With just two (very different) singles out so far, New Jersey transplant Chris Wills is making himself right at home in his new city. In today’s QUARANTUNES, find out why he had “L.A. On My Mind,” how he’s coping with the lockdown and, via his playlist, what songwriting greats influenced him.
THE LATEST FROM CHRIS WILLS
New Jersey transplant Chris Wills describes his arrival in sunnier climes as a “not-so-cliché ‘Journey to LA Cliché.’” The short version is that, faced with an unfriendly artistic environment and general life stasis at home, he packed up his car and moved to L.A., where, at 22, he ended up living in his car for a time. A real home, a rocky relationship and a personal reckoning ensued, after which he got busy writing and recording.
His work is grounded in the songwriting greats of the past (see his playlist), but his first two singles could hardly be more different. “Pyro” is a catchy, witty tune that will appeal to fans of current indie music, while “L.A. On My Mind” offers a good ol’ bluesy stomp, written right before his cross-country sojourn. He realized that “I’d be driving across the country from N.J. to L.A. knowing zero people, [with] no credit, no job, no degree, etc.,” he says. “What proceeded from there was an intense panic attack and a severe adrenaline rush. I didn’t know how to handle this, so I took my two dogs for a walk. While I was walking the dogs this melody floated down and I knew a song was coming. So I ran with my dogs back to my house, went up to my bedroom, picked up my guitar and the song was done in about 20 minutes.”
It’s a song of freedom for a guy who was “tired of being told his passions and dreams are childish, lofty, impractical, uneconomical.” Going West, he adds, “People have been doing that for generations.” During “L.A. On My Mind,” you can feel the road underneath his wheels.
There’s another single on the way, this one featuring Doe Paoro.
HOW ARE YOU HOLDING UP AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MANAGE THE ‘STAY AT HOME’ EDICT? WITH EVERYTHING HAPPENING IN THE WORLD, ARE YOU STAYING AT HOME AT ALL?
I’m doing all right. With everything going on, feeling grateful to be healthy, alive and in good spirits. Mostly staying home listening to old records and reading about history. But I’ve been getting into paddle boarding, swimming again, did some protesting, so probably doing about as good as one can.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO WHEN THIS IS OVER?
Seems like a lot of people are looking forward to having a better grip on what their finances will be like six months or a year from now. Should we spend or continue to save where we can? I know a lot of people who had to leave their apartments in NYC and L.A., so looking forward to a lot of seemingly normal stuff like that getting back to normal. And finishing my album, of course!
ANYTHING WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PLAYLIST?
Yes! Fate, things beyond our control, bad timing and bad luck, romance and political science. Realizing that so much of our lives are beyond our control. Who knows, we could die of cancer one day, get hit by a drunk driver, lose our life savings, get drafted — our own country was once at war with itself over slavery! Considering these things, every day that I’m still healthy and alive, it feels like I’ve dodged a bullet. I’m finding solace in looking at previous generations, which is why I picked older songs. Songs like, “Marching Through Georgia,” a song written at the end of the Civil War about Union soldiers freeing slaves and reclaiming the country. Randy Newman’s “Sail Away,” a song written from the perspective of a slave trader doing his sales pitch on the people in Africa telling them to come “sail away” to America with him, it’ll be so great! I threw some masterful love songs on here for a little warmth and deep hue, but the songs explain all of this better than I can.