Photo Credit: Mimi Raver
A mother eager to introduce her children to music led Will Fox down a path he may have never known. Of course, there’s more to it than just plopping him and his brother down on a piano bench. It’s where we started this back and forth but along the way, we hit the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, a home built of music, and a chilly field of cows. All of that to get to the final destination, talking about Will Fox’s debut, Which Way, out July 12th.
Kendra: You grew up all over the world, but when and more importantly where did you first fall in love with music? And when did that love start to unfold into a career?
Will Fox: I spent most of my childhood in London, I think I must have been about eight when my mom set up extracurricular piano lessons for me and my brother. If she hadn’t created that path I may never have discovered my love for music. So I thank her deeply for that. I remember being curious about the mystery of music at the time, but I never practiced and I really wasn’t progressing. A couple of years later my mom rented a cello, and I started taking lessons with a great teacher.
Although I wasn’t listening to classical music at the time, I definitely connected with the timbre and emotion of the strings. At 12, I got my first guitar because I wanted to play the music I was listening to. This is when I really fell in love with music. I started just playing punk rock and started writing my own 4-chord progressions. In high school I got super into folk music and learned how to fingerpick, got a microphone and started recording instrumental stuff at home, this was in France.
My guitar teacher at school, James Wilson, really supported my creativity and introduced me to genres that I certainly wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. Although I studied music in college, I don’t think the notion of being a professional songwriter really hit me until I moved out to LA. I think once I started experiencing the ups and downs of adult life I found the need to write lyrics and tell my story in some symbolic way and there’s no looking back now.
Kendra: Before you were in LA you were out in the Shenandoah Valley, correct? Why did you pack up and head west instead of staying in that more chill part of the country?
Will Fox: I was actually living in Boston before I moved out to LA, I had just graduated from college and was working a landscaping job and living in my aunt’s basement in Cambridge. My folks were still working in Rio de Janeiro at the time, and I knew I wasn’t going to move there because we had no idea how long they would be there anyway. My brother had moved to LA the year before, and I always wanted to see California, felt like it was a good excuse to reconnect with him and make the logistics of our family life a little easier.
As for Virginia, my parents retired in the Shenandoah Valley a few years ago, a few miles from where my dad grew up. I never lived there, but always considered it a symbolic home because it was my dad’s dream to retire there after 30 years of traveling through his career. He even bought a plot of land on a hill there in the ‘80s and made it the light at the end of the tunnel to return home to build a house with my mom when he could afford it. Every summer for 25 years, no matter where we were living at the time, we would grab some plastic lawn chairs and a couple of subs and sit up there on the hill, watch the sunset over the mountains and pretend we were living there. The natural tranquility of that countryside is infectious, so my brother and I inevitably fell in love with his dream as well, hence the common assumption that I’m “from” there. It’s always been a complicated question…
Kendra: You’ve mentioned that no matter where you were in life, music has always had the power to make you feel at home. With that, if Which Way was taken apart and constructed as your new home – what would it look like? Apartment in the city, a tiny house on the road, a cottage in the woods, etc?
Will Fox: Great question! Conveniently, my ideal home would be almost identical to my folk’s place in Virginia; secluded in the countryside, surrounded by woods and mountains, rolling green hills, crickets, cows, buzzards circling around, closest town miles and miles away. We have an old barn at my folk’s place. I would definitely turn it into a recording space and fulfill my Neil Young “Harvest” fantasy. There would certainly be some dogs slobbering and roaming around in the grass, clear night skies, and thunderstorms in the summer.
Kendra: Thinking of where you were at when you wrote and recorded Which Way, how do you think the end result compares to your 2018 EP?
Will Fox: It’s funny; the songs on the Cosmic Dusting EP are really just B-sides from Which Way. I was set on having 10 songs on the record, so I was left with a handful of recordings that didn’t make the cut, mainly because they were either recorded differently or weren’t properly mixed yet. The label I’m on thought it would be a great idea to release an EP to build from when launching the full record. It was the perfect way to find a home for those songs as well. I’d say that Which Way has a more consistent voice than the EP, and that the songs belong together for more than just their sound.
Kendra: In “Which Way” you sing, “If I could only understand.” Now, life is full of a million and one mysteries so if you had the power to understand just one – which would it be?
Will Fox: Although I didn’t tackle any profound existential questions about the universe on this record haha, I have certainly been pondering human existence and evolution a lot lately as the doom of global warming becomes more and more apparent. It’s strange and startling to actively think about the end of the world. I guess we really aren’t the first generation to confront this though; the fear of nuclear war in the ’60s, for example, was certainly just as terrifying.
But to think that the earth has been around for four billion years, and since industrialization only 200 years ago, we are destroying it, is really grim, man. If I could only understand how humans might find the communion to reverse the damage despite the ticking clock, that’s a mystery I’d like to be able to unfold. I thought music was supposed to live on forever, but it will only do that if humans are around to press play!
Kendra: Let’s talk about “Waiting” and the video. Where’d you shoot it and was working with cows an experience you’ve always wanted to cross off your bucket list?
Will Fox: I shot the “Waiting” video with my friends Greg Dillon and Pete Herron. Greg came up with the concept of shooting it in Virginia on the farm my parents live on, and Pete the videographer brought the idea to life. You can’t really tell in the video but it was so cold! It was thirty degrees, but we were so lucky to have clear skies. We had so much fun staying with my folks and experiencing their hospitality and the beauty of the area. The concept of having cows behind me in the shot was definitely exciting; it ended up working out even better than we had imagined. My dad pulled up the truck just out of the shot so the cows came herding over because they thought they were going to be fed! Certainly, a dream come true to bring my music home in a creative way…
Kendra: You’ve got some SoCal dates coming up. Any more dates we can expect as we head deeper into summer and eventually the fall?
Will Fox: I’m going to be playing a festival called “LikeMinds 4.0” in Hudson Valley on September 20th. It’s organized by my buddy Zach from the label I’m on Twosyllable Records. It’s more of a tech conference/adult campground getaway with some live music than a festival. I’m really looking forward to that show. Will hopefully play a few shows in NYC that week as well.