John Plays Joni tonight at South on Main featuring John Willis and friends

johnplaysjoniToday is John Willis’ birthday – and we get the present!
“John Plays Joni” is his birthday gift to Little Rock.
Little Rock-based singer/songwriter and founder of Late Romantics band John Willis performs a tribute concert to the music of singer/songwriter legend Joni Mitchell. The program will feature selections from the iconic songwriter’s over 5-decade career in music and give tribute to Mitchell’s genius as a poet and word-painter, a lover, an activist, and as a modern day mystic. Willis will be at the piano and the mic as usual with help from some of Little Rock’s finest musical talents.

Show begins at 8:30 PM with a $10 cover. Call (501) 244-9660 to reserve a table for the show.

John Willis is a singer/songwriter based in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. He writes and performs on piano with insightful lyrics, sensitive arrangements, and lush harmonies that derive from in part from the gospel music of his minister father, Motown groups that were his mother’s favorites, and his classical training at the piano.

Willis has been a featured songwriter in the UALR Songwriter’s Showcase (2011) and on local PBS affiliate AETN’s “On the Front Row” television series (2013). He was a finalist in the 2014 Arkansas Times Musician’s Showcase and has released two EPs, “King of the Cocktail Party” in 2013 and “Bad Boyfriend” with his band Late Romantics in 2015. Willis is an Artist, Inc. Fellow with the Mid-America Arts Alliance and has taught on faculty at the Wildwood Academy of Music and the Arts teaching yoga for young musicians.

Sessions at South on Main is a series of concerts featuring Arkansas artists, curated by one of their own. He is curating the December Sessions. His birthday show will kick off the month; watch the South on Main website and social media for updates on the rest of December.

Creative Class of 2015: John Willis

JQW 2015John Willis is a throwback to the era of singer-songwriters who did not focus on genre, but instead letting the mood and theme of quality songs lead them to the appropriate style.

His new single “Enough” is available at

After the success of his solo EP “King of the Cocktail Party” he and Late Romantics, his relatively new band have a new EP, “Bad Boyfriend.”  Willis spent his early musical years as a classically trained pianist playing private parties and backing several successful performing artists around Little Rock, including Cody Belew and Bonnie Montgomery.

With his release, King of the Cocktail Party EP, Willis stepped into his own light as a front man with an intoxicating blend of piano-based pop, jazz, and parlor music that has elicited comparisons to Harry Nilsson, Leon Russell, Rufus Wainwright, and Feist.  As a composer and performer, he has been featured on AETN and the UALR Songwriter Showcase.

Raised on a steady diet of old-time gospel sung in his father’s church, Motown and early ’70s singer/songwriters beloved by his mother, and Chopin, Debussy, and Gershwin tapes given to him by an elderly mentor, Willis has grown up to create a sophisticated musical style that is both instantly familiar and at the same time fresh.

Willis is actively promoting his new release locally and planning a tour in the coming months with his band. Though he still delights cocktail party audiences as one of Little Rock’s favorite piano guys, he is enjoying the success and sharing his stylish mix of piano grooves and heartfelt ballads with lush, vocal harmonies liberally dosed throughout. These well-crafted songs are as much a nod to the past as they are a well-placed note hovering on the musical horizon.

Arts Abound Tonight at 2nd Friday Art Night

2FAN logo Font sm22nd Friday Art Night proves there is a cure for the Summertime Blues.  It offers visual art, music, food and drink!  You can eat, drink, learn, appreciate, and be merry!

At Historic Arkansas Museum from 5 to 8 pm there will be a free opening reception for two new exhibits: Katherine Rutter & Ginny Sims in the Trinity Gallery for Arkansas Artists and PopUp in the Rock: The Exhibit in the Second Floor Gallery. Enjoy live music by John Willis and the Late Romantics and #ArkansasMade brews from Moody Brews. Delicious appetizers provided by Boulevard Bread.

Down the street, the Old State House Museum will be offering musical performances by traditional folk artists Mockingbird from 5-8 p.m. The Old State House Museum will be open for self-guided tours and Mockingbird will play in the acoustically-rich 1836 Arkansas House of Representatives chamber. The room is one of the most historically significant rooms in the state, and this is a fun way for you and your family to see and experience it.

A few blocks south, Christ Church will be featuring the works of John and Judy Shantz Honey and their exhibit “Reflections on Abstraction.”

  • John Honey is a member of Mid-Southern Watercolorists and Arkansas League of Artists. He has studied the use of water-based mediums and collage under several nationally recognized artists. He is constantly challenged to find a different approach for including the elements of design in his paintings. He favors abstraction over realism as a means of expression. John’s work has been seen in juried exhibitions at the Arkansas Art Center.
  • Judy Shantz Honey enjoyed an interest in art as a child, and this interest continued through her studies at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and in the Museum School at the Arkansas Arts Center. She has also studied with nationally recognized art instructors in art workshops around the United States and in Mexico.  Watercolor, acrylic, and collage are her primary mediums, with work on paper and on canvas. She is a member of Mid-Southern Watercolorists, the Arkansas League of Artists and the Arkansas Arts Council.


Release Party for John Willis and the Late Romantics new EP “Bad Boyfriend”

John Willis is a throwback to the era of singer-songwriters who did not focus on genre, but instead letting the mood and theme of quality songs lead them to the appropriate style.

After the success of his solo EP “King of the Cocktail Party” he and Late Romantics, his relatively new band have a new EP, “Bad Boyfriend.”

It comes out on March 21.  To commemorate the occasion, he and the band are having a performance party at Whitewater Tavern tonight at 9:30 pm.  Also peforming that night are Listen, Sister and DJ Baldego.  All in attendance will get the EP for free.  After that, it will be available on iTunes.

Recorded at Jason Weinheimer’s studio, Fellowship Hall Sound, “Bad Boyfriend” features Willis with Late Romantics.  The band was formed last year for the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase.  It includes Jack Lloyd (bass), Mike Motley (drums) with Sarah Stricklin and Sydney Hunsicker (backup vocals, additional percussion).  As Willis told Mitchell Crisp in a recent interview, “we’ve transitioned into a band where everyone is collaborative, rather than one where everyone just plays my songs. So all of the songs were written by me, but it’s the effort of everyone involved.”

Art of the Bar, a handmade holiday market at South on Main today

South on Main presents
Art of the Bar : A Handmade Holiday Market
Sunday, December 14
2 – 8 PM

Festive Cocktails crafted by Barman David Burnette
Christmas Carols from John Willis & Friends
Holiday Treats from Chef Matthew Bell & Chef Matthew Lowman

Featuring Work From:
Altered Polishes
Art by Lois/Painted by Fire
Bang-Up Betty
Bathhouse Soapery & Caldarium
Dimestore Diamonds
Erin Lorenzen
Hunter-May Pottery
Artist Jason Jones
Little-Biscuits Illustrated Portraits
Little Rock Bottle Co
Morgan Hill Creative
Postmodern Press
Roll&Tumble Press
Sew Arkansan

Among the musicians performing with John Willis (from 6pm to 8pm) will be Amy Garland, Amy McBryde, Late Romantics, Sarah Stricklin, Phillip Rex Huddleston, Bryan Frazier, Mitchell Crisp, Stephanie Smittle, Heather Smith, Will & Maddie, Paula Gribble, Genine Perez of Lagniappe, Isaac Alexander and Jason Weinheimer