Salem Willard, better known by his stage name, Will Holler, will play a set of live music at 4:30 p.m. on July 14 at People’s Park. The show will be free and open to the public as part of the People’s Park concert series.
Willard’s set at People’s Park will be mostly original music, but will also feature some yet-to-be-decided covers. He said his inspirations come from a wide variety of sources, from Tom Waits to the Talking Heads, and he will feature some of their works in his set.
Willard is a veteran of the People’s Park series. Having appeared in the series for its last four occurrences, this performance will mark his fifth show. His introduction to playing with Bloomington Parks and Recreation came through his work with the farmers’ market.
He is also the co-founder of Bread & Roses Nursery, a local organic plant nursery that specializes in edible plants. Beginning in 2012, Bread & Roses sold their produce at the farmers’ market, where Willard was exposed to the series and eventually invited to play in it.
Willard said his stage name came from his agricultural roots. Aside from the phrase’s double meaning, Willard said the name is an homage to his family and to the work he does outside of music.
“‘Will Holler’ is also the place where I live and where my farm is, named after my grandfather who went by Will,” Willard said.
“Holler” here is used not to describe a yell; rather, it’s an informal term referring to a valley. The term is a derivative of “hollow” and originates from the mountains of Appalachia. The stage name hasn’t always been worn by Willard alone, he said. It was originally the name of the band he fronted, which recorded its only album in 2018 and was forced to disperse in 2020.
With the other main member of the band moving to Chicago during the COVID-19 pandemic, Willard took on the name for his solo gigs, occasionally also going by “Salem Will Holler.” He said he has enjoyed the process of transitioning the songs from a group setting to his independent work and is currently working on a solo album.
“With all the craziness it just didn’t feel like the time to retool the band,” Willard said.
By his own admission, Willard is not the most technically skilled instrumentalist. He said lyrics are his strong suit, but his songwriting process generally involves the simultaneous creation of lyrics and music.
“They generally happen pretty much at the same time,” Willard said. “I’ll come up with a musical idea and then write the lyrics for it right there. If I leave too much time in between, things can more easily fall to the back burner.”
Willard expressed his excitement for the People’s Park performance, emphasizing that listeners should come expecting to hear something entirely unique and new.
“I really don’t like clichés,” Willard said. “I don’t want to just say something like ‘I want you back.’ I prefer to say it with more subtlety, so I hope it comes across as something people haven’t heard before.”