2012 was the year that Wiliam Sinclair aka Willy Moon’s life suddenly changed. After years of grafting, the captivating retro throwback hit the jackpot when his track “Yeah, Yeah” was chosen by Apple to soundtrack their new iPod ad. The rest, I anticipate, will be history. The Kiwi crooner spoke to IDOL about the strain of keeping the momentous news top secret; how making an album is like curating a piece of art, and why songwriters will always have the power in the music industry.
2012 WAS AN AMAZING YEAR FOR YOU. IF YOU HAD TO PICK ONE HIGHLIGHT WHAT WOULD IT BE?
It was the year my life changed a lot. The highlight, truthfully, would be not having to work jobs that I hated with a passion. I was able to make music and indulge my love as my means of income. I spent a couple of years working very hard on my music and developing my identity. Last year really was a nice pay-off for all that hard work, and made it all make sense. It’s very difficult when you’re doing these things to know if anything is going to come of it.
WE’VE BEEN FOLLOWING YOUR CAREER FOR A FEW YEARS AT IDOL, AND THEN SUDDENLY IT ALL TOOK OFF!
Somebody once said to me that success is what happens when good things all happen at once, and I really firmly believe that.
YOU WERE SIGNED AT THE END OF 2011 TO ISLAND RECORDS. AM I RIGHT IN THINKING THAT THEY HEARD YOUR MUSIC ON MYSPACE?
Yeah, when I first started making my records I put them up on Myspace, and I just starting spamming everybody until somebody would listen to my music. I did that for quite a long period of time. I took CDs around, emailed people, called people. Eventually it paid off and I developed a relationship with Island, which has been fantastic.
A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL KNOW YOU, OR HAVE GOT TO KNOW YOU, SINCE YOUR SINGLE YEAH, YEAH WAS USED IN THE APPLE IPOD AD. HOW DID THAT COLLABORATION COME ABOUT? AND WHEN IT WAS CONFIRMED DID YOU KNOW THAT YOUR LIFE WOULD CHANGE FOREVER?
I don’t really know how it came about! I just got a call one day saying that a company – but they couldn’t tell me who it was – was interested in using one of my songs in an advertising campaign, but if I knew what it was I would definitely be interested. I had to sign a whole lot of non-disclosure forms – Apple is very, very secretive. It was strange for me because I couldn’t tell anybody. I couldn’t tell any of my friends or my band – I couldn’t share that wonderful news with everybody until the ad actually came out. But the guys who do the music synchronisation for Apple just really love music, and that really comes across in what they do. It is what connects with people, and that’s why I was happy to do it.
HAVE YOU FINISHED YOUR DEBUT ALBUM?
Yes, I finished it in November of last year, and I mastered it. So it’s sitting there and waiting for me to work out when I’m going to put it out. It’s a really strangely liberating yet terrifying experience. It’s really wonderful to have this body of work that I’ve completed. I never really understood what an album meant before – it never really made sense to me. Now that I’ve actually made one I finally understand what it’s all about, and it’s about creating a collection of music. It’s like curating a little piece.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SONIC IDENTITY?
As somebody attempting to build something new out of the scrap heap of popular music from the last 100 years. Sometimes I feel like I’m a junkyard explorer in a post-apocalyptic world pouring back over the history of music like Wall-e, or something! I’m piecing together the things I find beautiful and enigmatic in new and exciting ways.
IS THERE A RETRO FEEL OR THEME THROUGHOUT?
Yes, there’s definitely an obsession with music of the past. That is what I started off with and all I’ve really known in music. I’ve been fascinated by different genres and what makes them tick – the mechanics of it. Deconstructing rock and roll, and hip hop, soul music and funk music was a really joyful experience for me.
WHERE WOULD YOU SAY THE POWER LIES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AT THE MOMENT?
I think in the same place it’s always lay, which is in the hands of the songwriters. I think the songwriters have all the power because without songs there is no music industry. While a lot of people believe there to be these overarching tyrannical figures – people like Simon Cowell spring to mind – I think that it’s kind of missing the point, which is that those people could not exist without songs. Songs are the blood that runs through the veins of the music industry.
WHAT DOES THE WORD POWER MEAN TO YOU?
Interesting question. Power to me is all about freedom and choice…the ability to write your own destiny. I want to take power over my life and my own choices.
AND NOW YOU’RE DOING THAT?
Yes! For the first time in my life I feel that I really am in control of what I do…to an extent, of course – a person is never an island. I live in a world and part of society that exerts forces on me constantly. I have the power to be able to navigate that freely – the only bond I’m in is my record contract, which is an agreement I entered into of my own free will.
MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT YOU HAVE ENTIRE CONTROL OVER YOUR ALBUM TOO?
Yes that’s right. I never really knew if that would be possible. It’s what I always wanted to do. I’m lucky in the sense that there’s no prescription for what I do. There’s no formula because it’s a process of discovery. I think my record label realised very early on that they would believe in me and hope that I make something that was of worth to them, or there was no point in meddling in it.
I CAN’T CHAT TO YOU WITHOUT MENTIONING YOUR SENSE OF STYLE. IS THE WAY YOU DRESS PART OF THE WILLY MOON PROJECT OR IS THAT HOW YOU WOULD DRESS ANYWAY?
That’s really how I dress anyway. That’s how I present myself and it happens to fit quite well into the music that I make. I love clothes and aesthetics, and I’ve always been somebody who likes to take pride in my appearance.
I IMAGINE THE FASHION WORLD HAS TAKEN A REAL SHINE TO YOU?
Yeah, in some ways. I think the fashion world is of course always going to be interested and appreciative of people who love clothes, and take pride in dressing themselves. The ultimate advertising for fashion is people who actually wear clothes. You can sell clothes with models, but it is real people who alter the perceptions of how other people want to dress themselves. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
HOW IS 2013 GOING TO TOP 2012?
I really don’t know. I don’t like to speculate on the future too much as I find expectations often put limits on achievements. What I want to do with this year is continue on and build. I’m going to be doing a lot of touring this year, travelling around the world, which is something I’ve never really done. It’s something I’m very, very excited about as I’ve always loved moving around, and that feeling of being untethered, stepping out into the unknown. The fact that this is now what I do is something that is so gratifying to me.
DO YOU SEE LONDON AS YOUR HOME NOW?
I’ve been living here five years now. I feel like I am a Londoner. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this city. But for the first time I feel as though I belong. I notice more and more when I go away I feel some anchor here that pulls me back.
AND ASIDE FROM TOURING, WHAT ELSE SHOULD BE ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS?
I’m going to be putting out my record in the spring, which will consume my life for most of this year. I’ll be putting out another single in February, but I haven’t decided which!
FINALLY, WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?
It changes constantly. I idolise facets of people, and never people as a whole. The idea of idolatry is somewhat uncomfortable. People are not deities. But as a child I idolised science-fiction writers. I felt that these people wrote books that were philosophical entertainment, which I thought was a really beautiful thing to aspire to. And in music, I still idolise James Brown to an immense level. He was unfailingly captivating as a performer, and worked so damn hard. He used to play over 300 shows a year. There’s something to be said for that kind of dedication. Then again, and why idolatry is really hard, is in many ways he was a horrible person. He shot at his wife and was a drunk, and took too much cocaine.
THAT JUXTAPOSITION IS SO OFTEN THE WAY WITH HUGE CREATIVE TALENTS.
Yes, and I think it’s very hard when you operate at the extremes of fame. The average celebrity meets 100 times more people in a year than most people would meet in their lives. And they live under such extreme circumstances – it is very difficult for them to maintain a normal range of emotions and experiences. It’s something I’ll always be mindful of.
THANK YOU SO MUCH WILLY, AND BEST OF LUCK WITH THE ALBUM. WE CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR IT.
Interviewed for www.idolmag.co.uk
In association with Red Bull
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