Artist Interview: Willard McKiver and the Martin Eagle Trio
Tell us about yourself and your music
Music has always been a part of my life. I listen to all forms of music. My grandmother introduced me to singing around the age of six but it wasn’t until I was in my forties that I understood that she also was an avid music listener and lover. Many of the songs she introduced me to appeared to come from religion but were in fact Jazz pieces. Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Count Basie or Louis Armstrong were some of the voices that crept into the music that she played. She was the mother of eleven children and ensured that all of them played at least one instrument. My sister and I came along when she had her last daughter and we were there to hear each of them practice/play their instruments. We heard harmonies both instrumentally and well as vocally. Truly an invaluable treasure.
Talk to us more about your latest release
My latest album is a collection of many shades of blue. A compilation of tunes; the songs flowing seamlessly, connected by mood, and theme which the listener is wise to absorb as a whole to understand its complete meaning.
The group has been compared by some to the Nat King Cole trio; while some have compared my vocal sound/style to artist like Billy Prysock, Billy Eckstein, Johnny Hartman with a hint of Grady Tate and Lou Rawls. I am honored to be compared to these individuals.
I am blessed to have been allowed to work with Martin Eagle; a great pianist, lyricist and composer. Not only does he write, but he mentors with patience. He speaks to people where they are making sincere effort to understand them. His piano play has been compared to Bill Evans. He takes time to understand vocalists and play to their style but pushes them to go a little bit further with each song whether original or cover.
Ben Palmer, bassist and Dan Davis, percussionist, worked with us on this album. They have been listed as the top in their instruments in the Mid-Atlantic region. This is something I could only dream to have on a sophomore album! Add to that the artistry of Brian Miller, Saxophonist; Shana Tucker, Cellist and Scott Sawyer, guitarist; it was hard to believe that I could be so blessed to have a line up like this.
Although I like each of the songs on the album for different reasons, my favorite is I Got It Bad, a Duke Ellington tune. I love the story behind the song and it’s sultry feel creates beautiful images.
Jazz and Blues are my favorite genres of music because they allowed for the creation of all forms of American music. They are full of creativity, moods, possibilities and just down right fun!
What inspired you to write this release?
Writing this release feels good! I get to tell about my experiences as a musician as well as share the friendships and fun we have had as a group.
Any plans to release a video?
We would love to! However at present it is not something that is planned.
Any plans to hit the road?
Currently, we perform in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. We do not have any routine dates right now, but we would love for everyone to keep an eye open!
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
We write music that speaks to the heart and mind of people. We try to put ourselves into the character’s place when writing; writing miniature stories. When presenting that story we allow ourselves to explore sounds; not just repeating a phrase the same way each time it comes around in a song. Exploring the depth of jazz/blues using all the characters of the genre to build tension, suspense, passion and ultimately resolve (in some cases) the pressure.
Who have you been listening to lately?
I listen to everyone/everything. My favorites as I am writing this include Gregory Porter, Kurt Elling, Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, Alberta Hunter, Eva Cassiday, Earth, Wind and Fire, James Brown, Baby Seal and Pigmeat Markham, Louis Armstrong and Bach.
Tell us about your passions
My family is my passion now. I have an adult daughter who is passionate about singing; three other children who want to perform in various ways and a great sportsman. Both of my daughters have beautiful voices.
Building community is important to me. I own a non-profit that works to build stronger families by easing the financial pressures by providing health foods at little to no cost. The organization also works with youth to help them navigate through show business.
What else is happening next in your world?
I am currently investing in myself by taking acting and modeling classes on one hand. I decided that having this as part of my development can only enhance my stage performance. Besides you never know I may become the next Samuel L. Jackson!
I am also working on developing a premier Jazz restaurant in downtown Durham, NC.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Willard!