By Roisin O’ Hagan

Roisin chatted to Willie Jones ahead of his set supporting Michael Ray

Willie Jones has been crafting his blend of RnB and hip hop meets country/pop since his teenage years. Now dividing his time between LA living and frequent writing trips to Nashville, his recent singles Whole Lotta Love, Bachelorettes On Broadway and Down For It showcase an artist with a fresh and exciting yet authentic take on country. I sat down with Willie backstage at Bush Hall ahead of the London date of his European tour supporting Michael Ray to find out about his views on mixing genres, how his appearance on The X Factor US in 2012 helped him find himself as an artist and what we can expect from him in the near future.

Roisin:

You’ve been described as a mix of country, RnB and hip hop; is that what you are going for when you get into the studio or do you not think about it too much?

Willie:

Yeah, it’s something that I really don’t think about. It just kind of organically happens and if the song comes out sounding more RnB than country, or more country than RnB… I just like to create, you know? But it’s cool that it just happens so effortlessly and it’s something that I feel like has kind of been missing, so I’m just bringing those things in.

Roisin:

So you’re never too worried about being like “this is too this”?

Willie:

I’m never too worried because, I mean, generally I feel like I kind of have my sound now, so generally it comes out how I expect it to. It’s kind of just in me.

Photo Colin Jones

Roisin:

When it comes to rap and freestyle, do these styles have a lot of influence on your writing process when you’re sat in a room writing with other people?

Willie:

For sure, I’m definitely a melody guy. Typically, I’ll just say “can we turn the mic on?” and I’ll just go in there, freestyle some lyrics, freestyle the melody, then from there I might get a couple lines that end up really good. Or, I might just get a melody and I’ll just go and kind of piece it together and build it from there.

Roisin:

That’s really cool. I think that’s the most interesting way to do it – and the most fun and natural way!

Photo by Colin Jones

Willie:

Yeah, super natural. Sometimes I’ll sit down and just write but, for the most part, that’s what I really like to do.

Roisin:

There’s a lot of debate about what country music actually is; people get really heated about certain genres not really being country at all or “country enough.” What’s your take on it? Or do you just not care about rules?

Willie:

I don’t care about the rules, man – if it’s dope, it’s dope! It’s just like with hip hop; the same kind of conversation is going on, but it’s like different types of hip hop, just like I feel like there’s different types of country and yeah, if it’s a good song, it’s a good song. If it’s something you can move to or relate to you, you know, I’m not one to judge artists, really ever. I’m not one to hear a song and then be like “I hate this song” or “I don’t like this song” because, if it’s what the artist wanted to do and how they wanted to express themselves and their art, then that’s what they wanted to do.

Roisin:

That’s a really nice view on it! People get really like “this isn’t country!” or “this is too poppy!”

Willie:

Yeah, like “it’s too poppy!” but it’s just like, nah man, times change. As long as the essence of country is there, that’s what country is. It just has an essence and feel behind it. As long as it has that core, it’s country.

Photo Colin Jones

Roisin:

Country music in the UK is on the rise at the moment, with the hype around C2C Week and C2C Festival, obviously, and the genre’s general rise in popularity. What has your experience been like of the UK country music fans and scene so far?

Willie:

So far it has been really cool. I got a chance to go to the C2C announcement concert last night with Walker Hayes, Danielle Bradbury… it was really good! When they announced the like up, like, everybody was going crazy. That was just really cool to see because I’d never been to a festival announcement concert. So that was cool and I think ya’ll are just fans of good music over here in general. So many dope artists come out of the UK and London for sure – ya’ll just know good music over here. I guess that’s why ya’ll have finally opened up to country, because ya’ll are realising “yeah, this is good! These lyrics are dope!”

Roisin:

Yeah, fans are really passionate about country here! So, let’s talk about the X Factor US; how has being on the show helped to shape everything for you since?

Willie:

Oh yeah, X Factor! It kind of “popped my cherry,” I don’t know! Yeah, just being on stage and being ready to perform as far as giving a performance that entertains people, you know what I’m saying? Because we were, like, on TV! You know. It’s something that people took really seriously and I definitely took away a lot from it.

Roisin:

Did you know exactly what you wanted to do with music at the time?

Willie:

Yeah, then I knew I wanted to do country and I wanted to be RnB influenced. On one episode, the judges were saying “he doesn’t know if he’s RnB or if he’s country or blah blah blah” and I was like “it doesn’t matter.”

Roisin:

So the rules didn’t matter to you even then?

Willie:

Even then! So fast forward, what, it’s been like six years now and I’m really happy that I stuck to what I knew this was going to be now.

Roisin:

Finally, is there anything you can tell us about what’s coming next? Any releases or shows?

Willie:

Yeah! So, I’ll be releasing the album in 2020, top of the year, probably January or February, yes. I just got added to the lineup for Stagecoach, so I’m really excited about that. Stagecoach is like a big festival in California, a country festival. And, who knows, maybe C2C next year too, I don’t know, haha!

Roisin:

Maybe we’ll see you there then?

Willie:

Maybe…

Roisin:

Thank you so much for talking to me!

Willie:

Thank you!

 

 

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