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Willa Ford


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Remember Jessica Rabbit's immortal catchphrase, "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way?" Those eight words are the antithesis of what makes Willa Ford unique in the pop music universe. Because not only does the 22-year old Floridian refuse to pretend she's a goody two-shoes but, more importantly, she's no cartoon character. Willa Ford is a deceptively complex individual, firmly at the helm of her own career.

On her sophomore, yet-to-be-titled Lava full-length album, the singer reveals facets of her talent only hinted at on her 2001 debut Willa Was Here (featuring her smash hit "I Wanna Be Bad"). From the blazing lead single, the dancehall romp "A Toast To Men," and the sensual electronic throb of "Sexysexobsessive," to the Smashing Pumpkins-esque orchestral grandeur of "I See You" and the poetic "Pieces," Willa breaks plenty of new ground.

"I mix a lot more electronics and rock with my urban influences on this record, " she receals. Skeptics may cock an eyebrow when Willa cites nonconformist icons like Bjork and Radiohead among her favorite artists, but the more sophisticated grooves of her new effort substantiates those words of praise. "The arrangements on this new record are not normal," she admits. "There are lots of very strange harmonies, things that are trick for a normal person to pick out." Instead of hiring outside singers, Willa arranged and sang the backing vocals herself. "I do all the orchestrations myself, too. That way, nobody can take my sound...unless I arrange for them."

When Willa Ford talks about "her" sound, she means it literally. While other artists are content to rely on hired guns, Willa took charge of the making of the new labum, limiting herself to just two collaborators - Toby Gad (Sita, Jaci Velasquez) and Willa Was Here vet Eve Nelson - and working in small studios, maintaining an emphasis on refining her uniqe sonic identity. "Did I ask for producers who get $75,000 to produce a song? No. They get that money because they've created a sound, and it's their sound. I don't want their sound. Their sound is not going to help me grow as a person."

Willa began writing these songs while touring in support of Willa Was Here, working in a small mobile studio in the back of the bus. She took inspiration from a variety of sources; the salacious first single, "A Toast To Men" - featuring the rapid-fire patter of special guest May - borrows its infectious hook from a classica sorority chang. "It's an old toast in sororities," she explains. "Almost all sorority girls, from some day and age know it." It dawned on Willa that its four simple, spirited lines represented and eduring artifact of female empowerment that hadn't been grossly overexposed or grown dated. "It was something that was still real and contemporary, but women who were 40-years old could remember it, too."

On a different note, Willa also offers up "Who I Am," written from the point of view of somebody gay. "The song is basically saying, 'I'm sorry if I disappoint you, but this is who I am.' I'm not gay, but I have many friends that are, and I related to their experience in another sense, of being an outcast. Because somewhere in the course of my career, I got stuck in this little container, and became somebody that nobody truly understood."

Ah, yes. The reality of Willa Ford versus the myth. Contrary to rumor, Willa was no overnight sensation. Raised in a musical family, she began singing publicly in third grade, and by the age of 11 had gone professional. Nor is she the temperamental sexpot some miguided souls have made her out to be. Willa is simply a young woman who is not afraid of her sexuality ("I'm a healthy, 22-year old female. I'm not abstinent. Sue me.") or speaking her mind.

"It's funny. When people meet me, they often say, 'You're not what I expected.' What did they expect? Some diva bitch that stomps in and starts breaking things?" Wrong. That's not Willa. When it's time to work, she works hard. And, because of her youth and good looks, she works harder than most to gain the respect of her industry peers. "There are so many singers in my genre that are saying, 'I'm writing my material,' and they're contributing two lines. When I go in to write and record with other professionals, it's exciting to watch people change their mind about me."

A lot more people can expect to change their mind about Willa after they hear this album. Because this is the work of a seasoned performer coming into her own as a writer, as an artist. "There are a lot of people out there who love to just take direction from somebody else," she concludes. For Willa Ford, that would never suffice. "It took me a long time to create my sound, but this record was about proving that, musically, I stand alone. "Well then, that calls for another toast: To a job well done.

Birth Name: Amanda Lee Williford

Birthdate: January 22nd 1981

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