Willie Nile

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Willie Nile
Willie Nile 2010.jpg
Nile performing in 2010
Background information
Birth nameRobert Noonan
Born (1948-06-07) June 7, 1948 (age 71)
Buffalo, New York
OriginBuffalo, New York
  • Vocals
  • Guitar
  • Piano
  • Organ
  • Harmonica
Years active1976–present

Willie Nile (born Robert Noonan; June 7, 1948)[1] is an American singer-songwriter.

In 1980, Nile released his self-titled debut album. His early career was interrupted by various problems, but he eventually returned to recording and performing in the US and Europe, establishing himself as a singer-songwriter.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Buffalo, New York,[3] to what he called "a gregarious Irish Catholic family",[4]

He grew up with two older brothers who played piano, and a mother who "used to always have music in the house. Whether it was classical or big band or popular hits of the times, something was always playing." His grandfather ran an orchestra in Buffalo and was a vaudeville pianist who played with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Eddie Cantor.[4]

Nile studied philosophy at the University at Buffalo and lived in Greenwich Village while beginning his music career. He contracted pneumonia and wrote songs while he spent a year recuperating. Afterward, he began frequenting such clubs as CBGB, where he saw performers including Patti Smith, Television, the Ramones, and Talking Heads.[1]


Early years[edit]

Nile established residency at Kenny's Castaways, a Greenwich Village club, where he was discovered by New York Times music critic Robert Palmer who described Nile as "the most gifted songwriter to emerge from the New York folk scene in some while".[5] This led to a meeting with Clive Davis and a record deal with Arista Records.[6] He went into the studio with a band that included Jay Dee Daugherty from the Patti Smith Group.[7]

Following the release of his debut album, Willie Nile, he joined The Who's 1980 summer tour.[8][9]

After his second album 1981's Golden Down, Nile became involved with protracted legal problems which curtailed his career for some years.[10]


Although he continued to write, Nile did not perform live or record again until a 1987 performance in Oslo, Norway, with Eric Andersen. A videotape of Nile's performance in Norway prompted a Columbia talent scout to sign him to the label in 1988. For reasons that are unclear, production on his album didn't start for two more years. It was another significant delay in the troubadour's career. Issued in 1991, His Columbia Records CD Places I Have Never Been contained the songs "Everybody Needs A Hammer" and "Heaven Help The Lonely." Places I Have Never Been featured appearances by backing musicians including Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Roger McGuinn, and members of the Hooters and the Roches.[1] On June 11, 1991, Nile was the guest musician on the Late Night with David Letterman show.

Nile has recorded and performed with several musicians, including Ringo Starr, Tori Amos, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Ian Hunter, and Barenaked Ladies. A live Central Park concert album, Willie Nile-Archive Alive, was released on Archive Recordings, and Nile was one of the vocalists on the 1998 ensemble album Largo, along with Joan Osborne, Cyndi Lauper, Levon Helm, The Chieftains, Taj Mahal and Carole King. Another project found Nile writing and performing most of the songs for the soundtrack to the Kevin McLaughlin film Pinch Me!.[11]

Gathering together his resources over time, he put out his first self-released album, Beautiful Wreck of the World, in 1999. It was chosen as one of the Top Ten Albums of the Year by critics at Billboard Magazine, The Village Voice and Stereo Review.[citation needed]

Lucinda Williams called "On the Road to Calvary," Nile's song for Jeff Buckley, "One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard." The album reached the finals of the Independent Music Awards for Best Rock Album of the Year.[citation needed]

21st Century renaissance[edit]

In the fall of 2003, Nile was invited to share the stage at three concerts with the E Street Band, including the two final Giants Stadium shows as well as the two last shows of that particular tour at Shea Stadium.[12][13]

In 2006, Nile released Streets of New York, which some may consider to be his best work to date, due to its production and songwriting. Former Time magazine music critic and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Jay Cocks writes of Streets of New York, "The tunes he writes and plays with such blowtorch vibrancy get the myth and magic and danger and sadness and love in this town--of this town--truer, and righter, than anything I've heard since Dion. This record is a head-twister and heart-wrencher. It's rock and roll at its best. It's New York at its best. And there's nothing better than that."[citation needed]

House Of A Thousand Guitars was released to positive reviews on April 14, 2009.

On November 22, 2009, Nile joined the E Street Band for the cover of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher".[14]

On April 23, 2013 at a ceremony in Leeds, UK, Nile was named Legacy Ambassador for the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation.[15]

On June 25, 2013, Nile releases his eighth full-length studio album, American Ride through Loud & Proud Records.[16] Nile originally had planned on self-distributing through money raised on PledgeMusic.com. The decision to sign onto a record label occurred after he was approached by Tom Lipsky, president of Loud & Proud Records.[17]

On November 11, 2014 Nile released If I Was a River, a 10-track all piano album, composed by Nile with assistance from his long-time collaborator Frankie Lee.[18]

At a surprise appearance at the 2015 Light of Day Benefit in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen joined Nile on stage to perform Nile's One Guitar.[19][20]
[21] On May 28, 2015, at the Best Buy Theatre in New York City, Nile joined Bruce Springsteen, Joan Jett, Roger Daltrey and Billy Idol at the 11th annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert to honor Pete Townshend for his commitment to helping other musicians with addictions.[22]

On July 27, 2018 Nile released the album "Children of Paradise". The album was well received and given excellent reviews. Associated Press' Kiley Armstrong says it is "his best album to date".[23] In a July 2018 review of the album Audiophilie says "Willie Nile has a lot to say and clearly some great songs in his back pocket. You just need to listen. If you have even a bit of conscience remaining, you should listen to Willie's albums of the last 10 years or so. You might just get inspired by his 21st century renaissance.[24]

Band members[edit]

Current members
  • Matt Hogan – lead guitar
  • Johnny Pisano – electric and upright bass, backing vocals
  • Jon Webber - drums
Former members
  • Brad Albetta – electric & acoustic Bass
  • Alex Alexander – drums, percussion
  • Clay Barnes - guitars
  • Jay Dee Daugherty – drums and percussion
  • Peter Hoffman – guitars
  • Rich Pagano – drums, percussion, background vocals
  • Fred Smith – bass
  • Andy York – lead guitar, background vocals


Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • 1997 - Live in Central Park - Archive Alive!
  • 2007 - Live at Turning Point
  • 2008 - Live From the Streets of New York
  • 2011 - Live Hard Times in the UK
  • 2015 - The Bottom Line Archive Live (1980 and 2000)

Extended plays[edit]


  • 2008 - Live From the Streets of New York

Other appearances[edit]

  • 1990 – Acoustic Christmas – We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • 1991 – Stages: The Lost Album – Electric Guitar, various songs
  • 1995 – Troubadours of Folk, Vol. 5 -- Behind the Cathedral
  • 1998 – Largo – Medallion
  • 2007 - The Sandinista! Project - Police on My Back[25]
  • 2007 - The Dream Jam Band
  • 2012 - Rockin' in The Free World - Music is Love - A Singer-Songwriters' Tribute To The Music of CSN&Y


Nile was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 2005.[26]

AIM Independent Music Awards 2013: "One Guitar" - Best Social Action Song[27]


  1. ^ a b c Skelly, Richard. "Willie Nile Biography". AllMusic.com. Archived from the original on May 16, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  2. ^ Deming, Mark. "All Music Review". AllMusic. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  3. ^ "Biodata". Willie Nile official website. Archived from the original on May 12, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Pfeiffer, John (January 6, 2012). "Interview with Willie Nile: Channeling Woody Guthrie Through Joey Ramone". The Aquarian. Archived from the original on March 2, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  5. ^ Palmer, Robert (July 29, 1978). "Willie Nile Sings Rock and Folk". The New York Times. Retrieved August 18, 2018.
  6. ^ "Willie Nile recently played an unannounced midnight set at Kenny's Castaways, the Greenwich Village club where he was discovered by Arista's Clive Davis". Stereo Review. January 1981.
  7. ^ Holden, Stephen (1981). "Willie Nile Sings His Tales". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  8. ^ "Arenas (6,000 to 20,000), page 32". Billboard. Billboard Magazine. 1980-07-19. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  9. ^ Palmer, Robert (August 21, 1980). "Willie Nile: busting out of Bleecker Street". Rolling Stone (324). p. 20.
  10. ^ Orwat Jr., Thomas S. (March 14, 1916). "Interview - Willie Nile". rockmusicstar.com. Rock Music Star. Archived from the original on April 4, 2017. Retrieved April 3, 2017. But, soon after his 1981 album, 'Golden Down,' Nile's career was put on hold, due to music business legal issues that derailed his career for a decade.
  11. ^ Pinch Me! movie website Archived 2011-07-15 at the Wayback Machine, pinchme-themovie.com; accessed June 20, 2017.
  12. ^ Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Tour 2003 Set List Archived 2014-05-10 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Billboard Magazine October 6, 2003 Archived September 21, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Goldstein, Stan. "Bruce Springsteen plays the final show of his 2009 tour in Buffalo on Sunday night". NJ.com. Archived from the original on 26 November 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2009.
  15. ^ Willie Nile named legacy ambassador for the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation Archived 2015-01-08 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Carey Baker's Conqueroo Archived 2013-07-19 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-05-10. Retrieved 2013-08-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ Harr, Dan (November 6, 2014). "Willie Nile to Release Album of Piano-Based songs Nov 11". Music News Nashville. Archived from the original on November 10, 2014. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  19. ^ Angermiller, Michele Amabile (January 18, 2015). "Watch Bruce Springsteen Perform at Light of Day 2015 Benefit in New Jersey". Billboard. Archived from the original on January 21, 2015. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  20. ^ Volpe, Allie (January 19, 2015). "Bruce Springsteen Plays Surprise Concert in Asbury Park". philly.com. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  21. ^ Skelly, Richard (January 23, 2015). "Light of Day Memories". Asbury Park Press. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  22. ^ Ives, Brian (May 29, 2015). "Bruce Springsteen, Joan Jett, Roger Daltrey Pay Tribute to Pete Townshend at MusiCares Event". radio.com. Archived from the original on May 10, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
  23. ^ Armstrong, Kiley (July 26, 2018). "Review: Willie Nile delivers depth, danceable defiance". Associated Press. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  24. ^ "Review of Willie NIle's New Children of Paradise Album, Tidal". audiophilereview.com. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  25. ^ Clash, The; Joe Grushecky; Katrina Leskanich; Willie Nile; Ship & Pilot.; Soul Food (Musical group); Sunset Heroes (2004-09-21). The Sandinista! Project A Tribute to the Clash (Compact Disc). England: 00:02:59 Records. OCLC 178980813.
  26. ^ "Willie Nile's entry at Buffalo Music Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on 2014-05-10.
  27. ^ "12th Annual Independent Music Awards Winners Announced!" Archived 2014-05-10 at the Wayback Machine Independent Music Awards, 11 June 2013. Retrieved on 4 Sept. 2013.

External links[edit]