Interview By: Caitlin Smith
Interview With: William Beckett
Former The Academy Is… front man William Beckett talks to Caitlin Smith about his new solo EP, “Walk the Talk.” They discuss his departure from Fueled By Ramen, his biggest fears when going solo, and he takes the time to answer a number of fan questions.
Check out the audio interview and full transcription below…
William Beckett: Hey, this is Caitlin Smith? This is William Beckett. Ya know what, there was a girl that I went to school with in middle school and in high school that I had a HUGE crush on named Caitlin Smith.
Caitlin Smith: Oh, well that’s awesome.
William: You aren’t her are you?
Caitlin: Sadly, no.
William: Well it was worth a shot.
Caitlin Smith: Well, to start off I want to talk about the new EP. The Academy Is… has such a distinct sound and this EP really doesn’t sound like your [full] band stuff at all, so I was very surprised.
William: It wasn’t like I set off trying to be extremely different from the band but it was intentional to follow my vision. Even if you look within what the Academy Is… did from album to album, there were jumps and leaps between each record. No two records sounded alike. That being said it would probably be even more surprising if I was doing the same exact thing. Like if I made a carbon copy of the Fast Times [at Barrington High] record. I think that would be more of a shock than doing something totally different. But for me it wasn’t like decidedly going to be something different. I wasn’t writing from the perspective of being as different as possible from the Academy Is… It was really just about following my instincts in song writing and production and just really embracing that natural response.
Caitlin: How have fans been reacting to you going solo?
William: It has been great! Initially there was obviously the backlash of like, “Why’d you break the band up? blah, blah, blah” Ya, know? Which I understand completely. Ironically, the reason for the band breaking up was for the benefit of the fans in the end and out of respect for the fans because of where we were at that point and time. I just needed to start fresh and get a new perspective and a new environment and I have never been happier. To see the response be so great already and it is still so early, the record only came out last week so a lot of great things have been happening. I am just really excited and grateful.
Caitlin: Can you tell me about the writing and recording process for this record? Was it something you had experienced before?
William: Well, the cool thing about this record is it was written and recorded in studio so…[breaks for noise]…Sorry, I am driving in Chicago and there is this constant construction and something is always broken and needing to be fixed. Anyway! Writing and recording in studio is a lot of fun because not only is an idea spawned but an idea is developed and then executed and then mixed all in one creative outburst. Which I really, really love being able to envision what a song is going to be and then execute it right there. There is something really cool about that. For years it has just been like having demos on acoustic guitar that I play into my phone, which I still do those too and then develop them into the full production later. But I really enjoy the way that I wrote Walk The Talk being able to do it in a studio and have a full actual live song by the time I leave.
Caitlin: So you basically are doing one whole song at a time?
William: I mean, it’s always one song at a time. But yeah like start a song and finish the song and then like three days later start a whole new concept.
Caitlin: Were there any songs that gave you some trouble or that completely changed over the course of making this EP?
William: No, not at all. It was all very real and natural. Each song didn’t take that long to write, it was just pouring out of me. And then at that point, I am coming out a situation where all we did was second guess ourselves and question every single move and decision when it comes to song writing. I was totally done with that. I am done with talking or deliberating whether a part is cool or not. I’m gonna follow my instincts and do what feels natural and its gotten me this far up to this point and I am not going to second guess myself every two seconds. I was really sick of that. So that is the approach I took when making this EP.
Caitlin: That is probably a lot easier to do when it is just you.
William: FOR SURE! Oh it is impossible to do that when you are in a band. Unless your band starts off that way like, “Listen I make all the decisions, you have your role, I have mine.” And for a while it worked really well but it just got to the point where…whoa! A bus just pulled up next to me and hissed. But we just got to a point in the band where we just ran out of gas and things just ended.
Caitlin: Do you have a favorite song or one you are most proud of off Walk the Talk?
William: Yeah, but it’s hard to say it. It is like picking a favorite baby and everyone loves babies. Um, but right now “Oh, Love!” is probably my favorite. It has a lot of elements to it and a lot of layers. That one is my favorite today but if you ask me tomorrow it will be different.
Caitlin: Did you have any specific influences or music that you listened to a lot while working on this album?
William: Yeah, I listened to a lot of Bowie. We can pretty much stop there with it. My influences are varied like anyone’s taste in music, I like a lot of varieties of music not just one particular genre. Not necessarily pinpointing one particular influence or one particular band or artist it is sort of just when I follow my instincts in writing and I trust them my influences are inherently in there. It is just a natural thing, almost automatic, as opposed to decidedly sounding like something else. That was what I was trying to get away from, away from decidedly sounding like another artist. Because if you are doing that you aren’t being original and you aren’t embracing your true voice and that’s what I am looking for.
Caitlin: I am curious about “Compromising Me.” It seems like some of the lyrics might be directed towards Fueled by Ramen. Was that intentional?
William: Um, it is really directed at anyone or anything that makes you feel like you’re being held back, ya know? As far as the label goes, I have no animosity towards them at all. I feel like it was the right mutual decision to be made to move on from each other for now. Doing this independently, that’s why I choose that to be the first single and have a video for because I think that it fully embodies what my mantra is and my mission statement is and why I am doing it. That goes for anyone that is trying to hold you back or judge you or tell you that you’re not cool, you’re not this or that. So it is sort of the ultimate song about individuality.
Caitlin: What is your favorite Taking Back Sunday and Eve 6 songs?
William: I guess I would have to choose the one Eve 6 song I know, which is the [starts singing “Inside Out”] “I would swallow my pride I would choke on the rinds but the lack there of would leave me empty inside.” That one. And Taking Back Sunday, I do like them a lot, I would say their song “Miami” is probably my favorite song by them.
Caitlin: You mentioned before about doing a tour about bullying, do you have any plans to do that?
William: Yeah! I would like to find time to do that. I would love for people, if they are interested in having me come to their school or whatever, to contact my publicist and it can go from there. That is absolutely something I am passionate about; trying to help people realize that it is okay to be yourself and that most of the time the people that are doing the bullying are the ones that have the most self-esteem issues. For me, you know, in high school I wasn’t pushed into lockers or physically bullied, but I was called names and was subject to rumors and stuff like that. Now it is even more so, it is kind of a different thing because now with the internet it is a lot easier to do that to someone. It is a pretty brutal was to do it. And in a lot of ways it is even worse than someone booking you in the hallways or whatever. I am definitely interested in doing something like that and speaking about my experiences and hopefully helping people realize that if you are treating people like that, that it is unacceptable and if you are being treated like that then that is not the end of the world and if you can get through it. You will be stronger.
Caitlin: Who do you think is going to be an iconic band or artist of this generation?
William: I think fun. obviously they are blowing up right now. But I was always a big fan of The Format and I think that he is a fantastic writer, he has a great, unique voice and they have the talent and the smarts to last. Another band would be Panic! [at the Disco]. They are one of those bands that is just evolving constantly and I have just endless faith and respect for Brendon Urie [lead vocals, guitar]. He is a little genius. So they will always make interesting music.
Caitlin: Lady Gaga fans are “monsters.” Justin Bieber has his “Beliebers” – what are William Beckett fans called?
William: They are called “Socialites.” Actually I started a fan community called The William Beckett Society and I do a lot with them. A lot of exclusives, early tickets and stuff like that. I do a thing every Friday called Films on Friday. I am a huge film fan and I will put up a movie trailer and talk about what I think of the movie and why I am featuring it and then on the forums we watch it together like on Netflix and all start at the same time and do commentary and it is a lot of fun.
Caitlin: What were your biggest fears when deciding to go solo?
William: I think my biggest fear was making the choice. I had pretty much made the choice a long time ago in my heart but to truly end things, that conversation is the hardest. My biggest fear was hurting people or hurting my bandmates. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt them. But you kind of have to make decisions at certain points in your life and look out for yourself and look out for the well-being of your family. I want to be able to not have any regrets with the kind of art that I am making and the music that I am making. I don’t want to look back and be like “Well…yeah, I definitely compromised and I didn’t say what I wanted to say because I had to make the band happy.” And there was no way for me to do that, so the time had come where I had to be my own and get out of the shadow of myself and what other people expected of me. So that was the hardest thing was to actually have the conversation.
Caitlin: Is there anything else you think the readers at The Sound Alarm should know about you? Or the EP?
William: Yeah! The EP is out, called Walk The Talk. I am going out on tour in May and then there is going to be a bunch of touring coming up so check out all of the above.
Caitlin: I have been a big fan of yours for awhile now and I really love the new EP.
William: Thank you! I really appreciate it, Caitlin.
Caitlin: Well good luck with everything and thank you for doing this interview with me.
William: Of course! Let’s catch up next time I release the next EP.