David grew up experiencing a unique perspective as the son of crusade evangelist, Brian Willersdorf and Gospel singer Christine Willersdorf.
Brian Willersdorf has often been labelled “Australia’s Billy Graham,” preaching at large rallies across the world, especially in Australia. David’s mother, Christine, was one of the first Gospel artists to appear on Australia television in her group the Young World Singers and also the Kaid Trio.
David was immersed in a rich culture of music and faith, meeting some of the world’s great Gospel musicians who would include his Dad’s crusades on their world tours.
“I remember as a child being put to sleep on blankets under the first row of chairs at these huge rallies where thousands of people would attend. At the time I thought that it was normal, yet now I look back with a sense of wonder at the wealth of experiences I had the privilege of having as a kid,” remembers David.
David first performed on stage in a band with he and his young cousins.
“My mother and her sister would have all of us kids perform prior to their trio getting up on stage. I can’t remember us being truly great musicians at the time, but we had the cute kid factor down pat,” says David.
Much of David’s early years saw his family travelling in-between his father’s events in Australia and overseas.
“I remember that we’d often be in the car for long road trips and music was always a part of whiling away the hours in-between towns,” remembers David. “We’d always have cassette tapes of our favourite Gospel and mainstream artists to sing along with such as Evie, The Platters, The Beachboys, Andrae Crouch, Family, Country Sound and a whole lot of other artists. We’d all sing along and harmonise with each other. Occasionally we’d let Dad play Hooked On Classics.”
Later on in his teens, David formed a band with his school friends. Afterwards, he then went off to study songwriting in Lismore, a town in regional Australia.
“I played in a number of bands while I was living in Lismore,” recalls David. “I lived in a house filled with students and owned by the local veterinarian.”
While studying music, David became involved in helping local people dealing with drug and alcohol addictions.
“One night as we were about to cook up some canned spaghetti, I heard a guy crying at the telephone box outside our house.
“It turned out that he was struggling with a drug addiction. We invited him in for dinner and he ended up sleeping on the floor of my room. Soon the word got out around town that there was a safe place for people and I’d often wake up with a few people sleeping on the floor of my room.
“I’d go with some of them to the methadone clinic in-between going to University and writing songs. It was an eye-opening time for me.”
David’s Musical Breakthrough
David soon moved back to his Sydney home town, working as a youth worker in Kings Cross and other areas as well as continuing to play music. He soon ended up working at a youth centre whilst also playing in the band at a church which later became Hillsong.
“What a crazy, wonderful time that was,” remembers David. “I was playing in the Hillsong band, writing songs and being mentored by great Gospel songwriter Geoff Bullock. At the same time I was working with troubled kids. We then started a national youth magazine to create positive messages for youth and I landed the job as Creative Director and also was the music columnist.
“Some days I’d be interviewing artists like Peter Garrett (Midnight Oil), heading off to someone else’s album launch, then rushing off to attend court with a young offender before dashing off to play in the band at Hillsong. It was intense and life-changing.”
Hillsong went on to record one of David’s songs and it escalated his journey as a globally recognised songwriter.
“It’s amazing to know that songs I’ve written are sung across the world every week by faith communities and music lovers alike.”
David’s songs have since been recorded by Grammy Award® winners and nominees, and a raft of artists across the world.
After David’s time at Hillsong, he went on to begin many years of touring, mentoring and recording.
He has recorded with a number of other Australian Gospel artists, including Steve Apirana, Steve Grace, Peter Shurley, Jared Haschek (Compliments of Gus) and others.
David has recorded a number of Gospel albums and releases, including Freedom’s Pages, Glorious, Way of the Lord and his greatly-loved live Gospel album, The Sound of Heaven. The Sound of Heaven has been aired across the world on television and radio and features many songs which have become Gospel anthems, including With My Life (Loaves and Fishes), All You Have Given, Big and Such a Day.
“As a songwriter, I’m amazed that you can be a part of writing a song which is then carried into people’s lives around the world. It’s a responsibility and an honour which I can’t take lightly,” says David. “Wherever I go, people often tell me about how the songs have become part of their own articulation of life and faith.”
David’s musical journey took a new direction after a chance email from Australian musical icon, Rick Price (Not a Day Goes By, Walk Away Renee, Heaven Knows).
“I had all these love songs and songs about life that were well out of the Gospel music genre,” says David. “I was thinking about what to do with all these other songs when I received an email from Rick Price announcing his own upcoming album release.
“I cheekily sent Rick a return email asking him if he would consider producing an album for me with these new songs,” says David.
Rick Price recalls: “David kept sending me song after song via email and I was just going, 'Wow! That’s great! Love that one, love that one, love that one.' And so I was very excited to be working with some great material as well as a great artist.”
David recorded Fire This Love with Rick Price at Sputnik Sounds studios in Nashville in 2015. He was joined on the project by a number of Grammy Award® winning engineers and some of the world’s best musicians.
He then went on to some of the longest stretches of touring, playing at hundreds of concerts over a couple of years.
In 2018, David returned to Nashville to once again record with Rick Price, this time at Rick’s own Harpeth Trace studio. Once again joined by the world’s best engineers and musicians who helped David capture his songs and unique vintage sound for his album Outside the Inside.
“Outside the Inside is a little different in that it assembles some of my anthems of resilience for those people who have survived the tough times and who have found hope,” observes David. “I know many people who have survived and who daily survive their own tough situations and who inspire me daily to keep going.”
“Outside Yourself”, the first single from Outside the Inside rocketed up the singer-songwriter charts and quickly became a theme song for people to think about others by paying kindness forward.
The other songs from Outside the Inside have resonated with audiences around the world.
David has continued to tour both as a solo artist and also with various band configurations, including his nine-piece soul and blues band.
“I’ve sung in churches and pubs. I’ve come to realise that there is an inherent dignity that every person carries, no matter what their faith or outlook on life. What I truly love is how music brings us all together.
“As I write and perform my songs I get to share beautiful, magical and meaning moments with people and I can’t help thinking what a privilege it is.”
When David isn’t performing and writing music, he’s usually indulging his other great passion - coffee.
“Coffee is a social thing as it brings people together. Over my tours I’ve found some instant friendships as I’ve pursued finding the best coffees.”
David is based on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia.