Will Joseph Cook

Interview – Will Joseph Cook cherishes the good moments

Will Joseph Cook answered our questions before his concert at l’Elysée Montmartre in Paris, supporting Declan McKenna.

Sound of Brit: First of all, how are you doing?
Will Joseph Cook: I’m good, I’m good, I’ve been running around like crazy today. We tried to do some touristy stuff because I haven’t been in Paris for a few years. But maybe we should have just been at the venue, getting ready.

SOB: You were at Montmartre right over there?
WJC: Yeah, we saw the Eiffel tower as well. We got scooters. Again, stupid idea. We were going around the Arc de Triomphe on scooters, I was like, this is stupid. The true French experience.

SOB: So the tour just began, you were in Nantes yesterday. How was it?
WJC: Yeah, it was great. This was literally my first French show ever. I had no expectations. Last night was really a quite cute crowd, everyone seemed to be nice.

SOB: How do you feel playing in a tour where almost every date is sold-out?
WJC: For me it’s it’s almost relaxing. I’ve played shows in the past, years ago when I was 19. I came and did some shows in Europe, and they were definitely not sold-out. When it’s a room full of people you know what to expect, what to play, it’s a vibe, there’s nothing to worry about. The bigger the venue, the less stress I get.

SOB: So if tomorrow you play an arena you won’t be stressed?
WJC: Not at all. It’s a bit weird, the bigger it is, the more I like, disconnect from the fact –
SOB: That there are real people…
Yeah, you can’t really even see, it’s like playing around. You can see your band and that’s about it.

SOB: Is this tour a way to test your new songs that will be released in less than a month from now?
WJC: Yeah. Well, I have one song that comes out tomorrow, BOP. I’m playing it tonight. I’m excited to be like, “If you like this, you can literally hear it tomorrow”. But it’s mostly stuff from the new album and stuff that is already out. Some people knew the tunes in Nantes, and that was cool, I had people from the front row singing along.

SOB: Talking about your next album, Every Single Thing, it’s your third album and it only contains love song, right?
WJC: There’s something about love. They’re not all like marriage proposals.

SOB: In the anxious environment that we’re in, is it a conscious choice from you to stay optimist and share love in your songs or does it comes naturally?
WJC: I think it comes naturally. I mean I’ve written songs more like emo, but for me personally, I think I know what my project is. I’m not like a super super happy person, I’m not a weird guy, like “Everything’s great!!!”. But I think, for me, it’s important when something amazing does happen, I’m really grateful. These moments are really rare. To hold them is like holding a fish, it’s hard to grab on. So I like to hold it there, paint the picture and then everyone can look at that picture and be like “oh, I remember how that feels”. When people listen to my music, I want them to feel that joy. When your mood change, people will go to music a lot for that, or whether you want to express something. I don’t think people should listen to my music only when they feel great, it’s there also when you’re feeling like shit, to feel a bit better.

SOB: So your inspiration is like every day situations that you want to remember as something that happened and that was great?
WJC: On this album, definitely. It’s all super autobiographical. It all has a very upbeat music aesthetic but like, there’s some very sad songs in there in my opinion, or at least songs that hurt a little bit, but they were still important emotions to capture. There’s a song called Today Is Raining on there. During the pandemic my girlfriend got really sick, we didn’t know what happened, and she got taken to the hospital. We were not allowed to go in and her phone was gonna die, and I kinda lost contact with her and it was like “I don’t know if she is alive”. So there’s a song that I wrote for her and sent her when she was recovering. Then there’s another song called The Feels. It’s about closure of a breakup, but years, years later. When you break up with someone, often it’s a rush of emotions, and anger and all of these things, whatever negative things going on. And then, to move on, you have to not really speak to that person for ages, and that’s how you get better. But then there’s also, like deeper in you, maybe a desire for some kind of closure, and the things you actually needed to say to one another, you never said. It’s half based on my life and half based on this movie called Blue Jay. It’s a similar situation, a couple that used to be together and she finds like a letter that he wrote to her and he never sent. I thought that it was a really powerful imagery, the things that you never sent, that you never said and then getting to say them. This song is like that letter, it’s like saying “here’s the things that I wanted to say, now I can say them, we’re not together anymore”.

SOB: Your album, was made in the UK, and also in Mexico and also in LA. You live in the UK and your producer and co-author are in LA, but how come you went to Mexico?
WJC: It sounds random but it isn’t. I had a song that did really well in Mexico on my last album. And I came back there a few months [ago], in November I played Corona Capital Festival. There was a thing going there over 2020 that I never got to go and do anything about, so I wanted to go. I did it as some promo, but also –  probably the main reason – is that I couldn’t get in the US. I think if you were French it was fine, but if you’re from the UK, China or South Africa, you had to quarantine somewhere else for two weeks. Not quarantine, but just be somewhere else for two weeks. So I was like, “Well, Mexico is close to California, so let’s meet in Mexico, do two weeks and then we’ll go finish it”. I think it was all meant to be because I wrote the songs in England, brought these songs to Mexico, we did the kind of pre-production, and just brought a studio in our suitcases and everything and set up a Airbnb and just work in a apartment, and then finish it in Matt’s home studio in LA. It gave it stages,  “okay, we need to get this done by this day”. So the whole thing was done in five weeks.

SOB: Did this way of making your album impacted this album?
WJC: Definitely. It’s the project that I’ve enjoyed making the most. It is an opportunity I think for someone to have a team around you and a fanbase that wants an album, and then you go to this place for five weeks and come back with an album. It wasn’t anything that had necessarily been an opportunity before. My previous albums are more like “here’s what I’ve been writing in the past two years, here are my favourites”. Whereas this was like “what do I want to write about?” These ten songs all feel like they work well together. When you make something all in one breath, like that one, it sounds like an album. If you make it after two years, it sounds like it was made over two years. In some ways I think it sounds like my first body of work. No disrespect to this previous album.

SOB: Your first album was released through Atlantic Records and this one and the previous one by your own record label. How does it feels to be the one who makes the choices and also takes the risks?
WJC: It’s two sides of a coin. It’s amazing when I speak to other artists about their problems with the labels, etc. I still have to have conversations. I still work with people and my staff, it’s not just me and my room scheming with pictures everywhere. I still have relationships and I still have a licenser and things that function like a label. But in terms of creative control, it’s amazing, because I can just be “here’s the thing, here’s the video, here’s the artwork” and there isn’t someone that’s critiquing or trying to be involved in that process. It’s just collaborating on releasing it and the marketing of it and stuff like that. I don’t think that’s an easy thing to do as a new artist because you don’t know how the fuck it works. I’m always still learning, but when you have an idea of what a label does, you’re like “I think I can do that”. It feels cool. Whenever something goes right, it just like way better, because you’re like “oh my god, I did that”. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, I put so much of myself in the whole thing. It’s a lot more room for success and a lot more room for failure.

SOB: You seem to keep the same people around you though, you’ve been working with Matt Parad & Eric Radloff on this album and the one before and Bertie Gilbert directed some of your music video. How important is it for you to have team that follows your artistic journey?
WJC: You make the best stuff. It’s something that I like about being independent. I think labels need to feel like they’re doing something, so they’re like “you should work with this new hotter, cooler, director.” Rather than thinking like “there’s a creative journey that you’re on and these relationships are important”. It’s almost like you can speak in shorthand. When I’m producing with Matt, I can be like “can you do…” and he’s already done the thing I was gonna ask. And literally when I come up with ideas for videos with Bertie we’re like “and what if he did” and we say the same thing at the same time. I think it’s really good. For me, my music and my videos feel more personal, I’m just being me in all of it. If someone doesn’t understand me, just for the lack of hanging out, then something’s gonna be missed. I would be more open to do more random collaboration in the future, but where I was at over the last two years, it made a lot of sense to build my confidence within those relationships, and really find out what I’m about. Once you know who you are, you can work with anyone.

SOB: Are there some artist that you’d love to collaborate with?
I’m pretty open. I like when it’s unexpected. Everything seems unexpected to me when it happens. Wherever I’m drawn to. I’d definitely like to do some feature versions of the tracks on the album, after the album’s come out, to have new versions. But like, do them properly. On my last record I had a song called Be Around Me, it had a feature version, and instead of being like “here take a verse” it was taking the lyrics and reimagining them as dialogue. It’s conversational lyrics, with two people responding to one another, so it’s perfect for it. There are a couple of tracks in the album written in the same way, sometimes it’s easier to explain the situation without just hearing your perspective. Or sometimes a second character is useful, because I can use them to say something maybe I don’t want to say. I like that as a concept to play with and it lands pretty well with feature song.
SOB: Kinda like a movie.
WJC: Yeah, I hate the word, but “theatrical”, it makes a story more vivid to have two voices. Usually people don’t tune in to the fact that I do two dialogues in a song, it’d only be like if people are really listening to it. So I think making it obvious with two different voices is kinda fun.

SOB: We’re about to leave each other and you’re going on stage in less than an hour, do you have some rituals before coming on stage?
WJC: I have really weird vocal warm up that I do, like singing with my tongue out to stretch it out, I never see anyone else do that, but it works. Usually that and I eat a banana. I don’t really eat much before going on stage. Bananas are the best snack.

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