For Rumer Willis, music has always been her true passion. Her journey began simply enough as she would sing for her family in their living room at the tender age of 3. Recognizing her talent and desire to explore it on a deeper level, her parents supported her creative growth every step of the way. At the age of 12, she joined a music conservatory in Idaho and began studying opera and would later continue her classical training at Interlochen Arts Academy. Lending her talents to various musical theatre productions in high school as well as joining the Jazz Band, her love of music continued to grow. In 2014, she started a weekly residency at the famed Sayers Club in Hollywood, where she honed her stage presence and sultry vocals. After releasing her cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” on iTunes last year, she took the stage for her Broadway Debut as Roxie Hart in “Chicago.” Most recently she starred in the film adaptation of the Musical “Hello Again” and made her solo cabaret debut at the famed Cafe Carlyle, receiving rave reviews from the “New York Times” and other publications. She is currently working on her debut album with the legendary Linda Perry.
Now, in the Fall of 2016, Rumer is taking the show on the road and introducing herself to music fans around the nation. She recently announced her first U.S. concert tour, kicking off October 12 in Denver, Colorado. The “Over The Love” tour is Willis’ first extended musical outing with her band, performing a chanteuse-style variety show of timeless standards ranging from cabaret and jazz to classic R&B and contemporary pop. Showcased in an intimate setting, Willis will take the audience through a setlist of hand-picked songs, as well as a handful of original material recently written and recorded with writer and producer Linda Perry. General tickets and VIP packages are on sale. For more information, visit www.overthelovetour.com.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with the multi-faceted artist to discuss her musical roots, her upcoming “Over The Love” tour, her creative evolution and much more!
Let’s go back to the beginning. What are your first memories of music?
I have always loved music and it has been a huge part of my life since I was a little kid. My dad always had music going on in the house. It’s really difficult to remember when music wasn’t a really big part of my life. I remember listening to music in the car with my dad on the way to school. My sisters and I used to perform shows in the living room. Whenever my parents would have people over, we would put on shows and sing “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” For me, music is such an integral part of my life and who I am. My parents have been so incredibly supportive of my sisters and I in helping us explore our creativity, no matter how we chose to express ourselves. They never tried to stifle that creativity no matter how it tried to present itself and not everyone is that lucky, so I feel so grateful to finally have an outlet to express that has been such a gift!
What influences had a big impact on you and what you do musically?
Growing up, my dad played a lot of old school music for us. Some of my favorite artists were Billie Holiday, Etta James, The Coasters, The Marvelettes and The Supremes. There was such a huge range of different performers I was exposed to. People say that who you listen to growing up really plays such a huge part of not only your musical taste but your sound. I feel like that is the case when it comes to me. I feel like a lot of the music I listened to has become part of my voice and how it has come to be!
You will head out on your Over The Love tour. What sparked the idea for it?
My best friend Tye [Blue], who is also opening for me and helping me run and manage this tour, and I were talking and I had played some shows at the Sayers Club. I had a residency there for about two-and-a-half years. I got asked to do a show at the Cafe Carlyle and he said, “You should be doing this more! Why aren’t you? We should put together a show!” I said, “I guess it was something I never really thought I could do. I thought you had to have an album out.” To me, in my head, there seemed like there was only one way or formula for doing it. Now, in the digital age, there seems to be so much more of a freedom to put yourself out there in different ways. I thought, “Why not go a different route?” I am working on an album but I feel like people might not know enough about me or what kind of music I play to maybe be interested or know what I am about, so why not give people a little taste of how I am, what kind of music I like and let them get a chance to know me! Then, when I put out my own stuff, maybe people will be a little bit more excited because they will know a little more about what I have going on!
You described this tour as a labor of love. What went into bringing it to life?
So much! It went from being asked to do a show at The Cafe Carlyle, which was such a huge deal for me because it is such an iconic venue. From there, I had such a great outpouring from people on social media saying, “Wait! We want to see you here!” I thought, “Why not! Maybe we can do a little tour and go around to a bunch of cool small towns and give people a chance to know me and get a taste of the show there.” The response has been really incredible and I am excited to be able to bring the show to different places. All of the songs in the show really resonate with me. I don’t think there is a song in the show that I haven’t had some personal experience with or connection to. I think the coolest part of putting the first show that I did together was finding those stories. To me, one of the universal struggles and joys that people experience in life is love. It’s not prejudice or racist, it doesn’t matter what job you have, how much money you have or where you came from, love affects everybody! I feel like it is a real unifier! Being able to express that with music, I thought, “What a great way to share my personal stories and have people maybe even share some of their own experiences with me and hopefully they can relate.”
What were some of the challenges you faced in bringing this show to life?
The music was easy! I think there were two difficult things. The first was logistics; getting from point A to B. The second was people sometimes not wanting to take a chance on something they are unsure of or don’t know much about. I’m doing a cabaret show but it is definitely not your average cabaret show. For me, my greatest goal is to get people in the room who may not have ever seen a show like this! I hope to shake up the norm and give people a taste of something new!
There are handful of original songs in your show as well. You have been working with the legendary Linda Perry. How did your paths cross?
It has been incredible working with her. We met because she put on a wonderful event called An Evening With Women. She is a huge supporter of the LGBT community, obviously, and she had asked me to sing at that event and I did. From there, she said, “Have you ever recorded or do you have any original stuff.” I said no and she asked if I might be interested in working with her and writing. I was, of course, dumbfounded and shocked but so unbelievably ecstatic that she would want to write with me. It really all developed from there.
I’m sure it was an intense creative process. What did she bring out in you creatively?
It’s quite amazing! She is such a talented singer and musician but her writing and ability to see someone, their style and bring it out is very unique. I feel like she was able to help me be an artist and to be vulnerable as an artist by sharing pieces of myself through music that I might not have necessarily thought to share or even known was there.
Was it difficult to put yourself out there for the world to see in musical form with your own songs or anyone else’s for that matter?
Yes and no. Even when I am playing someone else’s material, I am not trying to be an imitator or pretend I am them. I think to put on a good show, you have to be extremely vulnerable and show a part of yourself or bring your own emotion to whatever you are singing, no matter if it’s your song or someone else’s. I think that is the only real way you can connect to your audience.
You mentioned working on an album – that is exciting news for fans of your work! At what stage are you in the process and what might we expect?
It has been a crazy thing because we started working on it before “Dancing With The Stars” happened. Then we were going to work on it again but I went and did the “Dancing With The Stars” tour, so we had to put it on hold again and then I went and did “Chicago,” so we had to put it on hold again. It’s been a labor of love but something I don’t want to rush and put out there just for the sake of putting it out there. I want to make sure that the final product is really a reflection of who I am. As far as what you might expect sonically, I think that is a difficult question. I guess the saying is, “Never count your chickens before they’re hatched.” I don’t want to limit myself by saying this is a jazz album, a pop album or this or that. I like to bring a lot of different pieces to the table. That is why in this show, I like to mix a lot of old stuff, new stuff and my own stuff and really have it make its own thing.
Good things for those who wait!
How have you evolved as an artist over the course of your still blossoming career?
I think the main thing is increase in my level of confidence. After I did “Dancing With The Stars,” I felt it was the first time in my life where I could tell my story and show people how I am using my voice, as opposed to what someone in a tabloid magazine said I am thinking or doing. I have savored and loved having the opportunity to tell people who I am in my own words!
What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far?
I think, and this is especially important for young people, it’s so important to not give up. Never feel that if you don’t fit into what everyone else has done or the established playbook that you can’t come up with a better way of doing things. I’m not going about this in the standard way that most musicians do but that doesn’t mean my journey is going to be any less special. There is more than one way to be an artist and put yourself out there. I hope that what I am doing gives young people an opportunity to see that! It’s so important not to judge yourself during the process of finding out who you are, what your dreams are and what you hope to get out of life. It is so easy to compare yourself to other people and think you aren’t good enough because something isn’t happening for you in that moment. I think that you have to give yourself time to explore what works for you!
You lend your voice to important issues and causes. Is there anything we can help shine a light on?
I am a huge supporter of the LGBT community and a proponent of anti-bullying. One of the hardest things I have dealt with growing up is seeing how judgmental everyone is of one another and so afraid. The whole idea of someone being different or not like you is a bad thing and the way you make yourself feel better is by putting them down is something I find really sad. If we look at the state of the world right now, there are so many outside forces that are pushing on you and setting you up to fail. I hope that people can band together and try their best to lift each other up and be supportive. Even if you may not agree with the way someone is doing something, you really have to give everyone the dignity of their own process to explore their own life and be there to support them!
Absolutely! Thanks so much for your time today, Rumer! You’ve been great and we look forward to seeing where this journey takes you!
Thank you so much, Jason! Take care!
Be sure to catch en amazing evening of music with Rumer Willis. All general tickets and VIP packages are on sale now. For more information visit please visit: www.overthelovetour.com.