By Harry Bowden-Ford
Young musicians are abundant amongst students, but successfully sharing your artistic expression with the world can sometimes seem far from achievable. The best advice of indie-pop prodigy Will Joseph Cook? 'Do it, put stuff out there. The best way to move things forward is to share what you’re making. Especially as it’s so easy to record from home now.'
Will Joseph Cook’s charming brand of emotional indie-pop has undergone substantial progression and seen increasing success since his first major exposure featuring on BBC Introducing in late 2013. Initially juggling A-Levels and festival appearances, he now writes and tours his music full time. He has released 2 EPs (with another arriving later this month) and his debut album, and, in an email interview conducted shortly before his next release, Will showed no signs of ending his musical odyssey just yet.
'The best way to move things forward is to share what you're making'.
When I first encountered Will, he was supporting Everything Everything at the Bristol O2 Academy in November 2015. His uplifting melodies, astounding vocals, and dedicated demeanour were hypnotic – I was immediately transfixed by his refreshingly passionate performance and skilful songcraft. At this point, he had released his first two EPs: ‘You Jump I Run’ and ‘Proof Enough’, the latter of which he and a record executive were handing out for free after the show.
Naturally, I was eager to get my hands on a copy, and decided to avoid the manic surge for the exit to stay behind and chat with him. As I approached him to collect a CD, I heard myself ask whether he was a fan of Jeff Buckley, sparking a surprisingly long conversation about his influences and how it felt to be writing and performing his own songs. I left the venue that night with the impression that not only was Will an easy-going and amicable guy, but that he was a deeply passionate lover of music.
Asking him about his listening on tour seemed to confirm my initial impression: 'On the last tour I heard an album called Head by Okudaxij. It was really inspiring. I loved how simple and creative the arrangements were. Tour is always a good time to get loads of listening in.' Having previously expressed a fondness Radiohead, Everything Everything, Joni Mitchell, Vampire Weekend and MGMT, it is clear that Will’s work is fuelled by a genuine passion for music that was fostered by his early exposure to a variety of bands, thanks to his show-going father.
His residence in Tunbridge Wells even led to an incredible encounter with one of the world’s most renowned guitarists: 'I actually met Jeff Beck when I was 15. He lives not far from the school I went to. I ended up recording some of my first demos at his home studio. It was amazing for someone as renown as him to take an interest in my music.'
Will’s first LP, Sweet Dreamer, was released on April 14th this year, the same day Kendrick Lamar dropped his hotly-anticipated album DAMN, and he has been touring the album since its release. 'It feels great, and weird in a good way. This is the last tour of the album so afterwards will be a bit of a transitional period creatively.'
The Sweet Dreamer tour has made several stops in the west country - Will even expressed a fondness for everyone’s favourite waterborne venue: 'We played Thekla in Bristol back in May which was really sick, I love that venue.' On this tour, he and his band will play at Moles in Bath, an iconic venue that has seen the likes of The Smiths and Oasis take to its hallowed stage. 'This will be my first time in Bath… hopefully it’s a good one!', he comments on the upcoming show, 'It’s always cool to play iconic independent venues, especially the ones outside of the major cities.'
His passion for music and his songwriting ability are showcased not only his records, but at his shows; with performances characterised by a doting and enthusiastic fanbase, impressively constructed tunes that translate well in a live setting, and a sincere fervour that permeates his time on stage, all three occasions on which I went to see Will Joseph Cook were a pleasure.
'I’d say a lot has changed for me, but I’m still in it for all the same reasons.'
Moreover, his artistic identity has blossomed with experience, with the sense of him as an artist becoming more pronounced on each occasion I see him. Despite the inevitable change increasing success has brought in the last few years, Will only seems wiser and more comfortable for it: 'I guess it takes a while to get to know yourself musically, and the only way you find out more is by writing and releasing. I’d say a lot has changed for me, but I’m still in it for all the same reasons.'
For me, it is this honest, expressive, and self-explorative aspect of Will’s music that makes his music so engaging. Unsurprisingly, then, I was thankful to hear that the young artist had a clear vision of what was next for him: 'lots more writing and recording. I’m just really excited to work out where I’m taking things next.'
Will’s third EP, If You Want to Make Money, is due for release on October 25th, and the title track (available for stream or download now) shows that he is still ready to deliver more infectious and cheery hooks that are quickly becoming his trademark. In a world forever welcoming of engaging and original sounds, especially one so honest and upbeat, it is safe to say that things for Will Joseph Cook are only looking up.
If You Want to Make Money EP is out on October 25th via Atlantic Records UK