Is Kelly Willis the Next Faith Hill?
It was on the day of a high school trip to the beach that she entered a local record-as-you-pay booth, where she bellowed out her own version of “Teddy Bear” by Elvis Presley. Her then boyfriend was so impressed that he allowed her to join his rockabilly band at sixteen. Willis moved local audiences so much that it wasn’t long she became the lead singer of the group, which they renamed Kelly and the Fireballs. They became the toast of the town in Virginia in the late eighties, before they ended up settling in Austin, Texas.
Kelly Willis’ first big sign was with MCA records in the early 90’s, where she continued to impress and move audiences with her album debut “Well Traveled Love.” Even though many Kelly Willis songs received positive reviews and she had developed a loyal following, sales were unfortunately lower than they had anticipated. But Willis kept grinding it out, and with her persistence, it finally paid off. After leaving MCA, she was signed by Rykodisc, a record label that granted her something very few labels ever grant: complete creative freedom.
The fifth time proved to be the charm. Shortly after signing with Rykodiscd, Kelly Willis once again stirred up the critics and a loyal fanbase with one of her biggest album releases, “What I Deserve,” which featured such hits as “Got a Feelin’ for Ya” and “Not Forgotten You.” Her husband and fellow country musician, Bruce Robison, helped in the production. The success opened up the door to a world tour with Lilith Fair, where she also performed with country music’s heavy hitters Alison Krauss and Vince Gill.
In 2002, Willis also added a sixth release, “Easy.” Her fanbase remained loyal and the album was another success, which kicked off her own Kelly Willis tour. Many have compared her to Faith Hill and Shania Twain, even placing the duo between Faith Hill and Tim McGraw with Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison in the same category.