The first couple of Texas country music reveal new tunes during Februaryresidency at Continental Club
Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison have a standing date night all this month: They are leaving their four children at home every Thursday night in February to take up residency in the Gallery at the Continental Club.
No, they're not sneaking out. Bruce and Kelly have been married for 15 years, raising four young children while managing their respective singing and songwriting careers.
With so much going on in their busy lives, it’s perhaps not surprising they have never made a record together. Well, that’s all changing. Husband and wife have been commuting back and forth between Austin and Nashville over the past few months to lay down tracks for their first collaborative LP.
Husband and wife have been commuting back and forth between Austin and Nashville over the past few months to lay down tracks for their first collaborative LP.
So far, they’ve recorded nine songs and have three more to go. All but three of the songs are written or co-written by Bruce and Kelly. They are also recording a Hayes Carll song and a tune penned by Robert Earl Keen.
Bruce’s manager, Mike Crowley, says, “The idea for the two recording together has been there for a long time but they both have had such busy careers — him as a hit songwriter and her as a recording artist.” He says things just recently came together, including the couple’s very successful Kickstarter campaign.
Many artists are turning to this type of creative funding platform, known as crowd-sourced funding, as a vehicle to pay for their latest projects. Fans get a chance to contribute to the creative process by pledging money and, in turn, get some kind of "reward" that may include exclusive downloads, shows and merchandise, while artists maintain control over their creativity.
Bruce and Kelly’s campaign had a target of $35,000 — they managed to secure nearly $45,000.
In addition to being in the studio, the two have been working on some of the 12 new songs to play for an audience. Crowley says that’s part of the idea behind their Thursday night gig at the Gallery.
If you’ve never been, the intimate venue is about the size of a large living room — literally. (When Bruce and Kelly took the stage the first night, Bruce said, “Welcome to our living room.”) According to a sign near the entrance, the place has a maximum capacity of 49 people. It seems like a great setting to get comfortable performing new material.
For seasoned professionals, Bruce and Kelly seemed a little nervous at that first show — it was kind of endearing. Early on, Bruce jokingly said, “We’re playing a lot of new songs tonight and we might forget all the lyrics and get some kind of instrumental sounding jazz thing going….I voted to make this [show] free, knowing what was coming.”
Besides having to work out keys between a few songs, no one seemed to forget the lyrics, and the new songs Bruce and Kelly sang between some of their older hits were very well received by the attentive room. Bruce seemed surprised himself, not at the reception so much as their performance.
“We are almost remembering all these songs. This is insane. Y’all have no idea.” I think the crowd at the Gallery had a good idea that what they were witnessing was pretty cool — Texas’ George and Tammy making beautiful music together in a very intimate setting.
Bruce and Kelly say they hope their new record will be out in the spring. If you want to hear some of their new tunes, you can go to their Kickstarter page, or you can head down to see them in person at the Gallery at the Continental Club every Thursday this month.