Chris Willis: "I don't regret my gospel past" - Article from SameSame
HillsBen Youth Coordinator Joined in 2008
April 19, 2011, 01:20
One of the world’s most attention-getting dancefloor voices is now visiting Australia. Chatting to Same Same, out vocalist Chris Willis reflects on his jaw-dropping journey from God’s choir to David Guetta’s hit-making studio.
Quite a transformation from gospel to dance. But both genres showcase an amazing voice, which dance music producer extraordinaire David Guetta describes as “the best on the planet” and ‘Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie agrees is “the voice of Heaven”… but it seems today Chris is having a whole lot more fun.
“I don’t regret any of my past experiences,” Chris says of his square-haired ‘80s history. “In a way all that experience has prepared my for what I am facing now and its really good to be doing what I’m doing and loving what I do at the same time.”
Being so involved with his church meant coming out was a huge decision. “It was hard to reconcile,” he admits. “Luckily for me, when I did finally come to terms with it my family and friends had been incredibly supportive, and many of my work colleagues have really given me an incredible hug of love and that’s been the best step to take for me. It doesn’t work as well for everybody, I’m just happy to say I’ve had a lot of love and support.”
Via Chris’s social networking experiences with fans, he’s heard from quite a few people also struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. “I’II just try to give as broad a message of hope as possible,” he says modestly. “I came to terms with my sexuality way later on in life, I look back and wish and wonder sometimes what my life would have been like had I come to terms with it sooner.
“Everyone is on their own path, we’re all as individual as our own finger print, and that’s the beauty of life. I think a lot of times we try to force people into a particular construct and that’s just as unfair as judging someone for the color of their skin. Rather than practice judgment I try to practice love, compassion and hope, and hope that that will be the little bit I can do wherever I am will go as far as it can possibly go.”
Is Christian faith still a part of Chris’s life now? “It definitely works in a different way,” he responds. “I’m not as devout… I’m not as involved in church and that’s largely due to the fact that I’m on the road [touring] so much. It’s been really important for me to practice on my own. And when I do have time I do try to get to a church just to be in the room, to be in the building and to hear the music and to feel that sense of fellowship.
“I spend so much time writing and traveling and just trying to live life to the full. My approach is that I’ve spent so many years in church, listening to so many sermons, and reading the bible, and studying the scriptures and singing gospel music – now I feel I’d love to spend the rest of my life putting this to practice. Really learning to love yourself and learning to love people without judgment.”
Chris says his musical transformation wasn’t a complete 360-degree turnaround. “The irony of it all is that as much as I studied gospel – and I really, really studied… I was really focused on being a gospel artist – when I finally did meet DJs David Guetta and Joachim Garraud and started working with them it was only then that I realized that house music was steeped in a very gospel tradition. A lot of it came out in Chicago and the Chicago warehouse house scene and Detroit.
“It was really a pleasant surprise to discover that the work that I’m doing as singer and coming from gospel is not that unusual.”
After working so successfully with some of the world’s hottest dancefloor gurus, now Chris says it’s time he ventured out on his own as a solo artist. He’s writing his own music now, something he says is a challenge he adores.
“I really like creating a lyric that’s airtight and will stand the test of time,” he says. “I think in ways I’m my own best critic or worst critic – whichever applies. It’s something that I love to do so I love taking my time writing just the right lyric, with the right melody to the right music.
“Sometimes I can listen to a track or I get inspiration in my sleep and it comes out in one stream of consciousness. Or there are times where it is a labour, where I’ve taken days or even months to finish a lyric.”
For now, Chris’s challenge is to build up his very own following and star status, suggests Same Same. “That’s right. I think a lot of people have heard the songs and know the voice but have never actually met the singer behind the voice.
“I feel like I’m starting from scratch in a lot of ways,” he adds. “I think a lot of people know me in reference to David Guetta so to tell a story independent of that but connected to that is really a challenge. But I think people are really excited and pleasantly surprised to see the person behind the voice.”