Willow Neilson was born in the small hippy town of Nimbin, Australia. His parents were entertainers and environmental activists, Willow spent the early years of his life marching in protests or sleeping in his father’s velvet lined guitar case whilst his parents performed their original musical and theatrical satires. At ten years old he took up the harmonica, practicing blues music with his father in their living room. At 14 he began the saxophone and fell in love with jazz music.
Willow Neilson went on to graduate as one of the top three students in his year at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music then took out third place in three international competitions; Jazz Hoelaart International Competition in Brussels in 2001, Montreaux Jazz Festival Saxophone Competition 2003 and London Jazz Festival Saxophone Competition 2004 both run by the White foundation.
After many years of performing with some of Australia’s top musicians, Willow travelled Europe and the US performing and studying, finally settling in Shanghai in 2007 with the support of an Asialink Arts Residency/ China-Australia council Fellowship which aided him in the beginning stages of musical projects working with Chinese ethnic minority musicians and local Shanghai artists such as Coco Zhao.
Willow recently finished his latest album, Lightbulb Life, due to be released later in the year. Through both electronic sampling, electric and acoustic instrumentation his music incorporates the soundscape of the city of Shanghai.
It features Jing Song, a Naxi vocalist from Li Jiang, vocalist Coco Zhao as well as the wealth of musicians working in Shanghai and Hong Kong. The album will be released alongside a website featuring the music and writing of Willow in collaboration with local literature and visual arts collectives, celebrating the characters and scenes of the vast metropolis of Shanghai through multi-media.