In A Daze is the newest EP of up and coming musician Willow Robinson, and it’s good. The LA born, Herefordshire raised singer has a voice that blends rock with soul and is often compared to the iconic Jeff Buckley. Discovered at his first live performance by Alan McGee, the man who brought Oasis to fame, Robinson's career has been slowly taking off. We invited him to perform an exclusive acoustic set at DSTLD and discuss his story, below.
DSTLD: Let’s start with your childhood and where you grew up
WR: I was born in LA to English parents and grew up my entire life in England up near Wales in the countryside. It's really rural so there's really not much to do because it's a little isolated. It was just our house for miles, so I started playing guitar as a hobby and it consumed my life... so that was a great way to curb the boredom. I played guitar for years and years and always aspired to be a lead guitar player in a rock band. I moved to LA when I was 18 to study music and started singing a little bit. Not really seriously, but I went through lots of bands and I couldn’t find the right dynamic. I wanted creative control because I'm a bit of a control freak. I have a vision and no one was really fulfilling it so I started singing purely because of that. And then as the years went by I started to gain more confidence with my singing. Then, when I was 21, my first show happened only because my Mum forced me on the stage. It was a great reaction, and a crazy fate occurrence where some guy in the audience came up and asked me if I wanted a manager. Turns out, it was Alan McGee, one of the biggest managers in music history. It was the first gig I ever played in front of a live audience. I had no confidence and thought I was going to be terrible, then this guy asks to represent me and I went for it and signed a deal with him. Since then, I've released two EP's, two singles, and just released my third EP "In A Daze" a few weeks ago.
DSTLD: What’s your creative process like when you’re writing songs. Where do you draw inspiration from?
WR: It’s very mixed really, kind of wherever inspiration comes. The process is quite random. I'll write lyrics on my phone if I think of something good while I'm out, or write down something someone says I could work with. I often have loads of little one liners and then mess around on my guitar. There's always one that really speaks to me, and I go with it. There's one line with the mood, it's already there, and then the song usually writes itself. Also, life experiences certainly help. Sometimes I literally sit down with a guitar and start singing and playing and write a song that's finished in ten minutes. That doesn't happen often, but sometimes can be the best song. It is always real. Before, I sometimes faked situations in order to write a song about them. When I write about things really personal that's affected me, you can feel the mood much better.
"I often have loads of little one liners and then mess around on my guitar. There's always one that really speaks to me, and I go with it."
DSTLD: Your sound has been a bit of rock blended with soul. Can we expect more of the same with your newest EP?
WR: Alan encouraged me to experiment and remix some of my songs, which I actually really liked so I'm incorporating more electronic sound now. I keep the main elements of vocal and guitar, but everything else is now up for grabs. I feel like In A Daze is the most current EP I've done. I'm really proud of my older songs, but at the same time, they could have been made in the 1970's and people would think, "oh it's just another (hopefully) good rock song." Now, it's still my music - light, melancholy, and moody - but with rhythm's that are more modern.
DSTLD: What do you think is the biggest differentiator between UK music and music in the United States?
WR: In England, the bands are a lot more punky, kinda dirty, and would get into fights. America is a lot more professional, cleaner, and refined. Some of the best musicians I ever met have been in America. England has darker vibe because we’re perpetually in rain and the weather is always crap. We are just constantly knocked down by it and it translates to our music. In America, it’s more positive and the energy is more uplifting,
DSTLD: What's the best advice you've been given trying to be make it in the industry? For your fans who want to follow in your footsteps, what's the best advice you would give?
WR: The best advice was I've ever received was “be humble and don’t think you're too good to be open to try new things." Before I came to LA, I thought I was the best guitar player in the world. Then I went to music school and had quite a bit of a reality check. It's important to be humble and put in the work. There's no substitute for hard work. If you want to be great, you've got to put in the hours and strive to be the best. Otherwise, what's the point? And don't give up because there will be many setbacks. It's like a wave - there are peaks and troughs. Survive the troughs, and keep level headed during the peaks.
"And don't give up because there will be many setbacks. It's like a wave - there are peaks and troughs. Survive the troughs, and keep level headed during the peaks."
DSTLD: What are you most excited next? You have the EPs, the tour, and then what?
WR: Hopefully I’ll be touring towards the end of the year. I’m excited for the song to be released because it’s like the first song in this kind of style. I think the video is going to be amazing. And I’m going to really work on the release and get it out there. So yeah hopefully, that is kinda where everything is directed to at the moment. I want to play it live. I want to try to learn it with my band with electronics. A new challenge, but it will be cool.
Listen to In A Daze on Spotify, or below.