David and Willie

David and Willie

David & Willie

photo by Antoine Sanfuentes

I was 22 years old when I met Willie. He was 80. From the first day in the studio, it was clear that this was someone who had spent a lifetime devoted to music. He let nothing slide. On the fourth day of recording, Willie took my hand and said, simply, “I’m going to help you”. It was a pivotal moment for me because someone had taken what was once solely my project and also made it their own.

I flew from DCA to MEM about a dozen times. One of our last recording sessions was tracking vocals and strings to “Stay Away from You”. It’s a song about feeling vulnerable and the string arrangement brought me to tears. Willie had been recording with me all week in a wheelchair with a broken hip. I couldn’t find the words to say “thank you”, and he didn’t need words to tell me that he wanted me there.

It’d been a long day, month, and year at the studio. The good and the bad moments blur into that feeling where you realize you have a long way to go but you don’t mind. It was the love and support of my producer that guided me here and this album certainly would not sound the same without him.

In loving memory of Willie Mitchell


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