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Artist of the Year: Willie Bradley

Congratulations to Willie Bradely, voted 2021's Artist of the Year!

To honor his win, Willie Bradley was featured on the cover of the Smooth Jazz Network's annual BEATS magazine. Check out the magazine article below but keep scrolling for the extended version of our interview.

Read the rest of the BEATS magazine here.

Willie Bradley has had a very successful year with one of 2021’s TOP 30 hits of the year with his single “It’s My Time” featuring James Lloyd, which released late in 2020, but peaked on the charts this past March.

Willie, tell us about the inspiration behind “It’s My Time."

“It’s My Time” was inspired from the growth and development from my two previous projects “Another Day & Time” which was my very first project after getting clean & sober out of drug and alcohol rehabilitation and my sophomore project “ Going With The Flow” which was momentum from the first project. I wanted this project to be special and resonate throughout world and it has done just that. “It’s My Time” was produced and co-written by Jeff Canady that features several of my friends in the Smooth Jazz Genre, Ragan Whiteside, Greg Manning, Julian Vaughn, James Lloyd, LaShawn Gary, Selina Albright, Nathan Mitchell, Kay-ta Matsuno, Walter Beasley, Marion Meadows, Rob Zinn, Johnny Britt and George Clinton. “It’s My Time” featuring James Lloyd is the title track and “It’s On Now” featuring Ragan Whiteside both peaked at #1 on the Smooth Jazz Network for two weeks and Billboard Smooth Jazz National Airplay Chart. This project [It’s My Time] was dedicated to the memory of my mother, Mary Catherine Bradley who passed away on March 19, 2020 from cancer. I wrote a song on this project entitled “Sunny Dayz For Catherine” featuring Kayta-Matsuno because she bought me my first trumpet and asked me to promise her that I would never quit playing. I miss her so much because she was my biggest fan.

And you came back later in the year with a another hit tune “Mystical Moment” featuring Nathan Mitchell…

“Mystical Moment” featuring Nathan Mitchell was inspired by an idea that I had saved in my phone for a long time. The song was produced and co-written by Jeff Canady. I felt like this track was a good fit for my dear friend Nathan Mitchell who plays keys, he really added some flavor to the track. It wasn’t until Nathan completed the melody on the second verse that I named the song “Mystical Moment”. Mystical- concerned with the soul or the spirit, rather than with material things. Moment-an exact period in time.

You also collaborated with Johnny Britt and Rob Zinn on Brass Attack BBZ. Tell us about that project.

I’ve known Johnny and Rob for several years and we started talking about collaborating as a trumpet trio after watching The Sax Pack and Sax to The Max. We decided to name the trumpet trio Brass Attack BBZ (Britt Bradley Zinn). We recorded and released two singles to smooth jazz radio, “Tijuana Taxi”, a cover written by trumpeter Herb Albert and an original song “Brassetude” written and produced by Britt, Bradley and Zinn, co-written by and produced by Jeff Canady. Prior to the pandemic, Brass Attack BBZ was scheduled to perform at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival and was being considered for several other performances. We hope to be afforded the opportunity to show the world what this dynamic trumpet trio can bring to your stage in 2022.

You have collaborated with many smooth jazz musicians. Anyone you’d like to work with in the future?

I would like to collaborate with Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, Will Downing and Nick Colionne.

Have you been able to get back out on the road for some live gigs?

Yes! I’ve been able to get back on the road for some live shows.

At what age, and how did you get started on trumpet? Was it your first instrument?

I started playing the trumpet in middle school at 12 years old. My first Band teacher was Mr. James B. Hunt at Belleville Middle School in Orangeburg, South Carolina. This was my first instrument.

Which artists inspired you as a young musician?

I was inspired by Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Grover Washington, Jr., Earth Wind & Fire, Miles Davis, James Brown, Chicago and Tower of Power to name a few.

How would you describe your music?

Bold, yet simultaneously charming; Edgy, yet at the same time beautiful; these seemly opposing adjectives might well-describe the music of this artist/trumpeter. My music brings together many varied styles but takes smooth jazz to a whole new level.

What advice do you have for musicians who would like to pursue a career in music?

My advice to musicians who would like to pursue a career in music is to learn every aspect of the music industry pertaining to the music business. Learn the different avenue streams in which to obtain residual income from your music. Musicians should be prepared to do the majority of the work themselves. It necessary to have a good foundation in order to be successful in this competitive music industry today.

You have a degree in Music Education. Talk about the importance of music education.

Music education improves and develops language skills in children. Music stimulates the brain, and with its varied sounds and lyrics, students are exposed to a large amount of vocabulary in a short amount of time. Music also provides exposure to other languages, which creates a foundation for the student’s ability to understand and communicate in different languages. Music education should always be considered a pivotal part of a child’s educational process.

What is your plan for 2022 and beyond?

My most recent achievement was being hired as an Artist-In-Residence/Adjunct Professor at South Carolina State University Department of Visual and Performing Arts. I began teaching the Music Industry already courses in August 2021 during the Fall Semester and will be teaching in the Spring Semester starting in January 2022. I am already booked for several performances for 2022. I am also working on a Christmas Album for 2022.

Keep up witth Willie Bradley here.

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