Nicole Willis (born December 26, 1963) is an American singer/songwriter/producer/director and visual artist. Willis lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.
Willis contributed vocals in London, United Kingdom in 1985 with Washington Week In Review. Prior to that she was a member of The Hello Strangers and Blue Period with performances at Munson Diner and Danceteria's No Entiendes, based in New York while working at night clubs Berlin and Danceteria. She then toured with The The as a back up and lead vocalist in 1989. Nicole Willis was the lead vocalist of the nu-soul group Repercussions. Singles and albums were released on Mo' Wax, Reprise/Warner Brothers USA, Pony Canyon Japan. Producers of those records include Nicole Willis, Gary Katz, Daniel Wyatt, Genji Siraisi, and Gordon Clay. The single Promise Me Nothing from the debut album of Repercussions LP Earth and Heaven, peaked at number 6 in the Hot Dance Music, Club Play chart of Billboard magazine on 18 March 1995. Together with the legendary Curtis Mayfield, the band recorded a version of Mayfield's Let's Do It Again in which Willis sings a duet with Curtis Mayfield in 1994 released on Reprise/Warner Brothers Records. The group also released an album on Pony Canyon Japan, titled Charmed Life in 1997.
Willis has collaborated with Leftfield singing and writing lead vocals for Swords on the Rhythm and Stealth LP in 1999 on Hard Hands/Higher Ground/Sony BMG Records, which was also featured on the soundtrack for the film Go released 1999. The LP Rhythm and Stealth received a Platinum Sales Award in the United Kingdom. Willis has sung lead vocals to the track Call Of The Wild on the Jimi Tenor album Out Of Nowhere in 2000 on Warp Records. Willis collaborated with Nuspirit Helsinki, with writing and vocal on the track Honest from the self-titled album Nuspirit Helsinki released 2002 on Guidance Recordings. Willis also wrote and sang vocals on the track Are You Ready To Party? with Mr Comicstore in 2006 on Mamushi Records. Willis collaborated with Flexatones Originals on tracks, Cause I Want & Fresh released on Fat Belt Records in 2007. Willis has contributed lead vocals to the Shawn Lee track Jigsaw featured on the album Soul In The Hole released in 2009 on Ubiquity Records. She has also sung vocals on the track A Little Bit Of Soap on the new album from Pizzicato Five's Yasuharu Konishi solo project titled Pizzicato One. The album titled One And Ten Very Sad Songs was released on May 25, 2011 on Universal Music in Japan. Willis collaborated with partner Jimi Tenor & Abdissa Assefa on track Leatheries from their LP Itetune released in 2011 on Temmi Kongi Records, contributing spoken words and poetry. Willis wrote lyrics and sang on the track Bad For Me by Bosq featuring Nicole Willis released by Ubiquity Records in 2014.
Willis collaborated with artist Sophie Calle for her installation Take Care Of Yourself with a performance in time-based media in 2007, which exhibited at the French Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2007. Willis also contributed vocals to time-based media performance Rinologia of Barcelona based artist group Los Rinos who are artists Marcel.lí Antúnez, Pau Nubiola and film director, Sergi Caballero. Rinologia was performed at the BEM Fesival in Burgos, Spain in March 2007. Willis had 2 of her first solo exhibitions of oil paintings, in 2012, first of which were in March 2012 at Galleria Kingi Kongi in Helsinki, Finland and in November 2012 at Pirkko-Liisa Topeliuksen Galleria, also in Helsinki, Finland, both titled Gatherings. Willis will have a solo exhibition at Gallery Emil in Tampere, Finland titled Talking Trash; 2 February 2014 - 28 February 2014. Willis contributed 10 jewel cases, painted in acrylic and one musical track, of ten musicians/visual artists musical contribution, Do the Watusi (written by Jimi Tenor, Pete Toikkanen & Nicole Willis) to curator/artist Jaakko Tuomainen's group exhibition Soundtrack for Painting in 1 September 2012 - 30 September, 2012, at the Lahti Modern Art Kiosk, in Lahti, Finland. Willis has contributed a painting to a group exhibition to be shown in 18 July 2013 - 11 August 2013 in London, United Kingdom's A Side B Side Gallery, curated by artists Chloe Mortimer & Harry Pye, titled ELVIS: I Love You Because of which the subject is Elvis Presley.
On Sähko/Puu Recordings, Willis released her first solo albums Soul Makeover 2000 and Be It 2003. On those solo records Willis collaborated with producers and song writers such as Dharma One, Ercola, Nuspirit Helsinki, Jimi Tenor and Maurice Fulton. Willis and Tenor remixed Op*l Bastards single Funking in 2001 on Form and Function Records. In 2005 Willis collaborated with the Soul Investigators and released Keep Reachin Up on Helsinki's Timmion Records, produced by Didier Selin. The LP Keep Reachin' Up was critically acclaimed. The album has been since released in the United Kingdom on Above The Clouds Records, France, Benelux, Denmark, Spain and Italy on Differ-ant, USA and Canada on Light In The Attic Records in the years 2006 & 2007. Their song Feeling Free was chosen 2006 Worldwide Winner on the Gilles Peterson's BBC show.
The title track of the album Keep Reachin' Up was chosen by US President Barack Obama, as one of many songs on his Re-Election Campaign Spotify Playlist, in February 2012. The track If This Ain't Love(Don't Know What Is) was placed in the USA TV channel ABC's show Brothers & Sisters in season 2, episode 1 in 2007. The track No One's Gonna Love You was placed in Showtime's Ray Donovan in season 1, episode 3 in 2013.
Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators released an album, titled Tortured Soul in 2013 on Timmion Records in Finland, France, United Kingdom and other regions in the EU & North America, distribution by Differ-Ant S.A.R.L. - France, Groove Attack GmbH - Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Kudos Records Ltd - UK & Light In The Attic, USA. Tortured Soul received 4 out of 5 stars in a review at Finland's major newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat's Nyt magazine.Tortured Soul entered the Official Finnish Music Charts in its first week after release at number 8 in week 7 of 2013. On 10 May 2013, Willis and partner Jimi Tenor released album Enigmatic by their project COLA&JIMMU on their new record label Herakles Records, Finland. The digital format is available worldwide, CD and vinyl are distributed worldwide by Word And Sound Medien GmbH. COLA&JIMMU & Herakles Records went on to release a follow up titled I Give To You My Love & Devotion in 2014. The single Open Up Your Chakra peaked at position 21 in Japan's J-Wave HOT 100 Chart in June 2014.
Willis graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from her studies at Lahti Institute of Fine Arts, Lahti University of Applied Sciences with professor Markus Heikkerö in Finland, and Erasmus studies at Sir John Cass Department of Art, London Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, in 2008 & completed in 2009. Willis' concentration in her studies were oil painting, time-based media and performance.
Willis was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City. Willis' spouse is musician Jimi Tenor. They have two children.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license