“The blues is the roots of American music and it’s great to explore the roots,” says Jontavious Willis, 20, from Greenville, Georgia. His explorations have lead him to travel through Delta, Piedmont, Texas, and gospel blues and to experiment new tunings, bringing him an exceptional maturity.
“I play different styles but when I play my style it is just simple,” Jontavious Willis told Michael Limnios during an interview for Blues.gr. “I don’t exactly know how many songs I know they range in styles and different eras so it is hard to describe it in any other word than vast.”
And vast it is. Jontavious Willis, from Greenville, Georgia, is only 20 but as soon as he starts playing and singing, something happens, bringing many extra decades into his music. “I like to play old blues because it is a glimpse into the past. A lot of the old bluesmen are forgotten, just a memory and a few records. The blues is the roots of American music and it’s great to explore the roots,” he said to Frank Matheis, in an interview for the April 2016 issue of Living Blues magazine (pages 10 and 11).
Jontavious Willis started singing at age 3 with his grandfather in Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church. Since then, the student in sociology and anthropology at Columbus State University learned several instruments on his own: guitar, harmonica, and banjo. His influences? Muddy Waters for guitar, Sonny Boy Williamson for harmonica, and Papa Charlie Johnson for banjo.
He is as talented in fingerpicking than he is in flatpicking or playing slide guitar. Guitars to which he brings his own tunings. Because when he picked up the instrument, he didn’t know how to tune it and so just tuned it to his voice.
“That’s my Wonderboy, the Wunderkind,” Taj Mahal said after inviting Jontavious to play on stage in 2015. “He’s a great new voice of the twenty-first century in the acoustic blues. I just love the way he plays.” A big step for the young musician, bringing him the recognition and validation he needed to go further. To explore more blues.
Jontavious Willis recorded his first album in 2016, soon to be released.