William Crooks Fuses Raw Emotion & Swagger On ‘Hollows’
In a nondescript, well-wooded town somewhere in Georgia, resides Willy Crooks. An artist cut from a different cloth. While many choose to rep their city on their sleeve, as a badge of honor, Willy keeps his hometown tucked away in his pocket. His social profiles give no indication of where one might find him… or maybe they do. While there’s no mention of his specific geographic location, the “online, url” listing is probably your best bet. Growing up in an area that he describes as boring and culturally homogeneous with a lack of art, the internet has provided Will with a home and platform that his surroundings could not.
“Almost everything I’ve ever done to further my art has been done online, and many of my friends are online, so often times I feel like I live on the internet,” explains Crooks. Like many of us, the internet has allowed him to connect with like-minded individuals around the world, “Knowing there’s other people out there who are living like you are, or trying to achieve similar goals – knowing I’m not alone – that’s invaluable to me.”
The internet has also provided him with a connection to culture, allowing artists like Hudson Mohawke and Gucci Mane, J Dilla and most notably Kanye West, to all have an impact and influence on his own art. The latter’s comes through clearly on ‘Hollows’. When asked just how much Kanye has inspired him, he proves to be a true citizen of the internet offering a meme to paint an accurate portrait.
While it may seem easy to put him in a box, he’s more than just another man behind a computer. He “takes baths with incense and lavender and candles and shit” and feels like “that’s a vibe more people need to be on.” He also takes walks and people watches for inspiration. It’s all these aspects along with the aforementioned influences that bring us ‘Hollows’. With layers of his own vocals stacked under a lulling backdrop, Willy Crooks’ latest is an ever-expanding effort. The first half packs a vulnerability that captivates as the beat builds and breathes. Just when you feel you’ve got it pinned down, Willy switches it up swagging into an almost rap-like aesthetic that has him literally saying “fuck it”. ‘Hollows’ is the perfect embodiment of William Crooks; a multi-dimensional effort that stitches together raw emotion with just the right amount of swagger and intensity.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, my name is Will and I’ve been producing for a little over 5 years. Breakfast is underrated and I could probably eat it for every meal. I also take baths sometimes with incense and lavender and candles and shit and I feel like that’s a vibe more people need to be on.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people because of music; time I got to spend with my dad bonding over albums; an escape during a bad day; a soundtrack to some of the happiest moments of my life…”
What does music mean to you?
Damn, uh, everything probably? It’s been such an integral part of my life. I’ve met so many wonderful people because of music; time I got to spend with my dad bonding over albums; an escape during a bad day; a soundtrack to some of the happiest moments of my life; therapy; mediation; the ability to articulate my emotions and feelings to other people without using words. That last one is big for me. I’ve since started songwriting more, but there was a time in my life that I needed to silently process a lot of feelings and music let me do that.
You made your debut as singer/songwriter with the release of ‘here with u.’ What made you decide to start adding your vocals on your records?
I used to rap in high school, so the vocals have always been a piece of what I do. In the last 2 or so years I started to bring them back into my music. I was often kind of lowkey about it – which was cool because if people didn’t know it was me singing or rapping I felt like I’d be getting a more honest reaction on whether or not they liked it. The more I got into it, the more possibilities I began to see. It’s super cool being able to work with your own vocals; it’s like a new way to build spaces.
I finally got to a point where I felt like it was time to really start displaying this new aspect of my music. That takes us up to the EP and where I am now. It’s definitely changed how I approach music. It’s slowed the process way down, to be honest. Where I used to just bang out a lead, I’m now practicing melodies and harmonies and writing and rewriting lyrics. Sometimes, I’ll even just have to sit on a song for like a whole month or two before it can really start to take shape. It can be frustrating, but I find the final result much more gratifying in the end.
Can you tell us a little bit about your songwriting process?
I go for the shotgun method of throwing as many ideas as I can at my DAW and hope one or two stick. Whether I start with a melody, or a chord progression, or drums is totally dependent on my mood on any given day.
What kind of effects or production techniques do you use to alter your voice?
Before even getting to effects and plugins, layering is huge. It’s a wide range but I’ve had anywhere from 5 to about 30 vocal layers in songs. It’s really important to have a strong, mostly dry, vocal take dead center in the middle and then from there you can just start to stack all kinds of crazy layers left, right, up, and down – just fill the whole space up.
As far as effects, I use a combination of pitch-correction and midi-harmonizers, among other things. Chorus effects are so good for layers, too. If you wanna sound like Justin Vernon on Kanye West’s Monster, pitch one layer an octave down and slap some overdrive on it lol.
Outside of music where do you find inspiration?
Short series, movies. I watch a lot of cartoons. I take walks. I fuck with indie games. Y’all ever played INSIDE? That shit is crazy. Sometimes I’ll go to a dive bar and just people watch. It makes me feel like David Attenborough at a watering hole in the Serengeti. Is that weird?
You don’t list a geographic location on your social profiles, instead opting to rep ‘online, url’. Can you talk a little bit about this decision?
I don’t really like where I live. There’s no real art or music scene, beyond like landscape paintings and cover bands. The people are pretty culturally homogeneous. It’s boring. I don’t want to come off as pretentious, there’s some great people here and some worthwhile restaurants to eat at, but it’s not my home. I work to support my mom and as soon as we can afford to not live under the same roof I’m out of here. Almost everything I’ve ever done to further my art has been done online, and many of my friends are online, so often times I feel like I live on the internet.
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Photos courtesy of mitch muscles, the audio/visual assailant from Bermuda who visually samples found footage reels & pop culture. Known for creating multi layered visual stimulants for musicians and artists like William Crooks, bsd.u, alaya & many more, he is ‘predominantly known to be waiting for god to kill him in his down time.’ Check him out on Instagram or visit his website.