Singer-songwriter John Willis plays tonight at 10 p.m. at Stickyz in the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase. You should go hear him sing and cheer him on. You can cheer for the others, too, just not quite as loudly (wink wink).
1. Name, occupation, years in LR, neighborhood: John Willis; Musician; 27; all over, most recently, Quapaw.
2. What do you think has been the best album to come out of LR in the past 10 years? Oh gosh, what a hard question! Let me be the first to say that I am not the go-to for this kind of question. I have a Spotify playlist dedicated to Dionne Warwick, for goodness' sake. And furthermore who can pick ONE Little Rock fave??? You have to give me three: Eclipse Glasses (self-titled), Adam Faucett (More Like a Temple), and Isaac Alexander (See Thru Me). I keep returning to these and find new things to love every time.
3. What is, hands down, your favorite meal you can only get in Little Rock? If I could make a meal out of sides, it would be the hushpuppies made by Chef Matthew Bell of South on Main. As an actual meal that you can point to on a menu, love, honor and cherish, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health... til' death do us part, it would have to be the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast with Homemade Macaroni & Cheese, Crystal Glaze & Slow Cooked Greens from Maddie's Place in Riverdale.
4. It's a Saturday -- what's on your agenda? On an ideal Saturday (now, granted, I work most Saturdays, so this is a Saturday of the Barbara Stanwyck, "Christmas in Connecticut" variety), it's up and at it for the 8:15 yoga class at Barefoot Studio, then over Cedar HIll and through the woods to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market (Mylo Coffee and a pastry and then shopping the best farmer's market in town!). You can't beat the river trail for an instant nature fix, especially in the early spring when hundreds of random pelicans (I swear, just you wait!) descend on the Arkansas River on their way to wherever pelicans spend their summers. I LIVE for a street fair, and Little Rock (particularly Hillcrest and Argenta) is really starting to make me proud with all of the food/art/craft/music/design it can boast at one of these things. I got to play at HarvestFest this past September and pretty much could have drifted off on a cloud immediately thereafter... Back to Saturday, my favorite afternoon/early evening spot is Big Orange in Midtown. They have the best menu for people of all ages in town, IMHO, as well as the most talented, most-dedicated, and best-looking bar staff. I have it on good authority that the Velvet Orange is the perfect Saturday sipper, although I personally swear by the (hand-squeezed) Lemon-Limeade. Finally, because I like my brows of varied heights, my favorite prime-time spot on Saturday nights is a concert by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and then after all that sitting, I like to head down to White Water Tavern for the best local and touring acts that play in Little Rock. And then I wash my face, floss, brush, say prayers, check for spiders, and go to sleep for exactly eight hours.
5. What do you think is LR's best kept secret? I can't think of a more deserving recipient of this title than Arkansas House of Prayer. It was created by an interfaith team of people who wanted a space where anyone, regardless of their beliefs or affiliations, could have a quiet place for meditation, prayer, reflection, etc. The building is located in WLR behind St. Margaret's Episcopal Church and is kept silent -- no talking, teaching, just silence. You can spend as much or as little time as you like. The space itself is very inviting and has a very Zen feel to it, and the landscape and gardens were designed by P. Allen Smith. I have studied meditation and yoga for about 13 years now (I got into it first as a stressed-out music major at UCA), and I love this space because it allows me just to do my thing, at my own pace. It's one of the secrets to my (relative) sanity.
Pick up your copy of John's debut album "King of the Cocktail Party" at the Green Corner Store or download it from CDBaby, iTunes, or Amazon. Check out johnwillismusic.com, John Willis Music on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.