Kelly Willis Robison Bombeck Cleaver, Funny Alt-Country Tweeter
What if Erma Bombeck had been hot, with a great voice and a Twitter account? What if Ward and June Cleaver had been country music singers with two more kids (twins)? What if all that somehow merged into a 21st-century Austin, Texas alt-country thing? Well, that would be Kelly Willis as Erma/June and Bruce Robison as a 6’7 1/2″ Ward.
How do you buy jeans for a VERY tall husband? Should you use social networking to sell Girl Scout cookies? What would Dr. McCoy say to cleaning a dirty toilet? How the hell does anyone raise 4 kids 10 and under, play gigs, put together a new CD and support a spouse who’s touring? These and other questions are answered on a daily basis by Kelly Willis Robison. Through it all, she keeps her humor intact and manages to tweet occasionally.
You probably know that Kelly Willis has one of the best voices and prettiest faces in country music. And that she knows how to write a song. Despite these attributes (or maybe because of them) she hasn’t enjoyed the commercial success one would have expected. Three albums with MCA “found little in the way of comparable commercial success” according to the bio on her website. In 1999 she put together What I Deserve on her own and sold it to Rydodisc. Great CD – charted well and received good reviews, establishing her role as a player in alt-country (which I suppose in this context means you’re talented and country but not being promoted by a major Nashville label anymore?). Since What I Deserve she’s done several more albums including Translated From Love, which was produced and co-written by one of the coolest guys in the business, Chuck Prophet. Prior to What I Deserve she dueted with another cool guy, Jay Farrar of Son Volt, for a compilation CD. Speaking of cool guys, Ms. Willis has been married to Bruce Robison since 1996. They collaborate as musicians and parents in Austin, Texas, with 4 kids. By my count, the oldest is 10, the twins just turned 8 and the youngest is 5. She went on performing hiatus in the middle of 2008 due to the considerable demands on her time at home but eased back out there in 2010. Which brings me to the point of this piece. I’ve been following Ms. Willis on Twitter for a year or so and find her to have one of the funniest (and most honest) voices in that medium. She writes regularly about the trials and travails of parenting as a performer and the wife of a performer.
After I did the piece on Rosanne Cash’s tweeting here, one person commented that I had perhaps discovered a business – “compiling, editing and contextualizing Twitter streams.” If it is a business, I haven’t figured a way to monetize it. And that’s not the point, anyway. (I’ve got a day job.) The point of making a few Twitter streams digestible outside of that medium is to let music fans who are not on Twitter (dummies!) know that it’s not such a bad thing – certainly not as bad as Facebook. (I’m not on Facebook, you see.)
Anyway, back to Kelly Willis. Let’s “contextualize” her Twitter stream over the past few months, shall we?
Ms. Willis is getting back in to the swing of being on the road again, part-time, mainly playing with Bruce. Here are a few tweets from that side of her life:
Me: I couldn’t hear my mandolin last night. Bru: well it sounded like sh!t. Me: oh. (think I’ll crank it in his monitor next gig)
Oops. Left bag w/ my stage clothes at home.Looks like I’ll be wearing a merch shirt for the gig tonight.Good thing I like “Bruce Robison”.
The road is like a video game. Level one-Lost luggage. Level 2-no soundcheck. Level 3- run out of gas…..
Kelly and Bruce have been writing songs and are preparing to record a CD together. Here are a few tweets on their collaborative style:
Bru and I just had our first of planned daily music sessions. He loves to rehearse and I find it tiresome. Can we meet in the middle?
We intend to make a record together. CO-create. Hang on tight!!!! This could get bumpy!!
Going on a date w/ Bruce instead of recording demos for our new project. Making lemons out of lemonade.
Bruce and I contemplated adding yet another new song to our lineup. Only fought a little. We are on a roll or something.
[less than a minute later]
Of course we aren’t adding that song. But dont tell him that.
My favorite tweets arise out of the idyllic home life of the Willis-Robison clan. Some examples:
Best advice I ever recieved from one mom whose spouse was out of town to another….”Cereal is a perfectly fine choice for dinner.”
I’m microwaving some frozen corn for dinner. Is that ok with you people?!?!
There are way too many chicken bones in my enchiladas.
I think it’s really cute when Bruce does the grocery shopping(rare).He comes home excited over all the “deals” he found.
People coming over today. Means I have to clean the toilet. Which is why I am here procrastinating. (4 kids = unpleasant toilet)
This leads Kelly into a Star Trek reference (she’s a Trekkie):
Damn it Jim, I’m a diva.. Not a toilet cleaner.
Later she tweets “sometimes following [the Star Trek Twitter account] makes me feel uncool.” Then comes her tweet on Bruce’s response:
Bruce just said “that’s not it”.
There are lots of kid tweets. Some are about movies. Like after they watched The Holy Grail:
Kids are walking around house singing the monks chant and hitting themselves in the head with books. A very good sign.
And this one about the horribleness of Yogi Bear:
Yogi Bear was not good. I see lots of kids movies. So far that’s the worst. And I saw Cats vs. Dogs 2. So I know.
Brownies and Girl Scout cookies are part of the challenges of home life:
I’m leading my daughters brownie meeting today. I’m getting worse at this. They’re on to me.
Is it cheating to post where my daughter will be selling GS cookies next week? 🙂
Decided not to tweet daughters GS cookie location. In case there are any nutjobs following me. So hard since nutjobs buy alot of cookies.
It’s hard to stick to your guns as the mother of a Girl Scout-cookie-selling Brownie:
We are selling at Torchy’s Tacos on the drag! Right now!!!
Come to Dan’s hamburgers on N. Lamar! We are selling girl scout cookies until 3:00! (my enthusiasm is running low)
These two tweets are just funny, without explanation:
I’m making an Aztec pyramid diorama today. Er , well..my son is. Complete with human sacrifice on top.
Bru played poker yesterday w/Charlie Sexton & Harry Connick Jr. When did he start living MY dream?If so..I’m afraid of what happened next.
Okay, enough tweets. Here’s a video of Kelly and Bruce doing “Dreamin'” – good example of how they sound together. Here’s hoping their CD comes out real soon. Meantime, I’ll be reading and smiling on Twitter.
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