“I was always singin.” Says Wic Whitney. Wic is an Arkansas-bred, Chicago-based creative, melding Southern soul and smooth rhythm, inviting fans in with his quick wit and introspective storytelling. From an early age, he would sing for his family with his sister, putting on shows of their favorite movies. In the ninth grade, he began writing music with a friend, who now goes by B. Heard and never stopped. Writing turned into recording, and when he moved to Chicago for college, things began taking off.
“There were a lot of things that brought me to Chicago.” Wic explains. He went to school for Theatre at Roosevelt University. But that wasn’t the only thing that pushed him to leave his hometown of Little Rock. “I’m a queer person and I felt something in my body that wanted to be more, and be more honest and be more open. And I couldn’t do that here [in Arkansas]. I couldn’t do that around the people I had known forever. I couldn’t do that in a state that doesn’t let that happen.” So he left.
“I walked into Chicago being exactly who I am.” Wic says. “I am who I am because of where I’m from. Being Southern carries over in everything I do: the way I talk, the slow way that I go about things, my rhythm, the way I treat people.”
Initially, he met most of his community through the theatre program at school where he was surrounded by artists. Soon, he released an EP and began to put on his own shows, packing out venues. When he performed at The Playground Theatre in 2018, things really changed. “It’s the first place where I performed and I felt like I really owned it and I had all of the skills necessary to really get the audience jazzed and on my side.” The audience was packed with old friends and new faces. People Wic had never met before came to the show, knowing all the words to his songs.
“It felt like the best thing that had ever happened to me.”
Wic explains that he never feels afraid before performing. “I always come very prepared. So that always gives me a foundation of knowing the show is going to go well. I think the show is going to be exactly what it’s going to be.”
“I’m an oldies guy.” Says Wic, describing his early music influences. Soul: The Temptations, Lauryn Hill, Willie Nelson, Joni Mitchell, Erykah Badu. Rap: Outkast, Kendrick Lamar, Biggie.
“Honestly, it’s the people who rap around me. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of really good music influences as peers.” He names Ajani Jones, Be Heard, Ken Cheech, all artists he knows and looks up to closely. And if he were to name a dream collaboration? “Yebba. I would do a song with Yebba like that,” he snaps his fingers. [Editor’s note: we need this collab!]
As shows reopen in Chicago, Wic can’t wait to get back to playing Sofars. “They’re very loving.” He says. “Just warm. It’s like meeting a friend, but you didn’t know you were friends. The whole experience feels very familial.” He’s a seasoned alum and staple of the Sofar Chicago community. “I’ve gotten more fans and followers from Sofar than anything else.”
Wic performed in the listening room last week in honor of Pride month. “I celebrate Pride every damn day that I’m alive. It’s a hard thing being a gay man from Little Rock, Arkansas, being raised in a Lutheran household, and coming out and now being fully comfortable with myself. I celebrate that every day whether it’s Pride or not.”