It was just one year ago this month that I first saw/heard The Willis Clan at McGrory’s in Culdaff, Co. Donegal. They had just recently recenly released their album Heaven. I’d listened to their music, I’d read about the family. I had arranged to meet and talk with the mother, Brenda, prior to the gig at McGrory’s that night. They completely blew me away. Brenda first of all in her mothering, managing and sheer dedication to her family, and then the 12 children themselves. Musical talent, dancing talent, storytelling talent and more, at its very best.
And now The Willis Clan are once more in Ireland for their 2016 tour, at the present time.
“The Willis Clan is a family of amazing musicians, dancers, athletes, writers, and artists. Living near Nashville Tennessee, they merge their Irish roots with other music and dance genres to create a unique blend of the old and new.
God has blessed us greatly and we enjoy a rich and rewarding life. It is also a lot of hard work. With twelve children, just keeping their names straight can be a challenge. All twelve children’s names start with the letter ‘J’. (Jessica, Jerimiah, Jennifer, Jeanette, Jackson, Jedi, Jasmine, Juliette, Jamie, Joy Anna, Jaeger and Jada).
We like to enjoy the full specturm of life. We do music, dance, art, crafts, writing, as well as horses. wrestling, homemade cooking, swimming in the creek, and snuggling up before our fireplace warming our log cabin. We even have a front porch swing.
We also work hard to become excellent at the things we do. Our children have won regional and national dance titles and placed in world competitons for both music and dance. The boys have won state titles in folk style, freestyle, and Greco-Roman wrestling.
We have choseen to take paths less travelled and love it. We hope to share a little of this joy and adventure with everybody we meet.”
When you are in the presence of this family you really do experience that very joy and adventure.
Each of the twelve children are equally talented in all that they do. From the older children right down to the little Jaeger and Jada.
In April this year I was fortunate to catch up with Brenda when the family were in Ireland doing promotional work for the current tour alongside playing at Croke Park, speaking at the ‘Sister’s Summit’ and adventuring around Ireland.
I asked Brenda if the dynamics were changing now within the family as they were growing and maturing. She told me, “The children have some wonderful ideas of their own. The kids are branching out into other areas (between flying planes, writing country music, a new jewellery range – the list is endless). Jenny is working on a new country album. The younger children are being inspired by the older ones.”
When you see this family on stage, it is clear to see that the younger ones are indeed inspired by the older siblings. The awe and delight on their faces says it all.
This family are always on the go. If it’s on stage in Nashville or other part of the US, or in the family kitchen at home, there really is no rest. But at all times there is harmony and family fun at the core.
Following them on Facebook and Instagram, I am continually in awe of all they do.
In April the family had just released their single Momma, written by Jessica. Although clearly inspired by Brenda herself this song really is universal. Any child can relate to it and it just brings a tear to your eye with emotion.
Toby and Brenda are not just parents to these twelve children, they’re friends, companions, managers and strong influential mentors.Their influence is evident in each child. One can’t help but fall in love with all fourteen family members. Personally I favour Jeager. Now to convince him that ‘I’m the one!’
I wondered if Brenda and Toby ever get time on their own just to relax and enjoy being a couple. Brenda told me, “We love being around the kids. We enjoy each other and the children. At night when they go to bed, we have our time.” I think if ever a couple deserved
some ‘our time’, it’s Brenda and Toby.
The Willis Clan are no strangers to Ireland and it’s a delight to see that this current tour is becoming an annual one. And yet these tours are no ordinary ones. They are ‘fan tours’ and a number of fans travel with the family. To find out all the current Ireland tour dates check out The Willis Clan tour dates.
Here in Donegal it will be an absolute delight to see the gang once more at McGrory’s on Friday 1st July. If you’re in the area, do NOT miss this one. You really won’t be disappointed.