Hey! Willy Mason

April 27 2011 | Category: Profiles

It’s with great excitement that we’re welcoming Mr Willy Mason, the esteemed New York singer-songwriter, to our stage at this year’s Sounds From The Other City festival. We thought we’d build up the anticipation further by catching up with Willy in the meantime…

Hey Willy, how’s it going? Where are you and what are you doing at this very moment?

I’m in the US doing boring things getting ready for my trip overseas. While I was on tour the phone got shut off and there’s no hot water. My bus needs new brake-lines and my girlfriend’s truck just got towed away. Spring is a very exciting time of year. As soon as I get all this figured out I might get to record some stuff for tour but it’s not looking so good since I’m flying out on Friday, thanks for asking.

What are you up to at the moment music-wise?

I’m in the process of finishing a new album which I’ve recorded with my brother Sam in London. I’ve got some shows booked on my own coming up shortly in May and some with Sam in August and September.

Yes, you’ve got several shows here over the summer – including in Wakefield, Kirbymoorside, Stockton and Colchester (as well as Union Chapel in London and big festival dates). Is it fair to say that you enjoy touring over here?

I do – especially in the summer months, but year-round it’s ok too. I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK over the years so I’m better at getting around now and I’ve got some friends I can call on. I like the slight shift in perspective that happens when jumping continents too. I just wish I didn’t have to fly. I don’t like the ordeal so much and I’d rather see England coming up over the horizon. Maybe I can find someone with a big boat. That’d be fun.

We were suitably surprised and impressed when you agreed to come and play in Salford. How have your experiences of Manchester been?

Manchester has usually been very good to me. I have had many good experiences there. I am looking forward to the festival – I was introduced to Hey! Manchester through a friend who I’ve done shows with in the North East so I have a lot of faith in the event. It’ll be a good way to reacquaint myself with the city.

The Hey! Manchester stage is Peel Hall, a beautiful Victorian theatre that’s rarely used for anything other than classical recitals. How do you find playing fancy seated venues? Do you have a different seated-show style?

The show is entirely dependent on the setting. I’ve been getting used to bars and rock clubs lately but I always enjoy getting to play in a fancy theatre every now and then. The acoustics tend to carry the show and it becomes more inspired by tone and harmony than by sweat and booze. I wouldn’t put either one over they other; they can both become kind of holy at their best.

Sounds From The Other City features dozens of artists and bands performing in 13 small venues around Chapel Street. Any plans to stick around and check out what’s going on?

I’m looking forward to seeing who’s playing Manchester these days and hopefully pick up on some new acts I haven’t heard.

You’ve been playing a bit with Isobel Campbell lately. How did that connection come about, and what’s Isobel like to work and play with?

I met Isobel through my neighbour Matthew Cullen who happened to be engineering her record. He asked me to fill in on the Townes Van Zandt song No Place To Fall, and Isobel was so pleased with the result she asked me to sing on a couple more. She is very kind and enthusiastic. And she has a knack for surrounding herself with highly talented musicians. I learned a lot touring with them, about playing together as a group on pretty delicate material.


Finally, we’re sure you’ve played more festivals than you care to remember. Which have particularly stood out for you?

Glastonbury was my first big festival and I will never forget the experience. We just don’t carry on the Pagan tradition that way in the States. South by Southwest in Austin, Texas is memorable in a totally different way – it’s where I first met Zane Lowe before I’d ever played a gig in the UK. I also played the Truck America festival last year, which was really really good, even though I was just there primarily as a driver for Nina Violet’s band. Those guys put on a good festival though and I look forward to playing some of their UK events this year.

Willy Mason plays the Hey! Manchester stage at Peel Hall, University of Salford, alongside Darren Hayman, David Thomas Broughton, the Wave Pictures and the Other City Ensemble. Read more about Sounds From The Other City, Salford’s one-day festival, this coming Sunday, 1 May here.


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