Will Varley recently returned to Rescue Rooms ahead of the release of Spirit of Minnie, his highly anticipated fifth studio album. Impact stopped in to review the show (which you can read here), but beforehand we caught up with him to talk about the tour, the album, and everything he has planned for 2018.
Tonight’s the second night of the tour, how was last night’s show?
Yeah it was great! Nice to get the first one out the way, that was the first gig I’ve done with the band, after fifteen years of playing on my own. It was quite an experience! It felt nice to have some other people up there, and it felt like the beginning of a journey.
So how does that atmosphere compare with playing on your own?
With the band you have this capacity to reach a higher point, but you have to be careful about the dynamics. You have to balance it because it’s easy to be a constant noise with the band. We’ll get there.
“You’ve always got to keep moving forward and challenging yourself creatively”
Since we last spoke, you’ve released Kingsdown Sundown, how was that last album cycle for you?
Yeah, that was this totally different kettle of fish, it was very much a solo acoustic style piece. You’re kind of always pressured into adding things to records. With Kingsdown Sundown, I was at the point where I felt like I could just make this album with just me and a guitar. That was how I toured it too, and it was really good fun.
Now it’s gotten to this point, and I want to do the complete opposite. Touring it was great, I had some amazing times on the road with Frank Turner and some others, it was a great year and a half, but I don’t ever want to get stuck creatively. You’ve always got to keep moving forward and challenging yourself creatively. You should always exist in a place where you’re not quite comfortable, that’s the key for me at least, to keep me interested.
Speaking of moving forward, Spirit of Minnie comes out on February 9th, and we’ve had four songs from it so far. What else can we expect from it?
We’ve got some acoustic songs on there, some folk vibes, and then some very instrumental tracks. The closing track on the record is my favourite, for that my friend Phil, who plays electric guitar in the band, composed this huge string score. It has this Radiohead-style soundscape, which you just can’t do with an acoustic guitar. We got Raven Bush in to record the strings.
It was so nice for me, to do things I can’t just do on my own, to be able to just say ‘well, let’s have a string section here’. Hopefully people will like it!
It's the first record I've recorded with a full band and making it has been an incredible journey. I hope you enjoy listening to it. pic.twitter.com/xZNlUGsml3
— Will Varley (@WillVarleyMusic) February 9, 2018
Traditionally, your music has blended emotional storytelling with politics and comedy. The singles we’ve had so far have mostly fitted into that first category. Is that something to expect from the rest of the album?
Yeah, I think the political and comedy moments do show up again, but they might be as obvious or as immediate as they have on a lot of my previous work. From a songwriting perspective they’ll still be there if you want to find them. I don’t want to chase my tail with any of it, the key for me is to just keep moving with it.
‘Let it Slide’ just came out, could you talk us through the story behind that track?
Sure thing. I grew up in Kingston, and that’s where I’d always be. Then when I was 21 I moved to the seaside, and met a band called Cocos Lovers and spent about seven years getting drunk by the sea. That was essentially what I did instead of going to university.
That’s where I met a lot of people and played a lot of shows, doing tours before it was at this professional level. We’d just rock up to pubs and play for dinner. These are my best friends, and that song is about those early days.
You get to this point in life where you kind of straighten up and try to sort your life out. I got to that point and decided not to, but to just let it go even more and just see what happened. Letting it all slide and taking things as they come. To me that’s what that song is all about.
So this tour takes us into February, and ends just before Valentine’s Day. What are your top tracks for the event?
That’s a tough one. I always seem to be on tour on Valentine’s Day and my wife gets very annoyed. The first gig I ever played with Frank Turner was on Valentine’s Day, and she really wasn’t happy. ‘I Want You’ by Bob Dylan is an incredible, romantic song so that’s probably my pick.
We’ve only just started the year, and we have your album coming out this week. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
This tour basically comes in two halves. This is the UK part, and then there’s a month-long leg in Germany and Italy and Amsterdam that comes a month after this finishes. In between the two I’m in America with Skinny Lister, opening for them. So it’s definitely a busy few months to start with.
Then festival season hits, we’ve announced Bearded Theory which I’ll be doing with the band, and Texfest which I’m doing solo. The rest are all trickling in at the moment, so that will hopefully be a busy time. After that who knows what’ll happen. I think I’ll be ready for a long sleep.
signed albums and show footage from a guy rooted in Kingston; Will Varley https://t.co/o4Qb72MvWf
— Banquet Records (@BanquetRecords) February 13, 2018
Thanks again to Will Varley for his time.
Featured image courtesy of Liam Fleming.