Here’s Willy Moon
Celebrating the release of Willy Moon’s first album Here’s Willy Moon tomorrow, I republish my interview from 2010 as a testimony to the years of perseverance it has taken this talented songwriter to arrive at his auspicious recording debut at just twenty-three.
Let me introduce Willy Moon, who has been sitting alone in his room for more than a year to write songs. Before the world heard Willy Moon, I was familiar with his music because Willy Moon was my neighbour. Over all this time, I have heard him in the distance while I have been writing at my desk, as he sat at his keyboard singing to himself, exploring the emotional subtleties of his lyrics in the deliberate careful way you might feel your way into a new pair of gloves.
If I had not revealed that I took this photo of Willy Moon myself, you might think – perhaps – this was an old postcard I found somewhere, but this is how he actually looks. If you meet Willy Moon in the street in Spitalfields or even if you see him weeding his garden, this is how he will be. Like Gilbert & George, his flawless demeanour is reassuringly consistent. Fastidiousness is an under-rated virtue these days and Willy Moon has it in spades. One weekend, we spent a happy Sunday afternoon together taking hundreds of pictures in between cups of tea and animated chat, until we chose this single photograph to show you as the fruit of our collaboration.
Willy Moon’s songs interest me because they are irresistibly jangling pop tunes that persist in the mind vividly and then grow in emotional resonance upon further listening. They have the rare authority of nursery rhymes – even when you hear Willy Moon’s melodies for the first time, you feel you already know them, as if they had always been around. In November 2009, Willy Moon posted a recording of one song on MySpace and followed it in December with a second one, and he did not have to wait long before he received approaches from a whole series of major record companies, managers and music industry lawyers.
Millions of people sit in their bedrooms humming and strumming to themselves for years, hoping this might happen and knowing that it can only be a dream. But the attention Willy Moon drew was not accidental. Willy Moon knew what he is doing. Through his talent, tenacity and intelligent application, he brought this situation about. Willy Moon drew these people to him with the magnetic force that the silver orb in the sky controls the tides. Happening at twenty years old, it was a beautiful moment in the life of Willy Moon because the possibilities that dawned were infinite.
“I found it odd – unexpected – not that I don’t see the value of my work but I thought I would have to struggle for five years before I got any attention paid to me,” Willy Moon admitted to me in amused reflection, before revealing a characteristically rigorous attitude to the pursuit of songwriting. “I’m putting myself to the test, to see what I can do – it’s a challenge and a means to evolve. I am never happy with anything unless it is better than I did before.” he said.
The first song Willy Moon posted on MySpace was ‘Girl, I wanna to be your man.’“It took a long time to record because I was doing it all on my own and I had to work out how to use the recording software.” he confessed to me with amiable levity, introducing the song, as we sat and listened together. It appears to be a bright innocent song of unrequited love with a brittle sheen and a catchy melody that carries you through. But as the title lyric persists through repetition, accumulating emotional impact, the longing becomes frantic. With a vocal line balanced at the edge of optimism and self-deception, this is simultaneously the ballad of a hopeful extroverted young man and of an introverted secret obsessive too. And it is this tension that makes the number so compelling.
Willy Moon is a classical songwriter, powerfully aware of his predecessors, learning by immersing himself in the work of those he admires most, in particular the Beatles and those who influenced them, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, James Brown and the entire canon of early Motown artists. All Willy Moon’s songs are based upon dramatic progression, structured upon the essential poetic elements of bridge, verse and chorus, “I like to play with an idea and put the pieces together. I write parts of the song separately and combine them – different ideas that come together to form one whole.”
Next, Willy Moon posted a recording of ‘She says she loves me’ on MySpace, a delirious celebration of emotional fulfillment, in jubilant contrast to the earlier song and a work of greater musical ambition too. There is an authentic danceable exuberance here that affectionately declares its musical influences while refashioning them into something vibrantly contemporary. On consideration, it is no surprise that Willy Moon drew all this heat with his home-made recordings because they are an accomplished pair of love songs that anyone can relate to, counterpointing each other to create a complete emotional drama in microcosm.
What planet did Willy Moon come from that has endowed him with this singular charm and Bowie-esque other-worldliness? The answer is New Zealand. Growing up with parents who were both teachers, he was encouraged to be independent, read widely and think for himself from an early age. When his mother and father decided to travel the world, taking jobs as supply teachers in different capitals, Willy Moon and his elder sister came along too. Willy Moon remembers sharing a single room in the Rotherhithe YMCA years ago, when his parents slept in the bed, and he and his sister slept on the floor. “It was all very much on the cheap,” he recalled happily, telling me they lived on bread and cheese. “It was exciting – especially coming from Wellington, New Zealand – we went out and saw all the sights in London.” he added, explaining how when he was nine and his sister was twelve, they were free to explore the city by day while their parents where at work
As soon as he was old enough, Willy Moon came back to London and made Spitalfields his home. So now I have done the neighbourly thing and made the introductions, you can hear Willy Moon’s songs for yourself.