Big Willy is a one-of-a-kind group that hails from Lansing, Michigan. Rooted in the blues, rock and roll, and classic soul, they bring a unique sound and a high-energy experience to every audience they entertain. Since their debut together in 2004, Big Willy has shared the stage with such luminaries as Tab Benoit and Larry McCray, and are a well-respected name at blues festival stages around the Midwest. A cherished part of the Michigan music scene, Big Willy continues to entertain audiences at home and across the U.S., by live appearances and through their television feature on WKAR-TV’s Backstage Pass, a documentary-style show featuring talented Michigan artists that has been distributed to Public Television stations all over the country.
Rich with hard-hitting, driving original tunes, Big Willy’s debut album, King Without A Crown, proved to be a favorite among audiences in 2009. Their second album, Out For Trouble (2012), expands on the themes of the first album, emphasizing the struggle and heartache of everyday Americans, while raising the musical bar and taking their songwriting to a whole new level. Both albums were recorded by Grammy-nominated engineer Glenn Brown, and nationally-acclaimed musician Mike Lynch, who both produced the albums and contributed piano and organ to both.
Will Rideoutt – the “Big Willy” in the band – wrote the songs, plays guitar, and sings lead vocals on the album. An outspoken fan of the Michigan Wolverines and the Detroit Lions, Big Willy is a professional entertainer, and knows his audiences well. He also plays with Lansing favorites Summer of Sol and Suburban Euphoria.
“Super Size” Will Metz plays tenor sax and also contributes backing vocals. He brings a unique approach to the horn with a background playing jazz, blues, rock, hip-hop, and country – sometimes at the same time. By day, he is a mild-mannered data analyst, but you’d never guess it from his blistering solos and high-energy sound.
“King James” Norris, who provides the driving bass lines that get feet tapping, also plays with Lansing-based rock and roll band The Burnsides. He comes from a musical family, too – his brother is prodigal blues guitarist Paxton Norris. James brings a rich blues tone and funky rock and roll style to the unique sound of Big Willy.
Eric Payne, the heart of the organization, plays drums and sings backups. Eric moonlights with Lansing’s The Jazz Doggz and otherwise lends his talents to other groups whenever possible. He is also a successful businessman and owns and operates his own painting business.
The musical rapport between Big Willy and Size gives the band its unique sound. Unison lines between the screamin’ guitar and hard-as-nails saxophone set the tone and draw listeners in. However, it would be a mistake to overlook what’s happening in the rhythm section. Eric and James come together to provide a powerful background for Big Willy and Size’s antics, putting down powerful rock and irresistible dance beats.