By Jennifer Lynn
There are two very distinctive sides to American singer- songwriter Willy Mason. There’s the charismatic showman who has King Tut’s sold-out audience eating out of the palm of his hand with rock star aplomb, and then there’s the polite-but-almost- painfully-shy guy whom I had the pleasure of interviewing upstairs from that famous stage where dreams are made.
He tells me the first time he played at Tut’s was in 2004. “I was fourteen then,” I reply, to which he laughs and says, “I was pretty young too, but not that young!” He was twenty, it was his first headline tour and it sold out. Willy was barely off the road for the next four years, touring his debut album Where Human’s Eat and its follow-up If The Ocean’s Get Rough back-to-back.
“It’s a weird, strange lifestyle,” he begins. “Good some days; most of the time it’s really fun, you know? I get to see lots of cool stuff, and it’s fun travelling with groups of people… you get to know each other really well.”
Then it stopped. “I pretty much just took a break,” says Willy, of the five years he spent at home in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. “I mean, I never really stopped writing songs, but I just made a decision to go off tour because I had been on the road for so long. I started when I was seventeen, so I wanted to experience normal life for a little while. Then I realised that I had a record – I had pretty much written a full album, and that’s when I decided to make it. It took me another year to pick a producer, and then that was it.”
Willy’s third album, Carry On, was released in December 2012, much to the delight of those fans who were already packing out the venue as we sat on a concrete step chatting about the processes that went into making said album. “I write songs all kinds of ways,” he says. “Usually the best ones just sort of fall out, but I try to keep writing, even if I don’t have anything to say. Sometimes the words come first, sometimes the melodies come first, and sometimes it’s the guitar rifts.”
As the clock ticks ever closer to show time, I bid farewell to Mr Mason, who gentlemanly walks me downstairs to the bar. I don’t know whether it’s thanks to his casual stance, his simple attire, or if perhaps there really are two different Willy Mason’s strolling around, but not a single head turns as he enters, orders and sinks a drink. Less than an hour later, the very same crowd he passed through are worshipping at his feet. I guess that’s how it feels to have the best of both worlds.
Taken from the February issue of Scotcampus. Carry On is out now and Willy plays Glasgow’s Oran Mor on March 10th.