Speaking before the Bristol date of his first ever headline tour, Jim Atherton, Music Editor, quizzed Will Varley about his signing to Xtra Mile Recordings, his new album and supporting Frank Turner at the Royal Albert Hall in May.
You signed to Xtra Mile Recording last month, how does it feel to be part of such an amazing label?
I met the guys a while ago through Beans On Toast and Frank Turner and they’re a great organisation. It’s very much DIY and from the roots in a slightly different way, which I love. I’m really pleased and I’m so excited to work with them.
What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
I’m gonna be releasing my third full-length album this year. After this tour I have a few shows and then I’m going on tour with The Proclaimers across the UK. I’m gonna be recording my new album next month which I’m hoping will be out at the tail end of the summer hopefully.
One of your most recent songs, ‘We Don’t Believe You’, is heavily influenced by the current political climate, do you think the recent election results will colour your song writing in the next few years?
To me, domestic politics is a strange thing. I don’t really like Labour, I don’t like the Tories, I don’t really like the Lib Dems, and I definitely don’t like UKIP. So at that point, writing political songs isn’t that much fun! We’ll see. I never really set out to write songs about politics or love or anything. I just write whatever’s in my mind at the time, it’s all a bit accidental!
You supported Frank Turner at his sold out show at the Royal Albert Hall in London last month, how was that?
I’ve wanted to play the Royal Albert Hall since I was a kid. The first album I ever owned was Bob Dylan Live at the Royal Albert Hall and so since then it’s been a goal of mine to get there. Stepping out on stage half an hour after signing a deal with Xtra Mile Recordings was quite a surreal experience, the next day I was sat at home watching Bargain Hunt on iPlayer just wondering if last night had really happened!
I was really shocked to see that your first album, which was a compilation album of your early songs, contained songs of yours recorded as early as 2003. You’ve been going at this for a long time now.
I have indeed. I used to use a fake I.D. to get into acoustic nights and open mics around Kingston and that’s where I started, and I’ve kind of being doing the same thing ever since really.
Do you feel like you’ve changed much from those days?
Funnily enough, I don’t. It still feels like the same job. It’s just that very recently people have actually started coming to my shows and buying my records now! That part is a bit new to me. But other than that it’s just the same. I still hang around with all the same people that I hung around with fifteen years ago.
Tell me about your work with Smugglers Records?
Smugglers Records is a collaborative record label based in Deal, where I live. I run it with the band Cocos Lovers. It started a few years ago because none of us could get record deals and we decided that to combat this we’d just say that we got signed, by starting up our own record label! If I could give one piece of advice to any musician who is trying to work out what to do next, I’d say just start making and releasing albums yourself without any of the corporate idiots. Except Xtra Mile, who are awesome!
What’s your ultimate goal as a musician?
Reading Festival. I used to go there every year when I was younger and I remember thinking that I’d love to play there. To be honest though, if I can carry on doing what I’m doing at the moment, I’ll be happy. I want to keep playing shows and releasing records for as long as I can.
After a chat about how strapping a cat to piece of buttered toast and dropping it out of a window would lead to the cat/toast hybrid spinning above the ground in an infinite loop, something Captain Hotknives wrote a song about I’m told, I headed back into the diverse crowd of people that had gathered inside the venue.
After a short break, Will appeared onstage, looking startled and bemused at the full room of people. He went on to play a set of honest, funny, and incredibly intelligently written acoustic music which charmed the crowd, who sang along to every word of every song from his first albums.
There was a heart-warming moment in the middle of the show when he forgot the words to his song ‘Advert Soundtracks’ during the second verse, and the crowd carried on singing while he played along on his guitar. He looked genuinely taken aback at how the crowd could remember the words to his songs better than even he could and after each song he gave a big wry smile and thanked the crowd for their applause and participation.
He has travelled a long way from his teenage years sneaking into open mic nights in Deal, but with the momentum that is gathering around him currently, it may not be too long until Will Varley is headlining the Royal Albert Hall himself and fulfilling his goal of playing Reading Festival. He certainly deserves it.
Jim Atherton, Music Editor