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Will Young

Will Young

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Madison Drew | 01/05/24

A whole 22 years have passed since Will Young won the original series of ITV's Pop Idol, with fans locking eyes on the singer on smaller (and possibly bulkier) TVs in their living rooms. Old noughties hits like Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Murder on the Dancefloor", Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten", and right now, Nelly Furtado's "Maneater" are being dusted off, having their moments and rapidly growing in huge appreciation on social media. Young finds himself in that group of noughties pop artists in this rediscovery. "It's quite funny to see that. It's quite nice because people have their fixation on the 80s. And then we went through the 90s. So I'm not surprised we've got to where we've got. But it's nice to see." His noughties debut was the fastest-selling debut single of that decade: 'Anything Is Possible" / "Evergreen'.  He believes that every single pop artist mainly goes through different stages. Being cool. Not cool. Relevant. Not relevant. He's happy for others from the noughties who are getting love now. "It's nice to see people, particularly someone like Sophie Ellis-Bextor. She's just a really nice person. So it's really nice to see someone like that have a moment because she's a hard worker. It's not always the nice people who get the moment." At HATC, we embrace nostalgia with songs that get some much-needed love and with Will's tracks "Jealousy" or "Who Am I" getting their moment again.

Two decades into his career, which now spans songwriting, acting, activism, and the release of two books, Will Young is still doing things entirely new for him. His new tour is a massive 50 dates all around the UK, reaching all, including intimate venues in Southend, Shrewsbury and a small town in North Devon, Barnstaple also included.

Will is all about the intimacy of small venues, where he performs in stripped-back intimate gigs with a bit of chat. When asked why this many gigs are in up-close venues: "I think, in many ways, modern life makes things harder to connect with people. To be able to tour is still quite traditional; I mean, people have done AI stuff, but really, it's something that I don't think modern technology will change. I wanted to do smaller venues and more gigs and go to more places that I haven't been able to go to, and also be mindful that I think a lot of the time, people have to travel quite a lot to get to a gig. Because people do them in major cities." Will explains. "I'd done some gigs, just after COVID, which were stripped back, and people could ask questions, and it was delightful. It was a different way. I've never done a gig like that before. I'd always just done an hour and a half, two hours of playing music, a bit of chat, and you're off, and that's fine. But this was a sort of different way of doing it. I remember thinking then that I wanted to do more of these."

From speaking to many artists about their touring experiences, being on the road and performing nearly every night can be challenging, but as a touring veteran, Will likes the challenge. "I feel like there is a routine because I'm performing every night, which structures my day. My days in music aren't very structured. I like waking up in the morning [on tour], and I think, right. I know I'm doing my job today." he says. Touring and adding regularity to his day-to-day life is Will's kryptonite. "That's what I've learned through a lot of therapy." Young continues "I like parameters. I like regularity. I like to connect with people. But it has to be done safely for me and the younger parts of myself, so I need structure. So, the whole experience is quite grounding for me," alongside the resistance bands he swears by.

Speaking about day-to-day life as a musician: "When you're self-employed, you can feel guilty that you're never doing enough. And being on tour takes that away. I think well, no, I am doing my job. Today, I am earning a living. And so I deserve to switch off. You don't necessarily switch off if you're self-employed and work from home." In a way, it can often feel traumatic because you think there's that guilt. Feeling I should be doing more. It sounds lovely to work from home and be your boss, but also, with that, it can be pretty isolating and quite lonely each day. It would help if you worked with a team more regularly. You need to get that community. I think that's really important."

Being on tour is essential to Will when supporting his upcoming album, Light It Up, which is out in August. Light it Up marks his ninth studio album, a huge milestone in itself for any artist. In his process of creating Light it Up, Will found it a lot easier, proudly admitting that those were part of the songwriting process. Having others contribute really benefitted Will's creativity and pushed him to write "quite good songs" for this new album and return to pop bops. "In lockdown I set up my little studio at home where I was working remotely which was fine. But what was nice was to get back with two old friends I've written with for quite a few years and just to hit the ground running.

He notes that one of the songs he wrote, "Midnight," is about being in his 40s, being single, and embracing it. Though so relatable, it is something that he has never written about before until now. On what helped his creativity, he believes "it was safety" with his two co-writers whom he's known for over ten years: "I know their kids, I've watched their kids grow up. So I feel very safe with them." he says. "Everyone works differently. But for me, when you've been through stuff and watched those people go through stuff, I think it helps with creativity and makes life easier within work in general. I think people forget about that sometimes. Are you bringing your authentic self? But should you if you don't feel safe?  No, you absolutely shouldn't."

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mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg

His recent acting work as Willem in Song From Far Away, a play by Simon Stephens, has helped Will's clarity on performing other people's songs. "[Simon Stephens] is just one of Britain's best playwrights living. It's just mind-blowing. I think, 'Oh, my God, this is just like a dream to be able to say it', and it's the same with songwriting.".

"If other people have written a song that I can perform, it's just a dream. My ego doesn't get in the way that I think, 'Oh, well, I haven't written this'. People used to think you couldn't be seen as an artist if you were not writing every song. But I don't think people think that now. And actually, they never did. It doesn't matter. A lot of times people used to lie and go, 'I've written all this album!' It's like *scoffs* yeah…”

'It's enough for me. Being who I am, I am an excellent singer and a good actor, and if I can write a perfect song, that's even better. I'm not greedy. And so I love it. I find it very liberating. I'm a conduit, a conduit for my feelings. I'm a conduit for other people's feelings, whatever medium. That's how I see it. However, I get to that point; that's the end goal. It actually should be a very selfless act being a performer. You're just hopefully allowing other people to feel."

Everything from Will's new album, including his latest single off the album, "Falling Deep", gives that nostalgic pop feel. Even in double denim, Will showcases his love for theatre in the music video with references to musicals, such as 'A Chorus Line' and 'Fame'. He's bringing fun back to his fans after his two-year hiatus from music. "I've had so many messages. People are just going, 'Oh my god, this is brilliant. Sort of modern 80s Pop.' They love it. The great thing about nostalgia is that you often get a sense of fun. Well, nostalgia can be either depressing, traumatic, or good fun. I've enjoyed doing that with a nod. That's why I made a video that is very much based on 'A Chorus Line' and 'Fame' in a modern way."

Throughout his projects, whether that's music, his 2022 documentary about losing his brother or his podcast, Young is always open about his personal experiences with his mental health. It is challenging for many to open that dialogue with loved ones. I will thank his way of being candid to find this candidness. "I think the first thing is it's very liberating for anyone. If you have an internal world that you're not sharing, you have to share it safely. I wasn't taught how to share."

From his point of view, as a figure in the public eye who shot to fame after winning a TV singing competition of which we have seen many have been and continue to be scrutinised, Will explains he doesn't prescribe to that. But also, it's not beneficial for society for me to sit and be like, 'Hey, guys, this is my life. Oh, my God, I just got a Rolls Royce. You work hard. You, too, can get it!!! No problems!'"

Reflecting, Will explains, "I think people have used celebrity over the years to create damage. It's so often fake. That's what I don't like about it, which is when people make money off others by being fake. Not only past that, they're setting up ideals that you can't live by. It's quite damaging to society. It's a weird, really perverse, kind of fucked up way of using celebrities. Others are welcome to buy into it. But I don't personally. Being in the public eye, I don't think I am creating a fantasy. I'm creating the fantasy within my work, whether a play, film or a job. I think it gives other people permission. To have feelings, struggle, and know that it's fine."

"I think being given permission is a compelling thing. Because then you don't feel alone. When I feel a sense of community, I don't block off the internal conflict that I can have with myself. When I'm feeling in a low mood or anxious, I can get into a real space of self-hate. So, if I can hear others, it brings up my empathetic side. And then I think, 'Oh, well, yeah, I mean, I'm not like hating that person'. If they're sharing, I feel even more respect for that person because you're sharing your inner world. Rather than just pretending. It's quite a beautiful thing."

The discussion with Will about the media and mental health evolves into how humour and light-hearted conversations around mental health are a great tool and a way many navigate the heavy parts of it. He mentions, "Some of the finest moments I have ever had have been in treatment centres when I was unwell. Humour is a great resource. You got to come with a bit of humour.".

We like to know what things bring joy to artists and Will puts ironing onto his joy list. "I just noticed that some of my tulips are coming up as I returned [home]. I have a lot of little things in my garden that I love. I get a lot of joy from working within a team, reaching an objective, and knowing that everyone I work with is treated respectfully. And we're having fun, and we're working hard. I find that very joyful and very fulfilling."

Will speaks about cleaning, especially ironing with as much passion as any of his upcoming music projects. "I run quite anxious. I can get quite low in my mood. And actually, cleaning is a way of making me see quickly that there is order. I like to feel that. So I think that's why I like ironing. And also I put on like a, you know, some sort of Real Housewives show, and I have it on the background, and I'm just ironing away and just living my best life."

Will's new album, Light it Up, is out on 9 August. His new song, "Falling Deep," from the latest album, is available to stream now.
Tickets for his new 50-date tour are on sale now!

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mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg

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