Interview: Billy the Kid
AS PREVIOUSLY SEEN ON ANCHOR SHOP-October 2, 2014
Your new album was produced by famed UK singer-songwriter Frank Turner. What was it like working with him and can you tell me a bit about what he brought to the process?
It was really laid back and pretty normal. He made it more about us playing as musicians and less of a musician/producer thing. We were all kind of staying in a room playing together. As for what he brought to the process, well, he brought his bass guitar! [laughs] He wanted to start recording live off the floor and to kind of have us go back to our roots.
Your new album Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, explores a few different genres including alt-rock and even a bit of country. Did you draw upon any particular inspirations when writing this record?
Well, I think if you dig a bit back into my past, you’ll see that I grew up on punk rock and that the first few records I made were all punk rock inspired. Then I started doing more stuff that branched out. I like all kinds of music, and I want to write all kinds of music instead of sticking to just one format. Hopefully we can make a song, regardless of the genre or sub-genre and still let it be our style. But liking all kinds of music helps because it allows you to expand on different styles.
As you said, you’ve been in punk bands before. What’s the difference between playing with Billy and the Lost Boys in comparison to your solo music? How have you found the transition?
I don’t know. I’m not trying to evade the question, but for some reason it’s been the same thing in my brain. Even with this thing that’s being called “Billy the Kid”, it’s like sometimes I have a band playing with me as a back up even though it’s under my name. But I guess the obvious difference is that it was louder and faster in the past. Whereas on my own musically, it can be more mellow with pianos and and acoustic guitarist. Regardless, it’s just about making songs for me. It makes me more limitless and it’s very freeing when you don’t try to be something just cause it’s what you’ve been in the past.
You’re currently touring in support of your new album. How do you go about taking the album from the studio to the stage? Do you typically change any elements to it to make it more exciting?
Yea! There are a couple of us these days so we can really do whatever we want up there and play to the room, so to speak. Like if it’s a Friday night and people are looking to hang out and party, then we can adapt to that setting. Or if it’s a quiet theatre, then we’re able to do that as well. It’s not ‘here’s the band, and we play the same songs’. It’s all in my creative brain, or at least I like to think I have a creative brain. [laughs] Anyways, it’s really about adaptability, and how important it is to switch it up with a combination of line ups so that it’s not the same thing every night. Sometimes people will come and see the same tour but at different shows, or they’ll see several shows in a row, and the need to switch it up is why they keep coming back. I’ve had a fan tell me, ‘you don’t make a setlist, you make a cheat sheet’, and it’s true I do! I write down the first few notes of the song, and then I go from there.
I just want to have a good, happy life and have fun every time we play a show. Not that it’s hard, but it’s easier to do when it’s exciting. You just gotta find ways to keep it from becoming stale month after month.
You’ve done a lot of DIY work to get to where you are today. How has it helped you not only as an musician but as an individual?
It’s been really helpful. Sometimes you can play music, and the response isn’t what you wanted. I decided that if nobody was going to help me, then that’d be okay, and I’d figure out how to do this my own way, which involved staying up late and being innovative and thinking ‘okay, how can we get this music made, and how can we put it out in the world?’ Growing up in punk rock really helped as well because in that lifestyle you’re encouraged to be yourself, and it’s okay to do what you want to do and be what you are, whereas you’re limited in the pop radio format. The DIY style has been half my life, so in a weird way I don’t feel like I’ve learned half of what I’m supposed to and luckily it’s evolving and you pick up skills along the way. That came from wanting to put out music, and when I look back, I think ‘yea, you have to do a lot of crazy stuff, and we do a lot of what people don’t think of because it’s an underground thing’. But coming to terms with the fact that that isokay makes me still want to do it, and it’s why I’m still here after all these years.