Home Hear Austin Willacy | Gonna Be Alright: Exclusive EP Premiere

Austin Willacy | Gonna Be Alright: Exclusive EP Premiere

The singer-songwriter champions hope & perseverance in the face of hardship.

Austin Willacy reassures you that everything is Gonna Be Alright on his soulful and sincere new EP — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.

Featuring the singles Saw You In The Light and Gonna Be Alright, the singer-songwriter, activist and House Jacks member’s latest release is an inspiring and uplifting five-track document that blends rock, pop, soul, gospel and more — all while championing and embracing hope, perseverance and dignity in the face of hardship.

The singles are a collaboration between Willacy and Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Rich Jacques, who met at the 2022 Hawaii Songwriting Festival. Introduced through a mutual friend, they bonded over breakfast, geeking out about music and travel. At the gathering, Austin co-wrote a song a day for four days with different collaborators, the last of which was Rich. “We tapped into something that felt like a powerful fusion of gospel, blues, and bayou soul, and it happened fast. Clearly, it needed to come through,” he recalls. “The process of creating it felt effortless and alchemical. The ease of our collaboration and our deep appreciation of the song are what prompted us to talk about writing an EP.”

Willacy shares the story of the EP’s creation and takes us through the five songs, track by track:

Gonna Be Alright

After the songwriting festival, Jacques went up to Berkeley, where he and Austin wrote and recorded four songs in three days at his home studio. “Over dinner on Monday, shortly after his arrival, Rich and I dove into a powerful conversation about family relationships and the known and unknown ways they shape us. We talked about the blessings of the wisdom, insight, perspective, and joy they inspire, as well as some of the challenges, struggles, and pain that are an inevitable part of growing up.”

Inspired by that evening’s conversation, they wrote Gonna Be Alright, a song about the artist’s relationship with his brother. It acknowledges the challenges, struggles, and pain that were a part of being shut out. The track highlights the fact that often, a person’s experience in any kind of relationship is like an iceberg — only 10% visible above the water line. It embraces this truth and belief that healing is possible on the other side of the pain, and reconnection on the other side of disconnection. “I love this song,” Willacy says. “It comes from a deep place and lives very close to my heart. When I’ve performed it live, it really connects with those who have siblings.”

Saw You In The Light

“Prompted by Rich’s gentle presence and soulful questions, I started writing a song inspired by the loss of a friend of mine, Pete, whom I’ve known since I was 11,” Willacy says. “Pete died of complications from endothelial mesothelioma. He is survived by his wife of 25+ years and two daughters. He lived his life very fully, and he had a chance to say his goodbyes.

“Pete is the first person who ever asked me to sing in a band. He started a band, Brazen Image, in high school, and asked me to be the singer. I had just started singing, and was terrified of the idea of singing on a mic, so I said no. Though I wish the circumstances were different, it feels extra sweet to have written this song, honoring him, the first person who encouraged me to sing original music.

“As Rich and I continued our conversation about loss, we were vibing on a drum loop and a chord progression that felt familiar — like a good friend I hadn’t seen for a while — but was its own thing. The melody and lyrics I came up with felt reflective and retrospective, like a positive, appreciative reflection of who he was, how we grew up together, and how I still feel him with me. Rich started adding layers, tapping into the reassurance with a soft, cascading loop that bookends the track.”

I’m Not Gonna Stop

“I was at the Hawaii Songwriting Festival in a songwriting circle mentored by Richard Harris, a prodigiously talented, Grammy-winning writer / producer,” Willacy says. “I started hearing a guitar riff and a melody in my head. Normally, I document the initial inspiration for a song — whether it be a melody, a lyric, a chord progression, or a riff — as immediately and thoroughly as I can and run with the energy from that initial spark of creativity. There’s something aligned for me in that moment of genesis that almost never realigns in the same way if I wait too long. Because I didn’t want to disrupt the songwriting circle, I excused myself to the bathroom and very quietly sang, grunted, and beatboxed the idea into a voice memo while another — hopefully, bemused — person did his business.”

I’m Not Gonna Stop is about tenacity and perseverance in the face of doubt. It’s about overcoming pain and getting up again and again and again.

Better Days Are Gonna Come

“This is a co-write with my friend and mentor Patricia Bahia. We initially began collaborating at the Positive Music Awards in 2018 and continued to deepen our collaborative relationship in 2019. In March 2020, as the realization that COVID wasn’t going to be over in a week or a month or two was sinking in, I was feeling a need for hope and reassurance. COVID highlighted a deeper layer of our interdependence and the fact that we, as a people, were unprepared to let that awareness guide us as fully as it should. The dawning of this realization, of our vulnerability, as a species, and the fact that something that seemed so small could bring capitalism to its knees in a matter of weeks was the gruesome backdrop for the grotesque murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. I believe the outcry against these murders of innocent, unarmed black people landed more deeply because the world was moving so much slower as a result of myriad COVID-related disruptions.”

“Patricia and I were both feeling a need to acknowledge the pain of these injustices while focusing on our certainty that we, as a country, were on our way to more compassion, more justice, more equity, and doing away with the many-headed monster of systemic violence. Better Days Are Gonna Come feels like we tapped into something much bigger than ourselves, and the spirit of that is singing, too. Whenever I sing it, I feel powerfully connected to the need for this transformation, as a black man, a feminist, an activist, and a human.”

No Apologies (For Being Me)

“I was on a retreat with the Wildchoir — an Oakland-based group of artist-activists that I co-direct — when No Apologies came to me,” Willacy says. “It was Independence Day. We’d elected to spend the morning in silence and hold it until lunch. Thus far, vipassana (10-day silent meditation) has not called me to it. While overlooking the Pacific Ocean, trying to be one with the waves or whatever I thought I was supposed to be doing at that moment. I got antsy because I started hearing a guitar riff in my head, and I really liked it. Preserving silence, I grabbed my journal, and the lyrics started pouring out of me onto the pages with a melody attached. I was like, ‘Well, the song is called No Apologies. I don’t think anyone will hate me for singing on a retreat with a bunch of singers.’ So, I let the music be shaped by my body. I wrapped my hands around my guitar and started singing at full volume. As soon as I did this, the rest of the song flew out.

“I was thinking of all the times I’ve felt I needed to play small to protect other people and all the ways in which I’ve felt ‘too big, too small, too short, too tall, too dark, too light, too loud’ and ‘too much, but not enough.’ When I recorded a demo of it, Colin Egan, my dear friend and collaborator, came up with a super hooky post-chorus chant to drive the point home. No Apologies is about being the champion of your own dignity. It’s about loving yourself, exactly as you are. It is a reminder you can choose to apologize for what you do, but you should never apologize for who you are.”

Willacy is a veteran member of The House Jacks, with whom he has produced 10 full-length albums and completed multiple world tours. For the past 20 years, Austin has directed ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning teen a cappella group that empowers youth to find their voices in many ways.

Austin is also an award-winning singer-songwriter with four CDs and two EPs to his name. His music is soulful and raucous, tender and comic. Austin’s music has been featured on The Sing-Off, Road Rules an Australian ad campaign, and three feature film soundtracks, including Thrive, a documentary with over 90 million views. He’s appeared in Rolling Stone and has performed with icons such as Bonnie Raitt and up-and-coming artists like Jem, Vienna Teng, Rachael Yamagata and Amos Lee.

Austin is an organizer and facilitator for YES! and a former board member for Rainforest Action Network and the Freight & Salvage. He is one of the co-founders of the Arts for Social Change Jams in the U.S., Turkey, and India. Austin has a side career singing soundalike voiceovers for games like Guitar Hero and Karaoke Revolution. But what really matters is what Raitt told him: “You can really f*ckin’ sing!”

Listen to Gonna Be Alright above, hear more from Austin Willacy below, and connect with him on his website, Instagram and Facebook.