Tickets are now available for Willie J Healey at Rescue Rooms!
Is Willie J Healey your favourite artists’ favourite artist? You better believe it. Alex Turner, Joe Talbot of IDLES, Jamie T and Orlando Weeks are among those who believe. Most having come onboard following the Neil Young–meets–The Beatles–meets Elvis Costello charms of his 2020 album ‘Twin Heavy’. While Willie has largely been the preserve of those in the know. That’s all about to change. Florence Welch heard his upcoming album ‘Bunny’ via its producer, alongside her friend Loren Humphrey and YALA! Records co–founder Felix White. She was sufficiently impressed to invite Willie and his band on this autumn’s Florence + The Machine arena tour. It sees Willie dive headfirst into a style of music he has always loved. But that never previously found its way into his own songs. It’s a low–slung, sensual ‘70s–style jam which simultaneously calls to mind Sly and The Family Stone. As well as Philly soul, ‘Midnite Vultures’–era Beck and a little OutKast.
On first impressions, ‘Bunny’ has a feel good factor that bursts through every moment. It’s there from the very beginning with the chilled–out contentment of ‘Woke Up Smiling’. Which feels like a continuation of ‘Twin Heavy’ until its soulful vocal harmonies surface. As the lyrics sink in, its positivity becomes almost hymnal. Unsurprisingly then, it comes from a place of great contentment in Willie’s life. Having moved to Bristol, he enjoyed a new start with his friends. He’d regularly escape the city by spending a day cycling with Joe Talbot. “We sometimes laugh about it – he’s direct and driven but I can be quite lazy and relaxed, so when we’re together it’s a happy medium”. Perhaps more importantly, it also allowed Willie to let go of some music making pressure. “In the past I would’ve tried to shape my musical future, but thistime I completely let go.”
is, I just like to write songs that make you feel something and love is a classic subject.” While there’s a fresh maturity to his words and a desire to express more universal emotions (see the sweet, straightforward brass–infused Beatlesy closer ‘Blue Bird’ for evidence), there’s still plenty of Willie’s dry British humour at play. And what other record contains the phrase, “Thank you for the drum machine”? “My friend let me borrow this drum machine, and to cut a long story short, I kept it for a long time,” offers Willie by way of explanation. In fact, he kept it for so long that it was the starting point for numerous songs on this album, including this specific track, ‘Thank You’. The friend in question being Jamie T who also features on the song.
to new music and encourage people, because when he encouraged me it meant a lot and it still does. And I appreciate the little things he does too. Like, do you want to borrow this drum machine that’s worth four grand?”
You can hear the drum machine briefly rise to the forefront of the mix at various points within the album, providing a programmed counterpoint to the warm, human performances that dominate it. One such moment is the mid– record highlight ‘Chrome’, which provides a neat summation of everything Willie does throughout ‘Bunny’. His falsetto soars even higher than it does on ‘Dreams’, while his lyrics point to both the pains and pleasures of love.
I’ll play acoustic guitar.’ It was a risk, but I had total faith in Loren. Every single one of them is a force to be reckoned with in their own right. You begin to ask people what they’ve played on before and it’s endless and mind–blowing.
It’s easy to feel intimidated by the way they play and operate, but I gave myself to the process and reaped the rewards.” Those rewards are there for all to hear. It sounds tight, warm, accomplished and all of those good things. But above all else, it’s just a joy to listen to. It’s inevitable that more people than ever before will listen to Willie when he tours with Florence + The Machine. “I can’t wait,” beams Willie like a kid at Christmas. “I’ve never played venues that big before, so I don’t know what to expect. I’m excited to be able to play with my friends, hear these songs through a PA that big, and get to see a Florence show every night.”
While fans will be coming to hear ‘Dog Days Are Over’ or ‘Cosmic Love’, there will be numerous people waking up the next morning with “Dreams don’t come easy and they don’t come cheap” embedded in their mind. And for Willie J Healey, that will be a big step towards his dreams becoming a reality.
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