Seven spoke with this up-and-coming singer/songwriter about her unique brand of progressive pop that is pushing Wills to the head of the pack, particularly when it comes to the recording of her EP Oh the Gold, recorded at Matt Redlich’s studio, Grandma’s Place.
What was it that attracted you to record at Grandma’s Place?
Producer Matt Redlich (Holy Holy, Emma Louise, Thief) who runs the studio Grandma’s Place in Brisbane, came to a show I was doing at Black Bear Lodge to promote the album You go your way, I’ll go mine back in 2013. We got chatting after the show, talking about what music we were into, raved about Q-tip, who I was obsessively listening to at the time, and established common musical ground. We kept in touch and eventually decided to try working on a song together. That song was Drive, the first single that was released from the EP Oh The Gold.
So you could say that Matt was the drawcard and Grandma’s Place was the cherry on top. The studio is a modest yet inspired space that is set among a mixed landscape of industrial and rural wonder.
Do you have clear Ideas about what you want when you set out recording – some people have paintings, or photographs or locations they want to emulate the feel of; what do you have?
Leading up to the recording, versions of the songs were demoed in the home studio that Lawrence, my co-collaborator, and I share. Here we were able to experiment with the sounds we want to bring together for when we hit the studio. Over this time mental imagery comes into focus for each song as it unfolds, which definitely helps build the mood and story of each piece.
What is it like as a musician trying to find a producer that best complements your work or can see something in your work you may not have seen? Is it harder than finding a good boyfriend/girlfriend?
Ahahah! It’s definitely similar to that in that you need to find and establish trust and connection with that person. In the past, the thought of working with a producer was something I shied away from as I felt it was impossible to find someone who would get the music on a level that was similar to mine and Lawrence’s. Matt understands where Lawrence and I have come from musically and, more importantly, can see where we need to go in order for the translation of musical ideas to be accessible to a greater audience.
What kind of stories do you like to tell?
Stories of the human condition, stories for the underdogs… you know – love, loss, hope, frustration. Each story has a definite mood and place, be it apocalyptic beach landscapes, starry nights or utopian islands.
How do you approach songwriting?
It varies from song to song. If I’m writing in collaboration it’s a reactive process, a to-ing and fro-ing of musical ideas until a consensus is reached.
If I’m writing for catharsis it’s a unrelenting and repetitive type of playing and singing, usually guitar and voice or piano and voice. I usually record these ideas and sometimes find there’s a song in there, sometimes not.
If I’m crafting a song for song-crafting sake it needs to be sparked by a musical motif or word in order for the process to gather momentum.
What are the songs that have stayed with you over the years?
Jeff Buckley – Grace; Radiohead – Subterranean homesick alien; Silent Hour/Golden Mile – Daniel Rossen; Roy Orbison – Running Scared; Joni Mitchell – A Case Of You; Sleepwalk – Santo and Johnny.
You have been very creative and expansive with your instrumentation. What appeals to you about less conventional instruments?
I don’t know if I’m the person to answer this question. Lawrence is a textural guitar master; he creates a lot of tasty ambient landscapes within the songs. Perhaps there’s unconventionality in the arrangements and use of the instrumentation within each song.
Between Lawrence and me we like to create music that has instant mood with unexpected twists and turns.
How does the album translate to the stage?
In the live setting we try to maintain as many of the various textures that exist within the recordings. There’s a little deviation from the recorded melody and generally we try and make a set that flows together as one body of music and that hopefully feels like a show.
What should we expect for your show at Bello Winter Music?
An eclectic set of old and new tunes that nods to folk-rock, doul, 80s pop and love power balladry that is carefully crafted and thoughtfully played by Lawrence Folvig (guitar), Natalie Lewis (keys/vocals), Linden Lester (bass) Luke Collins (drums) and me.
Ainslie Wills plays Bello Winter Music in Bellingen 2–5 July.