“Saying a lot with as little as possible”: An Interview with Willy Mason

Willy Mason

Photo credit: Dale Harvey

Starting in music at a young age, country-folk singer-songwriter Willy Mason has been in and around music for the majority of his young life. Releasing his debut album, Where the Humans Eat, in 2004 and his sophomore album, If the Ocean Gets Rough, in 2007, Willy spent much of the early years of his career continuously touring and bringing his music to people around the world. In 2007, he took a well-deserved break. But now, he is back, fitting in perfectly with the current nu-folk craze and the likes of The Lumineers and recent touring partners Mumford and Sons.

I got a chance to chat with Willy in transit between shows in the Northeast, a few days after catching his show at World Café Live in Philadelphia and learn about his re-entry into music.

During his time off of touring, Willy was still working on his music, doing “a lot more collaborating, working with new instruments” and generally experimenting with new sounds and arrangements. In 2012, he came back on the scene because he found he had “a good batch of songs.” The songs on this new album, Carry On, differed from the last two. According to Willy, “These songs were more succinct, lyrically and melodically, saying a lot with as little as possible.”

“Restless Fugitive”, a lengthier track with steady, driving drums and slow, bluesy guitar line was one track that strayed from his earlier sound. With the a sea shanty structure in mind, Willy said the song came from “playing it together.” He just “ended up playing it for a really long time and it worked.”

When asked what song he was most proud of on the album, he responded, “I’d say ‘Carry On.’ Lyrically, it says the most. Writing songs is like trying to look at one idea from many different perspectives.” Symbolism and personification conveying greater themes are woven through the entire song.

Despite a slight change in sound, Willy’s song writing ideals have remained the same. “I write songs about the things that interest me the most. Why do people act the way they act? Why do I act the way I act? What could make life easier?”

‘Carry On’ was recorded in London, a setting very different from his previous two albums, but according to Willy, “Nothing really changed… except for the equipment.” This time around he worked with a lot more electronic equipment that helped maintain a more consistent tempo throughout his songs. There was also a lot more electric guitars. None of which changed the organic tone and warm sound of all of Willy’s music.

Also while in London, Willy was introduced to British songstress Lianne La Havas. They went on to later write and record “No Room For Doubt” in New York City for her album Is Your Love Big Enough?

On top of working with Lianne La Havas, Willy has toured recently toured with big name acts like Ben Howard and Mumford and Sons. When asked about the difference in playing massive crowds in Australia as opposed to the small close-knit shows here in the US, Willy recalled, “The biggest difference was the high quality sound system, wielding a lot of power, you know? I was nervous at first to see how crowds would react but they seemed curious about music they’d never haven’t heard before, which was nice.”

Willy has enjoyed “getting back to playing live and going to strange places” on tour. He is currently finishing up a series of shows on the east coast of the US and about to set off to tour the UK. Then in the summer, he is headed back to Australia with hopes of returning to the US for more touring sometime in the future.

Carry On is not out in the US just yet but it is coming soon. While you wait anxiously, you can check out Willy’s Don’t Stop Now EP, which includes four of the songs off of Carry On, or catch him on tour in a city near you while he is still in the US. You can get any other info from his website (http://www.willymason.net/) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/willymasonmusic).

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