Sunday April 25th – 7:30pm to 10:30pm
Willie J Healey operates within his own lane. This is a musician who can write about any topic that grabs his attention: from wry observationals and the innocence of young love, through to gothic visitations from the devil and alien abductions. He’s unconstrained by genre, moving at will between scrappy garage-rock, evocative Americana and sumptuous psychedelia. And it’s all his own work, the product of obsessively writing song after song in his studio/garage/bedroom.
Willie soon demoed a wealth of material and was then introduced to Loren Humphrey – at various points drummer for The Last Shadow Puppets, Florence + The Machine, Tame Impala and Lana Del Ray as well as a producer. Loren landed in London, fresh from a world tour, and spent a couple of days staying at the Healey family home as the duo worked on pre-production.
He made an immediate impression on Willie and you feel that they share an unlikely bromance. The pair stood out in the village: Loren looking like “he’d stepped out of a time machine from a ‘70s episode of Top of the Pops” and towering over Willie, whose style is more American tradesman than suave superstar.
They then headed to the Echo Zoo studio in Eastbourne with a hectic plan of recording fifteen songs in nine days. Recording live to tape was an indulgence, but one which enabled them to embrace a particular mindset. For example, the slow motion agony of waiting for a tape to rewind left Willie with the anticipation that he had to get the next take right. It fitted Loren’s purist approach, while Willie was happy to focus on playing rather than having to do everything himself.
Those sessions yielded both the album and the ‘Hello Good Morning’ EP. Lead track ‘Songs For Johanna’ takes Willie’s pop nous to new heights, as if YALA! labelmates The Magic Gang teamed up with Elvis Costello. It’s a snappy tale of age-old teen dilemmas: love triangles, confused sexual identity and unrequited passions.
The rest of the EP also pulsates with his freewheeling, out-of-time approach. Inspired by John Lennon’s ‘Gimme Some Truth’, ‘Polyphonic Love’ is a bluesy/grunge hybrid – a simple plea to simplify life and leave the creativity to Willie. It’s followed by his purest love song to date, the Tame Impala meets ELO slow jam ‘For You’ and the rousing orchestration of the Brian Wilson-flavoured ‘Thousand Reasons’.
It tees Willie up to finally make the impact that his prodigious talents deserve. But what does he consider success to be?
“With boxing the goal was clear – I want to win. But with music, how do you define winning? If you never play a gig but sit at home each night playing guitar and it makes you happy, in my book you’ve won.”
He cites his high profile fans (and now friends) – including Laurie Vincent of Slaves, Orlando Weeks, Jamie T and Gaz Coombes – as inspirations. “It blows my mind because I love them all as artists. I can see why they’re all in the position they are and I want to be like that. But I’m flattered when anyone knows and likes my music. We get some hip kids at the shows and that’s cool. And we get some not-so-hip kids too, and that’s great. Everyone’s welcome.”