John D. Willis

John D. Willis’ love for music began in the heart of cajun country, St. Martinville, Louisiana. It was banjo that first caught his interest at the age of 15, and after  discovering the music of legendary guitarists like Larry Carlton, Reggie Young, Robben Ford and Albert Lee, Willis bought his first guitar. 

At the age of 22, the aspiring musician moved to Los Angeles to study guitar at the prestigious Guitar Institute of Technology. After honing his chops and networking skills and graduating, he moved to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a town that was popular for producing hit records for pop, country and R&B records. Before long, Willis was playing guitar on major records for artists acts like Shenandoah, Brian McKnight, The Impressions and The Forrester Sisters, to name a few. He played sessions by day, club gigs by night, and practiced every chance in between. After paying his dues in Muscle Shoals for eight years, he caught the attention of David Briggs, a world-renowned pianist and producer from Nashville, TN. Briggs saw something special in John and urged him to make the move to Nashville. The following week, he did, and the pianist became the young guitarists’ mentor, friend and loyal client. 

For the past three decades, Willis’ guitar has become a constant on country and pop radio. His recording credits include Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, Rita Wilson, Willie Nelson, Gretchen Wilson, Blake Shelton, Alabama, Jewel, India Arie and more. Frequently nominated for various awards, Willis was honored in 2002 with the “Guitarist of The Year” award from the Academy of Country Music.

Aside from being one of the most in-demand session guitar players in country music, Willis is also making his mark as a composer and producer. His original songs have been featured on CNN, The Sci-Fi Channel, PBS, The 700 Club, Lifetime, the CMA Awards Show, and the Cheetah Girls 3 and High School Musical 3 video games. When he is not hard at work in a Music Row studio, you’ll find John producing custom projects and jingles in his personal recording studio, co-writing songs with some of Nashville's biggest songwriters, and mentoring young musicians and artists. 

 

Willis is the lucky husband of animal rescue activist Stephanie Willis and the proud father of Chase Willis, an aspiring YouTube Kids star (Chase's Toy Place), who likes to pop into John's session to greet "Daddy's friends” and beg for chocolate. 

Visit www.allmusic.com and search "John Willis" and "John D. Willis" for an up-to-date list of John's recording credits. 

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