We were lucky enough to catch the brilliant artist known as Willis Earl Beal or now, more recently, as Nobody. His work has ranged from neo-blues to straight urban gospel. He has since been in and out of the limelight, becoming somewhat of an enigma in the scene, if indeed he is part of one at all. One thing is for sure about Beal, he is truly unique.
If you know anything about Beal, you’ll know that hardly anyone really knows anything about Beal. It’s something of an alluring aspect to and artist. That ability to hide and craft your art and then expel this creation only to retreat again when suits. It is this kind of output which left me always hoping for a meeting with the man. Lucky for me Beal contacted me out of nowhere wanting to speak – to say I’m pleased is an understatement, i’m fucking honoured.
We spoke ahead of his new album which is available on Soundcloud, and which we will delve in to a little deeper very soon. The album is also available on cassette from Big Cartel – Buy it, idiot.
But for now take a listen to first track ‘Stroll’ and enjoy the words of a true artist.
Willis, where have you been?
My girlfriend and I are living in Tucson, Arizona. Before that, we were living in Portland, Oregon. I went on a European tour in August, bought a wonderful, powerful ’92 Buick for 1000 dollars and drove it down to Arizona from Oregon. She got a job as a cook in an Italian restaurant. I worked for a Target warehouse and as a sign flipper for awhile. These jobs got old FAST…..so I started busking again. This time, on 4th avenue in downtown Tuscon. I wear my mask and I sing from a portable speaker while playing my backing tracks. I’m starting to find some traction out here. I sing two nights a week for a classy little place called The Coronado Hotel on the corner of 4th. The guy who owns the joint gives me 50 dollars a night for Friday and Saturday. On the street, I am known as “Nobody”. People know me directly due to the music they experience when they pass me by. It’s liberating. It seems that I’m becoming a new creature, of sorts.
It feels a long time since you were last making impressions on the public consciousness, what has changed in your approach, if at all?
I am a better musician. More tuned in (or inward). You tune out when isolation is extreme. You tune in when you listen to the voices and report (or record). I interpret Universal feelings through the funnel of my limited perspective of reality and it manifests as a nursery rhyme. And my sound is more smooth but retains the warmth of home recorded tunes. Cheap Electronics, interweaving harmony, subtle gradation of atmospheric yet minimal patterns that are intended to indicate color. Same old stuff….just more nuanced. More sharp. More intentional
Since that time a lot has changed for the public, especially in America, does it feel like a new world to you?
My world is always new but the outside seems to never change……or is it the other way around? You see, “my”world and the “outside” world have parallel and juxtaposed relationship (admittedly a contradiction) in terms of perspective, but really, they cannot be separated. This “America” you refer to is a construct of the mind. This “world” of society is illusion but this illusion yields mostly misery due to rampant ignorance of truth…..which is simple death. So, essentially, no……it’s the same old shit but a different day. It’s like traveling back in time as a more mature version of yourself in a world that has forgotten about your existence.
What do artists, such as yourself, need to do to affect it, if anything at all?
The album is fairly succinct, was this a purposeful move?
That’s just the way it arrived. The closer I get to truth, the more succinct the material
The new album has a definite ‘feel’ was this an organic thing?
Of course. “Turn”; is about metamorphosis. My friend Florencio Illyana described the song “Feel”; from the new album as “Lyncanthropy blues”. When I asked him what that meant, he said Lycanthropy is Werewolfism or Shapeshifting. I told him he was a weirdo (just kidding). But more specifically, I believe that there are synchronistic, mystical clues in this record regarding the transition from selfish love to real, all encompassing love. A: Evolution is inevitable. It is only imperitive that I realize it every step of the way
You continue to change and evolve is that an imperative movement for you?
Evolution is inevittable. It is only imperitive that I realize it every step of the way
You’ve always been portrayed as a nomad of sort, is this correct and if it is does this affect your work?
I suppose I am a nomad, but that’s not neccesarily intentional. It’s what I am. When something IS something, then the work will reflect this fact……but you must clean the utensils and the oven. You must hone the method during the madness. Life is madness. We are method
How does music treat you Willis? How does it make you feel or want to feel? Your sound feels a veracious beast, are you an artist willing to cut himself open for his art?
Well, I prefer to be called Nobody but….. The music itself is a summarized interpretation of my feelings which, in this context, are different forms of the euphoric state. It’s like waking up 8 times at different times in a day or a lifetime. I can’t ever be destroyed. I am love. I know that I am love when looking at the desert sunset. Is there anything more open and bleeding than the recurring artistry of a sunset?
This man is the real deal. Whatever the fuck that might be.