Chris Willis Came Out to Make You Dance

After a decade of playing backup to some of the country’s biggest stars, musician Chris Willis is stepping into the limelight all on his own.

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

December 12 2011 9:35 AM ET

CHRIS WILLIS shadow dancing xlrg | ADVOCATE.COM

In the black gay community there’s a huge debate over the concept of men on the down low; do you think that whole phenomenon is overhyped or reality?
First of all, I think, unfortunately, the down-low phenomenon is a reality and not just in the black gay community. Thankfully, as a result of the debate, I believe we are now aware of it. However, until we go beyond awareness and have the courage to affirm same-gender love, not only in the black gay community but also in the black community in general, there will be people who choose to live dangerously and continue to put themselves and others at risk.

You are ridiculously attractive. Did you ever have an awkward phase?
Thank you very much. Oh, yes! I sure did! Thankfully I survived the awkward phase. Only sometimes I feel as awkward now as I did back then. During my teen years not only was I deep in the closet, but I was really introverted, always skinny, and wore enormous glasses. I never went to prom. I was the geeky, artsy music kid, socially odd yet insanely creative, with this passionate singing voice.

Jezebel magazine named you one of its Most Beautiful Atlantans of 2011. What does that mean to you?
Extremely validating. I think it is so amazing that me, a man from small-town Ohio, USA, is being noticed by Jezebel magazine, the clever, elite, exclusive publication. It is one of the most incredible honors I’ve ever experienced.

You’re gay and gorgeous, from the Midwest but based in the South, started out in gospel music, and have had club hits for years. What’s your fan base look like? Is it Christian grannies and trendy young gay guys elbow to elbow at your concerts?
I think you’d be very surprised to know that I rarely see any Christian grannies or distinctly trendy young gay guys at the clubs I’ve played the world over. Quite the opposite. I see nothing but hot, extremely gorgeous women from all over the world, 18 to 40s even 50s, dressed head to toe in the latest Gucci, Prada, Dolce and Gabbana — and the men of all ages and walks of life who admire them — screaming loudly to the top of their voice the lyrics to the songs I’ve had the pleasure of writing. I’m still waiting for the Christian grannies and the trendy young gay guys to join the party.

Let’s talk about your solo debut album, Premium (Songs From the Love Ship), part 1, which just came out. What’s the number 1 thing you hope listeners take away from this album?
The thing I hope listeners take away from this album is that it is possible to love yourself just the way you are and that you deserve to spend a really good time with someone who loves you just the way you are.

Tell me about the origination of the song “Too Much in Love.” There’s a bit of classic rock feel to it that’s really engaging.
I’m glad you picked up on the classic rock feel. The idea was to pay homage to the powerhouse that is Lenny Kravitz and seductively merge what I bring to the dance music genre packed with an edgy rock punch.

It’s hard not to love your cover of Sam Cooke’s “Stand by Me.” What drew you to that song?
Thank you for the love. It really means a lot to me that you appreciate it. I have always loved soul music from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Grew up on all of this rich music, so the chance to cover this classic was a no-brainer. I love paying homage to classic soul royalty and it felt really good on my voice, giving my interpretation of one of my favorite singers of all time.

Tags: Music

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