Thursday, April 28, 2016
Interview :: Willie J Healey
"I signed a deal just before Christmas so I guess it's business time now..."
This interview is abridged from the original which appeared in music blog Denon Wing. For this and more music profiles, you can reach their site with a click here.
Words: Rosie Mulhern
Meet Willie J Healey, a new 21 year old solo artist putting his own spin on hazy surf-rock. He's recently been signed (to National Anthem) and has two EPs out so far - 'Saturday Night Feeling' released last November, and his debut, 'Malibu HD' , which he supposedly recorded in his garage at home.
I went down to The Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham to watch Willie support Beach Baby, and having seen him play live once before, I knew that I was in for a good show. His highly enjoyable and tight performance consisted of all round chilled vibes including the upbeat and high energy 'Dude Like Him', producing a feel-good atmosphere, alongside his clear enthusiasm and cheeriness throughout. His easy-going tone continued with the much welcomed and more laid back 'Subterraneans', channelling Mac Demarco and The Beach Boys vibes throughout the room. I would definitely say he's one to watch and I'm expecting big things from him in the near future.
I caught up with the man himself when he came offstage after his performance to ask him a few questions, have a read below on what he had to say.
First of all well done, I really enjoyed your set. The crowd seemed to like it too, how does it feel having people reacting like that to your shows?
Thank you! It was really fun. But it's nice... it's kinda weird, to see people singing along because I don't really have that much of a fanbase at the moment, so it's kind of rare but when people do, it does make me smile.
I noticed that you mentioned on stage that this was your second time in Birmingham, how do you like it here?
Yeah, it seems pretty cool. It's nice being able to go to all of these places but I never get to spend much time anywhere though, so all these cities seem the same in a way cos you're just in and out. So I have been to Birmingham, but I haven't been to Birmingham, I've only been to The Sunflower Lounge - twice. I like this place though. It's so loud in there, you guys need ear plugs too, I think.
I first found out about you after seeing you support The Magic Gang at 100 Club in London. How was that show for you?
It was really cool! It was our first show with them as I didn't really know much about them before but it was really nice. But 100 Club is pretty legendary, isn't it? All of the big dogs have played there so it felt nice to be there. The crowd was really cool too. It's nice to play to younger audiences 'cos they seem to move and dance around a lot more.
How has 2016 been so far for you musically?
Pretty cool so far. I've just been recording a lot and gigging; not too many gigs yet though, but I think we're gonna have a few more tours coming up soon. I signed a deal just before Christmas and that was wicked so I guess it's business time now...well kinda.
Have you come across any obstacles yet?
I'm kinda lucky cos I used to work for my dad and I think the biggest obstacle for people starting out is making money. But no, not really. I guess the whole getting signed thing usually results in a lot of outside opinions so that can be an obstacle. Like when someone says, "Go and write a three-minute song instead of a four-minute one," but no-one's really said anything to me like that. I guess the only obstacle would be not gigging but that's not really an obstacle, is it? That can be achieved.
I think it's quite rare to see many solo artists these days as a pose to groups of people in bands, do you have any words of wisdom for other aspiring solo artists out there?
I guess to try and write a load of songs: you can't make all of your songs excellent, but I just try and make as many as I can, whenever I can, and try and record it all. Also try and be in as many projects as you can and I think just enjoy it too, really, cos if you're just aiming for Wembley then you're not gonna enjoy anything so just enjoy it as it comes.
So if you could start a band project alongside your solo stuff, who would you choose to be in it with you?
Well, I really like the band I play live with now so this is hard but if it was a supergroup then I'd have Willie Nelson upfront with me so there'd be two Willies. On bass I'd have my bassist that I have now, Alex Train, cos I'm quite lucky with him. He has the sweetest bass too have you seen it? It's like a teardrop; I think that's been the highlight of the set for most people.
I quite like the music video for 'Subterraneans', did you set out aiming to approach the meaning of the song with it or was it just a bit random?
It was all a bit rushed, to be honest with you, not to make it sound shitty or anything. I just had to come up with something quite quickly and my industry folks told me that I needed to make one so I just went straight into it. I did it twice actually cos the first one was really, really, really boring, even more boring than the one I have now. But I thought that I'd at least need to try and have fun with it so I brought the cake into it. It seems like so long ago now though like I'm not really that into it myself anymore, but I'm glad you like it; there's some funny moments in there.
Have you found a common theme so far when writing music?
Not really no, I guess I watch a lot of films so they influence me. I live in a town that's lovely and all but it's a bit dead. So really I just use films and my imagination and just try not to get too cheesy. That's my regular thought: is this sounding too cheesy? But hopefully they don't.
Of course there's been the sad news about Prince, did that effect you in any way? Was he an influence to you?
In all honesty, not really. It's of course a shame though when someone as influential as himself dies and I totally get how good he was so I got it when everyone in the van was sad. But I haven't really had my Prince phase yet. Cos you know how there's a few obvious bands like The Smiths, Prince and a bunch of others who I'm sure at some point I will be into, but at the moment I'm not. It was a real shame though like we played a gig on the same day and it felt a bit wrong.
So who would you say was your biggest musical influence?
Probably Neil Young. He's a bit of a 70s rocker but I really like the the way he deals with everything and his mindset. My friends and family are obviously influences too. And films as I said. I love old films and sci-fi ones a bit. Mostly just American films.
Finally, you said earlier that you'd be doing more shows so is there any chance of you coming back here soon?
We haven't got anything booked yet but it's on the circuit so we'll definitely be back cos I'd like to but I'm just not sure when yet. Hopefully soon.
Willie J Healey plays the following confirmed festivals.
May 19: Brighton The Great Escape (Spiegeltent 9:30pm)
July 15: Steventon Truck Festival
September 24: Gloucester Guildhall Underground Festival
More info: FACEBOOK