Album at a glance: Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy – Habit of Being “Habit of Being” is the latest release from the shockingly productive Lawrence, Kansas act Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy. The 4 songs only run about 9 minutes but give you a fair sampling of what Willis does. The EP is available on 7-inch vinyl in a few different colors that also unlock a bonus track. The opening title track is a punky romp while “Nobody Calls Me Home” is an obvious tip of the cap to The Replacements despite clocking in at under a minute and the lyrics consisting of nothing more than the title, the Stinson-style riff alone makes it worthwhile though. “When The Snow Melts” is easily the strongest track here ending the EP. A trotting bass line carries the song right into several harmonica parts adorning the slowed down number nicely helping it shine. Key Track: “When The Snow Melts” ” - Clint Wiederholt

Vocal On Top

New Music: Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy - Habit of BeingEP Lawrence's Til Willis and his band Erratic Cowboy are back again with a new four song EP. It's Willis' 15th release but it's his first that has been pressed on vinyl.Willis' music always reminds me of a punk-rock Springsteen or Steve Earle, especially his vocals. The new EP, Habit of Being, is no different. My only complaint about the EP is that I wish some of the songs and the EP as a whole were longer. The second track, 'Happy Birthday to the Bomb' is a gorgeous track that clocks in at exactly one minute. The following track, 'Nobody Calls Me Home', reminds me of some of the best tracks from The Replacements with a fantastic guitar riff, but it's less than a minute long as well.The highlight of the EP for me is the closing track 'When the Snow Melts'. It really highlights what a great songwriter Willis is.You can listen to the EP on Willis' soundcloud page and you can order the 7" on his website.-Matt” - Matt Schram

Jeopardy Of Contentment

Four songs hit from the future-rustic Midwestern trio The title cut to Habit of Being is a rough and rocking number shot through with elements of surf guitar. Like a blast of pure Springsteen by way of the Gun Club, Willis’ voice carries a weight with it that lends believable quality to the repeated refrain of “I’ll ride on.” “Happy Birthday to the Bomb” is the quieter affair between it and “Nobody Calls Me Home,” with its viola sweetening a sad tune. “Happy Birthday” and “Nobody Calls Me Home” could even be seen as fraternal twins — they’re both born of the same short sadness — clocking in rather quickly, but while “Happy Birthday” is plaintive in its longing, “Nobody Calls Me Home” is a hoarse shout. The final song, and the sole cut on the second side, “When the Snow Melts,” is a mournful affair. According to Willis’ liner notes, the song was written after the “untimely death” of his brother. It’s astonishingly gorgeous, and the high lonesome sound of Lori Baker’s violin paired with Willis’ harmonica — to say nothing of the Dylanesque lines, “the only cure for death/Is to never be born” — is the sort of thing that could pull tears from the most stoic.” - Nick Spacek

Modern Vinyl

Last November, Lawrence's Til Willis released three full-length albums simultaneously. There were two solo albums, Hackles and Tin Star, as well as Cars Etcetera, recorded with his full band, Erratic Cowboy. Together, they added up to a staggering 41 songs. I tend to write a lot, and be writing all the time," Willis says with a laugh. "The guys in the band like to joke that, on any given day, I have half an album ready to go." Willis sounds breezy when he says this, but with this kind of output, he can afford a little nonchalance. The three albums, he says, are meant to work both as individual pieces and as one cohesive block, with each record complementing and contrasting the other two. You can hear, for instance, Cars as a trek across the open prairie,Tin Star as a loll at home next to the fireplace, and Hackles as a campfire evening in a hollow somewhere. Both solo albums have an inviting, ramshackle feel to them, but Cars Etcetera is a bit different. On Cars, Willis says, he wanted something more rounded than on the solo recordings. And its full-band sound is the auditory embodiment of seasonal affective disorder, with Willis and Erratic Cowboy more stark in their Americana. We were going for a more polished element with the band, but we're not very polished people," Willis says. He's not exaggerating. Most of the songs on all three albums weren't cut in a professional studio. Tin Starand Cars Etcetera were recorded entirely at Willis' home. Some of Hackles was laid down at home, too, with the other part of that record made in what Willis refers to as "a little cabin" in his hometown of Ouray, Colorado. The cabin, built in 1900, was a bit of a refuge for me when I started recording Hackles," Willis says. "It's very small — one room, essentially — and just felt like the right place to begin work on those songs. I can still hear its reverberation, particularly on songs like 'Savior's Things' and 'Gravity.' The rough-hewn timbers of the cabin, I suppose, are a bit like the rough-hewn sentiment and story of the songs started there. Hackles came from a batch of songs that Willis says he'd been working on for almost five years. It's a solo record, but its electric elements make it roar, starting at the top with "Savior's Things." Throughout the album, you can pick up on the fragments and the frayed edges, the signs of a half-decade's tinkering. Tin Star, on the other hand, was done in a day. I got up one morning and recorded it," Willis says. "The next day, I mixed it and just let it be what it was going to be. Some of the production choices I made were because I was thinking about those early Leonard Cohen albums when I made it. They would use these massive amounts of reverb on things, which made it intimate but, at the same time, put in a whole different space. But Tin Star doesn't sound rough or rushed, an ease that Willis attributes to the comfort in which he recorded it. When he doesn't have to worry about buying studio time, for one thing, time becomes fluid, the creative process easier. It's nice to be able to record at home," he says, "because nobody's looking at the clock and worrying about paying for time when we're working up parts and everything. I like starting off without an idea of what direction I'm going when I start to record them, because then it gets to be more of an exploration of the tune. None of that explains why he put out all three albums at the same time rather than spreading the wealth a bit. When I ask him why he did it this way, he refers again to his prodigious writing habit. It was simply time, he says, to pre-empt a possible logjam. It needed to be cleared," Willis says. "It might have been more beneficial to release them separately, but a decision was made — almost more of a challenge to myself, like, 'Do I dare do this?' Besides, Willis adds, the landscape of the music industry is so uncertain that a little gamble doesn't hurt. The horizons keep shifting the further you walk, and you just have to take each one as it comes, even when it's too dark to see the path," he says. "Your flashlight only goes so far.” - Nick Spacek

The Pitch

“Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy are actually anything but erratic, they have honed in on just a portion of their sound to make “Cars Etcetera” a bumping rock record. They even organized three albums for release on the same day in order to ensure cohesive groups of songs. On “Cars” the pace is kept intense and “Winter In America” finds a much more relaxed, driving groove to follow. The 90s obviously hold a strong place in the hearts of the band as they could fit right in somewhere between alternative and power pop from that era. “YWYHOYD” is another clear standout with crisp guitar licks and a strong backline. There is something undeniably unique about Willis and his band you might not be able to peg, but with this album it is obvious they are doing something right.”” - Clinton Wiederholt

Vocals On Top

“Til Willis, "Winter In America" Willis performs a solo version of a song which was already pretty stark when backed by his band, Erratic Cowboy, on their new album, Cars Etcetera. Here, it's positively bleak, working very much in the vein of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska.”” - Nick Spacek

The Pitch

“Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy describe their sound as “future-rustic indie-rock,” which sounds about right. ‘Cars Etcetera’ has an ’80s post-punk vibe guaranteed to get you out of your chair and bouncing around the room.”” - James Stafford

Diffuser.FM

Til Willis has threatened us with a double or triple album release for some time now. The only thing that prevented him from doing so was that more albums got in his way. (SEE: last year’s great Crow, Soldier.) But now we have three distinct albums, all released at the same time. A new one with his band Erratic Cowboy, an eclectic solo collection that has been in the works for a while, and new solo record, just because. These three albums represent what make Willis and his band, featuring bassist Eric Binkley and drummer Matt Otting, so great. Rustic Americana distilled through Sonic Youth and Dean Wareham. Springsteen grated through serious funk. Blues through pop through folk. Although some might see Hackles, the collection of solo tracks, and Tin Star, the new solo record, as tossed off bonus discs, all three develop their own worlds to explore and demonstrate serious fucking songcraft. About that. These songs are genuine and sincere, something that might turn away cynics and lovers of irony. They are fleshed out full-blooded, infused with politics and poetry. But these songs are not over-the-head or too on-the-nose or kneecapped by Willis’ preoccupations. I admire greatly the skill the band showcases on Cars, Etcetera, the album credited to Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy. The first track, “Cars” explodes with the tight focus of a racehorse, Otting’s bracing backbeat galloping the listener through the paces. Elsewhere, on mid-album track “11:10” the band blossoms below the surface with a meditative sweep and hypnotic dirge. Although this album, as well as Hackles and Tin Star are homejobs, there’s a definite vision and competency throughout. Willis is adept at wrenching weird noises and unusual color from his battery of toys and incorporating these elements to give his songs a richer, deeper breath. He is also adept at creating a world with his guitar and his dynamic vocals, as he proves on the mostly acoustic and rootsy Tin Star.  So yeah. Three albums. All worth your attention.” - Chance Dibben

— Freelance Music Review

“Til Willis is the kind of secret treasure for songwriters. The kind that one day you’ll be listening to the radio and hear a song that sounds both vaguely familiar and terribly new and you’ll ask, “Who is that?”. And they’ll say some forgettable name but then end the sentence with a smile they’ll add, “but it was written by Til Willis.””” - Robb McCormick

— Fan Review

Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy have made some strides in the Kansas City and Lawrence music scenes. Now, they just wish everyone would get their darn name right. The trio has heard just about every incorrect variation: Electric Cowboy, Eclectic Cowboy, Elastic Cowboy. “Erotic Cowboy — that’s my favorite,” laughs Willis, the Lawrence band’s lead singer, songwriter and guitarist. “Some day, we’ll probably have to record an album called ‘Erotic Cowboy’ that’s all ‘70s porn music with wah-wahs.” Surprisingly enough, all of those descriptors fit — well, all of them except for ‘erotic.’ (Although Willis did tell St. Joe Live about a gig he played in Mississippi in which two older gentlemen dropped their pants and started dancing.) Willis, drummer Matt Otting and bassist Eric Binkley always put on an ‘electric’ rock show full of energy and dramatic moments. The three-piece is certainly ‘eclectic,’ weaving together Americana, blues, roots, punk, soul, funk and jazz through its classic rock core. Heck, even ‘elastic’ seems accurate considering how much the group stretches itself every time it creates a new song or records a new album. But, yes, ‘Erratic’ is most apt. The direction of the band’s tunes often veers unpredictably. For a group that frequently hearkens back to such classic roots rock greats as Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy sure do play with some weird noises. In “My Own Time” (from the 2013 album “Crow, Soldier”), for example, the use of “pocket synths” gives the building powerhouse song a haunting, theremin-esque quality. It’s difficult to pin such an adventurous act into any one genre. That’s why Willis, Otting and Binkley created their own. “As a band, we’re constantly asked, ‘What style of music do you play?’ We lovingly refer to what we do as ‘future-rustic indie roots rock,’” Willis explains with a chuckle. “I think that confuses people enough that they stop asking, but gives them kind of an idea of what we’re doing.” Throughout his long music career, Willis never has abided by limitations. Honestly, he didn’t know any other way. “My favorite bands kind of did a little bit of everything — be it The Clash or Neil Young. Everything was always up for grabs,” he says. “I just thought that that’s what being in the rock genre meant.” Willis says he’s often drawn to songwriters who pen vague, broken-but-meaningful narratives. He loves listening to attention-grabbing storytellers like Waits, Billy Joe Shaver and Kris Kristofferson. Willis has followed their paths. He says he never writes tunes with a complete story concocted in his head because the end result often feels too contrived. Instead, he starts with one intriguing line and builds from there. He takes a similar approach to writing the music. He starts with an interesting riff and builds from there. “I don’t tend to think of a style to write in. I don’t sit down and think, ‘I’m gonna write a song that’s gonna have a bluesy tinge.’ I follow what fascinates me,” Willis says. He often chases his fascination to groovy, catchy, diverse rock songs that deftly explore themes of love, lust and modern struggles. Many of his hometown fans have referred to Willis as “Lawrence’s Bruce Springsteen” and it’s not just because he’s a prolific local veteran. He’s earned it through his deep, raspy vocals and a comparable songwriting style. Take the song “Working Down” as a prime example. Although it’s rich with hooks and boasts a Western lounge flair, Willis says the song was written in the spirit of someone absolutely beaten down. Inspired by news stories of hurricanes, Willis starts with the line “house under water” and stitches together a tale about the rising desire to give up on life. By the end, he gives his protagonist a chance to skip town with “five gallons of freedom” and “matches to spare,” but what happens is anyone’s guess. “It’s about that feeling that no matter what you do, it’s not enough. And I think there’s a lot of people out there right now that feel that way. I know I feel that way,” Willis says. “... It’s a great, very American way to end this story.” While “Working Down” remains one of his favorites, Willis has about 100 more songs to choose from at each gig, from the Latin-flavored “Blue Impala” and the British punk-inspired “Infected Moon” to the new alternative jam “January 8th” and the hard rock groove “I Can’t Dance.” Believe it or not, Willis has three albums in the works that should be released this year. One with Erratic Cowboy already has been recorded, but he says two more albums are on the way — in total, about 40 new songs will be added to his catalog. Needless to say, Willis writes songs like a madman. “I’ve always written like that. I always have tons of songs laying around,” Willis says. “I feel like if you’re going to be a songwriter, that’s what you do. You don’t just write enough songs for a new album and that’s it. I’m constantly writing new material, and at any time, I have at least an album and a half in some stage of completion.” The band recently released a live album called “Live at Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club” that was randomly recorded in one take, and Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy frequently has been blessed with radio play on 90.1 KKFI in Kansas City and 90.7 KJHK in Lawrence. When he’s not playing shows or writing songs, Willis is hosting his own weekly radio show called “Oscillator Radio” in which musicians improvise an entire 20-minute set on the fly. The likable but creatively off-kilter Willis should fit right in with the rest of the lineup in St. Joseph. Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy will perform with Nebraska’s Universe Contest and local alt-rock bands Dsoedean and Cupcake at 10 p.m. May 9 at Legends Sports Cafe. After that night, music fans in St. Joseph should remember the band’s name. Shea Conner can be reached at shea.conner@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom. ” - Shea Conner

News-Press Now

Til Willis has been a performing singer-songwriter for a very long time that began at age thirteen. Til Willis came along after the birth of rock and roll, but before the setting of the sun in the home state of Elvis. A state that as John Magnie says, “Eats the roots of American music.” And, out of this climate Til strode with the confident swagger of a man possessed with the desire to be a songwriter. Growing up on rock and roll made back during a time when “rock and roll” mattered, and it wasn’t about fashion and packaging, Til strives to deliver substance in his own orchard of sound. A listen to any of his albums confirms this level of commitment. Over the years on the road he has performed both solo and with various bands through the country. Along the way he has shared stages with the likes of Pete Seeger, The Subdudes, Ronny Elliott, Fainting Goats etc.. In 2012 he formed Til Willis & Erratic Cowboy. There lyric driven future rustic indie / roots rock style of the most recent album, Crow, Soldier has been called, “as adventurous as it is captivating..” and, “amazing, creative and forward-thinking.”” - staff

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