Billy Wallace has been singing for most of his life, so it was not a big leap for him when he began an undertaking earlier this year to record a country music album and a music video.
The 18-year-old St. Rose native is a Satellite Center team member and a Destrehan High School student who took on the task as his senior project.
Wallace said although the album, titled “The Way I Am”, was part of school project, it is also a product of his passion for performing.
“I was going to do this before, but when a senior project was presented to me I thought what a great way to kill two birds with one stone and actually not have to do a project that I don’t care about. I wanted to do something that I am really going to put a lot into,” he said.
But first he had to find a project mentor, which he located rather quickly in Grammy-nominated New Orleans singer/songwriter Andrew Duhon.
“I just Googled ‘New Orleans singer/songwriter’ and his website was the first thing to pop up and I emailed him that I was looking for someone to help me put some music together,” he said. “He was cool with it and we met up and everything happened to work out perfectly.”
As everything came together, Wallace, with the help of Duhon and a few studio musicians, completed the writing, arrangement and recording of his debut as a country artist at Music Shed Studio in New Orleans.
“We got together and he got some of his friends who are musicians and we were 11 hours in the studio putting them down,” Wallace said.
Duhon provided guitar and production on the album while Myles Weeks played bass, Bradley Webb was on drums and Derek Duplessie played pedal steel. Mixing and mastering of the tracks was completed by Ben Lorio.
Wallace said he chose the album’s title from one of the songs included on it.
“The title of the EP, ‘The Way I Am’, is a super personal song for me. That song is just about St. Rose and Destrehan and how we grew up,” he said. “One of the hooks of the song is ‘I am happy with the way I am.’”
Next was filming and editing the video for the single “Be Okay,” which Wallace completed with the help of Satellite Center alum Derek Felton.
“It happened really, really fast,” he said. “It took about a month altogether.”
The entire video was shot in Luling within walking distance of the Satellite Center on Judge Edward Dufresne Parkway.Since being released in mid-April, Wallace said he has been surprised with the reception the video has received. After he put it on Youtube it received more than 1,000 views within the first few days.
“There are people who are adding me on Facebook or following me on Twitter that I have no idea who they are. They are coming to me and saying how great it is and it is kind of surreal because I never thought this would happen,” Wallace said.
Despite the attention he has received due to the project, Wallace said he is not getting ahead of himself and is maintaining realistic expectations when it comes to his music career.
“That is my ultimate dream goal (to be a country music artist). I really enjoy writing and performing. I know getting big in the industry is super, supper hard, but if that happened that would be amazing,” he said.
Meanwhile, he is spending his time f finishing up his last semester of high school and working a job at Buffalo Wild Wings in Metairie. He is planning on attending LSU this fall.
“I am going to LSU next semester to major in biology and if the music thing doesn’t work out then I want to go to LSU dental school,” Wallace said.
Despite his practical ambitions, Wallace has had his eye on the spotlight for much of his teenage life. Over the past few years he has appeared as an actor in several local film and TV productions.
“Even though I have been singing my entire life, I guess I always wanted to be some kind of star any kind of way I could. I took some acting classes here and there and maybe around freshman year is when I started doing some acting,” he said.
Wallace has been a featured extra on “Memphis Beat,” a television show that ran on TNT, in addition to a National Lampoon movie. He has also starred in multiple short films.
“Just the other day I had an audition for a movie that is going to be filming in Baton Rouge this summer, so I am not sure where that is going yet,” he said.
By taking the path of performing arts, Wallace said he has diverged from the rest of his family, but he is confident that he is doing the right thing.
“I am the only musician in my family. My family members are super business driven and they don’t do anything like this. They support me, but they don’t really know much of anything on it so I just kind of go after it and do everything on my own,” he said. “It kind of scared my mom at first. She was like ‘I don’t know what you are doing, I don’t know where you are’ and I just said you’ve got trust me, I’ve got this. This is my thing.”
Although those in his immediate family are not involved in the arts, Wallace said his love of country music comes largely from them.
“Country music has just always been in my life,” he said. “I grew up listening to it and my voice fits country the best. Don’t get me wrong I listen to every single genre – I listen to pop, rap, maybe a little rock here and there and I enjoy it just as much, but I don’t think I would sing anything but country just because it is my favorite. It is what I love and it is what I know how to write, so it all fits.”
The “The Way I Am” is available now for download on iTunes.