These days, the idea of not only encountering straightforward goodness but also accepting it without skepticism or a fear of Murphy’s Law, seems impossible. Finding the positives amid so many simultaneous difficult situations, as well as problems without direct solutions and no defined endpoints, would make most good deeds or optimistic views feel like a needle in a haystack. However, despite all odds, uplifting actions and hopeful attitudes can still find ways to break through all the hardship and there’s no secret or ulterior motive behind it. This is the perspective that holds up the hard work and compassionate aspirations of musician Will Muse.
A pop-oriented singer-songwriter from Somerset, Kentucky, Will Muse unquestionably lives up to his inspirational name. Not just an individual motivated to forge his own path in the music industry, Muse’s identity as a musician is comprised of many purposes and passions: musical visibility; artistic innovation; and, most notably, charity work in support of the ill – all of which grew and matured from the roots of his initial connection with music.
“(My parents) had always I guess kind of influenced me about playing a lot of really awesome music, just from a young age. I was (only) three and four years old, you know, listening back to Paul McCarthy, listening to, Aerosmith and Guns and Roses and the Beatles and Elton John, different things like that, and Prince, and a lot of great (artists) So that really inspired me to you know get into it and start playing music for myself,” Muse says.
As noteworthy as hearing to such a variety of artists, instruments, and voices from such a young age is, what would that kind of formative experience be like without the amusing innocence of a child’s ear along the way?
a funny little tidbit (about) the song “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” Muse starts
“Being three or four years old in the back of the car seat, I remember the Guns N’ Roses version to “Knock, Knock, knocking, on Heaven’s Door,” says Muse. “But instead of saying ‘heaven’ I actually (sang), ‘Kevin.’ I was like three or four and I say, ‘Mom, Dad, who’s Kevin?’.”
Endearing memories like these certainly light Muse’s path with unique moments outside of the glow from a fast-growing fire for the thrill of playing music, as so many before Muse have had. Eventually a pair of classic settings that are at once familiar across so many stories but different for every child who participates, really give Muse’s musical energy some momentum.
“At five,” Muse continues, “I started taking guitar lessons so, I got a guitar teacher and I was taking lessons, playing the electric and acoustic guitar. And then at age six, I started taking piano lessons from the same teacher, and then you know that all just kind of grew. I was just seriously immersed, you know? (I was eventually) classically training myself on both guitar and piano.
“Then around age 12 or 13, my school was having a talent show and I (thought) ‘Well you know, I think that I should maybe perform in this!’ This was the first time that I had ever sang before in public at all. And I thought that it would be pretty crazy to sing from a very first time for my entire middle school, with around 500 people there,” he says.
Muse’s family supporting the idea of him exploring music through lessons and a wide range of artist selections from prior to age five would certainly bolster his potential for high proficiency with just about any facet of the art form. Yet, while early exposure and encouragement would likely be helpful for any child’s success, timing alone didn’t bring about one the unexpected tools that would prove most useful to Muse for achieving his broader goals: prodigious musical abilities and a propensity for academics – the latter of which allowed Muse to pursue and dive into and successfully take on collegiate studies at just 16 years old.
“Throughout school I’ve always just tried to be a very good student,” Muse says. “I go to a smaller public high school here (in Somerset), and we have maybe around five or 600 students in all. I just really enjoyed taking you know some (Advanced Placement) and dual credit classes, and over my high school years, I’ve been able to, I guess, amass over 60 college credits towards a major. I’m actually the number one student, academically, in my class but, I try to balance that (level of study) with music.”
It shouldn’t be understated how many routes there are for people to choose from, and that some approaches work out better than others, when one of the objectives at hand is writing music for the public to hear. Still, at least having options available for a wider breadth of actionable choices never hurts. In Muse’s case, the possibilities rendered through either academic study or immediate grassroots performance in, around, and beyond his community of Somerset were available to him but what made the right direction become clear came down to a matter of sheer appreciation for learning in the classroom.
“I guess my parents have always had pretty high academic standards for me but I also kind of realized that I enjoy excelling and doing well in school because kind of how I see it is that by the time I graduate, I will only have to be in college for about maybe one and a half to two years,” Muse explains.
“So what I like about that is, that will give me a leg up,” he continues. “It’ll give me more time to possibly focus on music or things like that. So I think that now while I’m home (and I can) I feel that I should kind of buckle down and really seriously focus on both (music and academics).
Though it could be said that Muse’s runway to measurable milestones may have been lengthened by opting to formally study first, sometimes spontaneous or particularly meaningful moments end up steering life in a certain direction and after the fact, hindsight reveals a big picture outcome that turns out better than any of the original choices. While it’s true Muse had already developed a strong sense of artistry with musical aptitude before choosing to study collegiate material, the commitment to putting doing as much classwork as possible gave Muse the time and thinking space to develop a collaborative opportunity with the Kentucky branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which might never have happened if Muse had sequestered himself in the studio to record and-or immediately hit the road to do an independent tour across different parts of the U.S.
Named the Music for Wishes program, Muse just held his fourth consecutive annual benefit concert – this year was hosted virtually due to the effects of COVID-19 – the proceeds from which support the local outpost of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Well I, myself, I was kind of acquainted with
somebody who, you know, had the eligibility to have a wish granted through the
Make A Wish Foundation,” Muse explains, “and I realized that here where I live,
I live in Somerset, Kentucky, we had several children who were eligible for
wishes to be granted (but) I saw that we had no Make-A-Wish Foundation
fundraising (efforts). There was no funding for these children.”
“So I saw all of these children, you know, waiting for wishes and you know, wanting that, you know, wonderful experience of a wish,” he continues “And there’s no funding. And that just kind of really motivated me to go out and found (Music for Wishes). I guess I wanted to kind of combine my passion for music and then my passion for helping people and that motivated me to found (the program.)”
A highly beloved program in both Muse’s local town of Somerset and the broader community across Kentucky, Music for Wishes has showcased not only Muse’s penchant for altruistic work but his devotion to the non-music related needs of those around him. The program is much more than the familiar format of compiling an artist lineup, selling tickets, and donating proceeds.
“We have (the annual event) in a place called The Center here in Somerset. We have a concert, a silent auction and a professionally catered meal. It’s a wonderful event,” Muse explains.
“In our very first year, we had a goal of raising $10,000. Well, we (ended up) raising over $25,000, exceeding that (goal) by two and a half times. We were just thrilled and you know we just couldn’t have done it without the wonderful support of our community and local businesses. It was a great time for people to be able to come together and just make these wishes happen and grant them to these children,” he says, proceeding to highlight the increasing success of Music For Wishes in subsequent years.
“So then that inspired me to continue doing it. We had an event the next year and (that time) we brought in some performers from Nashville, some local artists, and, I did a set (too). And then last year, we actually had Pam Tillis, a Grammy Award-winning artist, (take part). We played with her and it was a fantastic experience, you know, having somebody like that to come (lend) their star power and really help get these wishes granted,” Muse says.
Each passing year has strengthened the cause and with that compounding success – to date the program has raised nearly $96,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Kentucky – there’s definitely a budding opportunity for Music for Wishes to expand its outreach, perhaps even to a nationwide scale.
“(Myself and the administration of Music for Wishes) has talked about you know having, you know, maybe some smaller events around different parts of (Kentucky) and then we can maybe branch out into, you know, Nashville, and some of those (other) markets that I’m a little more familiar with. But absolutely, yes, looking at a long term goal perspective, within the next few years, maybe five years or so, that is definitely definitely something that I would love, love to do,” Muse says.
Despite there being so much work involved in presenting Music for Wishes’ annual event and even considering Muse’s deeply personal investment in the program, the Somerset musician has never fully sacrificed any of his other creative goals. And given Muse’s age, time is nothing if not on his side to be able steadily work at nurturing all of them.
“It’s almost like a freak occurrence has to occur, (in order) to achieve some success within the industry,” says Muse. “I think there’s a lot of emphasis put on, you know, (how) you have to act a certain way and dress a certain way and do this and this. But one of the things I have really learned over the years is that there’s no true formula to success in the industry. You have to always put the work in, to make things happen.”
As someone already familiar with what it means to chase a dream over the long run and strive for the enduring success of a project, the music world at large could stand to benefit from a creative thinker and proactive figure like Muse. His zeal for going off-the-beaten-path in pursuit of overcoming a challenge surely has the potential to push the people and the expectations of the music industry into the kind of more positive, supportive, and determined mindset that Muse himself models both on the stage and off.
“I’ve tried to always spread positivity,” Muse explains. “I feel like if you’re an artist, and you just kind of keep going at it and you’re persistently putting out good quality content, I definitely think that, you know, you can find your market share, build an audience, and do all those great things.”
Will Muse’s newest single, “I Can Change” is out now.