Managing a family of 14 can be a difficult task for anybody, especially when both parents and the remaining members of their kin have a hand in an international touring musical entity.
Add in that group is part of the TLC reality show titled The Willis Family, has been on the road for the better part of the last year and just released their third studio album called Heaven and things get even more complicated.
But manage is exactly what Brenda and Toby Willis do. Seven of their eldest children comprise the musical bones of their band ‘The Willis Clan’. Jessica, 23, is on fiddle and lead vocals; Jeremiah, 22, plays both acoustic and electric guitars, as well as pipes; Jennifer, 20, takes the reins accordion and mandolin; Jeanette, 19, is on whistle and Dobro; Jackson, 16, drums and plucks the banjo; Jedidiah, 16, plays bass; and Jasmine, 14, plays keys.
Their mother, Brenda, joins the troupe on stage at live performances and their father, Toby, works their sound at shows, as well produces their in-studio music, both keep up with the rigors of daily family life.
“My husband was a state champion wrestler,” Brenda jokes. “We figured we would have a big family with a bunch of boys who wrestled. Instead we had a lot of girls. After seeing a river dance performance, we decided that would be the sport we got them into. That would be their wrestling.”
From the girls’ initial interest river dance competitions, the family naturally evolved into music after the oldest, Jessica, had a natural talent on her father’s fiddle. The rest of the Willis’ children had the same raw ability for instrumentation and the band took shape.
“It was pretty organic thing,” Brenda said of the band’s development.
Their most recent tour began in the spring and will conclude with a performance at the Richland County Fairgrounds on Dec. 10.
“We have been on tour since April and have been very busy,” Brenda said of the clan’s most recent activity. “We hit a lot of dates on the West Coast in California and had a month long tour in Ireland.”
The ‘Willis Clan’ blends a variety of roots music to form their own brand of sound.
Entrenched in Celtic music that honors the family’s heritage, the ‘Willis Clan’ adds elements of American genres of bluegrass ad country to form their own musical styling.
Beginning last month, the band has begun adding Christmas music into their repertoire for the remainder of their 2015 tour, which includes the Richland County date.
“We put a fun Irish spin on most the Christmas numbers,” Brenda explained. “We have some dancing and a few traditional carols we do like the Wexford, the Coventry Carols.”
“We will have cds and t shirts and will do autographs and take pictures (following their performance),” said the mother of the family. “We look forward to hanging out and taking Christmas photos with people after the show. It will be a fun night with everyone.”
The show begins at 7 p.m. and tickets for the event can be purchased at www.168tickets.com/tickets_event.php?venueID=251&eventCode=15256.
Willis Clan set to perform at Richland County Fairgrounds Dec. 10.