Michelle Willis Bio
Michelle Willis is a singer, songwriter, and keyboard player who lives and works primarily out of Toronto, Canada. Born in England and raised in Toronto, she comes from a family of "lets sing that James Taylor song again" kind of people at holidays. She spent most of her upbringing singing in church choirs and lifting Carole King and Ray Charles records. Since graduating from the Humber College jazz program, she has shared the stage and studio with artists such as Stuart Mclean & The Vinyl Café, Zac Brown Band, Snarky Puppy, Iggy & The Stooges, Peter Katz, Hawksley Workman, Parachute Club and Nikki Yanofsky to name a few.
In 2009, Michelle began working with slide guitarist Don Rooke and his band The Henrys, a modern roots band whose previous front-women included Mary Margaret O'Hara, Becca Stevens, and Martina Sorbara. Together, and soon joined by violinist Hugh Marsh, they began creating new material and decided, naturally, to form a new band. Thus began Three Metre Day. Over the last 4 years, Three Metre Day, a band whose sound is defined by the rich textures of slide guitar, violin, pump organ and voice, has played numerous Canadian and U.S venues and festivals, had their album, Coasting Notes, featured on radio stations across Europe, United States, and Canada (CBC The Signal's Laurie Brown is our main gal!), and somewhere along the line managed to compose the score to a feature film directed by Michael McGowan. The film is called Still Mine, and features the brilliant acting work of James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold. It was nominated at the Canadian Screen Awards for best actor, best picture, and…. original score. We were very proud, and very happy to have an occasion to dress up so nice.
During this time, Three Metre Day also made friends with James Williamson, guitarist of Iggy and the Stooges, and overall great human being. We found ourselves recording pump organ, violin and slide guitar on Iggy's latest record. Pump Organ! Iggy and the Stooges! Who'da thunk.
Fast forward to now, and Michelle has been busy as a sideman keyboard player and back up vocalist for a number of bands and songwriters in the city. This includes Peter Katz, Jadea Kelly, Lorraine Segato, Bryce Jardine & the Parlour Birds, Robyn Dell'unto, Hylia, and The Measure among others. This is a lot of fun, and where she (who am I kidding, I'm obviously writing this) thrives in learning the art of the Nord Stage 2. However, all this time amidst playing with all these people, Michelle has written, performed, and recorded her own music. In fact, her own music is why she (I, this is getting silly) ever became a musician in the first place.
Songs We Write, Covers We Love is a series that I (I give up) began in May of 2013. Hosted in the cozy front room of the Tranzac Club, it was my way of beginning to perform my own work while getting to play with my favourite songwriters and musicians. The template is this: We play a few songs by me, a few songs by them, and a few fave covers. The fun part is that we each cover a version of each others songs, as well as find a way to play everything together. So there isn't any "Here's my song…here's your song..." business. Nearly every show features a different house band made up of Toronto's finest. It's a good time!
2014 brought some incredible things, including two tours of my music throughout multiple house concerts and venues in Ontario and Quebec, as well as shows in the US (Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, and the Lily Pad in Cambridge MA). This was also the year I began fundraising to make my debut solo record "See Us Through", for which we raised nearly $14,000. Production started in January 2015 and the album is nearly finished...
So that's it! You made it to the end of this bio. Thank you so much for reading the whole thing. If you're a local or visiting Toronto, be sure to stop by my weekly residency at Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse. I'm there every week on various days, 6-9pm, singing and playing a collection of soul, r&b, folk and pop covers on a pretty black grand.