Since disbanding his group The Academy Is… William Beckett has dived headfirst into his solo career with EP releases and live recordings. The time however has come for a debut full length, Killyourstereo.com caught up with Big Willie to discuss it all.
Let’s talk about your transition into a solo artist from The Academy Is…
I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’ll just be honest and say it was my choice to end the band and it was so I could go solo. Because it came to a point for me where, it’s no ones fault particularly, a lot of that came down on me as the sole writer, but I was not writing my best material, but we were also in a very stressful position, members were leaving and everything felt disjointed and weird, and didn’t feel the way that it should and the way it always did, so my writing was suffering and I felt like it was just time. Instead of forcing out a record that none of us would like we just ended on a high note and honoured what we accomplished, not degrade it by doing things just to do it. So I started over and that’s where my writing took a huge turn and I’ve been writing like crazy and have been on fire ever since so I think it was the right move for me and that everyone is in a good place right now.
Do you feel a sense of freedom now that you are on your own?
Yeah I do, I still have a team like managers and people that I consider A&R, I bounce ideas off of friends and producers, but at the end of the day it is my choice and it’s people who are not as close to me as a band is, a band you are married to like five dudes, that nuts. It’s very difficult to keep cool and not make it a reality TV show or something. For me it’s liberating to commit to ideas and see them through and continue to create as opposed to beating an idea into the ground, which no one likes anyway. It’s proactive and positive as opposed to depression for me, if no one likes the song who gives a shit just write another one. Before I would get down about that, it’s up and down though.
Are there some negative points to not being in a band though?
I don’t think so, honestly I don’t. I plan on playing with a full band next year though because my album isn’t acoustic at all.
But you are playing this upcoming Australian tour with Anberlin solo?
Yes, but I have a band in a box so it’s not just me, you’ll see. It’s tiny people in a tiny box.
Do you find that a live solo musician can be a bit restricted in what they can perform?
Well I don’t let it restrict me, I write things as if it is full band. There is obviously difference between a backing track and real drums, part of me misses running around like a lunatic on stage, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be that way, it is a different side of my performing token. Plus, you can really hear how much I’ve grown as a vocalist, I’ve never been singing better in my life and that is clear when you hear the album. I miss running around on stage but that is what 2014 is all for.
Have you ever written anything that you didn’t think you could do live?
Well I don’t write things I can’t sing. That is song writing 101, but I know bands that do, dude I just got off the Warped Tour, there are plenty of bands that are trying to sing well out of their range. Same with people on like singing shows. So not really, I try to keep things minimal, even when I program drums I’m doing them as if I’m a drummer so three hands can’t be going at the same time. So everything is very organic and real, minimalistic in a way. Obviously we do some things that are more epic with synths and a female choir, those things can be more difficult if you aren’t Sting and can’t afford to bring out twenty-five musicians on a thirty-five date tour. But I don’t really do that often anyway.
How would you describe your new album?
It is an extension of everything you have ever known of me or my band, but it is something that is on another level, particularly from a conceptual lyrical level. It is story focused, very dynamic, but all under the same production canopy. We chose to use these tones and sounds and landscapes on songs that are different stylistically.
So there is a running lyrical theme?
Yeah, so the album is called ‘Genuine & Counterfeit’ it is essentially about a relationship’s beginning, a chronological linear story of a relationship starting and everything is amazing and when you meet someone and that spark happens and everything is amazing and cute and sexy, there is nothing they can do wrong. Then you are together for a little longer and layers of who they are start to peel off and you notice things you didn’t notice before. Things become more challenging and it’s not that easy to make it work so the album starts off positive and then things progress and get more real and intense, trying to figure out what’s real and what’s fake. It’s a very hopeful record though, it’s not about something falling apart, it’s about something being challenged and becoming stronger as a result.
What made you want to write the record about that?
My life and my relationship and my struggles since being in the band. The band was a struggle, it’s about perseverance and being challenged and getting knocked on your ass but picking yourself up. You get bruises but in my opinion challenges in life, whether you feel you have overcome them or not, everyday that you live after that you are getting stronger and learning.
Let’s talk about the collaborations on the record, Say Anything’s Max Bemis and Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders.
I was recording vocals and there were these two part that were just screaming, first of all I’ve always wanted to collaborate with Max because he is one of the best writers of our time as far as just being bold and being himself which is what I’m all about so that one was a no-brainer I felt like it was perfect for him, and for Derek I’ve always been a fan of his voice and a fan of his range, Time For A Sign is an epic, epic song with a part at the end where we just go back and forth and it’s like we’re going for it and it’s an emotional cool moment. So it was fully intended to have them but I feel like Derek took it to the next level. My hat’s off to that fella.