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Lily Williams: Moving from the UK, Getting Signed, & New Debut Project "How the Story Ends"

Interview by: Orchee Sorker | March 25, 2023

Lily Williams chats with Hazze Media on her journey in music, moving from the UK to the US, getting signed to Overall/Atlantic Records, and in depth process about her debut project "How the Story Ends".

How would you introduce yourself in one sentence?

I'm Lily. I feel very British in who I am. I think my British roots despite living in California plays a huge part in who I am. My heart feels like it's in England.

I read that you grew up outside London and came to study here. What was it like transitioning from England to America? Do you think the industry is different between the two places or even the type of audience?

I came straight from the UK to come to Berkeley in Boston to go to college. That was definitely a big transition. Also, I hadn't done a lot of music. I did classical music in school, so I'd played a lot of orchestras, but I really wasn't in the songwriting artist world very much. Going to Boston was really my first exposure to the industry. It was definitely scary and big but also it was just very exciting. That's where I discovered my passion, and my desire to really pursue music as a career. Just growing up, I had no idea whether it was possible and whether I would do it or not. I just loved music in every form. I was really exposed to the industry once I moved to the US and then even more moving to LA.

Do you like music culture in the US or would you rather later on in life go back to the UK to pursue music?

I honestly love living here. California is just such a beautiful place to live, except for the rain, which we've been having for three months straight now. It reminds me too much of England. I feel very grateful to live here. I do love London as a city. It just trumps LA every time. Maybe in the future I could see myself moving back to London. No plans to move back yet, but in the future it's definitely something that could be on my mind.

Who is your biggest inspiration? Are there any artists you would love to collaborate with?

My dad loved The Beach Boys growing up, so I loved their songwriting. Then, I loved writers like Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, and Randy Newman. Honestly, Randy Newman is one of my biggest inspirations in terms of the way that I write. Right now, I'm listening to Layvey all the time. I'm just obsessed with everything she does. Collaborating with her would be so fun. Her artistry is beautiful, and I love what she creates. She's definitely someone that I look up to and inspired by.

You were recently signed to Overall/Atlantic Records. How has that journey been? Did you expect that? Has it changed the way you create your music?

Honestly, it really came out of the blue. I'd been out in LA for about a year and 10 months when that happened. Pursuing music is such an up and down journey. I have had meetings with labels and different A&Rs and publishers before. I learned you can't really expect anything. You just gotta go see what happens. When we had our first meetings, I really had no expectations. As things just kept moving forward, it just felt like the door opened at the perfect time. I'm just really grateful that I got that opportunity. I really couldn't have imagined that would've happened. I don't think it's changed the way I create. They're really great in giving me a lot of creative freedom. I pretty much had this whole project, “How the Story Ends”. When we signed, it was almost done. Moving into what's coming next, I'm excited to see how the relationship develops and figure out what project is coming next.

Recently, I’ve been searching for new music to listen to. I listened to the whole project, How the Story Ends. I love all of it. It’s totally what I listen to. What was the creative process for this project?

It was a really crazy process because when I began, I was still living in England. I had moved back to England because of COVID. I began really just writing songs and having no idea that some of those would end up on like this 10 song project. I think I kind of just wanted to release a small EP. As time went on, I hit a lot of obstacles. I moved out to LA, and things were moving really slowly with the EP. I was frustrated. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because in 2022, at the beginning of the year, one of my songs, “I Hope You Think of Me”, kind of had a moment on TikTok. That's what really brought my audience to me. That's what spiraled us into our first release. The project to me feels like it is one story. It's really cohesive but the process was not really well planned out. It was very like changing and moving. Honestly, I just felt like I had to really go with the flow. When we wrote “How the Story Ends”, the title track is really telling the whole project. It's just a kind of serendipity. It just came together perfectly.

A lot of your music contains visual imagery. Is that something you think about consciously or does it come naturally?

It comes very naturally to me. I know some artists write kind of metaphorically and very cryptically. I love that cause I love lyrics, so I'll just like listening and trying to decipher what they say or what the song could mean to me. I write very literally. It's almost like you're reading what I would've written down, literally describing my day in a journal or whatever. I really try to picture where I was and what was happening and just write it down exactly as it wasn't. That's just my style of writing.

Speaking of visuals, I love the music video for “How the Story Ends”. What was your vision for the video or did you kind of have the director kind of come up with the concept?

It was so fun. I always envisioned the video being back on the East coast because I started writing this project in London and then had so many feelings from living in Boston. I just wanted to go back to Boston to shoot it. One of the songs when “All the Love is Gone” has this line about the Orange Line, which is one of the trains in Boston...the line is “when all the loves gone, where does it go? Is it stuck on the orange line, staring blankly out the window?” This idea of me being on the orange line, staring out the window and writing in my journal and all these thoughts and moments kind of flashing by was kind of my idea for the video. We wanted there to be just this sense of you don't really know the timeline, you don't know when these scenes are happening and you don't really know how the story ends. At the last scene, we put in a plot twist where it kind of reveals that we don't know how the story ends. As the audience, you could decide how the story ends. We got to work with really great friends that we had from when we were living in Boston, Jamon and Gracie Burdick, and they brought in one of their friends. It was so fun. We were like going to all our favorite old spots and it just felt nostalgic.

The songs feel like out of the movie…if you could be a part of any soundtrack, what kind of movie/tv show would you like to be a part of?

I love cinematic music and films. Even in my own social media, I like to create little reels that show kind of like outline the song as like a little movie almost. I love that question. The first thing that popped to mind randomly was Little Women. I just love that movie so much. It's the British in me that love the period type of drama of old movies. I loved that movie. Like the TV shows, we've been watching “The Crown” recently. Very British of me, but I've been loving the cinematic type of music in that, so that would definitely wouldn't be like a song. I would have to write an orchestral piece.

You share a lot of your music on social media, specifically TikTok. What are your thoughts on TikTok and the music industry? Did you hear about it being potentially banned? Do you think artists and creatives are going to find other platforms to share their work?

It's kind of a love-hate relationship in some ways because it levels the playing field, which is so beautiful and everyone gets a chance to share their music with everyone. Everyone has equal opportunity to share. I could start posting my music with no following and no one really supporting me. Then months later, I have things going for me and really be able to progress my career. I think it's a beautiful place for the opportunity to really engage with those who listen to your music. The negative side is that it can be very pressurizing as an artist to feel like you constantly have to be creating content…especially when you're trying to create a beautiful piece of art or something that you're really proud of. It's kind of like you can get into this hamster wheel where you don't have time to really think and process. Fighting that anxiety is the negative side of TikTok, but I didn't know that it might be banned.I have been sensing that there's something new for the music industry probably coming at some point. I just feel like something new is coming.

Do you have any goals you want to accomplish this year? Are you planning on performing live?

I'm really trying to start performing more live. That's the big goal of mine. Initially when I moved out to LA, I was really focusing on songwriting for other people. I've really enjoyed the journey. I'm really just starting to play more shows, like local shows in LA. I had a release show down here in Orange County, which was really fun. Yeah, that would be a big goal maybe to open for someone this year. I'm really excited about what's coming next. I definitely have a few songs that I think I wanna release. Just excited to plan something new.


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