WNYC Performance and Interview
Kelly Willis And Bruce Robison: ‘Let’s Do This Right’
Kelly Willis performs in the Soundcheck studio. (Michael Katzif / WNYC)
Country music is known for its famous couples: Johnny Cash and June Carter, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and many more. But not all country couples work together. Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis have largely worked apart in their nearly two decades of marriage, Robison writing #1 hits for the likes of Tim George Strait and The Dixie Chicks, and Willis singing her way through a career that has lasted two decades.
Now, they come together for Cheater’s Game, an album that’s half originals and half covers of tunes by respected country songwriters like Dave Alvin and Hayes Carll.
“I guess this was a little bit special,” says Willis about their song choices. “For us to be making a record together after all those years of never having done that. We just wanted the songs to be right, you know? We just wanted them to be the best songs we could get.”
They tailored the songs to fit their specific sound — but not until they spent six months gigging and perfecting their style.
“We decided we’ll start moving around a little bit,” he continues. “‘We gotta fly!’ And we pared it down to [pedal] steel and standup [bass].And we started playing and the shows were real intimate… And we loved it.”