Home isn’t just one place for the singer/songwriter WILSN. She splits her time between Melbourne and Nashville, while managing to release hit after hit and stay true to herself. At the beginning of her career, WILSN made a promise to herself to only make music that made her happy, and she’s kept it ever since. The artist’s style combines soul, jazz, and pop, which is orchestrated beautifully in her most recent single “Home”. The track was written whilst under a bout of homesickness, so feelings of nostalgia are present enough to pull on your heartstrings, but leave you in a happy mood.
I sat down with WILSN to find out more about her journey to music and the inspiration behind “Home”.
How would you define ‘home’?
Home is Australia, Melbourne, and Geelong. It’s where my family and friends are. It’s the place that feels right and the place that gives me a feeling of completeness, safety, happiness, comfort, and just general belonging.
Could you talk a little about the inspiration behind your latest single, “Home”?
I’m from Melbourne but I spent the last two years mostly living in Nashville. The music industry struggle became very clear to me, very quickly, and there were weeks on end that all I could afford to eat was packet ramen or toast. I was constantly fighting through bouts of homesickness for my friends, family, and the city of Melbourne itself. I never realized how much I loved Melbourne until I spent time overseas. It felt like a rock in the pit of my stomach weighing me down every time I tried to enjoy myself. The feeling was bittersweet because at the same time I WAS actually enjoying my time overseas working on my music and forging lifelong friendships. The constant homesick feeling also made me feel guilty that I might not be doing enough and that I wasn’t giving it my all – I’m very aware of how lucky I am to have the freedom to travel and pursue my dreams, as so many other women around the world don’t. This song came out of that internal struggle to stay and fight or go home.
If you could pick any movie for “Home” to be featured in, what would it be?
I have no idea. I’d be happy with anything to be honest, haha! Having a song in a movie would be incredible!
What are five words you would use to describe your hometown?
I actually grew up in a smaller city an hour out of Melbourne, called Geelong. But I think of Melbourne as my hometown too now because I moved there when I was 18 and I’ve spent all of my 20’s there. I’d describe Melbourne as vibrant, diverse, fun, filled with art, and there’s lots of great coffee.
In what ways has your education at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne influenced your music style or writing process?
The Victorian College of the Arts hasn’t really influenced my current music style or writing process in an obvious way. It was a Jazz focused course, so basically lots of scales and a lot of music theory. I would say co-writing with lots of different songwriters over the past two years has influenced my current music style a lot more!
“Home”, along with the first single, “Do This”, and my whole new EP are very different from my debut EP Don’t Give It Up. I was hugely influenced by Amy Winehouse around the time I wrote the songs on my debut EP and I was also lucky enough to have Mark Ronson’s horn section play on some of the songs, so that had a lot to do with how the sound turned out. But we all grow and go through changes and I think it’s just a natural progression to want to make different art. My new EP is heading in more of a pop direction while incorporating what I know and love – that’s really exciting and new for me!
Does Nashville feel like home now? What do you miss most about Melbourne, Australia?
I’m currently splitting my time between the two cities, but Melbourne still feels more like home than Nashville. When I was in Nashville I missed Melbourne’s diversity, its great food, how accessible the city is, and just the general feeling of being comforted, safe (no guns!), and at home.
Explain the personal and professional struggles you’ve encountered in the music industry thus far. How have they molded you?
Over the last couple of years, there have been quite a few music industry people that have thought they’ve known what’s best for me and have given me unsolicited advice with no follow through or proof that they know what they’re talking about. I’ve been told to make this type of music, and that type of music, or “be more like so and so…” and even to “dress like so and so…” and I found myself constantly stressing out about it, doubting myself, being pulled in a lot of different directions musically, and consequently not releasing any music for a long time. I’ve been told to change musical genres and to be like certain other artists so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve been told to try singing quieter and “less over the top” by someone who only works with folk singers (I mean… have you heard of Mariah Carey? Aretha Franklin? Amy Winehouse? Imagine if someone told them to be quiet? Haha.) And coming from a country that rarely celebrates big, soulful voices it’s hard to get ahead. I’ve gotten to a point now where I’ve had enough of listening to everyone else’s opinion. I just want to make music that I love and that makes me happy. The first single off the EP was called “Do This”, and writing it was a really liberating experience. Singing it is like saying a big “f**k you” to every music industry big-shot who has ever said my music wasn’t good enough and then proceeded to give me their “very important advice” on how I should make it better. So I’m really excited after a long time of not releasing anything to finally be sharing music that feels like me.
How has being a female affected your position in the music industry?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how being female has affected my own personal position in the music industry because I guess it’s usually very subtle, and you’re mostly unaware of the specific thing at the time. Sometimes it’s only when you look back and think, “oh yeah.. that was pretty unfair”, that you realize what’s actually happened. But with the ‘Me Too’ movement, there’s a whole lot of things that have been pushed into the light. Sometimes I do find it hard to be assertive in writing sessions or in a professional music industry setting that is dominated by men, and I’m sure that’s affected my position somehow.
Tell me about a moment in your career that has left you extremely proud.
There have been a few! When I supported Charles Bradley in Melbourne, when I signed my publishing deal with Pulse and Native Tongue, when I played SXSW, and also some co-writing sessions have left me feeling really proud of myself!
Who is your biggest inspiration? Why?
I have two – Aretha Franklin and Alicia Keys. Aretha’s voice and music captured me from a very young age and I always aspired to sing like her, but obviously, no one can because she’s the Queen Of Soul! I also felt so connected to Alicia Keys when I was in my teens and still am. I love everything about her, her voice, her music, the fact that she plays piano on stage, writes her own songs, and is always so positive about everything!
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists in the field? How has your success story panned out?
I wouldn’t really classify myself as a successful artist yet, as I still have a long way to go, haha! But I guess the best piece of advice I’ve been given is to not worry about what other people think, just keep on doing your thing and always stay true to yourself! And I’m still working on fully taking that advice on board myself! It’s a work in progress.
Any last thoughts? What’s next?
The music video for “Home” is out now, and we partnered with NYLON which was huge for me. It’s made from my own personal footage of the last two years spent traveling between Melbourne, Nashville, Austin, and LA. I decided to film everything along the way as a way of documenting how I felt, sort of like a video diary. The next single off the EP is called “Fight Like A Girl”, and it’ll be released April 25. The EP will be released early June! I’m doing backing vocals for Meg Mac now and will be playing my own shows in Australia quite soon, should be playing shows in the US in mid to late summer…
Featured image courtesy of WILSN