Nicole Willis

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Nicole Willis
Nicole Willis photo credit Nicole Willis.jpg
photo by Ms Nicole Willis
Background information
Origin Brooklyn, New York
Genres Disco music, Soul music, House music
Occupation(s) singer/songwriter/producer/director/visual artist
Instruments voice, keyboards
Years active 1983–present[1]
Labels Persephone Records, Herakles Records, Ubiquity Records, Timmion Records, Sahco Records, Puu/Sähkö Recordings, Reprise/Warner Brothers, Pony Canyon, Mo' Wax Records, Hard Hands/Higher Ground/Sony BMG, Mamushi Records, Guidance Recordings, Fat Belt Records, Universal Music Group, Temmi Kongi Records, Warp Records
Associated acts Banda Palomita, UMO Jazz Orchestra, Ian Svenonius, Bosq, The Soul Investigators, Jimi Tenor, Tony Allen, Maurice Fulton, Leftfield, Repercussions, Curtis Mayfield, The The, Shawn Lee, Konishi Yasuharu, Mr Comicstore, Nuspirit Helsinki, Masters At Work

Nicole Willis (born 1963) is an American singer/songwriter/producer/director and visual artist. Ms Willis lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.[2][3]



Ms Willis contributed vocals in London, United Kingdom in 1985 with Washington Week In Review. Prior to that she was a member of The Hello Strangers and Blue Period with performances at Munson Diner and Danceteria's No Entiendes, based in New York City while working at night clubs Berlin and Danceteria. In 1984, Willis performed as lead vocalist with Jenn Vix on backing vocals, Adam Horovitz on electric bass, Phil Painson on drums and David Strahan on electric guitar, called Disco Donut. [4]She then toured with The The as a back up and lead vocalist in 1989. Nicole Willis was the lead vocalist of the nu-soul group Repercussions. Singles and albums were released on Mo' Wax, Reprise/Warner Brothers USA, Pony Canyon Japan. Producers of those records include Nicole Willis, Gary Katz, Daniel Wyatt, Genji Siraisi, and Gordon Clay. The single Promise Me Nothing from the debut album of Repercussions LP Earth and Heaven, peaked at number 6 in the Hot Dance Music, Club Play chart of Billboard magazine on 18 March 1995. Together with Curtis Mayfield, the band recorded a version of Mayfield's Let's Do It Again in which Willis sings a duet with Curtis Mayfield in 1994 released on Reprise/Warner Brothers Records. The group also released an album on Pony Canyon Japan, titled Charmed Life in 1997.

Ms Willis has collaborated with Leftfield singing and writing lead vocals for Swords on the Rhythm and Stealth LP in 1999 on Hard Hands/Higher Ground/Sony BMG Records,[5] which was also featured on the soundtrack for the film Go released 1999. The LP Rhythm and Stealth received a Platinum Sales Award in the United Kingdom. Ms Willis has sung lead vocals to the track Call Of The Wild on the Jimi Tenor album Out Of Nowhere in 2000 on Warp Records. Ms Willis collaborated with Nuspirit Helsinki, with writing and vocal on the track Honest from the self-titled album Nuspirit Helsinki released 2002 on Guidance Recordings. Ms Willis also wrote and sang vocals on the track Are You Ready To Party? with Mr Comicstore in 2006 on Mamushi Records. Ms Willis collaborated with Flexatones Originals on tracks, Cause I Want & Fresh released on Fat Belt Records in 2007. Ms Willis has contributed lead vocals to the Shawn Lee track Jigsaw featured on the album Soul In The Hole released in 2009 on Ubiquity Records. She has also sung vocals on the track A Little Bit Of Soap on the new album from Pizzicato Five's Yasuharu Konishi solo project titled Pizzicato One. The album titled One And Ten Very Sad Songs was released on May 25, 2011 on Universal Music in Japan. Ms Willis collaborated with partner Jimi Tenor & Abdissa Assefa on track Leatheries from their LP Itetune released in 2011 on Temmi Kongi Records, contributing spoken words and poetry. Willis wrote lyrics and sang on the track Bad For Me by Bosq featuring Nicole Willis released by Ubiquity Records in 2014.

Ms Willis collaborated with artist Sophie Calle for her installation Take Care Of Yourself with a performance in time-based media in 2007, which exhibited at the French Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2007. Ms Willis also contributed vocals to time-based media performance Rinologia of Barcelona-based artist group Los Rinos who are artists Marcel.lí Antúnez, Pau Nubiola and film director, Sergi Caballero. Rinologia was performed at the BEM Festival in Burgos, Spain in March 2007. Ms Willis had 2 of her first solo exhibitions of oil paintings, in 2012, first of which were in March 2012 at Galleria Kingi Kongi in Helsinki, Finland and in November 2012 at Pirkko-Liisa Topeliuksen Galleria, also in Helsinki, Finland, both titled Gatherings. Ms Willis will have a solo exhibition at Gallery Emil in Tampere, Finland titled Talking Trash; 2 February 2014 - 28 February 2014. Ms Willis contributed 10 jewel cases, painted in acrylic and one musical track, of ten musicians/visual artists musical contribution, Do the Watusi (written by Jimi Tenor, Pete Toikkanen & Nicole Willis) to curator/artist Jaakko Tuomainen's group exhibition Soundtrack for Painting in 1 September 2012 - 30 September 2012, at the Lahti Modern Art Kiosk, in Lahti, Finland. Ms Willis has contributed a painting to a group exhibition to be shown in 18 July 2013 - 11 August 2013 in London, United Kingdom's A Side B Side Gallery, curated by artists Chloe Mortimer & Harry Pye, titled ELVIS: I Love You Because of which the subject is Elvis Presley.

On Puu/Sähko Recordings, Ms Willis released her first solo albums Soul Makeover 2000 and Be It 2003.[6] On those solo records Ms Willis collaborated with producers and songwriters such as Dharma One, Ercola, Nuspirit Helsinki, Jimi Tenor and Maurice Fulton. Ms Willis and Tenor remixed Op*l Bastards single Funking in 2001 on Form and Function Records. In 2005 Ms Willis collaborated with the Soul Investigators and released Keep Reachin Up on Helsinki’s Timmion Records,[7] produced by Didier Selin. The LP Keep Reachin' Up was critically acclaimed. The album has been since released in the United Kingdom on Above The Clouds Records, France, Benelux, Denmark, Spain and Italy on Differ-ant, USA and Canada on Light In The Attic Records in the years 2006 & 2007. Their song Feeling Free was chosen 2006 Worldwide Winner on the Gilles Peterson's BBC show.[8]

The title track of the album Keep Reachin' Up was chosen by US President Barack Obama, as one of many songs on his Re-Election Campaign Spotify Playlist, in February 2012.[9] The track If This Ain't Love(Don't Know What Is) was placed in the USA TV channel ABC's show Brothers & Sisters in season 2, episode 1 in 2007. The track No One's Gonna Love You was placed in Showtime's Ray Donovan in season 1, episode 3 in 2013.

Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators released an album, titled Tortured Soul in 2013 on Timmion Records in Finland, France, United Kingdom and other regions in the EU & North America, distribution by Differ-Ant S.A.R.L. – France, Groove Attack GmbH – Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Kudos Records Ltd – UK & Light In The Attic, USA. Tortured Soul received 4 out of 5 stars in a review at Finland's major newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat's Nyt magazine.[10][11] Tortured Soul entered the Official Finnish Music Charts in its first week after release at number 8 in week 7 of 2013.[12] On 10 May 2013, Ms Willis and Jimi Tenor released album Enigmatic by their project Cola & Jimmu on her new record label Herakles Records, Finland. The digital format is available worldwide, CD and vinyl are distributed worldwide by Word And Sound Medien GmbH. Cola & Jimmu on Herakles Records went on to release a follow up titled I Give To You My Love & Devotion in 2014. The single Open Up Your Chakra peaked at position 21 in Japan's J-Wave HOT 100 Chart in June 2014.

Timmion Records released the third Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators album titled Happiness In Every Style in October 2015, produced and written by Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators. Happiness In Every Style received 5 out of 5 stars in Finland's major newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.[13] Jimi Tenor was also a composer and arranger on the album. A single titled Paint Me In A Corner/Where Are You Now was released in April 2015. Singles One In Million and Let's Communicate followed in August and October 2015. 12" Disco single Hot Sauce was released in November 2015.

Sahco Records released a single by Nicole Willis and Jimi Tenor featuring Tony Allen titled "All For You" with a B-side by Nicole Willis and Jimi Tenor titled "Touching" in November 2015.

Singles in collaboration with Bosq of the Whiskey Barons were released on Ubiquity Records, Bad For Me (12" Single) in 2015 and Take Me There, AA-side to Megan Doherty's lead vocal on A-side Can't Seem To Hide (12" Single). [14]

Ms Willis announced on April 16, 2017 that she will no longer be collaborating with the instrumental group The Soul Investigators on Facebook.[15]

Ms Willis released on her new sublabel Persephone Records (Herakles Records) the EP Big Fantasy (For Me) / Tear It Down, a collaboration of Willis, Jimi Tenor and Jonathan Maron (electric bass player) on March 31, 2017. It was distributed by Kudos Records. [16]

She announced the release date of her next LP My Name Is Nicole Willis, the second release for Persephone Records as September 29, 2017, distributed by Kudos Records. The album is a collaboration with UMO Jazz Orchestra, composed of songs written by Ms Willis, guitarist Pete Toikkanen and Jimi Tenor as well as from her catalogue with The Soul Investigators. Ian Svenonius is featured on the prologue as well as epilogue tracks of the album.[17] The album is produced by Ms Willis, mixes assisted by herself with Jimi Tenor, while Jimi Tenor and Ilari Larjosto engineered and recorded.

A new live project, Nicole Willis & Banda Palomita, is set to premiere at party promoted by Herra Herkules, Sexy Helle at Siltanen in Helsinki, June 28, 2017. [18]. The line up includes Abdissa "Mamba" Assefa on percussion, Ndioba Gueye on electric bass, Julius Heikkilä on electric guitar, Antti Kujanpää on keyboards and Ilari "Stiletti Ana" Larjosto on drum kit.


Ms Willis graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from her studies at Lahti Institute of Fine Arts, Lahti University of Applied Sciences with professor Markus Heikkerö in Finland, and Erasmus studies at Sir John Cass Department of Art, London Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, in 2008 & completed in 2009. Willis' concentration in her studies were oil painting, time-based media and performance.

Personal life[edit]

Ms Willis was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City. Ms Willis & musician Jimi Tenor were married from 1999-2016, from which they have two children.



  • 1995: Earth and Heaven (in Repercussions) LP/CD, Warner Brothers/Reprise USA
  • 1997: Charmed Life (in Repercussions) CD, Pony Canyon Records Japan
  • 2000: Soul Makeover LP/CD, Puu/Sähkö Recordings Finland
  • 2004: Be It LP/CD, Puu/Sähkö Recordings Finland
  • 2005: Keep Reachin Up (as Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators) LP/CD/MC, Timmion Records Finland
  • 2007: Keep Reachin Up Remixed (as Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators) LP/CD, Above The Clouds Records UK
  • 2013: Tortured Soul (as Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators) LP/CD/MC, Timmion Records Finland (peak FIN #8)[19]
  • 2013: Enigmatic (as Cola & Jimmu) LP/CD/Digital, Herakles Records Finland
  • 2014: I Give To You My Love & Devotion (as Cola & Jimmu) LP/CD/Digital, Herakles Records Finland
  • 2015: Happiness In Every Style (as Nicole Willis & The Soul investigators) LP/CD/Digital, Timmion Records Finland


  • Promise/Field Trippin' (with Repercussions – 1992) – Mo’ Wax – 12″
  • Let's Do It Again (with Curtis Mayfield & Repercussions - 1994) - Reprise/Warner Brothers Records, (A1: Let's Do It Again (Edit) B2: Let's Do It Again (Album Version) ) - CD Single
  • Promise Me Nothing (with Repercussions - 1995) - Warner Brothers/Reprise (A1: Promise Me Nothing, Masters At Work Mix Remix – Masters At Work, A2: Promise Me Nothing (Bass Hit Dub) Remix – Masters At Work - B1: Promise Me Nothing (Dusk Till Dawn Sampladelic Remix) Remix – DJ Tennessee, Super DJ Dimitry*, B2: Promise Me Nothing (H-Man's Old Skool Dub) Remix – Hani, B3: Promise Me Nothing (Album Version)) - 12" Super DJ Dmitry is misspelled as Super DJ Dimitry on the label and sleeve. (peak # 6 Hot Dance Music, Club Play chart of Billboard)
  • All The Time - Sähkö/Puu (Puu-20) - 2000 (A1: Roberto Rodriguez R&B mix, A2: Jori Hulkkonen House mix, B1: Radio Edit / Album Version, B2: Jimi Tenor Dub feat. Chris Dawkins, B3: Accordion Dept. mix) - 12"
  • Curiosity - Puu/Sähkö (Puu-23) - 2001 (A1: Candy Apple Remix, A2: Zanzibar Remix, B1: Jimi Tenor Remix, B2: Jan Cooley Remix, B3: HK's Punkhouse Remix – 12"
  • Siesta/Heed The Sign - Puu/Sähkö (Puu-28) - 2002 (Siesta A1: Roberto Rodriguez remix, A2: Temple Of Soul NYC remix/Heed The Sign B1: Jimi Tenor remix, B2: GusGus remix) - 12"
  • Say It - Puu/Sähkö (Puu-30) - 2003 (A1: Original version, A2: Dharmaone Remix, B1: We Won't Miss a Thing (Nuspirit Remix)) – 12"


  • Leftfield; LP Rhythm and Stealth, on track Swords (Sony Music/Hard Hands, 1999) lead vocals, lyrics/composer.
  • Jimi Tenor; LP Out Of Nowhere, on tracks Spell & Call Of The Wild. (Warp, 2000) lead vocals, lyrics.
  • Op:l Bastards; Single Funking, a remix of Funking from Nicole Willis and Jimi Tenor. Op:l Bastards single(Form & Function, 2001)
  • Nuspirit Helsinki, LP Nuspirit Helsinki; Honest (Guidance Recordings, 2002) lead vocals, lyrics/composer.
  • Mr. Comicstore; Single Are You Ready To Party? (Mamushi Records, 2006) lead vocals, lyrics/composer.
  • The Flexatones Originals; on tracks Fresh & Cause I Want (Fat Belt Records, 2007) lead vocals, lyrics/composer.
  • Shawn Lee; LP Soul In The Hole, on track Jigsaw (Ubiquity Records, 2009) lead vocals.
  • Jimi Tenor & Abdissa Assefa; LP Itetune; on track Leatheries (Temmi Kongi, 2011) spoken word, author.
  • Pizzicato One; LP One And Ten Very Sad Songs, on track A Little Bit Of Soap (Universal Music, 2011) lead vocals.
  • Bosq featuring Nicole Willis; 12" single Bad For Me (Ubiquity Records, 2015) lead vocals, lyrics/composer.
  • Nicole Willis, Jimi Tenor featuring Tony Allen/Nicole Willis & Jimi Tenor; single All For You/Touching (Sahco Records, 2015) lead vocals, lyrics/composer.
  • Nicole Willis, Jimi Tenor & Jonathan Maron; EP Big Fantasy (For Me)/Tear It Down (Persephone Records, 2017) lead vocals, lyrics/composer, instrumentation, producer.
  • Bosq feat. Megan Doherty & Nicole Willis; 12" single Can't Seem To Hide /Take Me There (Ubiquity Records, 2017) lead vocals, lyrics/composer.

Music videos[edit]

  • Rock Box (as an extra; RUN-DMC) 1984
  • Happy Ever After (as an extra; Julia Fordham) 1988
  • Keep On Moving (as an extra; Soul II Soul) 1988
  • Make No Mistake (as an extra; Keith Richards) 1988
  • Let's Do It Again ( as Curtis Mayfield & Repercussions) 1994
  • If This Ain’t Love (Don’t Know What Is) (as Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators) 2007
  • Break Free (Shake a Tail Feather) (as Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators) Tony Sheng: director 2013
  • Time To Get Business Straight (as Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators) Tony Sheng: director 2013
  • Brooklyn Girl (as COLA&JIMMU) Jimi Tenor: director 2013
  • Enigmatic (as COLA&JIMMU) Jimi Tenor: director 2013
  • 369° Grind (as COLA&JIMMU) Nicole Willis: director 2013
  • No More Wars (as COLA&JIMMU) Cola & Jimmu: director 2014
  • Transcend Our Love (as COLA&JIMMU) Cola & Jimmu: director 2014
  • Open Up Your Chakra (as COLA&JIMMU) Cola & Jimmu: director 2014
  • Earthly Delights (as COLA&JIMMU) Cola & Jimmu: director 2014
  • One In A Million (as Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators) Aleksi Raij: director 2015

Singles with The Soul Investigators[edit]

  • You Better Change/Raw SteaksTimmion Records (2003) – 7″
  • If This Ain’t Love (Original)/If This Ain't Love (Instrumental)Timmion Records (2005) – CDS / 7″ (peak FIN #4)[19]
  • Perfect Kind of Love - Timmion Records (2005) - CDS / 7" (peak FIN #15)[19]
  • Feeling Free (Original)/Feeling Free (Instrumental)Timmion Records (2006) – 7″
  • My Four Leaf Clover/Holdin' On - Timmion Records (2006) – 7″
  • Tell Me When/It’s All Because Of YouTimmion Records (2012) – 7″
  • Paint Me In A Corner/Where Are You Now - Timmion Records (2015) - 7"
  • One In A Million (Original)/One In A Million (Instrumental) - Timmion Records (2015) - 7"
  • Let's Communicate (Original)/Let's Communicate (Instrumental) - Timmion Records (2015) - 7"
  • Hot Sauce (Original)/Hot Sauce (Instrumental) - Timmion Records (2015) - 12"


  1. ^ "Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators". Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "Nicole Willis biography". Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Wang, Oliver. "Finnish Soul That Fuses the Past and Present". NPR. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Potts, Diana "Nicole Willis Biography", Allmusic, retrieved 2011-07-23
  6. ^ Potts, Diana ""Soul Makeover" Review", Allmusic, retrieved 2011-07-23
  7. ^ Hoffman, K. Ross "Keep Reachin' Up Review", Allmusic, retrieved 2011-07-23
  8. ^ Lowe, Zane. "GILLESPETERSON". BBC. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  9. ^ "Coplan" Coplan, Chris (February 9, 2012). "Obama releases Spotify playlist". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2012-08-27.
  10. ^ ""Tortured Soul" – Out on February 8th 2013 | TIMMION RECORDS". 2013-01-10. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  11. ^ Aaltonen, Mikko. "Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators tekee soulille Tarantinot". Helsingin Sanomat. Retrieved 13 February 2013. 
  12. ^ "Musiikkituottajat - Tilastot - Suomen virallinen lista - Albumit". Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  13. ^ Retrieved 2015-10-07.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b c Steffen Hung. "Discography Nicole Willis". Retrieved 2014-08-09. 

External links[edit]