Here is the girl that has the looks to flatter the pages of magazines, a voice to rock some dirty-pop onto the billboard charts, and a heart that she wears on her sleeve that hymns amazing grace – literally. It’s Willa Ford.
And that heart on her sleeve is a tattoo of lyrical notes from the song “Amazing Grace,” making it a rather uncanny reflection of her heart’s wildest dream, as well as a poetic testimony to her late grandmother. “I never sang [Amazing Grace] to any audience except to my grandmother. When she passed away I sang it at her funeral, it’s her favorite hymn and that song means a lot to me because of my faith,” says the 31-year-old.
The self-proclaimed “free spirit with a humanitarian-base” singer began her career at the tender age of eight when Willa sang with the Tampa Bay Children’s Choir. By age eleven, she graduated to a performing arts troupe entertainment revue, which eventually led to the days of the crisp-clean Mandah (then stage name). When that squeaky-clean image gave way to the foxy vixen Willa Ford, our star was born. Along with it came her top hit, “I Wanna Be Bad,” a single from the appropriately titled debut album “Willa was Here” – which according to the billboard charts, left valid evidence of just that. Willa remembers the day the song made MTV’s Total Request Live (TRL), “I was in Miami shooting something for MTV. They stopped what we were doing and pulled me into a room, I did not know what was happening, and they turned on the TV and it was number 8! I remember the whole room erupted.
Even with an extensive musical background taking roughly over two-thirds of her life, as well as garnering a degree in opera, Willa believes that the moment to be most proud of in her career is yet to be determined. “I feel like my most proud moment in music hasn’t come yet,” she states. In the meantime, Willa adds philanthropy to her already impressive resume, “I have a strong urge to heal the world.” While in Texas, Willa volunteered at an abused and neglected children’s shelter and in Los Angeles she has been working with teen clinics. Every other Saturday, Willa will “go in and spend time with them, gain their trust, do projects, sing and showcase their talent, really just teaching them to trust people again.” Willa admires the teens’ unique stories and heroic feats saying, “How they pour their stories and heartache into songs is really heart-felt, it’s kind of amazing.”
On the subject of heart-felt songs, Willa is making a few of her own in her country album. “My heart has taken me into the country world. So many people in that world I would love to collaborate with. Nashville is an amazing place and feel like everyone there is so talented, I respect all of them.” Her dream collaborations? “Lee Brice for sure! The whole record ‘Hard to Love’ is so good,” says Willa on Brice’s album, her current inspiration. In addition to Brice, she explains that her life has also been an inspiration, “I’m inspired by what’s happening, good or bad, sometimes it’s hard to say what’s really happening and it’s easier to write it,” adding, “If mine doesn’t, I take those stories of people around me and that inspires me in other ways.” And with that heart-felt last note, Willa takes her career from pop to country with amazing grace.
By Jenina Singh