SB: So how’d you get into music and what types of artists were you exposed to growing up?
WM: My father is a musician. When I was growing up, he was always listening to the stereo or playing guitar or banjo. My parents’ record collection was mostly the big classic rock pantheon like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and bluegrass and folk music.
SB: Yeah that’s a pretty good introduction to music. What draws you to a folk and roots style compared to other genres?
WM: That’s hard to say. I wouldn’t say that it’s really a conscious effort to work within or listen to a specific genre, I just kind of let it happen and try to not get too inhibited.
SB: Your album “Strange Constellations” has an eclectic sound with pop, folk and some country elements, so what inspired your dynamic sound?
WM: Thanks for saying it’s dynamic! Sort of like what I said about being drawn to certain genres above others, we really didn’t put forth a conscious effort to make the album diverse or eclectic. There wasn’t an actual band in place when we started recording it, so we just tried to arrange the songs in a way that best served the material without saying “oh, this is a rock song” and “this is a country song” and so forth. We tried to make a record that if we heard it ourselves and had nothing to do with it, we’d like it.
SB: That’s a cool approach. The album came out this year, what was the recording and production process like?
WM: It took a while honestly. I started writing most of these songs in 2012 or so. My former band, Southeast Engine, was winding down and I had starting writing songs with a very nebulous idea of a solo record in mind. Shortly after that, my friends Bud Carroll (producer/multi-instrumentalist) and Adam L. Meisterhans (guitarist) got in touch asking if I’d be interested in making a record at Bud’s studio. It sounded like a lot of fun, so we began rehearsing and tracking. We didn’t really have a core band together when we first started, but after a while, the group started to (Bud and Adam, plus bassist Ian Thornton and drummer Rod Elkins) coalesce as a working unit. We also brought in some other people to contribute like vocalist Haley Slagle, multi-instrumentalist Zachary Nichols and session pianist Shane Keister. Shane played with Elvis Presley for a while in the seventies and there’s a good chance that you’ve heard him many times on the radio. He’s on a ton of well known recordings.
SB: What was your favorite song to create from the record and what was the most challenging aspect of recording “Strange Constellations”?
WM: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I think my favorite was probably “Blood Moon Singer.” I didn’t write it until nearly the end of the recording process and by that point, Ian and Rod were in the picture, so we’d more or less assembled the band. From a songwriting standpoint, it neatly tied together a lot of the themes that I’d been writing about, and musically, it felt the most collaborative. I know this sounds like a cop-out, but I can’t really pick a challenging aspect of recording the album. We worked very hard, but it was a really enjoyable experience and is the first time in my musical life that I’ve come away from a project being completely satisfied. I guess one challenge I can mention is that a terrible blizzard happened during the basic tracking and the pipes froze at Bud’s house, so we recorded most of the basic tracks without the aid of running water.
SB: Is there a specific story behind the album artwork and title?
WM: The album title comes from a passage in Moby Dick where Ishmael talks about “sleeping under strange constellations” in the southern hemisphere. I thought it was a nice metaphor for not really understanding your own motives, or if you’re into astrology like me, not understanding the stars that are guiding you. The artwork is by my friend Bryn Perrott. Bryn’s an amazing artist who’s well known for making elaborate woodcuts, but she’s equally talented in a bunch of different mediums. She did the artwork and then had a fantastic idea about printing the cover with silver reflective foil. Thankfully, Jeff at Misra gave us enough rope to make the album cover of our dreams!
SB: You are currently on a long tour, how have people been reacting to the record? Do you have a favorite show so far?
WM: It’s been great. All of the shows are going very well and the response to the record has been really positive. I honestly can’t say I have a favorite so far. Overall I have to give tour two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
SB: That’s awesome! There were also several dates listed on the tour at SXSW, so what was your experience like playing there?
WM: SXSW is a great time as long as you go into it knowing that it’s going be a wildly overstimulating blur. You just have to embrace it. We played some really fun shows there. In particular, the Keeled Scales and Chicken Ranch day parties were great. Strangely enough, we accidentally saw Garth Brooks do a surprise show. It was awesome. We also had the the immense pleasure of attending the Luck Reunion at Willie Nelson’s ranch outside of Austin. It was the nearest thing to heaven on earth that I can imagine.
SB: Yeah, I plan on going next year! What great bands have you discovered while on your tour?
WM: We’ve played with some great bands like Yip Deceiver, David F. Bello or Charles Bissell of the Wrens, but we already knew them. As far as new discoveries go, I have to say Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires and Kelsey Wild. They blew our minds in very different ways, but blew our minds nevertheless.
SB: and last question, What song do you wish you had written?
WM: This answer changes day to day, but right now I have to go with “On The Street Where You Live” by Lerner and Loewe. I can’t think of a better rhyme in popular music than “does enchantment pour out of every door”
Check on Will’s album “Strange Constellations Below”