It’s all about the fun

Willie K and Eric Gilliom - the barefoot Natives -  play great music, but the old friends from Maui above all provide audiences with a good time

Melissa Moniz
Friday - September 07, 2007
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You'll seldom find two better guitar players
You’ll seldom find two better guitar players on the same stage than the Barefoot Natives

Maui boys Willie K and Eric Gilliom have taken their undeniable gifts in music, theater and comedy and blasted them together for an all-out good time that fans experience at every show.

With more than 50 years of collective experience on stage, Willie and Eric know exactly what it takes to make the magic happen - a love for what you’re doing and a passion to make people happy.

“I love suspending people’s cares and worries for an hour or two and just make them laugh,listen to good music and feel good,“says Eric.“Life is short, and I think the more experiences you can have in life that are happy and pleasant the better. I love performing for people and making them feel good.”

Willie adds, “You have to do it for the love.”

Willie and Eric’s love for music and being on stage has permeated audiences everywhere. In their few years playing together, the two have received a Na Hoku Hanohano award for 2007 Best Contemporary Hawaiian album - for their debut CD, Barefoot Natives. They recently were featured on an OC16 TV special, Barefoot Natives 16 Minutes of Fame, and they just finished recording for their upcoming album, Slack Key Circus that releases in October.


Add to that handfuls of gigs throughout Europe, ongoing participation in Mick Fleetwood’s Island Rumours Band and a statewide tour beginning Sept. 7 - now that’s rockin’ and rollin’.

On the Hawaii tour, which begins in Hilo and ends on Kauai, the two comedic musicians plan to give audiences a show like no other with their usual theatrics, storytelling,jokes,cinema and even some music.

“With Eric’s theatrical experience and me being the clown that I already am, we extend more than just two guys on stage singing our favorite songs,“says Willie.“But we keep ticket costs pretty reasonable because we’re not Britney Spears, yeah,” says Willie. “We just keep it simple for everyone to enjoy. And for me I’ve been doing this for so long, it’s all about the fun.”

And do these guys know how to have fun! Maybe it’s because Willie has a policy that two shows should never be the same. As Eric puts it, “structure bores Willie to tears, and he won’t have it.”

Eric Gilliom and Willie K
Eric Gilliom and Willie K - over-dressed again

This is where the dynamics of the duo get interesting because Eric comes from a theater and television background, where structure and continuity are what he does best. After years of schooling in theater and later working on Broadway,Eric says he feels as if he’s being thrown into the deep end of the pool at every show.

“It is scary going on stage with Willie,“admits Eric.“I’m telling you, not just anyone can walk up on stage with him because this is a man who has a music vocabulary that is so deep as far as his knowledge of all different styles. He is merciless.”

Willie is infamous for making left turns and changing the flow of the show at any moment. And he isn’t afraid to give Eric a few jabs here and there. It’s a good thing Eric has an extensive background in improvisation, having worked for years on The Jamie Foxx Show, so he dishes it back with no problem at all.


“You just really have to be on your toes,“adds Eric.“He likes to rip me on stage and I just roll with it. But for every one he can deliver to me, I can deliver one right back, so it’s a mutual thing.”

As for what Willie thinks of their differences, he bursts out laughing as he says,“I’m black and he’s white.”

That’s where the comedy comes in.Although Eric has a background in TV comedy, he says that the two really hold their own when it comes to telling jokes on stage. In fact, Eric thinks that “what’s going on with Willie is he wants to be a stand-up comic.”

All their differences aside,Willie and Eric have tons of stuff in common. Besides being from Maui,

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