That guy with the guitar


Tara Fredenburg

Will HIlliard (11) performs in September at the Scribbler Coffeehouse

There is an abundance of talent around White Station, but there is a particular person who stands out from the crowd. Will Hilliard (11), an aspiring musician and song-writer, has been making a name for himself around Memphis.

When he’s not playing out in the front of the school, he can be seen at Ernestine & Hazel’s, Java Cabana and White Station’s very own Scribbler Coffeehouses. Hilliard’s passion for music started at an early age. As a kid, he was always surrounded by music because his brother was a musician.

“I loved to move with the rhythm,” Hilliard said, “and I thought, ‘what if I could do that?’”

He picked up a guitar and started messing around. From then onwards, his hunger for music grew stronger. Now he’s expanded his expertise to the drums, bass, ukulele and harmonica.  Not only is he an instrument connoisseur, but his acoustic voice also complements his eclectic style.

Hilliard does not like to ascribe to a particular style or genre. If he had to choose, he would describe his music as having a classic rock vibe. He cites many artists that he looks up to from Kendrick Lamar to Law and U.S. History teacher Mr. Fernandez, but it is Kurt Cobain, blink-182 and The Beatles who have had the greatest influence on his music.

When it comes to writing lyrics, Hilliard finds inspiration from life itself. As cliche as it sounds, he finds happiness and sadness to be the easiest things to write about. His definition of love encompasses both happiness and sadness. This is the subject of many of his songs.

“You’ve got to find the perfect balance between emotion and understanding,” Hilliard said.

He puts a great amount of effort and time into writing his songs, sometimes even waking up in the middle of the night when he’s inspired to write lyrics, but it is not an easy job.

“It’s kind of like writing a song,” Hilliard said. “You know, you’re sitting in there and, like, you know what you wanna say, but you can’t figure out how to say it.”

Performing presents another challenge. Even as a seasoned musician, the butterflies still get to him.

“Right before you start, it’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done,” Hilliard said. “I never get used to it. But then once you start playing it’s like you forget. It’s like I imagine I’m in my room just playing my guitar.”

Getting gigs is not always easy. In larger cities like Memphis, aspiring musicians often have a tough time getting opportunities. Once he does get a gig though, Hilliard thoroughly enjoys the experience. “Music is a great way to translate. I look at music, the reason people do it art in general is because they have ideas” Hilliard said.

He loves to see people bonding over his music and being able to translate abstract feelings into an art form for others to hear. By getting out in the music scene, Hilliard has been able to meet many new people and discover the underground music scene in Memphis.

Not only does Hilliard perform solo gigs, but he’s also ventured into bands. In fact, he has performed with White Station alum Bedon Lancaster. They even started a club at school where they would get together with a few other students and play music. He started his own club with Mr. Fernandez this year: The Musician’s Club.

After high school, Hilliard plans to continue playing gigs through college. After that, he says he may have to scale down and play the guitar as a hobby in order to make way for other career pathways. He has thought about pursuing a career in the music industry, but he knows that gigging is exhausting and time-consuming. This, however, does not mean he will ever stop producing music.

“I plan to play for the rest of my life.”