Will McFarlane is a gifted singer/songwriter and musician whose natural talents are complemented by his years of experience and love for his craft. Now a resident of Durham, NC, Will had been part of the Muscle Shoals music scene for the past 20+ years. However, his music and message reach far beyond the Shoals and have taken him across the U.S. and into other countries.
Will’s career as a well-known recording artist began in the early seventies when he joined Bonnie Raitt’s band as a guitarist and background vocalist. For six years he toured and recorded with the band on such projects as Bonnie’s Home Plate and Sweet Forgiveness LP’s. Sweet Forgiveness included a cover of the 60’s Del Shannon tune Runaway, and became Bonnie’s highest charting single to that date. Playing guitar with Bonnie’s band meant a heavy touring and performing schedule, and included such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall. Time not spent on the road was often spent in recording sessions on other projects, such as the Urban Cowboy Soundtrack, and John Boylan’s production of Cotton-eyed Joe (the flip side of Mickey Gilley’s hit single Stand By Me).
In 1979, five days of concerts recorded at Madison Square Gardens became a certified-gold, multiple-disk set called No Nukes. While recording this work, Will joined a host of other musicians onstage, including Jackson Browne, Jesse Colin Young, John Hall, Pheobe Snow, and Bonnie Raitt. That same year, Will toured as guitarist for the Pointer Sisters and played many other dates in the L.A. area.
In 1980, the pressures of a busy touring schedule and the fast pace of life LA-style prompted Will to make some major changes. The impact his lifestyle could have on his young family was of great concern to him, so he left California and moved to Muscle Shoals, AL. It didn’t take long for Will’s talents to find useful outlets, and he began working for Muscle Shoals producers Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett. Among the albums he helped record were projects for Levon Helm and Billy “Crash” Craddock. Commercial jingles included a McDonald’s radio ad with Will on vocals that was picked up by the franchise’s national advertising.
During this time, Will’s spiritual journey led him to write and record 5 contemporary Christian albums: Right From The Start, A Colony of Heaven, Only the Heart, and Hear the Voice and Axe To The Root. Will’s travels and testimony have allowed him to travel the U.S., Canada, and exotic locations like Hawaii, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Travels in Europe have included stays in France, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, England, Scotland and Sweden. Other Christian artists use Will’s talents frequently and he has recorded with Rick Cua, Lenny Le Blanc, Michelle Pillar, Cindy Richardson, Lloyd Thogmartin, Robin Pope, Second Chapter of Acts and Maranatha Praise 9.
Over the years, Will’s versatility has enabled him to work on such diverse projects as the first two Forrester Sisters albums (which, between them, produced four No. 1 hits) and Little Milton’s Strugglin’ Lady. Malaco Records’ involvement in Muscles Shoals music paved the way for Will to contribute to the works of such legendary jazz/blues greats as Bobby “Blue” Bland, Dorothy Moore, Denise LaSalle, Shirley Brown, and Latimore as well as Little Milton. When Jerry Wexler came back to town to produce Etta James’ The Right Time, Will had the great fortune to work alongside the master producer. In addition, he cut two tracks of live duets with Steve Winwood and Etta James as well as a single with Toby Keith.. He’s played in live shows with Chris Kristofferson, Lee Roy Parnell and Waylan Jennings.
Will McFarlane is at home with practically any musical style, whether he’s playing country with the Tammy Wynette or jamming with Buddy guy. His insight and understanding of the music he plays allows him to relate to audiences of all ages and interests. Sice moving to North Carolina , he’s gotten involved in the local scene as well as traveling and opening for other artists such as Delbert McClinton. He’ll be back in the studio soon cutting many of the songs that have layed dormant for the last few years. He summed it up by saying, “I’m just cleaning out the basement of these old songs, and looking forward to getting outside and playing again.”