Elizabeth Willis: 'Overture' & 'In Your Eyes'

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Classically-trained singer and songwriter Elizabeth Willis. Dennis Kleiman hide caption

itoggle caption Dennis Kleiman

As a child, musician Elizabeth Willis was formally trained in piano and violin, and often imagined she'd grow up to be a classical musician. But at some point along the way she decided to walk away from classical music and start writing grand and beautiful pop. The 11 songs on her self-titled debut bridge the gap between her two passions by pairing her distinctive vocals and pop stylings with cinematic string and piano arrangements. The result is refreshing and often gorgeous.

Fittingly, the album begins with "Overture," an instrumental piece featuring piano, violin and cello. It serves to highlight Willis' classical past before transitioning seamlessly to "In Your Eyes," a stirring showcase for her voice. Willis' deeper range is a cozy cross between Tracy Chapman and the breathy quality of recent pop sensation Colbie Caillat. These two songs set the tone for the rest of Elizabeth Willis, which is generally a thoughtful and solemn record. A Russian Literature major at Smith College, Willis admits her pervading use of minor keys in her music is influenced by Russian art, and cites a fondness for Dostoevsky's literature and Rachmaninov's compositions.

Willis' hybrid debut isn't just for classical or pop fans seeking something fresh, though. Rapper Ludacris praised Willis in a May issue of Rolling Stone, while other artists have begun remixing her music for an upcoming release.

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