5 Question Interview Series with Jeremy Willet

At this moment I get the opportunity to intermix my love for photography, music and writing and have it all represented in my ‘5 Question Interview Series” with Jeremy Willet. I first met Jeremy last year at a photography session with his band "Willet" for various promo shots. This past March Jeremy kindly forwarded a copy of his new book to me, “Far From Home” that I reviewed on this blog (check out the cool cover shot, guess who took it??). Today Jeremy graciously agreed to take part in my on going “5 Question Interview Series”.

How did writing a book that you knew would be read so closely by your music audience compare with writing music?

The reason for writing a book actually came out of our songwriting process. A single WILLET song heard live or on an album is normally a product of 8-12 months of journaling, reading, demos, rehearsals, pastoral evaluation, re-writing, and perfecting. I decided to write a book to allow more time and pages to better explain the meaning behind some songs, the vision of WILLET, and the challenge behind why the band was started.
After I have a lyric concept, Justin normally sends me an mp3 of a new song demo. I listen to it over and over before writing a melody. We then collaborate on the structure, work with Jordan to add the bass part, and develop the drum pattern that would work best. Once we have rehearsed the song with the band, we normally send the lyrics to our band pastor, and father, Glen Willet. He checks the lyrics for biblical accuracy and content, and throws us his ideas. Then, it’s back to the practice studio to add in additional tracking, keyboard patches, and sound effects for the live show.
This book was written for our audience as an extension of our show. During a WILLET concert, I normally have about 3 minutes to talk about the work we are doing in Africa, throw out a challenge, and then back into the music. There is no room in the set to explain why we wrote the songs, why we play in both churches and clubs, and why we have a heart for Africa. FAR FROM HOME was written to be able to lay it all out in the open.

Will you explain/expand on OPERATION 400?

OPERATION 400 was a goal we made for ourselves in January 2006. We wanted to see 400 children sponsored in Africa before the year ended. After touring heavily for a year, our goal was actually surpassed with over 450 sponsors! OPERATION 400 has actually transitioned into THE PROJECT ZEWAY TOUR now in 2007. Because of the success of THE OPERATION 400 TOUR, we decided to stretch ourselves and actually sponsor a specific village. The goal for 2007 is 1000 sponsored children from ZEWAY, ETHIOPIA.

Provide us a little info on your next/current project? (2nd Book? New CD?)

The next project that WILLET is releasing is the brand new E.P. “SOMETIMES A CITY NEEDS A BOMB”. It has been over 2 years since the band put out any new material. This album has the most aggressive songs (lyrically, and musically) then any other project to date.
In addition to the new e.p., we have just released FAR FROM HOME 2nd EDITION. This was a follow up to the first book with added chapters from our trip to Africa, as well as a new cover.

What inspires you? How do you stay motivated?

I am inspired by passion. Whether in a movie, a song, an article, a live performance, a sermon, a speech, a painting, a book, an act of kindness…anything that is done 100% with excellence. Notice I said “excellence” and not “perfection”. There is a huge difference. “Excellence” is when someone gives everything they have to convey a message. “Perfection” is something done well, but done in a way that shows they are simply going “through” the motions. I would much rather see someone pour their heart into what they are conveying then have someone “play the part”.
I stay motivated by staying in devotion with Christ on a daily basis. In my Bible, I read a chapter out of the Old Testament, a Psalms, a Proverb (chapter based on the day of the month), and a chapter from the New Testament. On whatever particular chapter I am reading, I always write the date and what part of the world I am in. This helps me recall where I was both spiritually and physically in years past. It helps me evaluate progress, struggles, and maturity in my personal life. During these times, I also journal from verses that really spoke to me, prayer requests, or something interesting that I read in a book. I am always reading 5-7 different books at one time. My book selection always seems to consist of a book on Worship, U2, leadership, church, and youth culture. I have found that my faith is the only thing I can rely on to stay “level” in a world of constant roller coasters. God never leaves me no matter where I am spiritually or physically. I can always rely on him to lead the path that I’m supposed to take. That’s why he is the Great Shepherd. He leads his sheep rather then pushes them. He is willing to go out before his children.
I enjoy listening to all sorts of music from hard rock, to piano ballads, to modern worship, to hymns. Again, anything performed with passion is what I am attracted to. I am motivated by times with my wife (which are treasured due to a heavy touring schedule). I love to be outside enjoying God’s nature. I love to go to Baltimore Oriole games, and watch the Ravens on Sunday football. I love to write music on guitar and piano, as well as write articles and devotions for SCRIPTS FOOTWEAR and FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY.

"Sometimes a city needs a bomb e.p." – What a great but odd name for a CD. What is the story behind the title?

Wow! I am so glad someone finally asked that question! What a controversial title in a time of terrorists threats, war, and uncertainty…but what a great way to use that as a metaphor for a challenge! The full title of the album, which is completed on the back of the cd jacket, is “SOMETIMES A CITY NEEDS A BOMB…BEFORE IT CAN BE REBUILT”. This record has been 2 years in the making. Writing lyrics in airplanes, on tour buses, in the van, and in Africa, the band brings a diverse selection of tracks bound to impress the listener. We chose this title because it summarized the past 2 years of this band. After touring full time for over 2 years, playing close to 500 shows, we got to a point of frustration. We were taken advantage of by so many churches, venues, and people, got thrown around by record companies, experienced a church split, and found ourselves in a financial hole at the end of 2006. It was at this time that we almost ended the band and got jobs to recover from the blow. I think that God can use your lowest times in life to really speak to you, because it was at this time that he brought the children of Zeway to our attention. When we thought we had lost it all as a band, He showed us kids who had no water, food or clothes. This really put things into perspective for us as a band, and allowed us time to refocus. After flying to Arizona to meet with Food for the Hungry, we began planning for our trip to Africa. We later realized that God would use the next few months to mold us into the true vision of WILLET.
We were to a point that we couldn’t handle the “wounds” of the past year. We were asking questions like, “Why would God allow us to be in debt to so many people, to allow our van to break down, to have tours cancelled, to have a record company drop us, to lose team members, to be dropped by a booking agency, and more…? Why would He allow this when we have sacrificed so much to be “missionaries” to the youth?”
When we finally let go of ourselves and asked God to direct us, the mission behind WILLET began to explode. Our eyes were opened to a village in Africa, which gave us a real example of servant-hood to portray to Americans through our concerts. Tour schedules began to fill up, endorsements began to come together, we were able to self produce a record on our own, showcases were put together in Nashville for record companies, and sponsorships began to roll in for kids in Zeway! That’s when we really saw the title of this record come to life.
Sometimes, you get so involved in something through programs, material possessions, money, time, organization, business, etc, that you can lose the real focus of what you were called to do in the first place. Everyone has a “city” of their own, and for us, it took a “bomb” going off to rebuild the vision of what we set out to do.