Willis Earl Beal is both a nobody and a somebody. He’s the kind of guy who builds up a cult following of people around him but has never seen the need to spread word of his music via the internet with sites like Facebook and MySpace. That is all about to change, however, since he has signed to XL who will put out his new album Acousmatic Sorcery on their new Hot Charity imprint on March 20th (and the day before in the UK).
Willis Earl Beal hails from Chicago, but the album was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and just by listening to his music you can tell that it comes with a great back story. He arrived in Albuquerque without any money or any real plan and ended up homeless and sleeping rough for a good period of time. He found comfort through music started singing to himself songs which helped him sleep more easily. After a little while he managed to find work as a night porter in a motel, and during any spare moments he had on long night shifts he taught himself to make music. During his time working and recording he printed up several flyers which he stuck around the place with his phone number and address. Beal is happy to talk to anyone about his music. The flyers started with “I want friends & stuff” and ended by signing off with the statement “I am not a weasel.” The discovery of these flyers has led some people to delve further into the backstory of the mysterious Willis Earl Beal, most notably Leor Galil who wrote a fantastic piece about Beal last year, which is only likely to spark your interest further.
As such a charismatic person, it is natural for him to channel his experiences into his songs. We get a good taste of this with his first single, “Evening’s Kiss.” The song is about going to a diner dressed smartly in a suit in an attempt to impress one of the waitresses there. On the night in question he suddenly felt like a “fraud” and felt as though he was “deluding himself” into believing that the waitress was interested in him. The inspiration to write a song struck him then and there and he scribbled down some lyrics. You can check out the result of this, “Evening’s Kiss,” below.
Willis has now travelled back to Chicago, but on his way he received many calls about his flyer, one from someone who claimed to be Mos Def and another from someone who proposed that they try out for X Factor together (they didn’t make it). Nevertheless, it’s just more fuel for the fascinating story of Willis Earl Beal, which will hopefully become even more will known with the release of Acousmatic Sorcery.