It’s been a long and winding road for Seattle singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ty Willman. Back in 1994, Ty was on the cusp of a great rock ‘n roll career with Green Apple Quick Step. But then in 1998 before their third album was released, the bottom fell out and the band called it a day.
“We just got tired of it all at the time,” Ty told me while on break from his job at the coffee shop. “It was a lot of fun and there was no bitter break up. We all just had enough.”
After the band went its separate ways, Ty stopped playing music for awhile, but he couldn’t stay away forever. He formed a short-lived band called the Hoolibes with Green Apple Quick Step’s original guitarist. Ty would, also, occasionally jump on stage and sing with Crack Sabbath, which was a soul jazz project that didn’t do too much beyond playing at local clubs.
In 2001 it all came back together as Ty bumped into Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, who was working on his first solo CD entitled Bayleaf. Stone wanted to have Ty sing on all the songs, but Ty encouraged the guitarist to try his hand (or voice rather) at singing. It ended up about 50/50 with Stone and Ty splitting the vocal duties.
After that he paired up with long time friend Shawn Smith (Satchel/Brad) in writing and working together in Ty’s basement, which became known as the Icebox. Ty wrote a song on Shawn’s new album called “Leaving California” that recently was picked to be on the final episode of the Sopranos this season. And to return the favor, Smith played the piano on one of the tracks on the Novatone EP.
“Shawn is great to work with,” Willman said. “We have a lot of fun working together and trading off with our music. I think he certainly helped me get back out into doing the band thing again.”
Ty once again got the bug to start writing and recording music. As a result, he met guitarist Rob Lyons while hosting open mic night. The two holed up in Ty’s basement studio and began creating music.
Then on an off chance at a Seattle Supersonics basketball game, Ty wound up sitting with Dave Krusen, who was the first drummer on the Pearl Jam Ten release. One thing led to another and Dave began jamming with Ty and Rob. Completing the project that was now going by the name Novatone, Ty brought in his friend Cody Davis on bass. Keyboardist Rob Knapp rounded out the group after a few rehearsals.
The band has recorded a five-song EP entitled The Jupiter Sessions 04 that is filled with balls-out rock combined with a blues and soul based sound. Davis and Krusen are clearly the driving force of the band with their big rhythm section and tight musicianship. Tackle that with Ty’s quirky and sometimes personal lyrics and Lyons slick guitar, Novatone is a band not to be missed.
“It is hard for us in this town now because of bands like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie,” Ty said. “Nothing against those bands, but we don’t sound like any of that music that is popular right now, it is like we are the indie of the indie.”