Our Guest The Otis Jones Project by Monica Yasher

Posted on 5/22/2010 by Monica Yasher

The Otis Jones Project was formed in Nacogdoches, TX by Josh McGee, Wil Willoughby, and Jim Hogle during the winter of early 2008. The group speaks of the importance of having a product before hitting that big Texas road, as they spent many hours behind closed doors creating a signature sound in order to create their first CD. 

This newly formed group, as of May 2008, has had some success in the Texas music market, as they are known for their high energy live shows.  You can hear this band on the Nacogdoches rock radio station, 90.1 KSAU, with their song of "Screamin’ and Cryin’".   The group has spread their wings from Nacogdoches, and is touring Texas making stops in Austin, Dallas, Tyler, Houston, Longview, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, and some of the smaller towns in between. If you can't catch this band live, you can catch them on a handful of college, independent, and internet radio stations—not bad for three boys from East Texas!

1) Who is your audience? Who would most listen to you?

Wil Willoughby: We’ve noticed that the people who listen to us come from a variety of backgrounds. Our influences are so diverse that there is something for everybody. At shows, we typically sell records to 21 year old club girls, 45 year old bikers, and everyone in between.

2) What does each person bring to the band?

Wil Willoughby: Josh is the business brain, Jim is the good vibe technician, and Wil is Mr. Fix-It.

Josh McGee: I think these guys(Wil and Jim) bring a lot of talent to the band. Musically, everyone is solid and we fit really well together. Collectively, we seem to have a good sense of aesthetics, atmosphere, and subtlety (musically speaking), which leads to a lot of great dynamics within the music.

3) How important was it for you to have a product, a CD, prior to hitting the club circuit?

Josh: We recorded an EP and had a song on local radio before we even played our first show and that was a big help in booking our early shows because of the exposure. Having a product to sell at shows also helps your band immensely on the financial end.

4) Not many artists work on stage presence today. It seems that you have. How important has stage presence been in your success?

Wil: Very important! The way we look at it is if fans pay to see a show they should damn well get their money’s worth!

Josh: Also, I think our stage presence is very natural and genuine. If I’m stomping my feet, or swinging my guitar around, or if Jim and I jump off stage into the crowd to dance with them, it’s because the music sort of makes us do it. It isn’t something that we necessarily choreograph but it’s definitely something we all have.

5) How did you all meet?

Wil: Josh and I played in another band that was formed by an artist who was signed to a small upstart Houston, TX label. We started playing together on the side and writing music and we decided to form our own group. I knew Jim for years and invited him to come play bass. The first time Josh and Jim met, the three of us wrote four songs in one night and basically never looked back.

6) What was your first gig like?

Wil: Exciting! We were ready and had a product to sell.

Josh: That was in May 2008. It went well--we had a great reception. It was at a motorcycle shop that basically throws these huge parties from time to time and we showed up and rocked all night. I recall that when we started our first song my guitar amp had the standby switch off so no sound came out on the first two hits of “Screamin’ and Cryin’.” Hahaha, I said “We’re The Otis Jones Project, and THIS is rock and roll!!” then nothing came out. We just did a quick “restart” and it was fine.

7) Creatively, do you work on writing songs together or singularly?

Wil: A little of both. Usually together, but sometimes one of us will bring in an idea that they worked up. Josh might come in with a new riff or a “bare bones” version of a song and we all work together on arranging it, writing the hooks, and polishing it up. We share all the writing credits equally for every song we write.

8) Where is the line drawn between blues and rock in your music?

Wil: There really is no line, we tend to draw on all kinds of influences in our music.

Josh: That’s hard to say because nearly everything we do has at least some blues undertone to it, even if it’s just in feeling. A lot of the scales and “moods” I play are overtly blues/soul/roots though; some are just twisted around or dirtied up to give that “rock” feel.

9) Being a fairly new band, do you have your sound established or are you still evolving? If established, describe your sound. If evolving, what are you still looking for?

Josh: I think that we do have a sound that is definitively “ours.” Even though we continue to evolve and grow musically, everything has very “Otis Jones” quality to it. What we have currently might best be described as Texas rock and progressive modern blues; there is a lot of blues and soul in it, but there’s also a lot of dirty, slightly twangy, hard rock in there as well. For instance, one night I was playing the Hendrix song “Castles Made of Sand” and a girl commented that my version has a distinct “Texas quality” to it. I know exactly what she meant, but it’s hard to explain. Then there are some things we do that I think are brand new and hard to describe (hence the “progressive” part) since I have no point of reference for it.

10) Will you remain a trio? Or do you see a four man band in the future?

Wil: We like to keep it simple! We have guests on stage with us occasionally, but, for now, three is good.

Tell me about your new CD.

11) How did you come up with the title?

Josh: Sexy June is the name of one of the songs on the album. I’m not sure why we named the album that--I just thought it sounded cool and I liked the imagery. The song, “Sexy June,” is one I wrote years ago and the name is derived from the title of the Beatles’ song “Sexy Sadie.”

12) What is your favorite song?

Josh: I think collectively our favorite song on the album is probably “Dirty.” Haha, when we play it live we always preface it with “This one’s for all you dirty cowgirls out there.” The break down in the middle with the “yeah, yeah, yeah baby’s” always get’s a great response live.

13) What song posed the greatest challenge to see to completion?

Josh: Probably “I Don’t Know.” It’s the longest track on the album and it took a long time to nail down the right feel for the solo in the studio. Byron Reinhardt, who co-produced the album with me, and I spent countless hours getting everything on that song just right. I swear that song haunted Byron’s dreams for weeks, hahaha. Generally speaking, we got most everything in one or two takes, including all the overdubs and guitar solos.

14) What would you like people to say about your music?

Wil: Damn! That was fun!

Josh: I just like it when people tell us they like our music. Most often, people tell us that it’s nice to hear good original music, and it feels good to hear things like that. It’s nice to be appreciated because this is A LOT of hard work.

15) What is next for you?

Wil: Keep playing shows and writing music. Keep having fun! Hopefully, we’ll get the opportunity to make another record.
Perhaps you would also enjoy reading another Southern guest Glenn Patrik.
Copyright © 2010 Copyright Monica L. Yasher and The Otis Jones Project. All Rights Reserved.

Photographs provided by The Otis Jones Project. All Rights Reserved.

Thanks for sharing your music with us!

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