Bryony Williams is quickly becoming one of the most exciting acts in the Birmingham music scene. We spoke to the up and coming singer-songwriter about dreams of rockstardom, inspirational female artists and writing about sensitive subjects.
How did you first get into music?
Getting into music was a simple part of my childhood. My dad is a huge prog rock fanatic and took me to my first gig at the age of 6 to see Paul McCartney and bought me my first guitar at 13. I always remember wanting to become a ‘rockstar’ and that’s still a dream! Just maybe not as that title aha.
You used to be part of the electronic duo Field Harmonics, how does the writing and performing of your music differ now you’ve gone solo?
Writing and performing my own, raw material contrasts loads compared to Field Harmonics. The emotions conveyed through the music and lyrics are still true in FH, but the writing process is very personal and protected when it comes to my own material. It’s wonderful to be able to start a structure of a song and to test out different guitar/vocal/bass/possible other instrumentation layers to the track and to envision where the song may go. Having full control on what happens to the music I make is a very lovely thing. It’s a similar feeling when it comes to performing too. I have the freedom to alter my songs to match my mood or the crowd and to relish in authenticity, or to interact with the crowd without the pre-planned performance. It’s a more comfortable space.
‘Bleed’ is quite a personal song with feminist tones, what message are you trying to get across with it?
‘Bleed’ is kind of a turning point in my writing. It’s the most confrontational song I’ve shared with the public and I liked how it embraces the uncomfortable. The message is basically, if it wasn’t too obvious, about being on your period and not being able to concentrate/perform other tasks. It’s a natural thing which on that day, was stopping me from doing what I needed to do. So why not write a song about my angst towards it? And it’s a great topic to experiment with wording and this has filtered into my writing now.
What is your favourite song to perform live?
Ah! My favourite song to perform… Well at the moment they are all new, fresh songs that are continuously in development in my bedroom… and despite performing a couple of gigs with the new set, I couldn’t quite possibly choose one. But a definite highlight is a song I “finished” to a live performance standard only the day before supporting Isaac Gracie last week (which doesn’t yet have a name) as it was actually the first time I’ve used my loop pedal in front of an audience which is a real turning point in my confidence in my stage equipment. I will be making much more use of that now.
What is the process of turning your emotions into complete songs?
The process is quite easy but irritating at times. Sometimes I’ll be all pent up with emotions that I want to translate into music but can’t find the right words. Or it could be the opposite and I’m simply not happy with whatever guitar tuning or guitar melody I am producing to accompany the lyrics. Though on other occasions it can be a straight forward process. I actually have a wall in my bedroom dedicated to being attacked with blue-tacked scraps of paper dating back from my angst teen years to now and so if I do need some internal influence, I analyse these sober/drunk ramblings and see what I can form from past-me. Imagine a detective show with an evidence board… somewhat like that scene from Kick-Ass where Hit Girl and Big Daddy harbour a shrine to all the baddies they’re gonna eliminate. (Just minus the costumes and weapons).
Who or what inspires you right now?
A lot of female figures inspire me constantly. Reading autobiographies of the likes of Kim Gordon, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Tracey Thorn, Viv Albertine (a growing list) inspire me immensely as I can relate to certain extracts of the musical journey they are on in the very early stages of their music careers. It reassures me that things take time and are worth the time and effort, the highs and lows.
Chastity Belt, PINS, Jenny Hval and Courtney Barnett are dominating my Spotify at the moment.
Going to gigs is a given to be honest (and other creative events to keep my creative mind expanding). So seeing acts such as Peaness, Hannah Peel and Warpaint in the past month has played a part in my experimentation with music and how I want to articulate myself.
What aspirations do you have as a musical artist?
My aspirations do fluctuate on the regs… but currently I can say as a self-releasing artist I am looking into developing and establishing my independent record label, Pop Is Dead. Of course this is a long-term goal. It’s also a challenge to balance my university course with my passion for music and it is sometimes hard to concentrate on what’s more important – which is a bugger because it seems that I become more creative during deadline season which is not pragmatic! But all I can keep doing is setting myself little goals such as writing a song, recording [said] song, planning its release, booking gigs, expanding my merch and seeing what comes from it. Next year I would like to aim to play some low key festivals and to release a limited-edition 7″ through Rubber Soul Records in time for 2018 Record Store Day.
Bryony Williams is playing #FUTURECUTS on April 15th at the Finsbury Pub in London.