Chicago lofi musician/artist Willis Beal Earl is everywhere these days, seemingly despite his best efforts. Earl, who lives on the South Side with his grandmother, shuns the internet and has publicized his art and music primarily through hand-drawn posters and busking. The combination of his lofi sound, childlike illustrations and naive persona have rightfully earned him many comparisons to Daniel Johnston, though Earl himself wants to become “the black Tom Waits.” His sudden rise to blog-stardom was precipitated by a cover article in Found Magazine.
I was initially skeptical over his offerings, particularly the frequently posted “Monotony,” as another instance of an artist gaining fame more for their backstory than their talent; however, unable to escape press about Earl, I was eventually won over to his cause by the song “Take Me Away” which, with it’s soulful take on Lomax-rock, immediately caught my attention and gave creedence to his “black Tom Waits” aspirations. The secondary effect of the song was to showcase Earl’s depth of talent, as this song is about as far as one can get from the muted guitar and confessional lyrics of tracks like “Monotony” and “Evening’s Kiss.” Willis Beal Earl’s debut album, Acousmatic Sorcery, comes out on XL imprint Hot Charity April 3. Check out “Take Me Away” and the hand-drawn video for “Evening’s Kiss” below. While his quieter confessional tracks are growing on me, it’s his more soulful and blues-inspired fare that really impresses me, so be sure to check out the two soulful live takes for Urban Eyez, “Same Old Tears” and “Wavering Lines,” I’ve added at the bottom.
Willis Beal Earl, “Take Me Away”
Willis Beal Earl, “Evening’s Kiss”
Willis Beal Earl, “Wavering Line”
Willis Beal Earl, “Same Old Tears”