5 Questions with Willie West on The Soul Sessions and April 21 at Crooner’s

Excited to get to know Willie West a little better before his big show on April 21 at Crooner’s. He hasn’t played in years, and we’re lucky to have him here. Fun to hear about the Minnesota connections in the latest album – The Soul Sessions.

You have a long and illustrious career, with close calls, closing record labels and a stint as lead singer with many popular bands, including the Meters a, right before their breakup. I won’t ask you to retell or reflect on all of it but tell us how you found yourself in Minnesota.

It’s been quite a ride! I’ve worked with so many bands, and had many of my own. I moved to NOLA from Raceland, LA in the early 60’s. I had a lot of family living there, too. I have worked most of the clubs in NOLA and in the southern circuit. My wife is from Minnesota, and after Hurricane Katrina we decided to move on up.

What impact has Minnesota had on your new release The Soul Sessions?

Minnesota has had a giant impact on Soul Sessions, it is under, over and inside every note. I picked a bunch of my favorite songs and they were masterfully performed by a bunch of outstanding and talented Minnesota musicians. Recoding for Loud Folk Records here in Minnesota gave me fresh energy and I was so excited to work with them.

Somebody Have Mercy is a classic soul song – the horns, the keyboard and your honey rich voice. Does the song come from personal experience (or experiences) or a culmination of stories heard over the years? My experience of going down to the bus station is most likely not like yours, but the music puts me back to waiting for the bus all the same.

Well now, I am 81 years old. I have come up during segregation where the black musicians could perform on the bandstand but had to come and go by the back door. I played the Chitlin’ Circuit. Somebody Have Mercy takes me back to the Civil Rights Era. I lived it, and those experiences, bad and good, shaped me into who I am today.

Said to Myself has such a different vibe, upbeat and uplifting and funky. Do you prefer sad, hard-times songs or the getting-there good times, hip shaking songs? Or times you know you prefer one over the other?

I like to shake it up: Blues with a Funk flavor and Funk with a Blues flavor! Blues is a lot of hard times, lost loves and bad luck. Funk is let’s party!

Please tell us about the show coming up on April 21 at Crooner’s. It’s your first time playing in a while but also, it’s an interesting format.

Yes! I am really looking forward to that! Some of the guys that played on the album are coming to help me out. It will be a great time, my very first time performing at Crooner’s. I’m going to do some songs from the album and then do interviews. I’m looking forward to meeting up with some of my fans. Come and down and holler at me! I need to see your face in the place!

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