Willem McCormick is a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. Having several regional hits since the late 1990s, McCormick's songs are often about life's trouble, girls, and life's everyday girl troubles. Guitar World magazine described McCormick as knowing a thing or two about writing a killer song hook.
Living an hour south of New Orleans in Houma, Louisiana, McCormick, at the age of nine years had an interest in bluegrass music and showed an interest in learning the banjo. Upon realizing there would be no banjo teacher available McCormick's mother would enroll him in guitar classes at Kenny Hebert's Music. Upon getting his hands on an electric guitar his music preference of choice became rock. As a teenager he played in a few garage bands and listened to Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and other guitar based hard rock bands but when he began writing his own songs later on his music came across with a more melodic approach.
He first live original performances were at The Point After in downtown Houma. Because of a slight case of nerves, local open mic host Ron Maynard suggested he wear sunglasses to perform. With that suggestion the tunes poured out and within a year Willem McCormick had recorded his first album Ten Good Reasons at Mike Loupe's home studio. After the record was produced by McCormick and Barry Bowen, it was released and well received as one of the top 100 releases of Louisiana artists in 1995. McCormick appeared regularly on the radio show Z Morning Zoo on the Z100 radio station.
Willem McCormick played locally on the New Orleans scene at such popular venues as Muddy Waters, Tipitina's and Jimmy's while earnestly self-promoting the band both independently and with the help of co-promoter Bowen.
During this time Willem McCormick also started promoting a series af concerts south of New Orleans in Houma called Rock-a-thon. He booked and promoted bands from New Orleans, Baton Rouge and even New York and Los Angeles. His band would sometimes play a set during the festival.
Local businessman and music enthusiast Tommy Lyons had taken an interest in McCormick's music upon hearing his "Ten Good Reasons" effort and had assisted him in getting new material recorded. He also helped get a well-defined studio band in place to record and play live. McCormick had recently seen an article in Spin magazine on recording engineer and producer Trina Shoemaker, who was working at Daniel Lanois' Kingsway Studio in the French Quarter. Bowen got the new demos of McCormick's songs to Shoemaker, who had just committed to working on Sheryl Crow's second album. Sheryl Crow's record was reportedly finished a few days early because of Shoemakers commitment to a studio date with McCormick. Sheryl Crow reportedly remarked, "Who is this Willem McCormick, what label is he on?"
The album was almost picked up by three major labels, Atlantic, RCA/BMG, and MCA. Dinosaur Entertainment, a division of BMG/RCA Records, was to release the Ouch! album, but the company went bankrupt after over pressing rockabilly legend Carl Perkin's last album. Ouch! was still released nationally and internationally through Big Easy Distribution, which was at the time the world's largest distributor of Louisiana music.
The record received favorable reviews in Guitar World magazine, Tribe and Offbeat magazine, and McCormick toured regularly with close friend Jay Nelson on bass guitar and a revolving door of drummers. Entertainment lawyer Jeff Lacque showed an enthusiastic interest in the group, calling McCormick a "genius freakin' songwriter" and not only helped book and manage the project for a while but even played gigs as drummer on occasion. The song Last Night received regular airplay WCKW.
Willem McCormick has played with some of the best musicians in the business, including Allman Brothers/Jimmy Page drummer Kerry Brown and Neil Young drummer Karl Himmel. Recent projects include live performances and recordings with renowned pedal steel guitarist Dave Easly.
TV performances, soundtracks and commercials:
One of McCormick's tunes was used in a commercial for Mountain Dew, and he has also scored independent movie soundtracks. The independent film A separate Identity features his keyboard and piano music. His band has played live on such television shows as the WWL Morning Show, Louisiana Jukebox, etc. Some music performances have aired on a variety of stations.
After the initial buzz of Ouch!, McCormick eventually settled in with drummer Jamie Pittman, whom he met at Offbeat magazine, Jim Ankar on bass, whom he met through a friend, and Dakota Emerson, who knew him from his music playing in Houma. The four collaborated using McCormick's songwriting and guitar ability along with Pittman and Ankar's strong rhythm section and Emerson's backing vocals and guitar. They released the next album under the band name Willem! The album was called Time To Find The Guggenheimer and featured much edgier guitars and a more overall modern rock sound. The album featured McCormick on lead vocals on much of the tunes, but Dakota Emerson's efforts received an equal amount of acclaim. This lineup remained for years until they played their final show with this lineup at the Gretna Heritage Festival in 2004. Pittman and Ankar moved to Mississippi and Tennessee. McCormick and Emerson moved to Mandeville, Louisiana. During this time they played under the name Willem McCormick Band featuring Dakota Emerson as well as simply Willem & Dakota.
Other Willem McCormick and Dakota Emerson projects:
They also backed New Orleans-based Matt Holt Band, a country group, and Lamarque Street, a guitar rock band from Mandeville, Louisiana.
McCormick has also devoted a considerable amount of time to artwork, having sold oil and acrylic paintings in the French Quarter in New Orleans. There he met actress Angelina Jolie, who he had previously painted a few pictures of. Soon after, he painted of large portrait for her with her dressed in white wearing a single strand of Mardi Gras beads with a red pepper at the end. The painting, titled Chili Pepper Girl, hung in the front window of an art gallery on Royal Street in the French Quarter for a few months and then McCormick removed it before moving to California. New works include custom paintings in oil and acrylic as well as book covers and illustrations for novels such as The Tales of Mitch.
The Golden State:
Willem McCormick relocated to Los Angeles at the end of 2008 to be involved in a more rock-oriented music scene. Willem & Dakota have recorded music videos for songs such as "My Charlatan" and "Pictures Of You" in various California cities such as Los Angeles, Silver Lake, Hollywood, and Palos Verdes. Live concerts in the Los Angeles area have recently included shows with such major acts as The Meat Puppets, The John Corbett Band, and Wayne "The Train" Hancock at Los Angeles and Hollywood venues such as The Mint, The Brixton, and The Viper Room.
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