of the park on the first pitch) but there are just as many that need some private listening time to let them dig their claws in (the quieter Erase Me and Through Any Window are just two examples). There was a lot of hype surrounding this release in pop circles and this time it’s totally due. Throw in backing from Linus and Paul Gilbert, among others, and this is just all around one very perfect pop disc. Buy a few copies, send them to friends…send them to radio stations. This is one that needs to be heard and you’ll make some happy in the process.
“Choose Wisely and Other Recommendations”
Editorial Emergency : Feb 2006
by Simon Glickman
“…a sustained blast of melodic bliss.”
When it’s done properly, the subgenre known as power pop can be supremely satisfying: singable choruses, crisp arrangements, soaring harmonies. Sadly, the field is littered with formally impeccable but uninspired entries, making it that much more satisfying to place oneself in the hands of a master like Willie Wisely. The veteran singer-songwriter’s latest disc, Parador, is a sustained blast of melodic bliss; spurred by producer and fellow pop-rock wizard Linus of Hollywood (and with help from genre geniuses like Ben Eshbach, Probyn Gregory, Anna Waronker and Paul Gilbert), Wisely turns out one finely wrought, emotionally direct tune after another. Among the highlights: the stormy “This Is Everything,” the gorgeous “Too Quick to Love,” the Jobim-flavored “Who Blew Out the Sun?,” the autumnal “Through Any Window,” the hard-charging “Joke” and – especially – the incandescent title track. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that the logo for Wisely’s Ella Records is a dog, so there’s your thematic tie-in with our special canine issue.