Interview with William Beckett
William grew up in Chicago. Rather than attend college he got into his dad’s car and drove to the east coast. He performed acoustic shows at any venue that would allow him to. Without much success he returned back home and formed the band The Academy Is… His life was forever changed. The Acadmey Is… released three CDs, sold over a half a million records, and toured nationally. In 2011 The Academy Is… broke up and since then William has been working on his solo career. William was able to get back to his roots and remind himself of why he loved music. This month his EP Walk the Walk was released. We recommend you purchase Walk the Walk and spend the $20 to see William in concert this year! Read our interview with William below.
How was your listening party for your new album?
“It was fun, it was like hanging with friends and it was cool. We listened to it a couple times. The funny part was that it was played through a DJ rig with all the turn tables and all that stuff, in one of those. On those rigs you can slow tracks down, and speed tracks up and it was set super low and super super slow. And the girl that was running it had to fix it. It was kind of funny. It was playing ‘Compromising Me’ and it was slow and weird. Everyone kind of thought that they were drunk. But we got it sorted out and it was a good time.”
What made you decide to continue on as a solo artist after The Academy Is… broke up?
“It was always my intention to. It was my idea to break the band up, so if you want to blame someone you can blame me. That being said I had to end that so I could do this. I came to a point where I wasn’t really able to work. Not that it was someone else’s fault, I think it was everyone’s fault. It came to a point where it was washed out and it fizzled out. I came to a point where I felt like I had to do this to be true to myself, and to be true to my vision and my music and to also be there for fans of The Academy Is… We weren’t going to force our band, force our record. Not everyone was on the same page.”
Do you have a favorite venue to play in Chicago?
“This is very difficult, but I love the House of Blues it has a very special place in my heart. One of our very first shows was at the Metro, and Metro is fantastic. It’s like so many memories of going to shows and then playing there. The bigger places like Aragon are a lot of fun, I love to play for a lot of people. I also like Chubus actually, and that’s where I’m playing on the 29th. I needed to check that off on my check list of Chicago places and I’ve heard that’s really amazing and intimate setting which is exactly what I’m looking for.”
Can you describe the writing process for Walk the Talk and what were your inspirations for writing it?
“I feel like if you listen to ‘Compromising Me’ that is essentially why I’m doing what I’m doing. The writing process is different for every song. Some start with a musical idea or a rhythmic idea like a drum idea that we’ll program and then go from there. More often then not it starts with an acoustic guitar and a melody. A lyrical melody is really what I love most about music and creating it. So some songs are written on an acoustic and built up from there. The cool thing about ‘Walk the Talk’ is that I wrote all the songs while being in the studio with a producer. We were able to conceptualize songs, write it, track it, and then mix it. That way you can start with the seed of an idea and make it grow and blossom into the final product in one or two sessions. That’s my favorite way to write.”
What is your current number one song played on your iTunes?
“It’s Tom Petty, ‘You Wreck Me’ from Wildflowrer. It’s a spring song, that whole record is fantastic. When the weather is nice you roll your windows down and listen to that song.”
What’s your favorite city to tour in?
“You can’t ask that! Ever city has it’s own flavor and charm and uniqueness. For me, I like playing everywhere. I travel a lot so I’ve seen a lot of places and traveled to a lot of places, but it’s really impossible to pick a favorite place to play. That moment, that night I’m on stage, there’s no where else I’d rather be. So in retrospect it’s difficult to pinpoint.”
What is your craziest fan story?
“The Academy Is... played in Chile a few years ago. First of all, we were super excited that we were going to Chile, and super stoked and it was great and amazing and we really needed it, but we didn’t know what to expect. ‘About A Girl‘ was on the radio so a lot of people knew it, and I was kind of expecting people to know that song and that’s it. But we get tp the airport and there were fans waiting outside the airport at the gate. It was a mad house! It was like thousands and thousands of kids super stoked to see us. They were screaming with posters. It’s like Bieber Fever, and I felt like I was in the Beatles or something it was crazy. The show was incredible and everyone knew every word to EVERY song we played. Then I realized wow, this is not just a radio one song thing, this is like a love of the band and a love of the songs written, it was really great. Leaving was even crazier, because it was so nuts people grabbing at us and crying for us not to leave. They had to put me in a security holding cell to wait until it died down and then they escorted me out. I was held where potential terrorists are held, but for a good reason, it was for my protection not for everyone else’s. It’s a priority for me to go back.”
Is there an artist that you would love to collaborate with?
“So many artists I have collaborated with have been on my list that I wished I could collaborate with. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to have worked with them. Guys like Andrew McMahon who I hold as one of the best song writers there are. He’s fantastic. We have a a very great synergy in the room together, I feel like our writing styles are complimentary and it’s kinda like a dance we do. It just really works well and it’s an enjoyable thing. Most importantly the writing process should be enjoyable and inspiring and positive. For so long with my band it wasn’t that. It was the opposite. It was a painstaking backbreaking chore. Music should never never be that. The creation process should have pain, should have anguish, but should have joy and triumph too. For me it was too much of one thing for too long. What I do now is write with people that have a good well rounded attitude.”
When was the last time that you were starstruck?
“I was starstruck not too long ago actually. I played an event with the Kerry Wood Foundation, and I’m a huge baseball fan and sports fan, particularly Chicago sports. So I met him and he shook my hand and was like “Thank you so much for playing” and “Wow that was so awesome” and I was just like ttttttthank you. Like stuttering stanley. Absolutely starstruck and loving every second of it. But he’s an amazing person and that foundation does a lot of amazing things for those kids in Chicago and he has a wonderful family and I was really surprised by how nice he is”
Will you tell us about your upcoming tour?
“Oh will I ever! The upcoming tour is called Walk the Talk, and on this tour I am essentially getting back to my roots of how I started. I started with an an acoustic guitar on small stages playing songs that meant everything to me. That’s what I’m doing now. I want to do an intimate setting for the first tour because of that reason. I want to reconnect on an intimate level. In an appropriate sense, appropriately connect intimately with my fans again. My intention is to bring a band on the tour later in the year. That’s going to be what it truly ends up being, that’s my intent. In the mean time, it’s going to be just me and an acoustic guitar and some tricks up my sleeve to make it a little bit different and more exciting. Also, there is a girl named Cara Salimando who is a really fantastic young songwriter that I’m bringing on tour as well. She just finished opening for shows. She’s really fantastic and thought provoking.”
If you could describe Walk the Talk in only one word, what word would you choose?
“I don’t know, one word come on. I’ve written more words in songs than anyone has ever written, and you’re going to restrict this to one word? I guess I would say bold.“