Will West & The Friendly Strangers
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Will West & The Friendly Strangers

Portland, Oregon, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2010
Band Americana Acoustic




""A formidable ensemble""

Tonight's show sees Will West and the Friendly Strangers sending Take This Moment... out into the world, a new full-length boasting West's trademark acoustic songwriting. Originally from North Carolina, the Portland resident has miles of American road under his belt. There's also fine stuff like the delicate "In a Dream," which contains an old-time country gospel feel. And there's the hollow-log swamp of "Banjo Groove" and the lilting bluegrass and call-and-response of "Everytime." The Friendly Strangers are a formidable ensemble, boasting fiddles and banjos and mandolins, all guided by West's casual ringleading. NED LANNAMANN - Portand Mercury

"Featured Artist & Review at Indie-Music.com"

Indie-Music.com -- Feb 2008

By Thomas D. Szewc

Allow me to do something a little different for this review and set a scene for you: its 5:30 in the morning and your alarm clock is abruptly waking you up from an all too brief sleep with a song you genuinely don’t want to hear. You somehow manage to pull yourself out of the covers and into the bitter air, then go on to throw your clothes on before heading out the door for a begrudging 6:00 a.m. customer service shift. As you try to shake away the weariness, you end up bombarded by calls from boorish customers who won’t give you a moment’s peace of mind. Oh, and did I mention you’re a co-worker short as well? Yeah, I think you get the idea. It’s safe to say that by this point you hate the world and everything in it. Well, it’s not hard for me to imagine this state of mind, for it was exactly the kind of morning I was faced with recently. As I sat there in the midst of chaos and drowse, I decided to throw in Will West’s album Shine, hoping to distract myself with the prospect of writing my next review. Well, Shine did a lot more than distract me. In fact, I think Will West is now one of my new heroes.

There’s a certain spirit to Shine that is able to touch that deep down fiber of your being. If you want to be a little less existential about it, this album really has a knack for calming your spirits. When the first track started and I was met with an almost trance inducing melody, I felt my pain and frustration just slip away. Shine encompasses an overall positive feeling backed up by light sounds that will have you relaxed in no time. West uses a blend of acoustic folk, alternative country, bluegrass, and even a bit of blues to create a very original sound I can honestly say I’ve never encountered before. He brings smoothness to the singer/songwriter genre that creates something a bit more transitory than simple emotive storytelling.

West’s main attraction lies within his wonderful acoustic guitar work. While this may be the focal point of the album, don’t be surprised to hear the occasional harmonica, fiddle, or even saxophone thrown in as backup. From start to finish, the way West brings these sounds together with his comforting vocals is nothing short of magic. The opening track is very gentle yet almost mysterious in its way of putting your mind at utter peace. It’s the perfect introduction to the easy-going songs that follow like "Sunny Daze" and "The Rain Song." Other songs offer a bit livelier and heavily country inspired sound, such as "On the Inside" and "Old 45." Even if you’re not a country music fan (like myself), West’s unique take on the style will have you tapping your foot within seconds.

You'll find a lot to love here, but I’d say the breakout tracks on this release are “Rose City?and "Rock Bottom." The first is West’s ode to his current hometown of Portland, and the sentiments really show through the lyrics:

Hello Portland and Happy Friday
We’ll be chilling out on NW 21st with these cool, cool vibes
Your crazy ways here we go
Or we head to the eastside, to the north to the south
We’ll be running bout this town here we go
We say Hey ?Rose City
Here we are feeling fine
We say Hey ?Rose City
I’ve gots to know, where is my mind this time?

West paints such an elaborate picture with his simple lyrics and intoxicating background melody; he makes Portland sound like one really animated place. Interestingly, the opening intro is spoken, rather than sang, which works well to capture an almost live feeling. Plus I think it creates a more intimate connection for the listener. "Rock Bottom" has quite a different sound to it, featuring a beginning that would feel right at home on any southern trucker radio. The main draw for me though is the chorus. Sure, I could go on and on about its technical aspects or writing (both of which are indeed lovely), but allow me to break it down for you like this: its chorus is just SO damn catchy! Featuring one of those beats you just can’t possibly ignore, you’ll want to play this one over and over again. Really, all that matters is the music, and this music is just so wonderful it speaks for itself.

Are you in a good mood and just want to enjoy it? Then Shine is the perfect album for you. In a bad mood and need something to sooth your pain? Then once again, this is the perfect album for you. It would be a crime for talent like this to go unnoticed, so I highly recommend you give this album a listen. Perhaps in some time you too will be thanking Will West for getting you through a horrible morning.
- By Thomas D. Szewc

"Comfort & Soul -- Encore Magazine"

By: Angela Cruz -- Oct 2007

I believe that real breathing can become a lost habit,?Will West says about Rock Bottom,?off his new album, Shine. that may sound strange, but it's amazing how breathing can affect one's overall well-being, health and happiness . . . breathe a little life into your mind, he adds, stealing a line from his own song to offer explanation. And life is something of which West is definitely full.

Even with a childhood nurtured by his parent's love for music and his own curiosity in playing guitar, West went to college to study chemistry, hoping to find a job teaching eventually. Yet, he couldn't escape music for long while attending UNC Chapel Hill.

I met new musicians and was turned onto to all sorts of new sounds, he says. "that's also where I first braved the stage at the Skylight Exchange's open mic in early 2000. I was a nervous wreck, and I played all three of my original songs at hyper speed. But afterward I felt wonderful, and I knew that I was hooked."

After visiting his brother in Portland, Oregon, in 2001, West had more positive experiences with his music. "My first try [was] at busking, street performing, he clarifies. I immediately fell in love with the city."

Like any good artist, he followed his heart. "I finished school, loaded up my guitar, my dog and a handful of songs and drove west in the summer of 2002."

For West, Portland offers a heightened sense of competition, pushing him to grow as a songwriter and performer. And life in the Rose City is not easy. "There's a constant flow of musicians and artists that keep the energy moving in Portland," he explains. "That can make the scene seem very competitive and difficult. I know I was ready to leave quite a few times in my first two years there. It was tough just keeping my head above water each month. I'm just glad now that I stuck with it. New musicians seem to be flocking toward the Northwest all the timeso I know I'l never be complacent."

While living in Portland, he is learning ways to keep up with that constant flow, also finding a fan base. West has an advantage, in that he knows he must keep his music versatile. He gained interest in what his father knew: bluegrass, folk and the blues. He could take things he remembered from those "late-night music jams at [his] house"and put them to good use. In a city with a variety of people, why not utilize a variety of music?

"In one week, Ill go from playing a jazzy set with my sax player at an upscale restaurant to playing a folk/bluegrass set with my other band at an outdoor festival. That's the only way to have three or four shows per week in one city: have a wide range of sound to offer," he explains.

The versatility is only part of what makes his music intriguing. West also makes his music accessible to the listener on multiple levels. His voice is familiar, like he is singing only to the ears who hear him. Yet his music, the folk and bluegrass roots, have listeners tapping their feet and nodding their heads. His lyrics are simple enough to relate to anyone's life. It's easy to feel the friendly guy from North Carolina singing about life as opposed to a rock star singing about a life most of us are strangers to.

One listener review attempts to grasp West's sound, saying, "if you like Dave Matthews, you'll enjoy Will West." While West strives for his own unique and diverse sound, he's still flattered by the pairing. "It's quite a compliment," he remarks. "Now we'l just see how long it takes for me to sell out the mega concert venues!"

But West has not forgotten his roots in North Carolina, the state he still calls home. He has been touring the East Coast extensively since the beginning of October and will make his appearance in Wilmington at Hell’s Kitchen on Friday, October 12th, at 9:30pm.

- By: Angela Cruz



By: Shea Carver -- Aug 31 2006

It’s a debate that still takes place today. The age-old question of which is better: the Northwest or Southeast? Ask someone from Seattle, and they’re sure to answer Northwest. Ask a southerner, and, well, since you’re reading this in the South, you know the answer already. But the beauty that merges between the regions comes in the form of music. Sounds of sultry guitar riffs and laid-back vibes could be influenced from the lethargic-paced Southeast just as well as from the at-ease judgement of the Northwest. Will West meets in the middle of the two regions.
The singer/songwriter hails from Oregon, but only by way of Wilmington, NC. Southeastern bred and Northwestern fed, West’s comforting music is a combination of the lackadaisical attitude often embraced during muggy southern summers and the non-biased approach to life in general, all of which the open-minded Northwest is so well-known.
“I’m continuously moved by the people I meet here,” shares West. “The artists, musicians, and open-minded individuals. I think Northwest cities are pretty progressive. But it’s such a long ways from home. North Carolina still feels like home when I return. There’s a different kind of warmth I get from folks in NC; it’s hard to describe, but I know it’ll always be in my blood.”
Longitudes and latitudes aside, it’s the outlook from which West derived in college—to move to Portland after graduation, experience the world and make it as a musician—that has alloted him the freedom to move about the country as he wishes. Such freedom brings him home to Bella Festa on Wednesday, Sept. 6th, where he’ll perform an early set from 8-10pm. West took time out to talk with encore about his music and meeting his own expectations as a singer/songwriter.

e: What do you like most about the Northwest and miss most about the South?

WW: I was stunned by the vibe I found in [Portland]—so much music and art, and still everything seemed so accessible . . . I’m still inspired by the landscape throughout the Northwest. Mountains and rocks create the coastline, along with amazing old-growth forest...
But the winters can be very dark and long—lots of rain. We don’t get the beautiful season changes like the Southeast, either. Makes me miss the wonderful fall tree colors and those warm Atlantic waters.

e: You mention on your Web site journal entry that you’re “just hanging off of Alberta,” which makes me think of Neil Young’s cover “Four Strong Winds,” by Ian Tyson. He said it reminds him of when he left home for the first time; the song kept him connected to Canada. What song do you feel keeps you connected to the South?

WW: There are quite a few artists like old OutKast and Mofro. But, whenever I hear Steve Ray Vaughn’s “Couldn’t Stand the Weather,” I remember a sunny afternoon, leaving Atlantic Beach heading toward Wilmington—such a beautiful day. Driving with the windows down and not a care in the world; that is NC summertime.
I’ve been getting more and more into Jim White lately. I chatted with him after a show in Seattle—such a cool character. If you’re ever looking for an interesting perspective on the rural deep South, you should check out some of his albums. His movie, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, is also pretty amazing.

e: Some folks say talent comes organically; others say it must be practiced. Where do you stand?

WW: My parents both played instruments in their day. Mom sang a bit and played some guitar. My dad played about everything: sax, clarinet, guitar, fiddle, accordion. So we always had lots of music and instruments in our home. Guitar seemed to come pretty naturally. I took a few months of lessons when I was 12, but I’ve been basically self-taught since then.
Singing was a very different story. I really began working on my vocals in early 2000. It was pretty rough for quite awhile—figuring out how to separate my thinking so that I could play and sing at the same time. It’s still something I continue working on all the time—writing, practicing and performing. It’s all still moving. and it feels like it keeps getting stronger.

e: “On the Inside” has a vibrant twang to it—a bit American alt-country. How do you feel this genre fairs on the music scope right now?

WW: My producer has a definite love for alt-country. He laid down the bass and drums for “On the Inside.” The song took on a whole new energy, and I love it. Wait until you hear “Rock Bottom” on the full-length later this fall [due out in October].
...I’m more versed in old-time blues (Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, etc) and bluegrass. But I did recently get turned on to Billy Bragg and the work he did with Wilco on Mermaid Avenue—a wonderful album.

e: What do you aim for your music to accomplish for you? For listeners?

WW: When I was a little kid, I remember standing on my bed playing air guitar wi - Encore Magazine


"Sunshine" (June 2012) 2nd album by Will West & The Friendly Strangers.
"Take this Moment" (Jan 2011) Studio Full Length by Will West & The Friendly Strangers.
"To Inspire" (April 2009) LIMITED PRESS of Live Studio Recordings.
"SHINE" (Jan. 07) Recorded & Produced at 8 Ball Studio.
"Reconstruction" (Dec. 03) Live studio recordings at Ethos Studios.



Carolina born songwriter Will West has called Portland, Oregon home since 2002. From his humble beginnings busking on downtown sidewalks and exploring open-mics, Will West has been on a steady rise in this rich Northwest music scene.

2013 has marked the biggest year so far for Will West & The Friendly Strangers. They headlined the 2013 Choochokam Festival of the Arts on Whidbey Island, WA in July. Followed by a stretch of fantastic outdoor concerts and events in the Pacific Northwest.

The Friendly Strangers came together as a band in 2010.
Known for their friendly, easy-going vibes, they find true joy in performance and love connecting with the audience....

They've been cruising off the release of their 2nd studio album called "Sunshine". The title track was featured on the Homegrown Music Sampler Vol 6 by KINK fm101.9. Songs have been spinning on KNRK 94.7, KINK 101.9 and KZME 107.1 in the Portland area.

"I loved that album, lyrical poetry with soul and a groove."
-Steve Pringle DJ KINK 101.9

"Sunshine, will surprise and delight. Yes, the mandolins and banjos are still there, but so are several unexpected sounds." ~ Inessa at KINK FM.

Some Background:

Carolina born songwriter, Will West, performs with a rotation of stellar musicians called The Friendly Strangers.
They perform in various Duos, Trios and Full Band Line-ups depending on the venue and event. Together they create a signature acoustic sound blending Old-Time Instrumentation with Modern Inspirations & Improvisation. They love to interact with the audience to create a lively, comfortable vibe.

Style: Modern Roots, Americana & Groovy Improvisations
Up-tempo, Lively, Positive Vibes.

Instrumentation includes: Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Trumpet, Cello, Mandolin, Fiddle, Drums, Vocals and more....

Will West & The Friendly Strangers 1st album called "Take this Moment" was released in January 2011.
2 songs were featured on KINK fm101.9 (AAA Radio) in Portland and the song "Understand" was voted onto the Locals Only Volume 4 CD released by KINK.
The album recently launched as a new channel on Pandora Radio.

Including: Mississippi Studios, The Secret Society Ballroom, The Woods, Dante's & Lola's Room.
Flicks on the Bricks at Pioneer Square 
Summer Concerts in the Park in Oregon City 
Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts 
Choochokam Art & Music Festival 
First City Celebration of Oregon City 
Leaders of Sustainability Awards 
Oregon Brewfest Kickoff Party 
Monday Farmer's Market ~ Pioneer Square 
2010 Portland Folk Festival
The Bite of Oregon Mainstage 

Some notable east coast performances by Will West:
Live TV ~ LowCountry Live on ABC television in Charleston, SC (2 time interview/performance)
Live Radio ~ BluePlate Special WDVX in Knoxville, TN (2 time interview/performance)
The Living Room (NYC)
Iota Club & Cafe (Arlington, VA)
Smith's Olde Bar (Atlanta)
Flicker Theatre (Athens, GA)
Village Tavern (Charleston, SC)
Nash Arts Center (Nashville, NC)
Berkeley Cafe (Raleigh, NC)
The Evening Muse (Charlotte, NC)
Eddie's Attic (Decatur, GA) 2 time open-mic finalist.

They have averaged 100+ shows each year since 2009 and they continue to push their music through performance and experimentation.
Will West & The Friendly Strangers are quickly making a name for themselves in the Northwest and beyond....

Press Notes:

"Boasting fiddle, banjos and mandolins. The Friendly Strangers are a formidable ensemble all guided by West's casual ringleading."  ~ Up&Coming - Portland Mercury (Portland, OR)

"Singer-Songwriter Will West is Oregon-based, but Carolina born, and you can hear it in the warm, charming lilt of his easy going acoustic songs. West's tunes are probably best described as Folk, but can definitely hear some Southern Blues & Bluegrass influence in there, too."
- Ben Salmon - Bend Bulletin (Bend, OR)

"Comfort & Soul"
Angela Cruz - Encore Magazine (Wilmington, NC)

"He incorporates rootsy, acoustic folk with a bluesy, almost hip-hop-like sense of rhythm. West is a funky, acoustic pop songsmith with a flare for lyricism and rich melodies."
Matthew Godbey - Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)