Interview: Will Wood

Will Wood is one of the most interesting, exciting and cerebral artists I’ve heard in a long time, so I really wanted to delve a little deeper into his thoughts, his process, and what he’s got in store for us in future.

By Graeme Smith

I love running this blog, precisely because it allows me to discover music and make connections with musicians from near and far that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Will Wood is one such artist. Based in the US, he came to my attention through his wonderful track Cicada Days. Since then, I’ve been following his musical releases closely. His latest being White Noise. I asked him about its meaning and its sense of nihilism.

“[It’s] maybe something like an existential nihilism,” he answers, “but definitely not intended in a negative way. Something about how the world around us can’t bring us meaning and fulfilment, but that we need to create it inside ourselves.

“But also I think I could simply say the song is me coping with my psych problems and those chronic feelings of emptiness. Like a lot of songs, there are a lot of ways to interpret it, and I think I put a lot of different parts of me in it. So I can’t say I had one singular purpose or intention, because the process wasn’t very intellectualized, more intuitive. To me I guess the song is sort of about finding meaning in meaningless things and finding meaninglessness in meaningful things. Or something like that.”

Will has also been pushing himself musically with his latest work. Best known for accompanying himself on piano, he felt drawn to the ukulele for his new record. “I actually played ukulele on every song I’ve put out for this record, but on the other tracks its a baritone ukulele, which is easy to mistake for classical guitar due to the tuning and the nylon strings,” he says.

“But I developed an interest in ukulele because I felt limited by the piano. There are things you can do with a strummed instrument that you can’t do with a piano, and there’s something about acoustic guitar that feels so grounded. But I can’t really handle guitar very well, so I decided to try something smaller and with fewer strings. It definitely allowed me to write songs I never otherwise would, and the fact that I’m still so new to the instrument makes the process of writing on it such an adventure.”

For White Noise, Will also had the chance to direct a 16-piece Bulgarian orchestra over Zoom. A tricky feat! I asked him about the experience.

“It was really thrilling, to say the least. The process of creating this album had so many more moving parts and required so much more attention to detail on my end than my previous releases, where my role was bandleader and songwriter, whereas on this one I feel like I can kind of call myself a composer. Kind of.

“But because I had developed these arrangement skills on my previous soundtrack work I was able to provide this choir across the world with MIDI files that they were able to format into traditional sheet music, and then conduct the choir based on my note-by-note writing and text messages over Zoom. There’s nothing like hearing a classically trained professional choir sing something you wrote, and do so with such heart. It’s incredible.”

White Noise is taken from Will’s new album, set for release on 29 July. Here’s how Will describes it:

“It’s sixteen tracks, about an hour and a quarter long, and it gets weirder as it goes along. Some of my wackiest stuff yet is on here, but so is my most grounded stuff. I think there’ll be at least a little something for everybody for my usual listeners on here, and some stuff that I think has the chance to encourage newcomers too. That’s my personal appraisal though, and I write based on what I like, so I’m of course going to be biased.”

Will plans to launch the album at the Sony Theatre on Times Square, New York. I asked him what the audience there will be treated to.

“It’s going to be a nice, intimate show,” he says. “I’m not exactly planning on ‘performing’ as much as I am just showing people what I’ve got and saying what I have to say. I mean obviously it’ll be a performance, but I’m going to try and keep it personal and human.”

Having funded a lot of his music through Patreon, I was keen to find out how he had gone about it, and whether he had any tips for other musicians looking to finance their music in the same way.

“I would say to try looking at it as a unique sales platform,” he advises. “Figure out what interesting products you can offer them in exchange for their support, focus on them, and be as transparent as possible. Consider your crowdfunding platform as a temporary webstore for limited-edition stuff, one that tells shoppers what the money they spend will go to. Don’t go into it hoping for donations. Go into it with a focus on what you’re giving, not what you want to get.”

We were now at the part of the conversation where I decided to steer things towards the personal, starting by asking him about what he was trying to do with his music.

“I guess I’m trying to find like-minded people who need to hear the kinds of things that I need to say. That and make a living, I guess,” he replies.

And what would he say about having previously been described in the press as ‘reclusive’? Is that fair?

“Not really” he says. “I don’t like attention very much and I don’t use social media really, but I’m not like the J.D. Salinger of music or something. I’m just an introvert and a homebody who got popular during a pandemic when nobody was able to not be reclusive. I might’ve described myself as that once or twice in my life, but I think if so that was an inaccurate self-assessment.”

Finally, Will had a few shout outs for us. Firstly, some of the acts that he thought we should be listening to, including Vater’s Vibrators, Enox, Human Zoo, and Machinery of the Human Heart. Then, an invitation to catch him on tour in the US. You can find tickets here.

Will Wood will be launching his new album at Sony Theatre, New York on 29 July 2022.