By Greg Hartman
Pronounced as the letter W followed by what the Beastie Boys had a license to be (ill), Will Heckard was turned on to hip hop in the later 90’s by Snoop Dogg’s attitude and 2Pac’s lyrics. He began writing his own songs, one that became a minor hit in his high school. He had not yet claimed a stage name, so Will’s friend joked “What are you going to call your self? W.ill?” He did and has stuck with it for 15 years.
Before arriving in the Grand Valley, W.ill spent 4 years in Denver performing and recording. He has played in a lot of venues, including Cervante’s Other Side and Herman’s Hideaway. Generally he’d play a few gigs a week, each promoting a larger showcase once a month. During his last two years there, he recorded an album called Scary Things that was near completion before those involved had a falling out. Not long after, he left for a new start in the Grand Valley.
Starting by going to open mic nights, often after a full day of work, W.ill made an impression performing while masked. Part bird of prey, part plague doctor, the mask has served as a great conversation starter and has helped him build connections. He will generally hang out towards the back of a venue, taking it all in, only casually talking to a few people, until he performs with an aggressive style that captures the crowd’s attention. He has become a regular at Cruisers on Tuesday nights and Open Jelly on Thursdays at Charlie Dwellington’s.
It is through those open mic performances and conversations that has made W.ill a common name among performers across the valley. He has performed with Peach Street Revival, including their show at the Civic Center Park in Fruita. Further, he performed as part of Chaz Roi’s album release and has opened for Anybody Killa and Jelly Roll at Mesa Theater. His passion for open mics and improvised bands has also lead to a large variety of guest performers on his new album, Juse Life.
W.ill previous released his first album called Demo-licious, which can still be found on a few corners of the internet, and as previously stated he recorded an unreleased album in Denver. Juse Life is his first full release that he is pushing over all media, including his Youtube page (wdotill) and Reverbnation. The album has also been submitted to Spotify and should be up by early November. The name refers to the beats producer, Juse Beats. The content ranges from a freestyle word challenge to autobiographical stories of battling inner demons, with guest spots from some of the most dynamic voices in the Grand Valley.
The opening track is titled “Someone Else”, inspired by a request from a co-worker, the track laments how people are taking advantage of even if they are always there for someone else. It is a strong, upbeat track to introduce the album of 17 tracks and 3 introductions. The second track is “Deception”, which tears into a wolf in sheep’s clothing and features guest spots by Pruvan and R Da Juice.
Track 3 introduces track 4,“We All Die”, a song from the perspective of someone who is always complaining about their life, even though they have most things going well for them. The introduction is meant to point out that W.ill is writing from another point of view. Track 5, “Wanting to Breathe” features Jella on a sung chorus about getting over a break up. Ironically, W.ill had a relationship fall apart just a week after recording the song, so working on it was therapeutic.
The tone of the album shifts with track 6, “Dance With You”, which has a strong EDM beat ready to get people dancing as they lyrics recommend. Track 7, “Be Your Everything” features Wave 11’s Charles Walker on vocals, adding to a strong R&B flavored hip hop track. Track 8 introduces track 9 as a dedication to two people lost to suicide, “Dark Days, Cold Nights”. The verses cover the life of each person, while Cody Snow provides soulful vocals digging into a difficult to talk about subject.
Track 10 features an amazing guest spot from Chaz Roi, as “Volcano” is an R&B/Hip Hop fusion that W.ill describes as “baby making music”. Track 11 brings in Benny Boom for “We Winnin”, a celebration about life going well and being on top. Track 12 explains a hip hop challenge given to W.ill by a customer to make a track based on a set of words. Track 13, “Words” is the result, a pure throwback Rap song with strong freestyle elements. “My Own Man” follows, a self affirmation of living up to your own vision no matter what life throws at you.
Track 15 is a discordant combination of bird tweets, bending wires, and a growing demonic laugh. This introduction to “Bird in a Cage” is meant to show the struggle of a bird escaping its prison while being tormented. The track again features Cody Snow and addresses the cages people build themselves out of fear of the outside world. Further, it shows how evil influences from within yourself can keep you from moving forward in life, stagnant in your life just staying at home. The theme is continued to track 17, “Devil Got Ahold” where personal demons promising a quick fix to a hard life tempt those struggling in life.
Track 18 gets back to a party mode with “Playing Games Pt 2”, a song who’s first part is set to be released in early 2019 as part of a collaborative album, We Make Party. It features another Open Jelly hip hop voice, Code Yellow. The last official track is 19, “The Party Track”. Tim Jennings of Tim + Richard and host of Open Jelly told W.ill the one thing missing was a party track. The two got together to make a self referencing track to end the album, with Benny Boom providing some bars. Juce Life ends with track 18, but there are two bonus tracks from other producers.
Track 19 is called “This One’s For You”, a dedication to Troy Dean Martinez, who was fatally shot at only 15 years old. Officially the cause was accidental, but W.ill explores feeling of his family left behind and the hurt and suspicion over the incident. Closing out the collection is an amazing collaboration with Cory Spurlock, aka Vowels. The two are the most regular hip hop voices at open mics in the Grand Valley and hearing the two share a track is a great way to end the album. Spurlock provides the beat, while the two discuss the ever closing gap between Robots and Humans. W.ill takes the persona of a Robot becoming more human, while Vowels portrays a human becoming more robotic. It is an impressive track and the result of a long conversation between the two about how people are losing their humanity.
The album is available for free streaming now on Reverbnation and Youtube, and will soon be on Spotify. An official CD release party is in the works, so keep your eyes out for that, as well as more new music from W.ill in early 2019.