To see Will Evans with his drumsticks weaving out the beat, strumming his acoustic guitar, and soulfully singing is to witness a musician grounded in his element. Whether he is up on stage looping tracks as a solo act or belting out roots music with his band Rising Tide: Will delivers an authentic and soulful performance for his audiences.
He has been a friendly musical presence in the shoreline area for most of his life, a Mystic native, a Stonington surf and sports instructor at NESS (New England Science and Sail), and a Westerly resident for the past five years.
Back to his roots in the early years; his musical influence grew from his dad’s French Canadian family where music was the highlight and during family reunions, he remembers his uncles breaking out the instruments and the acoustics were memorable. Benoit is his French Canadian last name but he changed it to his middle name which is Evans and as he puts it “Evans is easier to say and not get confused.”
Growing up listening to his family play music instilled in him a love of the acoustic guitar and he started singing and performing in the Baptist church in Mystic starting in second grade. But instead of the guitar or drums, he first learned how to play the trumpet that his mom and dad wanted him to learn before the guitar. His trumpet playing continued on through middle school and the beginning of high school where he did a year of the marching band.
“I really wanted to be in the jazz band, I loved the musical freedom of that,” says Will. “I could not read music, I played by ear and I didn’t like the structure of the music in the marching band.”
In the pursuit of his other passion sports, mainly soccer and hockey, Will took a break from music during high school but later returned to music when his parents let him have a drum set. Shortly after, he started a basement band with some friends.
“I was so hooked, we played in bars and were called Overdrive, playing classic rock songs,” says Will. “Bars would let us play and we were coming home at two in the morning covered in smoke, I was 16 years old and loving it.” He took his dad’s acoustic guitar, an old Martin D-28 hostage when he left for college. “My dad taught me original chords and it was very quick from there for me to learn.”
He started offering guitar lessons in the summer to kids in the community promoting it as an alternative means to educating themselves in music. “I wanted to show them the basics and then they could dictate where they wanted to go and see their strengths,” says Will.
In college, he also started writing his own songs with his major in global studies and history guiding him along. “I loved writing papers and translating past which helped in the songwriting,” says Will. “I was able to put in songs social issues.”
His band Barefoot Truth, an acoustic duo, sprang to life in 2004, with their signature look performing barefoot on stage at Stonington waterfront bars and along the shoreline, adding more band members along the way and touring intently all over the country until 2012 before the band took different paths and went their separate ways. Will kept going with his music and used his name as a solo artist with the last couple of years incorporating a band for headlining shows called Will Evans and Rising Tide. They recently performed the beginning of November at The Knickerbocker for their album release concert.
2016 was a pretty intense year for many with elections that changed our government and it left Will feeling just as helpless as everyone. Which inspired him to incorporate a Make a Little Change with small acts of kindness on his tours.
“It was a remedy for my own anxiety and at every show, we connect with a local nonprofit or charity and spotlight them throughout our show,” says Will. “For example, we have raised funds for an animal shelter and highlight a different one at every stop on the tour. We want to let it grow and get big so we can make a big change.”
When performing there is a sense of spirituality that Will brings to the stage as he closes his eyes while singing, his body moving rhythmically to the beat of his music. His lyrics speak of earth, truth, an open mindedness of conscious thought and beliefs.
“The spirit of earth connects us all,” says Will.
He incorporates a sense of being connected to nature in his acoustic song titled Adam and Eve where he sings: dust we are and dust we will return, return to the ground. On this live version in the studio, he recorded the song using looping, where musical material is repeated to create different patterns within the music.
“I try to incorporate technology into my music but it’s recorded live, with all sounds made by me,” says Will. “Its all about timing, if you don’t get the first one right it will be off, the first track is the rhythm track, then I hit the guitar – then it repeats and you can take things in and out, I try to build the loop really quickly and take it away and then add more.”
He incorporates looping into his solo act with all the elements making it sound like he has a band on stage.
“I want to have the ability to do both, play with a band and solo,” says Will. “I want to keep progressing; I don’t want to be stagnate- so the show will always be different.”
Last year was been a big one for Will Evans with the release of his solo album with Rising Tide as his backing band and a European tour starting the end of this month. He was touring in the UK, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands for the first time with Trevor Hall, an American singer and guitarist whose music is similar to Will’s, a combination of roots, folk, and reggae.
“Its conscious music and a tight family of musicians putting a positive message out there,” says Will. “Being stewards for the community and environment is a natural fit for me.”
He also can see himself putting on the brakes to his music career and becoming a dad someday.
His advice to up and coming young musicians: “Don’t try to be something you’re not, find what you love about music or what your passionate about and don’t be afraid to tell that story. Only you can tell that story. If you’re true to your craft people recognize that.”