Interview: Will Joseph Cook

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Image courtesy of the artist

Your debut album Sweet Dreamer is out now, did you feel ready for the album’s release or does it all feel quite surreal?

There’s definitely a side to it that feels quite surreal, the songs have lived in my head and on my computer for such a long time, so it’s weird to see them out in the world. 

There’s a lot of brand new songs on the album, are you excited to share these with the world or do you feel extra pressure to live up to what you’ve already released?

I didn’t feel any pressure in that respect. I only have one true gauge of what’s good and that just if I’m getting excited when I’m making it. These new tracks were some of the most exciting moments I’ve had in the studio to date. 

What was the inspiration behind the artwork for the album cover? It looks great!

Thank you! There’s an overarching theme of catharsis throughout this album, and how regardless of what the emotion is, there is a pleasure in experiencing it. The blood orange is bitter-sweet so I thought it was a strong but simple piece of imagery for it. It’s also quite an optimistic album, which made the open sky a nice backdrop.

There is a very distinctive sound to a Will Joseph Cook song, what sort of music did you listen to when you were growing up or finding your musical identity that inspired this sound?

I was always drawn to very song-centric writing and often connected with singles the most. I love songs that can stand alone outside of an album or an artist’s context. I think that’s something that was very key to the writing style on this album. 

How did you first get into performing, and in particular songwriting?

Songwriting came first for me. I remember thinking how cool it was to create an entirely new piece of music from my head. I quickly lost interest in learning other people’s songs and riffs, it just wasn’t as fun. Performing them seemed like the next natural step to get my songs out to people.

You recently played a few dates on the NME/Topman university tour – alongside up-and-coming bands such as Fickle Friends, Clean Cut Kid and Peace – is it important to you to be able to play for people who might not otherwise get to see many gigs (because we all know how tight a student budget can be)?

For sure, any platform that exists to share live music with people who might not otherwise is great. 

At the start of the year, you supported Sundara Karma for the second half of their UK tour, what was that experience like for you and how do you think it will differ compared to your headline tour of the UK & Europe in May?

It was the first time supporting a band for a proper string of dates. Me and the band definitely learnt a lot from playing in those venues and doing it every night. Headline shows are in a different realm though, it’s your crowd. With support tours, there will always be an element of winning people over. 

I’ve seen from all the little acoustic videos on your Facebook that you play the piano as well as guitar, is this something that we might see more of in your live performances or is it important to build the electronic *groove* behind the performance?

I definitely see myself playing more piano parts in future, I do a lot more writing on piano now than I used to. I’m still a lot stronger on guitar though. 

Recently you’ve been getting a lot of air-time on BBC Radio 1, what’s it like to hear your songs played back to you, knowing that there’s a huge audience that’s also hearing it?

It’s great, all the radio love has been really cool. There have been a few times now where I have turned on the radio and heard it, it’s a very weird experience. 

Huw Stephens and Greg James have been massive supporters of you since the very beginning of your career, how important was that support in you becoming so popular?

The BBC Introducing support was definitely really key. It was Abbie McCarthy that picked up on me first. My first song was record of the week at BBC Introducing in Kent. It’s nice to see radio DJs give you support on a personal level. 

Festivals are an integral part of summer culture in the UK, and you’re on the line-up for many festivals including Boardmasters, Secret Garden Party, Truck Festival and 110 Above. Which festivals are you most looking forward to playing this summer?

I’m really looking forward to playing Secret Garden Party. I think it’s an awesome festival and I actually played a small set there once when I was 16, so it’ll be cool to go back there. 

You’ve achieved an incredible amount of success in the industry at a relatively young age – what are your aspirations for what you want to achieve with your music and your career? And do you have any advice for young musicians who are also trying to break through?

My advice would be to not be too precious with your music. It’s always healthy to be putting stuff out in the world when you’re starting out, even if you know it’s not a professional, finished thing. 

Finally, are there any new artists that you’re listening to at the moment?

Parcels have just put out a great EP recently, I strongly recommend it.