Alexia Kirov profiles Willie J Healey: an exciting new artist set to take music by storm in the coming year. Move over Ed Sheeran, there’s room for more than one red-headed troubadour on this rodeo.
Singer-songwriter Willie J Healey is Oxford’s answer to Mac DeMarco, and if it wasn’t a cliché, I’d call him the next big thing. That Healey is on the brink of massive success is definite, but his sound brandishes an organic energy that deserves more than hackneyed phrases. Healey is now 22, but has been writing music since he was about 13, and his “sound has developed, definitely, and been influenced by different people as I’ve got a little bit older. I started recording at home which changed things a lot. [That meant] I could put more instruments on a song. I’d started just acoustically, writing more folky-style songs”.
Just as his writing style has developed, so has Healey’s music taste. Although he still loves Neil Young and 70s rock, more recent influences include “JJ Cale, and Mac DeMarco – people that record at home, and albums that were done a bit more DIY, but didn’t sound like DIY albums”. This DIY approach to songwriting is something Healey emulates, and is what yields such a unique sound. Although he says his creative process is “not always the same each time, generally I’ll write the bones of a song on an acoustic guitar in my bedroom, and I’ve got a little set-up in my garage, and then I’ll take it from there and I’ll start demo-ing it. Then the band I play with will come in and we’ll all write parts together. So sometimes I’ll write and I’ll record at the same time, so I’ll just be making parts up while I’m recording, and sometimes I just write it all on acoustic guitar first.”
His most recent music video, for the track ‘Greys’, was created with “a guy called Sam Hiscox”; it features Healey and an alien. Healey’s approach to music videos is to “try not to make it like a story – because we’ve only got three minutes. I don’t really like music videos that are trying to cram this story into three minutes, we just try to keep it quite fun. [Hiscox] shoots most of his stuff on film, so it looks great, too”.
After a string of very well-received EPs, fans can be pleased to know that Healey’s debut album is coming out on August 18th. Although “it’s a bit of a way away, the plan is to have two more singles before then. There’s a song coming out called ‘Lazy Shade of Pink’, which we’ll play tonight, and that will be out in the next few weeks I think, and then another one after that”. Indeed, anyone looking to get a taste of what the album will sound like should head down to a gig soon, because Healey’s set “has quite a lot of unknown songs in it that haven’t been released. There’s this song called ‘My Room’ and it goes from one song into another, I really enjoy it. ‘My Room’ is probably my favourite to play live”.
Healey’s gigs are the town’s hot ticket and regularly sell out months in advance. It’s hardly surprising that the tickets have been snatched up so fast, but he can hardly believe it: “Someone said to me ‘oh you know that will sell out really quick’ and I didn’t believe him, but it did! It’s nice to feel that people really want to come that bad that it sold out so quick. It’s kind of new territory for me too, generally the shows don’t sell out, and if they do, it’s not that quick!”. Healey will next be back in Bristol as part of Dot to Dot Festival, on May 27th. Be sure to catch him on a small stage whilst you can, because he is sure to be filling up much bigger venues very soon.
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