By Gabby Redding | September 9, 2022
Will Joseph Cook has a unique ability to connect with an American audience, despite growing up across the pond in Kent, England. His latest tour, opening for 23 of Tessa Violet’s North American shows, had Will playing at some of the most notable venues across the states including The Studio at the Factory in Dallas, The Foundry in Philadelphia, and, of course, Bowery Ballroom in NYC. With each show, he treats the crowd like a group of friends, inviting them all to join a group chat after the show and stay in touch. He captured each stop on the tour with a series of vlogs that invited his audience behind-the-scenes of life of the tour, with the added benefit of seeing their own cities through the eyes of someone visiting for the first time. Will mans his own merch table, giving him the opportunity to connect with his fans personally. And finished the night at Bowery Ballroom by jumping up on stage to give an encore of his collaboration with Tessa Violet, “Gummy.”
It’s not easy to capture an audience’s attention when they’re anticipating someone like Tessa Violet to come on next. Tessa puts on an incredible show, mashing catchy and vibrant hooks with campy outfit changes and a magnetic stage presence. Concertgoers arrived in costume, ready to hang onto every lyric, and some of them shared that they had been following her since her early YouTube days.
Up to the challenge, Will strategically opened with his song “Be Around Me,” which went viral on TikTok this year. As he predicted during his interview with us, the audience immediately lit up when he got to the now famous lyrics;
“Oh my God, did you call me baby?
Maybe, is that okay?
Yeah, it’s cool, I liked it
Once the audience realized something familiar in Will’s music, he had them locked in. Will spoke about how he feels it is a “blessing to have a cultural touchpoint that contextualizes you and then it feels like, in people’s hearts and minds, there’s some kind of story that’s being completed. They can relate to your music, it’s super powerful.”
He followed up with “Little Miss,” another track with a vibe reminiscent of summer and lyrics that bring back the feelings of high-school puppy love, but with the benefit of a mature perspective;
“And when you come home
My lights go low
I think they get nervous
Around your glow (damn)”
His latest album, Every Single Thing, is strewn with songs that make you want to drive with the windows down and whistle along, he captures a feeling: optimistic, loving, and wholesome.
That energy translated to our interview, where Will zoomed in from his bunk bed in a tour bus, as he pulled into San Francisco for the third show of the tour. Will opened up to the groovement about how he has used the virality of “Be Around Me” to connect to audiences, how “Every Little Thing” serves as a love letter, and how he has learned to focus on those who appreciate his work, rather than worrying about how he might be perceived and answered a few questions for the groovement:
What was your first concert?
Vampire Weekend. They’re one of the first bands I got into properly, so yeah I love them.
What was it that inspired you to start making your own music?
Every time I would go to a show, the inspiration or desire to actually do it would grow and grow. Like ‘damn this is what I want to be doing, I don’t want to be in the audience, I want to be playing in the band.’
Is there any particular band or an experience that you were really inspired by?
Yeah, there’s two that spring to mind. I saw this band called Digitalism, they’re a German duo, and they blend indie guitar tones and songwriting with really big techno influence. Their set is half DJ, half synthesized live. I saw them and was like, “this is so cool.” And then I saw Phoenix play at Reading Fest when I was 16, and that was super inspiring.
Do you see yourself, now being on the opposite side of it, inspiring other emerging artists to do the same thing?
Yeah for sure, it’s strange the journey you go on when becoming a better performer, or becoming comfortable on stage. You don’t really realize the process that’s happening. So when someone comes up to you and says “You’re really great on stage! That makes me want to have that confidence,” it comes as a surprise to me, because I still feel like I’m on that journey, but being able to inspire other people is great.
What is your dream venue to perform at?
There is a spot in London called Brixton Academy which seats four thousand people, and when you play it, it’s a tipping point. It’s the first “big show” you do in London…That’s a pretty unmovable career goal for me.
It seems like your music has really gained traction after a piece from your song “Be Around Me” went viral on TikTok. Has that changed how you song write, do you think about what pieces might catch on with audiences now?
Yeah, it’s interesting doing this support tour with Tessa [Violet] because, for many people, it will be their first time listening to me. But when you have something go viral, it’s so pervasive that when I play that song, I play it at the front of the set so that everyone has a touchpoint. They can go ‘hey, I know this! I like this guy!’ It’s mad how it warms a crowd to you, they feel like they have a connection or they’re in the know.
So the last show that you performed, did you see that light switch turn on for the crowd? Can you tell when they start to get into it?
Yeah, it’s a slow build, I can see people thinking ‘I know this, where do I know this from’ when I play the track, but when I get to that bit they know. And then I’ll make a joke about it “you guys like TikTok?” and everyone cracks up. That’s been the experience so far.
Part of that song ended up trending because it was parodied after and slowed down, did you find that flattering seeing how fans warp and interpret your art? Or was that strange for you?
I’m definitely a child of the internet, I was a YouTube kid back in the day, so it was a weird experience seeing it, personally. But, I know the journey when something goes viral, and you lose ownership over it.
It was pretty innocent!
Yeah it becomes internet social property to a certain extent, but I’m fine with that. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about it, for a moment it becomes part of the internet’s tapestry of culture. It felt cool to be somewhat close to the epicenter of that for a minute.
We’d love to end by speaking about your latest album, Every Single Thing, and its overarching theme. What kind of vibes were you trying to put out there? Did anything stick out as the main piece of inspiration?
It was definitely not a theme that I’m new to as an artist, but I wanted to double down and do an album of love songs, because that’s what I was leaning towards writing about pretty heavily. But across that, it has a lot of infatuation songs, a lot of songs about the long distance strifes of lockdown, it has a track about how I felt about love and romance as a teenager compared to now, and it has a song about how I might feel about it when I’m dying–so it covers some ground, but it’s a pretty earnest album of love songs that I needed to get out of me, because I was fully in love and I needed to make music.
That’s so beautiful! And people seem to really connect with the album because it is so earnest and truthful, and you’re really putting yourself out there with it.
It is a strange thing because as I’ve gotten older I’ve gained the positive of not caring. I can shamelessly write about whatever I want now without worrying.
📸: shot by Amy Guo