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A Dreamer In Control: Will Joseph Cook On Writing And Confused Emotions

Wednesday, 11 May 2016 Written by Milly McMahon

Writing melancholy lyrics that play upon a revelrous outlook on life and love, Will Joseph Cook’s keys and chords conjure feelings of hope and energy. Down to earth and honest, his songwriting flair and funny guy finesse are on point.

Finding humour in anything and everything, his ‘pinch of salt’ personality is truly dry and very British. His Girls Like Me video features a speed dating scenario in which he plays both roles, subsequently bombing before finding true love outside of the contrived setting. The colour and fun of the film represents the ironic outlook his music promotes.

Switching from parody to poignancy, the low-key live sessions that exist online, featuring just Cook and his guitar, are effortlessly wonderful and affecting, with these ballads reflecting a deeper and more soulful side to his writing. Beautiful but seemingly unaware of his looks, outspoken and original, there is a unusual charm to him which is both strong and vulnerable.

On the cusp of releasing his debut album, and set to play the Great Escape and Dot To Dot in the coming weeks, Cook seems like the kind of lad you would meet on a night out, maybe never see again but always remember for the fun and freedom he introduced in those brief moments.

Does your new material stray far from the pop aesthetic you’ve cultivated with previous releases?

There is one track that is a main ballad off the album which is different, but that still has an Afro guitar thing to it. It’s a song that I wrote a few years ago and then reworked it for the album. It’s called Habit. I’ve played it live before. The album is mostly songs about relationships or friendships. I wanted to write about real life experiences I have had. That ballad is about that moment when you realise how dependent you are on having someone in your life and then thinking about how mad it is that you feel kind of addicted to that feeling. It’s an analogy between that and cigarettes, really.

Are you trying to give up smoking?

No, I gave up a few years ago. Not good for the job. I had a pretty pathetic sixth form habit of smoking four or five a day because I was bored. I don’t think I even bought a pack of cigarettes. All my friends smoked, so would naturally just roll me a cigarette if we were going for a walk.

When you were working with your publicist, how did you shine a spotlight on the specific elements of your characters you wanted to promote?

There’s a bio the label created that I was partly involved with, but generally they just tend to brag about your stats to impress people. My opinion of how I like to come across would be laid back. I’m not snobby in my musical tastes at all. I wanted that to be reflected in the style in which I make music. I didn’t really care who came to my shows. I make pop music so I want as many people to hear it as possible. The main theme of the album and how I have written it is all about trying to see the positive side of life. There is too much misery in the charts. Misery pop.

You can write a song about having your heart broken or losing someone but that doesn’t mean you have to make it the darkest sounding lonely ballad, believing that nothing will ever get better. I always think the best sad songs are the ones with an element of hope or optimism, otherwise they don’t really interest me. It can’t just be a sad song, it should be melancholic. There’s a difference. Melancholy has this feeling that things can change. I want to lift people's mood musically, but then I want to mix it up with a confusion of emotions.

The lyrics are half placed in reality and half in a dream world. Is that an accurate representation of how you experience life?

Definitely. I daydream and drift off a lot. There's a lot of stuff that inspires me. I have a lot of mad dreams. Ideas that I have for videos and artwork, lyrics or melodies, come from that kind of place. I just wake up and write it all down. I have my iPhone memo and I wake up and sing into the voice recorder and then I have to work it all out a few days later, to see what I was trying to achieve. There's a track on the album called Take Me Dancing and the guitar riffs on that are based around different dreams.

Who works on production with you?

Just this one guy for a year and bit now, Hugh Worskett. He did the EPs and the album. He’s so good at what he does and because we had such a good friendship he didn’t interfere with my writing. He has the same vision for the album. We just both wanted to make a refreshing indie-pop album. We worked at the same pace so it would have been silly to work with anyone else.

I love the music video for Girls Like Me. Was that fun to make?

Definitely. I mean, you’ve seen it. It was good to make, it was a proper experience just doing the first video and learning how to work with a very small budget. It’s a different kind of pace at which you have to work. The video was my idea. I had written out a screenplay and a story line. The main girl was an intern who helped out. It was a labour of love, everyone was working on the project as a favour. People liked the idea and the budget was titch. I sent over a load of fashion references for what I wanted the girls to look like, then it was just a matter of what we could get and pick up some cool clothes. All the clothes I am wearing are my own.

Is that your Cav Empt ​top? Do you like to retain full control over every aspect of the music and your image?

Yeah, I  love Cav Empt. I just brought my wardrobe onto the set. I dressed in everything that I had that was colourful. In terms of aesthetic, unless it represents me properly I don’t really feel that passionate about it. I don’t like other people chipping in much. The whole album is mine, really. When you sign to a major label, you sign a publishing deal and there are people that will try and push you into co-writes and that is something I feel quite passionately against.

So many other artists my age in the industry just get pushed into co-writing sessions and they come out with an album that they didn’t write. They may have written on it but I find that depressing. I look at a song after I hear it and I check the credentials. It’s disappointing when there are four writers on the track as well as the vocalist. I think: ‘Why are you selling yourself as a singer-songwriter when your name is just one of many on a track?’. I prefer to have control over everything.

How do you navigate your way around that? Do you just flat out refuse to do co-writing sessions?

It’s not that I don’t like working with people, it’s more that I feel so strongly that I don’t want to do co-writes. I got put in a couple when I was 16 and nothing me and that other person wrote ever got used and I learned from that. I forced myself to be a better writer and to write everyday and be more frequent with creativity so I could send songs to the label and nobody would ever say: ‘Will is struggling with writing songs right now so let’s check if he wants to go co-write.’

Would you ever like to write for other people?

I have writing sessions booked in which aren’t for my music, but more for other artists. I do love working with people. Maybe for the next album I will do more collaborations, but I don’t believe in collaborating out of necessity. Collaborations should be cool things that you do because you have established yourself. I want to put out a debut album to prove myself and then work with people who I actually want to work with, rather that just who the label is suggesting I should, just because they have written an Adele song or some shit.

Will Joseph Cook Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue June 21 2016 - LONDON Boston Music Room

Click here to compare & buy Will Joseph Cook Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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