PropertyOfZack was incredibly lucky to speak with William Beckett a few weeks ago for one of the best interviews we’ve been able to put on the site in months now. Will and I discussed his venture into a solo career, the reasons for needing to break away from The Academy Is… and Fueled By Ramen Records, uncompromised art, his plan to release three EPs this year, touring, and more. It’s a fantastic interview, so make sure to read it all!
So The Academy Is… made it’s farewell statement and pretty immediately after that, you let fans know that you would be working on a new album and new solo material for the first time. Did you know right off the bat that you wanted to go this route?
Yeah. It was a major contributing factor in breaking up the band. It really came down to what I wanted to accomplish, the vision that I had, and the difficulty I was having getting there while being under the band.
Did you carry some of your new solo songs over from the final The Academy Is… sessions?
Nothing from Walk The Talk is. That’s all post-Academy. But there are a few songs that I just can’t let go of from some of those sessions. The identity is there with me. It’s essentially my songs but they were written during that time period. A few of them I can’t let go of so those will likely be heard.
Has the songwriting process been different for you now?
Absolutely. I’ve probably written over a hundred songs with my band and with Mike in an exclusive sense. Things weren’t always fun. It wasn’t always a positive experience. There were times where we would finish songs and we wouldn’t even speak to each other. Most of our second record is about that. About the inner band tension and me being uncomfortable. And my anxiety as a result of that. Not since the first record have I fully been able to be myself and be honest and genuine fully with every aspect of my life. When you are on a team you have to consider everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and tastes and needs and wants. Which I feel like, when it comes to art, it can work. But I feel like a lot of times when compromise is put into the equation, when it comes to art and music, the vision can get muddled and watered down and disingenuous at some point. For me, I was unwilling to let it get to that point with the band because I respect so deeply what we accomplished and respect so deeply our fans. And myself as well. To the point where I wouldn’t want to fake it just to put another record out. So it really came down to necessity for me to be able to do it on my own. For us all to be able to look at what we accomplished, untarnished, and with respect and love.
As an artist, it must be difficult to compromise in ways that you might not see are for the better. Or ways that you could see diminish your art or make you unhappy. So has this just been really liberating for you?
Absolutely. I’ve never been happier in my life. That being said, I’ve never been through harder times as well. But in that, being able to purely look at my life through pure, honest eyes and perspective, I’m able to experience the highs and lows in a way that I have never understood before. I generally just have a more positive outlook on life and what I do. Through a more empowered perspective than I have ever had in the past. It’s great to know that win, lose or draw, I’m going at one hundred miles an hour with my own vision uncompromised. The way that I see it and the way that I envisioned everything. I’d rather win that way than win as a cheater. I’d rather hit forty home runs and not sixty but be on the juice.
POZ: Opening day for the Yankees!
Will: Opening day for the White Sox! They are playing right now. As a Yankees fan, you have more to look forward to this year.
POZ: Absolutely. By the way, Chicago is losing two - nothing.
Will: I see that. John Danks giving up two runs already. The Rangers are a super tough team.
POZ: I’ll have better luck today.
You went back and forth with the band and Fueled By Ramen for a long time. You are on your own now and you are off of Fueled By. Was it discouraging at first to walk away from a tough situation? Or was it more inspiring?
No, I wasn’t discouraged in the least bit. It was certainly a decision that I saw coming and it was a mutual decision to do it. There comes a time when the people on your team from either a managerial position or a front office position at the label where when you are together for a long time and you have some good success, but you haven’t gotten to where you want to, there are some things you can do. You can cut corners, you can try to fabricate what you are doing to sell more records. Or you can embrace what is happening naturally. I feel like they have always been really amazing with letting me embrace what I am doing naturally and artistically. I can’t say anything bad about them or about Atlantic Records because they have always been great, but there comes a time where you have to change the approach. I feel like after a certain amount of time, people lose perspective on exactly what it is. For me, coming out of The Academy [Is…] and having so much freedom, I can literally do anything that I want. I could have came back with a hip-hop thing if I wanted to. Thankfully, I’m not, but that being said, it takes a minute to fully realize exactly what it is. To have it fully defined the way that I want it to be. I don’t want to half-ass my first release back. Once I had the vision, I felt like it wasn’t fully realized by everyone on the team. So I changed my team completely. From the ground up. I have a brand new team across the board. It’s been going amazingly so far. Everyone get’s it. There comes a time when you have to fire your manager. To talk about sports, there comes a time where you have to fire your manager or your scout.
POZ: Sometimes you just need a fresh start.
Will: There just comes a time where you have to shuffle things up depending on the kind of goal that you have. I’m a huge sports fan so I tend to think in the sports realm of analogies. So forgive me for that.
So you are releasing your first solo EP, Walk The Talk, in two weeks. You have a whole new team around you and you have released a song and you have a new video coming out. Have fans been supportive of the song and excited about the release?
Yeah, it’s been great. I can’t say that I’m surprised because I really think that I’m on to something here with the song and with the EP. I don’t second guess myself at all with the decisions I have been making and I don’t apologize for who I am and being who I am. That’s essentially it. If everyone hated it, I wouldn’t feel any different about what I am doing. If that makes sense. I think the response has been incredible and I feel like a lot of people are just excited that I am putting out music at all. It is bold and different and not what a lot of people expect me to do. It’s exciting for me so it’s cool that people are receptive to it. There has been a lot of feedback as well from people and press outlets who didn’t necessarily like or even dive into what I do with my band that have really been into what I’m doing and support it. It’s been great so far. It’s still really early days obviously. I don’t want to speak to soon, but that being said, I’ve never been more comfortable in being myself and following my instincts than I am now. Whether it’s a huge or moderate success, or whatever it ends up being, to me it’s going to be a success because it’s true and genuine. It’s a real reflection of what my vision is.
You have two tours coming up: A big US headliner and a cool Japan tour with Mayday Parade. This will be your first time stepping your toes into the solo touring life. Are you excited for those? And should we be expecting more dates over the summer as well?
Yeah. For the rest of the year, there is going to be a lot of touring. I’m really focusing on the Walk The Talk Tour coming up here in the states in May. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m setting it up so it’s not necessarily like a traditional acoustic tour, where it’s like “Oh yeah, that dude from that band I used to like is doing an acoustic tour.” That’s not how I’m trying to set it up. I’m setting it up more like “An Evening With ______” where it’s very intimate and loose while also having themes. Like I’ve got an idea to choose particular dates to be sort of theme nights where we’ll dress up like we’re from the Prohibition era or like your favorite Mad Men character. And make it kind of a cool, exciting, almost like a masquerade, as opposed to it just being your average punk rock acoustic tour. I’ve got a really fantastic opener. This girl who is a fantastic lyricist and singer. Her name is Cara Salimondo. I’m really excited to be able to play with her and do some song collaboration. For a few of the dates in the east, I think, and the date in New York, I’m going to have Mansions out. I love Mansions. Really really great tunes.
POZ: Yeah, Chris is really great.
Will: I’m excited about that. The tickets are moving pretty quickly, so if people are reading this, they should jump on it now because they’re small places. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Do you think we will see another release, EP or LP, later this year?
Yeah. Check it out. So after the release on April 17th, every three months thereafter for the rest of the year, I am releasing another EP.
POZ: Awesome. I think fans will really dig that. So you just want to keep it pushing with fans and releases?
Will: Yeah. A big part of my approach here is to look at and attack everything from the perspective of a fan. Like when I stop being a fan of music, or any artist in their field ceases to be a fan of what their medium is and be excited about things and new ideas, then they cease to be an artist at all. For me, I’m not just trying to sell products to people, I’m trying to share a part of who I am with people as well. Doing that more frequently is a fresh idea. It’s not happening very frequently yet. It’s a borrowed idea from what is happening in hip-hop and pop music. Where every month there is a new single or new remix. Rihanna never goes away. Gaga is always there. But in a way where I am also embracing the grassroots do-it-yourself touring; going it independently. So my two worlds are colliding a bit now. I feel like it’s a pretty exciting way to do it. So there is new music every three months and you can really focus on those tunes. Instead of releasing a record where you skip track eight and eleven every time you listen to a record. This is a lean mean fighting machine that I am trying to put out. You know? Small portion, high end cuisine as opposed to the all-you-can-eat buffet of music.
To close things up, at the beginning of the interview you mentioned that since Almost Here, you were fighting to get back to a place where you could be as honest or uncompromised as you wanted to be. Would you say that now that you are finally in a place where you are able to not necessarily release the same album, you can release something with the same sort of mentality and honesty?
If you look back at it, in Almost Here I was in a place similar to the one I am now. Though I’m smarter and a better writer and less of an egocentric prick. But that being said, I was at a place where I had a lot to prove, where I felt like it was me against the world. I had dreams and ambitions and “Damn you if you think you can stop me.” I relate to that more so now than I have since then. Even more now. I have a family now, I have a four year old. It’s time to really be true to myself because I want to leave a legacy for her where she can feel that I did something that was worthwhile that was real. That was genuine. And that I followed my dreams in a genuine way. As opposed to quitting or compromising my vision to sell more records. I want her to be able to follow her dreams in the most ethical, honest way possible. Whatever it may be. And look to me as the example. You know?
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