Famed French artist Willy William holds wide acclaim as an author, composer, producer, DJ and singer, all while blowing up the Internet one hit at a time. The Scorpio Music artist gives a new meaning to urban pop, curating a musical endeavor that embraces a surplus of creative intelligence. In 2016, Willy saw the elevation of his musical vision attracting the title of #1 most Shazammed French artist in the world and #5 most Shazammed artist in the world.
His new track “Mi Gente” in collaboration with J Balvin, and produced by Willy William is the highest 24 hour debut of an original Latin music video. Frequently praised within the European pop world, Willy William’s highly anticipated album in 2017 sees the first single Voodoo Song already exploding the hype button on social media. Accumulating a record number of Facebook views within 2 days, the early promotion caused an online meltdown. Showcasing a global allure, his worldly grasp of sonic endeavours is distinct upon the prospect of this year’s album release. Adding to a glistening array of titles, his award list has reigned exposing the album ‘Collectif Métissé’- gaining two gold plaques while the follow up album ‘Keen V’ saw platinum status. Willy William’s prominent singles have taken storm with ‘Li Tourner’ awarded a golden plaque and ‘Ego’ attracting a diamond award across Europe, double platinum in Holland, platinum in France, Italy and Russia while also celebrating the honour of being the official anthem of the Euro Cup in Germany. As one of Europe’s most talk about artists, Willy William holds true to the aficionado of crossover pop music.
Tell me about your own musical background?
I’ve had a lot of experience in different types of music, different situations. I started music when I was 16. I’m a musician first and guitarist. I started in the ’90s with my little rock band, just trying to search for our own style. I was a guitarist, my neighbour was the drummer and we were just doing music – and learning about music. I was huge fan of Pixies, Greenday, Cranberries, Smashing Pumpkins.
There’s also a similar production sound to that era of music. Your drum sounds are obviously important to you!
Yeah I love – not really drums – a lot of percussion. I love to put some piece with a guitar in all my productions. But playing guitar, because I can, and I try it with software… it’s not really playing guitar. I love to play instruments and put a little piece on, even on electronic stuff, it’s pretty cool.
On your tracks, do you play all the instruments?
Yes – guitar, keys, drums if I can. But it’s a long process to record real drums, so I’ve got some friends who record some drums and I put it in as a drums loop; it’s still real drums. I think its sounds better, and as I told you, on electronic stuff you can fit something real. It’s a nice job because the success of different stuff allows me to experience some different things. And to see if those experiences work or not.
Do you have a classical training?
No, I learned by ear. Never been in a school for music, learning the cogs. When I’m playing, I’m just playing by ear. Sometimes it’s difficult when I’m with real musicians because they want me to lead, to give some direction. I just say “Okay, wait a minute, this, this this and this”. There’s some rules but if you don’t know the rules but you can do these things, you have to forget about the rules.
Isn’t it in jazz: if you make a mistake play it twice. That’s fantastic, so you were listening to all of this quite sophisticated production in term of the bands that you reference, they all have this particular, very precision orchestrated production. How did that influence you? Obviously you got your reggae influence and rhythms coming through. How did it feel, how did it come about – you creating your sound?
The process of creation depends on so many things. When I start something, I’ve got some ideas like a hook so I grab a piano or guitar to put the hook and after I say ‘whats the direction of this?’. I will add some reggae stuff, I will add some afrobeats on it. Most of the time I put some afro influence on my production. Brazilian and afro sometimes. But I love to focus on drums first. I like to make the drums sound like a hook. Every DJ is asking me the secret. I don’t know if it’s a secret, how I made this hook, it’s a mix of vocal, flute and sax.
What was it about the collaboration with J Balvin; was it that he had a natural voice that worked?
That collaboration started with common friends we had, between Scorpio Music and the label of J Balvin. This guy received the version, J Balvin heard it and at first he said, ‘We have go to do something with it’. He wanted to put this instrumental and make something for him for his summer stuff. He started posting some video on his Instagram, filming himself and freestyling on only the instrumental. I received all those videos because he made maybe three or four videos per day filming himself and singing, ‘Yeah something huge is coming’. I’m watching the video like – ‘Yeah, I know’. We went to the studio in Miami, we spent a night working on building the right stuff, to make it sound like a cross-over. He wanted to break these rules and make something original. That why there’s no vocals on the chorus and the chorus sounds like the drop. When we were in the studio, he always told me, ‘Don’t rush it, believe in me, believe in this project. This type of construction will break the rules and will add something new in the Latin market. It’s a beautiful song and we bring something new with different chords’. The first version I made is a French version, in French, 100% French. ‘Voodoo Song’, the French version was signed in 20 countries. Those countries like this french version because it’s something new and they also like the melody, the hook, the instrumental. I think they also like the vocals and the stuff, even if they don’t understand what I’m saying but the flow sounds like something cool.
Do you think the success of this is down to the remix, or the fact that it’s in Spanish, or a mix of everything?
I think it’s a mix of everything. I think the video helps too because we put a lot of energy into this video to make it look like the music, when you feel the music when a drop is coming, this is the drop, when you are watching the video drops coming, it’s like that. You can feel because everybody moves all around. The video helps.
I don’t think you’d realise you were French from the video, it does sound more South American.
That’s the way.
It sounds like the social media aspect of it has been huge as well. Obviously you have had the Shazam thing as well, Spotify, the Streaming, the way people are consuming music, and this whole Instagram story that is fantastic.
Yeah, since Mi Gente, a lot of good things [have happened]. I received congratulations from artists such as David Guetta. Yesterday I was with Kygo in the studio and he said, ‘Man, your songs are amazing’. It’s really new for me: I’m a French guy who does his own thing, my own stuff. Now, it’s like the world wants to make stuff with me and with my songs. When I build this instrumental it was a kind of an accident, you know, because I was focused on another project and I was looking for sounds. I was like, ‘This vocal sounds good, lets try this’. I opened a new session, I forgot the [other] project and I focus on this hook and I just built it like this. Not as a used to do, like focus on the drums first and after that the hook. It sounds better like this because the hook is the main.
Do you ever play live when you are DJing?
Yeah, yeah. I love to grab guitars to play the solo, sometimes it doesn’t work because the clubs and the technical set up is sometimes difficult, even sometimes the crowd, they don’t really realise you are playing for real. I love to play samples, some drums, some classical EDM, depends some hip-pop, maybe rock sometimes. I like to drop Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, only the guitars, and play the drums. It work’s because you are doing something special, not playing just the track. I love to add some original stuff on it. But now I have to focus on, thanks to what happened which direction.
There must be a long list of people wanting to collaborate with you?
I think it can be a kind of trap, they want me to use the same things, using the same vocals, using the same drops, but I am able to do whatever those artists want. They want some salsa, I can do some salsa. It’s hard to say to those big artists, this is cool but let’s try something new.