progressive ambient folk-rock

Official website for progressive-folk act, willow|speak

Interview with Middle Tennesee Music

Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)

I originate from Upstate New York, specifically the Finger Lakes region. It’s a beautiful, lesser known area of New York about 6 hours northwest of NYC. I relocated to Austin, TX in February of this year, and am loving every minute. I create progressive folk music under the moniker “willow|speak”. It’s a combination of folk-rock, percussive guitar, ambience, and a little of everything else. The name willow|speak comes from a story that I’m writing- which is the aim of this project. I’m developing a series of concept albums based off of this fictional story that I’m working on. It’s got a ways to go, but I’m very excited to develop and explore something I think is quite unique.

What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to keep going?

I come from a family with several musicians in it, primarily my father and grandfather being the biggest influences. My grandpa started teaching me some brass instruments when I was 10 or 11 years old, but I only stuck with that for a couple years before my father got me an electric bass for Christmas one year. I was totally hooked from that point (played the bass for 6 hours the first day).

It was a quick and smooth journey into realizing I was meant to play music. I enjoyed exploring and learning so many different styles, and really didn’t find interest in many other things. It got to the point where it was just an obvious choice because music is something that fulfills me entirely. I got into and stay in it for my own personal enjoyment and because it’s a part of my being.

However, after years of performing for other people, I get so much out of bringing others joy through the gift of music. Hearing time after time how my music has touched them, it fuels me to continue to do what I’m doing. Music is pure and beautiful and relatable.

How is this new release different than previous ones? Were you trying to accomplish anything specific?

“hudson” is my debut release as a solo artist, and so far the only album I have put out. It was the beginning of finally starting to find my voice in songwriting, as well as exploring some new sonic territories. This particular album is not related to the story aforementioned, but I believe some of the themes and styles found within it will be a common thread to future releases.

Before this release, much of the music I had written was much more straightforward “folk music” with a simpler sound. Not that this record is overly complicated, but you can hear some more progressive and complex ideas happening, especially in the interludes. In addition, though it is short album, I was striving for a connectedness both musically and lyrically. The introduction encompasses all other ideas in the following songs in a more ambiguous but fluid way. I think the rest of the album flows into itself nicely, also.

Name one or two challenges you face as an indie musician in this oversaturated, digital music age? How has technology helped you (since we know it does help)?

Well firstly, since I tend to have a more old-school outlook towards technology (but am learning to appreciate the positive aspects), I have really struggled with the need to stay so consistently active on social media platforms. It’s especially difficult as one person running EVERYTHING, from booking to promoting and designing, to (oh, right!) the most important aspect of writing the music itself. I not only have a giant workload to get through just to stay active and out playing, but there is no one to say, “hey, that’s a waste of time” or “hmm, that song just doesn’t work, why don’t you cut it?”

I’m not at all trying to complain about this, since I am the one who brought it upon myself. It’s definitely challenging, but at the same time very rewarding getting things done yourself, and you learn a ton about the industry, and how you function in it.

Secondly, in a more artistic way, it’s a challenge to self-evaluate where you are as an artist compared to those around you. Does your sound blend into the scene you’re trying to integrate into so that you fit, but don’t just get lost in the noise? Or should you try something totally different and unique in an effort to stand out, but potentially alienate your listeners? I suppose I try not to think about that stuff TOO much, but it’s important for it to cross your mind.

What was the last song you listened to?

I’ve been getting back into jazz, so the last thing que’d up is some Charlie Haden – The Left Hand Of God.

Which do you prefer? Vinyl? CDs? MP3s?

I try to live minimally, so I’ve downsized my physical collection of music, though I do prefer CD. But most often I listen to my iTunes library, and (unfortunately) streaming via Spotify or youtube.

How about this one…. Do you prefer Spotify? Apple Music? Bandcamp? Or something else? Why?

Definitely a mix! Spotify for me is the most convenient (day and age!), but I like the more personal aspect of Bandcamp and soundcloud, because you spend more time at that artist’s page, maybe reading their bio and getting a better feel for who they are.

Where is the best place to connect with you online and discover more music?

I’d say I’m the most active on Instagram, it’s the platform I enjoy the most and find more creative. I post a lot of random clips of me trying out new sounds or just fun things I’m hearing. My handle is @willowspeakmusic

Anything else before we sign off?

Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to share insight on my musical life, and thanks for putting the indie artists into the ears and eyes of new listeners. Concerning myself, I would encourage you all to stay connected with me as my project, willow|speak, develops and you can begin to discover the story as it unfolds.