His award-winning guitar style is contemporary and innovative. His songwriting and lyrics are introspective and intelligently honest. His music is best described as guitar-driven Folk/Roots grooving with elements of Funk and Soul. Either as a session musician and producer/engineer across many independent releases or on stage as a soloist or sideman, one thing holds true – Australian-born, Dale Willis always strives to deliver a livewire, honest and heartfelt effort.
Sound and music was always a predominant part of the Willis household before Dale was born. His father played in a country/rockabilly band in rural Australia and showed Dale his first three chords.
During his teenage years, Dale discovered the music of many fine musicians and bands setting him upon a journey of learning a wide variety of genres, gravitating to anything that caught his ear. His first real paid gig was as electric guitarist in a country rock outfit aptly named ‘Country Party’. He was the only one in the band not of legal age and other band members consistently had to bend the truth about his age to avoid getting Dale booted from the bar!
He was also beginning to mess around with his dad’s 4-track TEAC reel-to-reel recorder and the family keyboard, programming, writing and recording ideas. But it wasn’t until he discovered the music of Australian guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel that Dale really took flight as a guitarist to be reckoned with and still cites him today as one of his biggest inspirations. Dale honed the fingerstyle guitar technique that combines percussive elements of slap bass notes with the thumb, and rhythm and melody with the fingers.
Fascinated with the ability to record and shape sound, Dale graduated from high school and moved to the city of Brisbane,Australia to study at SAE – the School of Audio Engineering. He cut his engineering teeth on many artists and bands there continually learning and honing his skills as an engineer and producer. “I was just fascinated with the whole recording of sound deal. My dad was an artist, he owned an art gallery and I guess the whole concept of creating a picture with textures of sound and music really appealed and seemed familiar to me – music became my canvas and I wanted to work on both sides of the glass as a musician and producer.”
In the years following, Dale gained an Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and Music Performance. During this time he co-wrote, performed and recorded an album with an Acoustic Rock outfit called ‘FraYed’, worked a 1-year internship as program producer and engineer at a radio station in London, and was commissioned by the university to design and build a 32-track digital recording facility. That studio was where Dale produced/engineered and session played on many independent albums, all along applying techniques he had learnt. He was also working as a guitar instructor to over 50 students in schools and local music shops gaining a well-respected reputation as a performer, teacher and overall nice guy!
2004 was a great year for Dale. He won the Australian Fingerstyle Guitar Championships at the Frankston Guitar and Music Festival, performed in the U.S. at the Walnut Valley Music Festival and released his first solo album - ‘Scatterfingers’, the title track of which took out ‘Best Instrumental Song’ in the USA Songwriting Competition and runner-up in the International Acoustic Music Awards in the same year and subsequently received significant airplay on Australian, Canadian and North American radio stations. ‘Scatterfingers’ would also win an Australian Dolphin Music Award in 2005. Around the same time, Dale dove deeper into songwriting, penning lyrics and merging them with his guitar chops. That coupled with his experience as a producer/engineer really ignited Dale’s creative mind as a producer and composer of music.
Through a series of unforeseen events with US customs officials, Dale unexpectedly found himself taking refuge in Canada in late 2005, meeting key people who would be influential in the decision for Dale to make the move to Canada in mid 2006 to pursue a full time music career as a performing and recording artist.
To date, Dale has played many shows and festivals in Canada and Australia, including the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, North Bay Heritage Festival, the Toronto International Festival as well as numerous Molson Intimate Session tours across Ontario. In the U.S, he’s performed at the Walnut Valley Festival and volunteered his time and talent in several benefit concerts for Easter Seals and Hurricane Katrina relief. He has also performed in New Zealand, as well as his native Australia at the Illawarra Folk Festival, the Woodford Folk Festival and Yackandandah Folk Festival. He has worked with, jammed and shared the stage with the likes of Our Lady Peace (Canada), Dala (Canada), Pat Robitaille (Canada), Johnny Williams (Canada), Tommy Emmanuel, Richard Clapton, Ross Wilson (Daddy Cool), Kamahl, Gina Jeffries, Rod McCormack, Rae Spoon (Canada), Shane Simpson (Canada), The Wailin’ Jenny’s (Canada), Eric Bogle, The Audreys, Anita George, The Little Stevies, Jessica Paige, Anna Weatherup and Chris Koelma as well as various live Radio and TV appearances on City TV, Shaw Cable TV, University of Manitoba Radio in Canada, on XM Satellite Radio’s ‘Acoustic Café’ channel in the US and in Australia on ABC Radio and Homebrew Radio. He has also been featured in Australian Guitar Magazine as well as Audio Technology Magazine.
He has two releases to date Scatterfingers (EP, 2004) and Any Other Way (Album 2007). Dale continues to build a strong following and develop his exploration of music through constant performing, songwriting and producing.