Reconnecting with artists is always fun, especially when they are enthusiastic about our great State of Maine — such is the case of today’s chat with Jontavious Willis, who will be coming to One Longfellow Square. He called me from Luthersville, Georgia, on Jan. 5, and the bluesman was more than happy to talk with me again about his thoughts on the venue, his music, and what’s happening with his next album.

Jontavious Willis Dsto Moore photo

Q: We’ve talked before, almost a year ago in March, and you were coming into One Longfellow Square for the first time, the same venue you’ll be at on the 10th of February.
Willis: Yeah, I loved it! It was a great show. I enjoyed myself there.

Q: I’ve talked with a lot of people who’ve performed there, and they all say the same thing.
Willis: Yeah, yeah, it was fun … that was my first time in Maine; I went back later on to Rockland, and that was a great experience, too.

Q: Having watched a lot of your concert videos on YouTube, I really enjoyed seeing your interplay with your audiences — that’s something special, I think.
Willis: Yeah, it is. One thing I try to do is take less of the attention off of me … I don’t want it to seem like it’s just about me even though you’ve come to see me, but it’s about us and about the moment we can make together, you know? I like to interact with the audience, talking to them in the beginning, and that’s one thing about the blues — it’s about sharing the experience, and there’s one thing about performing, too, is sharing the experience. Sometimes when you get on that stage and you’re 5-, 6- or 10-feet taller than everybody else and you’re looking down on them, I want folks to feel like we live all together (chuckle) ‘cause that’s how the music makes me feel.

Q: And One Longfellow is probably one of the most intimate venues here in our state — you can make eye contact with everyone there.
Willis: Yeah, I always like the more intimate settings, and you’re right: it was really great there.

Q: Now, are you still doing your solo acoustic show?
Willis: Yup, solo acoustic — I’ve got a band, but we do it sparingly because I’ve kind of studied all my life to play solo, and a lot of my repertoire is geared in that direction: just me, myself and I.


Q: (Chuckle) And I think that that also enhances the intimacy factor, as well — it makes the audience feel like you’re performing with them, not at them, and that’s nice.
Willis: Yup, for sure, I always try to keep that solo element in there even when I’m with a band because that intimacy part is definitely the part I appreciate the most. You kind of lose it sometimes in those bigger venues, it’s a little harder to get it there because people are kind of geared to hear a band with the drums and bass, which I do love, also, but that solo stuff is where I spend most of my day listening to, what I’ve been really listening to since I was 12, you know?

Q: I understand you’ve got a new album coming out, a follow-up to the one that brought you to Portland in the first place?
Willis: Yeah, yup, sure do! We plan to put it out this first quarter — it’s already been recorded and we plan on doing some mixing and mastering next week, so yeah, it’s a good one. Even before the mixing and mastering, this is the most proud I’ve been of something that I’ve done — I think it’s a good reflection of my playing and songwriting and arranging, as well. It’s a mix of the band I told you about as well as some solo, duo and trio stuff. I’m looking for 15 songs that it might be changed a little bit but, yeah man, it’s in the can.

Q: Now, I don’t like to assume but I will anyway by saying that folks at One Longfellow will be hearing some of that new material?
Willis: Yeah, yeah, for sure! I’m playing a couple of those tunes off of there and then I’ve got some new stuff, too, it’s a new year so I had to bring in a few new tunes.

Q: Is it hard to put together songs for an album — does it take a while?
Willis: Naw, it don’t take that long. You get songs that keep coming back and you set some that just sprout up out of nowhere … some that you kind of interpret from other people’s stories. For me, it’s different places bring different songs, and I try to get a full range of emotions: the first thing I do is try to hit the “funny,” then I try to hit the “real,” then I try to hit the “sad;” and you can hit those different emotions differently, too.

Q: When did you say the new album will be coming out?
Willis: We’re working to put it out in the first or second quarter of this year — we don’t have a firm date but it will definitely be the first or second quarter of the year.

Q: Is there anything, sir, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Willis: Ah, just mention that if they like traditional blues and good storytelling and folk music and maybe, you know, stuff in between that, they should come on down — I’m the guy they want to see and I’d love to see them … I love meeting people so, yeah, tell ‘em to come on down — I love being back in Maine! (

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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