Born on film, living in music

SOUND GENERATION: Willow Neilson makes music with his father, Paul Joseph in Lismore.
SOUND GENERATION: Willow Neilson makes music with his father, Paul Joseph in Lismore. Patrick Gorbunovs

WILLOW Neilson was born with a fanfare, and his life has not let up with the excitement since.

The son of Paul Joseph, one of the organisers of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival, Willow's birth was filmed and shared for the natural and home birth documentary Birth and Beyond in 1978.

As a baby and a child, Willow was at all the Northern Rivers environmental protests, including at Terania Creek. He has lived in tents, travelled for weeks on horse-drawn carriages and generally led a hippie-fuelled life.

He set off for Sydney with his musical talents and got first class honours from Sydney Conservatorium.

He's since gone on to play his jazz all around the world.

He has just spent six years studying, making, performing and teaching music in China and in a few days sets off to India, where he will learn from great musicians.

Willow has recorded an album, Lightbulb Life, which incorporates indigenous influences as well as the sounds and smells of the metropolis, Shanghai, where he lived for the past five years.

Willow said that his parents' views of the world and his upbringing definitely shaped who he is now.

He said he's learnt an immense amount from his parents and that's helped him to do things "his way".

"The hippie generation did it their way and now it's up to our generation to do it our way," Willow said.

He said while the hippies of his father's generation were "highly visible", almost in 'uniform', he's a bit different.

"You could tell they were hippies just by looking at them, but I try to be a bit of a covert operative," he laughed.

He was very taken aback some of the aspects of big city life in Shanghai, such as their attitude to recycling.

You can buy Willow's album, Lightbulb Life, from his website.

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