When I first went to see singer/songwriter Will Varley play, it was in a little pub, and I seemed to be the only person in the entire place who went to see him. Now he is becoming increasingly popular with the locals in Kent, and is even seeing more success internationally. With a recent album release, record deal with ‘Xtra Mile Records’ and a couple of tours with Frank Turner, he is now about to set off for a European and American tour.
His songs have the ability to make you burst out laughing or fill you with a beautiful melancholy; no doubt they’re going to increase his popularity all over the world. We here at SANT were lucky enough to get an interview with him before he left…
How has touring with Frank Turner contributed to your fame?
‘Fame, if only! Yeah it’s been such an amazing experience and Frank is such a great guy, and he’s kind of really championed what I do for a while now, and just the scale of the operation, whether that’s the fact that you are playing to 2000 people every night or the fact that there’s a huge great tour bus parked outside the venue. But I think that there’s this sense of this ongoing thing with me; I’m not going to be the kind of artist you’re suddenly going to hear all over the radio one week because someone put up a million pounds behind it. It’s more I’m doing better than I was last year, and maybe next year I’ll be doing better than I’m doing now. It’s a gradual thing, which I like.’
You’ve done a couple of walking tours, how effective do you feel that word of mouth publicity works?
‘It wasn’t about publicity until half way through. There were some great things that came from it; Steve Lamack interviewed me while I was on the walk with BBC 6 which was great. But you know we travel so much and don’t see the things in-between, we get on a train or bus (it was actually a mega bus when I had the idea) going up to York, just looking out the window and thinking, “there’s all these people, all these things out there that you just miss”, and the kind of old way of the folk singer originates a long time ago. In Italy you’d always have the minstrels, they’d basically travel from town to town on foot, singing quite political songs, and they were kind of like the news. So I guess it’s kind of the going back to that idea, and the publicity was great, but it wasn’t about publicity. I think it’s bad to start things like that thinking that they are going to result in publicity.’
Where do you find inspiration for a song such as ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’?
‘Well that song is based on a story that happened to a guy named José Matada, who fell out of an airplane whilst trying to enter the UK illegally. He was trying to start a new life here, but as the plane came into land, he was hiding in where the wheels are of the plane, and as they came down and opened, he fell down into a street somewhere in south London and his body was found next morning. So for that song it was very much based on reality. But for me there’s something about the image of this immigrant lying on this very rich suburban street that really embodied the argument of immigration. That image just kind of stuck with me, and I find that when something sticks in my head, and I can’t get it out, that’s when I write a song.’
What song are you most proud of?
‘Well, ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ took me a long time to write; it was quite a difficult thing to do because you’re telling the story of someone who died quite recently. I watched all the videos and read all the interviews about him and there was a bit where someone who knew him said he said “one day someone will make a film of my life”. Finishing that song I hope I have kind of fulfilled part of what he wanted, so that makes me feel, I guess, quite proud. I hope he likes it wherever he is.’
To find out if Will Varley is playing near you and to check out some of his songs visit www.willvarley.com/.
Words: Elena Hatfield