William Poyer has just returned from a three-year stint in Mexico. He’s returned with a new album (and a girlfriend), two new music videos and one in the making.
At the time when we Skype-meet, I have none of these things – and am triple checking I’m recording …
I interviewed this conductor at the Royal Albert Hall and we did an hour and a half long interview and it was all incredibly complex. When we finished I realised I hadn’t been recording any of it and I was so horrified I couldn’t tell him, it still haunts me, but we’re recording so everything’s fine …
Well, I’m not as complex …
Still I wouldn’t want to blag your answers. So, you’re from Swansea originally, why Mexico? And had you planned on staying that long?
No. It was a whim leaving. I’d been living in London for 8 years, working in the film industry for some pretty intense people and doing jobs I never intended on doing. I’d always wanted to make movies but I was just helping other people make movies. Music had been on the back-burner for a long time and I just thought, ‘Right, screw it. I’m leaving.’ I had no money, bought myself a one-way ticket on my credit card. Then thought, ‘How can you travel with no money?’
I knew I wanted to go to Latin America I knew I wanted to learn Spanish; and there were just a few more things about Mexico I was interested in … I just knew, culturally, it had a bit more weight – and it was cheapest place to do the English course. That’s about as much thought as went into it.
I think that’s about as much thought as needs to go in to it. I once went to Mozambique because Bob Dylan wrote a song called Mozambique. I was later informed he never went there, but, I had a nice time … Where were you in Mexico?
Went to Guadalajara and the idea was to go to end up at the beach. Then I got a girlfriend in Guadalajara and she got a job in Mexico City so we moved there -which I never had any intention of doing.
Cool place …
I thought it was going to be a monster of a city but its beautiful. Amazing pockets of wonderfulness, so we stayed there.
Having spent 3 years there how did you know it was time to come back?
I’d been wanting to come back quite a while. I always knew I would come back, initially, it was probably the sense that, I was going away to come back. With time and the development of songs every 6 months, I’d be like “Yeah, think I have an albums worth of material”, but then something would significantly change; I’d find a significant progression and the old songs just kicked away. That happened a few times, then, I knew I was ready to record something – but I didn’t know how to do it. I’m not a producer, I don’t have any rich mates, I hadn’t done a gig; I’d just locked myself in a room for 2 years to study writing, so there was no one championing me. Then someone told me about crowd funding …
How did that work?
I offered $16 to get a free album, $20 get a thank you or whatever, I think it was $500 get name tattoo, this Brazilian producer – I’ve got his named tattooed, he gave me $500.
(It’s actually a very elegant tattoo and I start wondering how much I can get people to pay me to tattoo their names on my extremities ….)
You left to hone your sound – what was your sound like before you left?
I did an E.P with a band, I’d always had this obsession with cowboy music – Americana, and country ideas and ideologies, but the E.P didn’t really feel like me. Then I went down the very soft route, with lots of finger picking like José Gonzales, but I kind of lost a bit of the identity of what I was doing before; and I just knew there was a marriage of sounds I hadn’t found yet. I just knew I wasn’t good enough. I knew I could write songs, but wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
Didn’t Find Luck – definitely has both of those elements, the guitar reminded me of early Neil Young and then you have the fun Spanish guitar at the end …
You knew it’s a funny one, that song gets the least attention out of the whole album …
I really like that one, it was my favourite.
I love it that song, it sort of came to me in a dream; which is weird because I’m always very conscious of them [the songs]. A mate had been like, “How’s Mexico influenced you?” and I was like, fuck, I don’t think it has. I think Time has influenced me but not Mexico; and I was feeling really guilty about it, thinking maybe I should have some Mexican songs. I fell asleep that night and had this dream about a Mexican guy walking through the desert. I didn’t know what he was looking for, and he was sweating and it was really intense, and it goes on for ages, probably about 20 minutes or something; and then I realised at the end, he was looking for luck; he was trying to find luck, he was trying to obtain this like, Holy Grail of luck.
Like Don Quixote, sort of …
Yeah! And I’ve been thinking about the concept of luck for a while; and had been thinking its better to be born luck than it is to be born rich, or anything really … and yeah that’s where that came from. And he never found it.
But he shouldn’t though. That’s what makes the story good. And life, frustrating.
You mention one came in a dream, but how do songs normally come to you, do you have an idea, a verse a word, a melody? Is there a pattern?
It’s always rhythm. I’ll usually have a groove on the guitar and there’ll be a change, a chord, and it’ll usually come from the rhythm.
(He starts ‘chuck chucking’ the rhythm …)
Then I’ll add a syllable to it …
(He does, it sounds like this …)
Bubudbabda BA da da ….
… So it’ll come from rhythm and syllables and then I’ll just start jotting down gibberish. And then an expression usually, something that could be poetic, a saying, will link with the syllables and the rhythm then once you’ve got that ….
You’re rolling. …
Yeah, then start writing shit for pages. I start in pencil, if I’m sure something’s good I’ll fill it in in pen and then it can be very quick.
Video for Fell the Truth was shot out in Mexico, right?
Yeah, done on two hangovers with a boy I met at Sofar Sounds in Mexico, and he was like, “You’re the Welsh Ray LaMontagne!” I was like, great, that’s nice … but I don’t think so.
He came to a couple of gigs he was like, “I want to do something with you.” So he went and listened to the song, and he really listened to it. He came back with ‘knock down, door fell truth’ – that was his favorite line, and said, “I want to put you in front of a load of different doors.” I was told him to crack on so he put me in front of a load of different doors, down by Frida Kahlo’s house. Which is a beautiful part of the city. And yeah just tried to walk about lip-synching to my iPod in my back pocket, feeling like a bit of a plonker.
You did it well …
Yeah walking past people miming, looking very odd.
You have to remove yourself from all that. Stay true to the ‘Art’ …
Yeah it’s been very humbling many experiences, whether crowd funding and asking for help or miming in the street …
“Help me be vulnerable to the world!”
You do you just have to let go.
In the video for 2 days later, you got kidnapped and blinded by tequila. What’s your next video? Are you just doing things you want to do?
Next video The Liar The Bitches The Crooks & The Thieves – Mexican/British joint production, we’re shooting on May 5th. The same director in Mexico is out shooting scenery so mountains desert, then I think we’ll do it as a double exposure, of there, and me here. The song’s a riff I pulled back from years ago and it was a song I wrote about the day before coming to a studio, so there’s sort of a sense of way back when.
Also watched Laid Bare Live thing at The Ritzy with Gabriel …
Oh my god it was amazing, I loved it so much.
My mum watched that the other day and was like “Oh Will, I love that bit at the beginning where you were doing the poem”.
It was great. Was it improvised? Had you done something like that before?
I’d done it once with him before and he just came up to me and was like, “Do a poem with me …” Which was brilliant because the first song I wanted to play was in this strange tuning, and it just really worked as an opening to the show. That riff I want to do something with. I was thinking of getting him in the studio with him reading a poem over something.
Have you done much like that before, or just those two times?
Yeah just, we’d winged it one time before; but it’s nice to just sort of follow him and see where it goes.
Yeah, I get it. I do comedy improvisation and …
…. Flying by the seat of your pants
Yeah, totally. I used to be terrible, but, the thing is, as long as you just go with it, everyone’s good.
Yeah, you’ve got to be open, and I think the more you do those things the more flexible you become …
You find your way in the moment, not sure how else to explain it. So speaking of collaborations – one who’s alive, and one who’s dead?
I’m obsessed with a band called Shovels and Rope.
Like the name …
It’s a husband and wife duo from North Carolina and they play this sort of dirty, gothic, Americana – with a slice of hillbilly on it. They are just … yeah I love them. If I could do anything with them I would love to. If I could write a song with them …
And who’s dead?
Townes Van Zant, definitely.
I hear Fell Truth was inspired by a true story you saw in the paper?
I was asked to find the article again and I cant which makes me question whether I indulged story it a little bit …. It was the first song I managed to write that wasn’t about me, which I knew was a good sign. I loved the idea of this guy who hadn’t committed murder, being framed. But at the end of the article there was a suggestion that after he was acquitted, he had actually done it.
Maybe we’ve all done it, or maybe it’s just me, where you can tell a lie, certainly as a young man making mistakes, I told plenty of lies in my early 20s, but I told them so many times …
… You almost believed them.
Yeah, they sort of became truth, real. And that’s what I was doing with this song; he was so convinced he hadn’t done it and then at the end he just kind of give the suggestion; and I love that part of the story … It’s funny, it’s not something id’ been interested in before, understanding the psyche of crazy people. But, I think I’m getting more interested.
There’s a lot in it for sure, especially if you’re a storyteller of any sort …
Not far off that point. If you had two parallel lives, I’m not saying you don’t maybe you have more. I don’t know. But for purposes of this question you have two, what would you do? You have choice, you have free reign you aren’t limited in this parallel life …
I would like to live in a Jack London novel live in Montana live simple life fat of the land, fishing, playing banjo …
But you can do that in this one … that just sounds like the future to me.
Parallel life on this planet?
No, I mean, why limit yourself to this planet? You have the choice to do anything, anywhere in space or time …
Exploration sounds wicked. To be the first person to go to a place, an untouched land. History’s like a new topic of mine I’m enjoying …
It’s the best …
I think the first time to be a settler, the gold rush is something else I’m interested in, the 49’ers, the first ones. That would be pretty wild. To be heading for something you just heard as a whisper, a story, and go, I’m going.
What did you miss UK while you were in Mexico and what do you miss Mexico now you’re back?
I’m terrible for wanting more. The grass is greener on other side. I was saying to my girlfriend, “Oh, it would be nice to spend winter in Mexico and the summer in London.” I was complaining for so long about wanting to come home and now I’m here, I’m like …
… Kind of want to go back?
Yeah! Im terrible. Dad’s the same, they’ve just moved to Spain and he’s like “Yeah, but its not Mexico” … but yeah, while I was there I missed the transport in London.
Wow. You know you’ve got it bad if you’re missing the public transport in London.
Not when you’re using it in Mexico, its hard work. That, and I missed Sunday roasts. Probably those 2 things, really good public transport and a roast
Sound sensible ….
Now I’m here, I’m missing reasonably priced restaurants; really good, delicious, fresh food; cheap beer and mescal – miss that, and the weather. And I miss a place I played called The Black Horse which was full of bunch of immigrants form all over, blues guys from New Orleans, Country form Oklahoma, a guy from Reading, me, Mexican guys; we had a really cool thing going on for a while. I miss that.
Solid things to miss. Beer and mescal sound great …
They go so good.
I’ve got in to beer and whiskey chasers …
Sounds dangerous …
Might be dangerous.
I’m getting to whiskey very slowly.
I don’t like alcohol at all but I’ve got really into whiskey ….
Haha! You don’t like alcohol but you’re drinking beer and whisky chasers …
Yeah … So, What’s next, or is this enough?
Yeah very. Next is getting good gigs, the next videos; I have two live videos going live this week, a few festivals, met a cool guy I’m doing some writing with, and back into studio, to what extent I don’t know, maybe E.P. or another album. Maybe just something we can give away for free but yeah keep on planning more …
The single Fell The Truth is out now and the album (‘Born Lucky’) was released on Laid Bare Records on the 22nd April.
He’ll celebrating the album release at Brixton East Gallery, tonight, Thursday 28th April. Go!
And in the meantime here’s his new video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lRYAef29Fc
Gigs – go out, see things, feel stuff in your ears:
Spiritual Caipirinha Bar, Camden – 16 April 2016
Laid Bare At The Ritzy, Brixton – 20 April 2016
The Pack & Carriage, Mornington Crescent – 07 May 2016
Century Club, Soho – 12 May 2016
Old Queens Head (Daytime show), Angel – 15 May 2016
Nozstock Festival, Herefordshire – 22, 23, 24 July 2016