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 8:35 AM ET

CHRIS WILLIS shadow dancing xlrg | ADVOCATE.COM“Louder (Put Your Hands Up)” is going to be a huge club hit; I can already see it at every Pride party next summer.
Thank you very much. I am glad this record meets with your approval. To be embraced at every Pride party would be a legendary experience.

You genre-straddle a bit on this album — some rock, dance, pop, urban. Was there anything you left out on purpose?
Straddle is a good word. It’s been years since I released a solo project, so I had a lot to get off my chest. I wanted to expose some other dimensions of my persona. Seizing the opportunity to express myself in different shades and colors, my favorite colors — rock, dance, pop, and urban — and presenting this work to the world made me really happy. There are still more flavors I’d like to explore. I thought it wouldn’t be wise to give too much this go-round. I hope I leave everybody wanting more.

You’ve been backup singer for a bunch of great artists, from Dusty Springfield to Ricky Martin, which gives you privy to their work and world. What did you learn about those artists that people outside the industry don’t realize?
My experience with the enormously successful artists that I’ve worked with has been eye-opening. I find the more successful the artist, the more generous and selfless they are. They have every reason to take themselves too seriously, and yet, the times I’ve met them, I’ve come away touched by the depth of their humility.

You’ve had a long, successful business partnership with producer David Guetta. Is there a personal partnership in your life or are you single?
I am single.

Is being a black gay man living in the South any different than it is anywhere else? Why do you choose to live there?
Being a black gay man living in the South is very different than many other places. I prefer to live in a place where I feel safe. There are many parts of our own country and many countries around the world where the risk of abuse, torture, imprisonment, and even death for being out and proud is very real. No place is perfect, but I choose to live in the South because the proximity to a cosmopolitan city center with a reasonable cost of living is possible. I love long, hot summers and short winters. People are the same wherever you go, but I have found that people move a bit slower in the South and seem to practice more tolerance compared to other places I’ve been. Thankfully, my experience has been pretty uncomplicated. Most of all, living near the city where Martin Luther King Jr. was born gives me hope and faith in our world that peace and equality are really possible.

What’s next for you?  
What’s next is that I plan to continue releasing more great music on my label Veneer Records. Premium (Songs From the Love Ship) volumes 2 and 3 are coming soon, so keep your eyes and ears open for them. I’ve really enjoyed writing and collaboration with great producers and artists both on and off my label, so releases of some really great records should be hitting the airwaves soon. I also plan to cultivate my love for acting, visual art, and merchandising.

I’m scheduled to tour from now on into 2012, and I’m headed to India and Russia and Brazil for New Year’s Eve.

Tags: Music

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