Alexandria Sightings – Kelly Willis: Translated into motherhood


Its the biggest adjustment youll ever have to make in your life.

Thats the best way alternative country artist Kelly Willis can summarize parenthood, a journey she and her husband, songwriting standout Bruce Robison, started over six years ago. While she wouldnt change a thing about her current life (which includes a stop at the Birchmere this Thursday, July 26), she admits the decision-making process of whether to start a family was difficult.

At that time, my career was going a little better than Bruces, explains the Annandale native. But, I really wanted to take a break from the business for a little while, so it made the whole thing hard to figure out. My husband always wanted me to make music and encouraged me with either choice Right about the time we had decided to start trying, Bruce had his first big hit performed by Tim McGraw called Angry All the Time [a #1 single on the county charts in early 2001]. The timing couldnt have been better, and financially it was okay if I wanted to take a couple of years off from the business, which I did.

Not knowing if she would ever return to music, Willis was enjoying domestic life, taking care of the couples first son, Deral, and making the trios Austin, Texas, house into a home. But shortly after the birth of twins Ben and Abby, Willis caught the music bug once again.

I really wanted to get back at it and at least get on the road again. I just felt I needed to get out and meet other people again. You can really get closed off from the rest of the world. Parenthood is a full-time job.  It seems like its never going to end and that taking care of the kids is all youre doing. So, finally I thought it would be better for my family and for my children if Mommy went back to work.

After a five-year hiatus which included the birth of her youngest son Joseph, Kelly Willis is back on store shelves with Translated From Love, an album her long-time collaborator Chuck Prophet states is her most adventurous to date. Being far away from her family while recording songs wasnt an issue, since success has allowed her husband to open up his own studio close to home. 
Composing the songs she chose to record though was a different story. Where in the past shed write close to the entire CD, Love features only six tunes that Willis had a hand in creating.

Motherhood hasnt changed what I write, but it has changed the way I write, Willis explains.  I cant do it now when the mood strikes me. Also, I have very little creative energy or time for writing. So, these days, I actually have to schedule a time to write, and I sit down with that purpose, which is just awkward to me.

Most musicians make money in this iPod world we live in by touring, which Willis says has been another casualty to parenthood. But, this 38-year-old mom still knows how to get out there and have a good time.

As we often joke whenever Bruce or I go on tour, its the parent that stays behind thats doing all of the work, and the one whos out making the money is having all the fun.

All shows are at 7:30 p.m., unless otherwise noted. Tickets available at all Ticketmaster outlets, or contact The Birchmere at 703-549-7500 or visit