Willie J Healey has created an honest and varied debut that explores his love of some of music's greats.
For someone who's still in the grips of youth, Willie J Healey comes across with the ideals of an older age. He's well aware of what he likes and doesn't like and isn't afraid to stick to his guns. Littered throughout his debut album, ‘People and Their Dogs', are vintage influences that retain that youthful vigour that can only come from doing something you love.
Willie has always been an artist who does what he wants. Be it an oddball music video that features him making out with an alien (‘Greys'), or turning up to his first gigs in a battered old limo he purchased because it was cheaper than a van - you can always guarantee Willie is true to himself. "I feel like that's the only way it can be for me," he says earnestly. "I just wanted to make things honest."
Honesty is certainly a striking policy when it comes to ‘People and Their Dogs': every track feels like a fresh turn down a street you may have grown up near. Opener ‘Subterranean' has implicit Bob Dylan vibes, even down to the way Willie enunciates certain characters, while one of his own personal standout tracks is ‘Love Her'; a furious rampage that leaves the uncertain flow of everything before it behind and careers into a sprint. Its origins were far from planned though, which he explains excitedly. "It was spontaneous to record, and not that much thought went into it, which is nice. It just came to together really quick."
Trying to nail this album down into just one category is a fruitless task, any moment you feel you've got it pegged it changes direction. He's aware this may be a slight danger to his approachability by the average Spotify-digester. "If you dipped in for just one song, you might get me totally wrong," he says with a mildly worried laughter. "It doesn't feel that novel to me, but I can see how someone could find it strange that there's that much going on in the album, but I really commit to all of these songs." As a somewhat joking plan for the future he muses, "Maybe I could do an album with heavy songs and an album of acoustic songs? Be a bit more organised!"
While getting to this point has no doubt taken a level of dedication and planning, from his basic beginnings to finding his world getting bigger and bigger, the appeal of Willie lies in the unexpected. In the same way that life can throw you a curve ball or three, never staying complacent even if it can start to feel like it is, the charm of Willie is the excitement and understanding he can impart. He's self-aware and loving every moment.
Breaking down where his album's fluid progression stems from, he offers: "I think a lot of albums I like are like that - bands like Wilco and The Beatles, and all the obvious stuff, they have that all over the place [feeling]. I'm not really referencing anything too heavy; it's just a combination of things that I like listening to and playing. It's kinda cool, it's influenced by lots of things, and when you chuck all that stuff together, you get something a bit weird and new. But it's hard to pin it down, isn't it?"
With his debut coming to the world very soon, a project which has in fact been completed since the very start of 2017, Willie hasn't been sat around not doing anything. "I've been working on new songs and stuff like that, so I've not been too stagnant," he reveals. "But you do feel like; I don't know, you just want to show people you've got this new thing. It's like not being able to give someone a Christmas present for ages!"
Once unwrapped, his debut is certain to gain him hoards of new fans. It's impossible not to get captured by his work; every moment feels like the start of something new. "Some people put two EP's together for their first album which makes sense, but I think it's lame." Freshness is what Willie is all about. "I think it's good for everyone, if you're a fan of bands like Modest Mouse and you're someone who likes lots of different types of music, you know (Sandy) Alex G or someone like that, I feel like there's lots in that."
He's hoping this ethos of productivity pays off. "The person who's writing is really happy because they're writing songs they like, and the people who are listening to it, hopefully - if they like the music the person writes - it's like a gold mine [for them] because there'll be lots of it.
"You can also see, and tap into, the way they're trying new things and not just doing what works or trying to write a hit. It all just depends on what you're into. Some stuff lasts, and some stuff doesn't. I think as someone who writes songs; you listen to the stuff that stands the test of time and [try to] do that justice and then hopefully your songs don't date badly."
On whether or not his new tunes hold any evolution, he offers: "Yeah [they do], and I don't feel so aware of the change, but I've been told that some of the demos are quite different to the past bunch of songs we recorded together. It sounds like my new ideas are moving on, which is good. I've got a collection of new stuff, so I'm keen to get going on that and yeah, just do another one."
"I mean, ideally, I'd love to have finished the second one before the first one was released," he laughs. "I think that would be a great story, but I just haven't pushed it because I want to write as much as I can this time, because who knows when my ideas will go?"
Taken from the September issue of Dork. Order a copy below. Willie J Healey's album 'People And Their Dogs' is out 18th August.