William Beckett was once the lead singer of a popular band called The Academy Is… As a musician he has collaborated with many artists such as Fall Out Boy, Cobra Starship, and Gym Class Heroes. Now Beckett is taking his own road and embarking on a solo career, and on his way he’s finding out who he really is. Speaking with The GROUND from the road as he travels on the Walk the Talk tour, Beckett opens up about his new music, his past, and finally being able to be himself.
What’s the difference between making music as a solo artists and making music in a band?
Well, one of the biggest differences between some of the new material and the kind of writing I’ve been doing for years, is that most of the early material was either written on acoustic guitar and then demoed, or it was done in a practice space. For my newer stuff, I’m actually writing a lot in the studio. What’s exciting about that, is that I’m able to conceptualize the song, write the song, and then record the song very close to, if not exactly, the way that I wanted the finished production to sound. I can basically write and fully imagine the song in one session or two sessions, as opposed to just demos in which case you could lose perspective on the song.
What direction are you taking your music in?
Well, I’m just following my instincts basically. There’s not one artist or one sound, or genre that I’m trying to cater towards. I’m just trusting my instincts of what I feel like these songs need to have. That being said, I have a pretty diverse spectrum of artist, and bands that inspire me. I think that subconsciously those influences are finding there way into my songs, but I haven’t been trying to pinpoint one or two artists from there, I want to sound like me, not like someone else
And who are these influences that you have?
It’s everything from Andrew Lloyd Webber to David Bowie, Death Cab for Cutie, and Led Zeppelin. It’s all across the board.
You’ve been on the Walk the Talk tour now, how has touring been for you?
The tour has been great. I’ve been doing my shows acoustic, which is kind of a way of revisiting how I started. I started at 17 years old with an acoustic guitar playing for anyone who would listen. That’s essentially the way that I’m doing it on this first tour…it’s really reconnecting with my roots and how I started performing, and showing my fans a side of me that they maybe haven’t seen in the past.
Have you noticed if the fans are different or the same you had back in The Academy Is?
It’s interesting because I’m noticing there’s kind of a divide. The old fans don’t have an attitude towards the new fans, which is great. It’s one of those things you have to prepare for when you’re starting something new, coming from something that was fairly successful that meant a lot to a lot of people, so I’ve been kind of lucky in that. I’ll play an Academy song on tour, and these people will sing along to it. Then I’ll play my new material, and then these other people, and some of those old fans will sing along to it, or will be hearing it for the first time. You know on both ends I just think there are fans of Walk the Talk who maybe didn’t really get into Academy, and I’ll play an old Academy B-side on the tour and they’ll go “Oh, I never heard that song before”. So I think there’s a good natural combination of the two.
What kind of music are you into now?
It’s crazy, on this tour we’ve been listening to a pretty eclectic mix of all this stuff I haven’t really heard before. It’s great because I like getting into new music. We were just on tour with this kid, Christopher, who’s in this band Mansions, and now I’m a huge fan of him. I’ve heard a lot of his stuff before, but to see him live really does make it better. That’s what I think is great about music, particularly new music, you’re opening yourself up to the potential of hearing new music live and a performance will always trump an mp3 on your iPod. You see an artist, and when they’re good, something changes in you, you become a part of that moment and that’s what I love about performing and being on tour.
How do you feel about the current state of music?
I think that what’s happening is happening, and I think that this happens with every wave of music, every new trend in music, and it’s happened for decades and decades. In the late 80’s you’re looking at a lot of hair metal bands, the real rock star with machismo and strip clubs and all that shit. Then Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and MTV come along and change the whole game. I feel like once the bubble pops on a genre, a trend or movement, then you know it’s always because of someone who’s doing something unique and different that people gravitate towards. A lot of that right now is with Gotye having the #1 song, or Adele…you see a depth to the lyrics, and melody. There’s actually more spark, you know less is more and it’s starting to happen again in music and people like it. Even that Fun. song, it’s a very unique sounding song with a very sophisticated hook and I think that’s really exciting that change is starting to happen. I mean there’s obviously a lot of crap on the radio, but you know who am I to say something is crap or not crap? Someone listens to a song and it makes them feel better or takes their mind off of something and makes their life more full. Whether or not I like that song or not shouldn’t take anything away from anyone who wants to listen to it.
Out of all your songs that you did with the Academy is, to collaborations, which of your songs are you proud of?
Hard to say, I mean from a performance and writing standpoint, the song that I did with Gym Class Heroes years ago, “7 weeks”, I love that hook, and it’s a really good performance. All of those are special, it depends, but the one I did with Demi Lovato, “For the Love of a Daughter,” is the one I’m really proud of because of how well it conceptually went working for her. It truly relates to her, and exposes a side of her life that she had yet to open up about at that point. Songs are made to open up a door to an artist’s life that make the listener either relate in a way that makes you feel better, or makes you think about life a little bit differently. I feel like thats how you know you have a good song.
What are your plans for the future with your music?
I see myself making music. Right now I’m focused on doing the 3 Eps, and then at the end of the year you’ll have 12 songs, so you’ll have the full story if you put all of the 3 Eps together, which I feel is the more exciting way to listen to, and release music. When you’re coming off a business model of releasing a new album every year and a half, releasing a record and touring for six months, disappearing for half of a year or a whole year to promote your record, I did that for too long. With all the material that I have, and all the songs that I have written, I see no point in crawling up to the studio for 6 months to make a full length record when I could release more music more frequently and never have to disappear.
In an interview, you said”[The album] is really about being yourself and about embracing who you are and not being afraid or apologetic for that,”. So who would you say is William Beckett?
I’m not afraid to be who I am, and show that side of my life anymore. I have a four year old, and she’s the best thing in my life, so I’m not going to be shy about talking about her or illustrating her importance in my life. That being said, what this has been about my whole life is relationships, and keeping relationships. I can’t stop writing about trying to make relationships work, trying to succeed in it with all that life throws you. That’s exactly what these Eps are chronicling. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, it’s just unrealistic. Life is a hailstorm followed by a sunny day, followed by an overcast weekend. The only real preparation for it is to try and react to what happens in a positive way, and try and have a good attitude about things. It’s definitely not easy to do, I just have to remind myself that this is all part of it. The struggles, the triumphs, it’s all part of life and I feel like my perspective is reflected in my music.