Ainslie Wills is one sophisticated music maker. And her voice and artistic savvy will leave you breathless.
Ainslie Wills is such a beautiful songwriter. Her heart and soul overflow, and Ainslie's earnestness and wisdom paired with sophisticated instrumentation, interesting chord movements and changes make for the most fascinating - and emotional, if you let it be - listening experience.
Ainslie's first EP was released in 2010 and the world was introduced to this stunning artist who has been rightly described as a "melodic architect." But in 2013, she unleashed an absolute corker of an album, the critically acclaimed and prize winning full length You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine. Ainslie then released another EP in 2015 - the ambitious and deliciously experimental Oh The Gold. Then, earlier this year, the heights were scaled again with the release of a brilliant song called Running Second, which left this particular writer breathless.
Ainslie's voice is so wonderfully malleable and at any given time, there are inflections of smooth as honey R&B artists like Jazmine Sullivan (a stretch? Listen to Jazmine's Masterpiece) mixed with the emotion of New Zealand's songstress Brooke Fraser, the power and restraint of Annie Lennox, and dare it be said, the commercial viability of Sara Bereilles.
She has toured with prominent acts like Leon Bridges, Vance Joy, Hiatus Kaiyote, and will be supporting English singer-songwriter George Ezra on his national tour in 2018.
Currently, Ainslie is working on more singles which she will thoughtfully and successfully drip feed to Australia and beyond - actually her music is very well received overseas where her genius is lapped up. Ainslie was also a worthy recipient of this year's APRA Professional Development Award which will help fund and fuel more brilliance, no doubt about it.
It is exciting to see what's next for this enchanting and endearing artist. In the meantime, go through Ainslie's back catalogue and check out her incredible cover of Wasn't It Good with fellow Australian singer/songwriter Ben Abraham on Tina Arena's new album, as well as her beautiful video of a live version of the aforementioned single Running Second.
Ainslie took some time out of her epic music making life to talk to Music Love about her craft, her favourite women in music, plus her recent tour of the UK supporting a guy named Tom Chaplin who used to front a wee award-winning, trail blazing and chart topping British pop band called Keane. Strength to strength indeed. Ainslie Wills, we are not worthy, and you are magnificent.
What does music mean to you?
Wow, big question first! :) I'm not sure I can properly articulate how much it means to me. It's that feeling, ya know? Heart bursting open... that feeling of finding connection with something that is intangible, it's glorious.
It's a kind of compass I use on my continuous exploration to find out who I am and what the hell I'm doing here.
This week you won an APRA Professional Development Award. Congratulations! How does it feel to have support from such a significant part of the music industry?
Thank you! It was such a honour to be acknowledged in this way.
For any artist, no matter where they are at in their career, having support financial or otherwise gives you a confidence booster and a reminder that you are on the right track.
You’ve been busy touring the UK on a twenty date performance schedule.
Yes! My three piece band and I did twenty dates in 21 days supporting UK artist Tom Chaplin [lead singer of Keane]. It's been a bit of a dream to play overseas so it felt good to be finally doing it. We played at places like the London Palladium, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and Sage Gateshead. The best thing about touring other than meeting beautiful people and visiting new places is being able to refine your set over a longer period of time, something that is harder to do in Australia in the touring circuit.
How do you prepare for your live performances? Is it any different when performing at a festival compared to an intimate venue?
For the bigger shows we have some pre-recorded samples played through so it's a little more structured in terms of the song length and arrangement as well as structuring set order and segues. I also do prep that involves going through the order of the set and spelling out what I want the outcome of it to be mood wise. For example, "This song has to feel empowering and direct or intimate and dark." For an intimate show it's about stripping things back and being a little more organic with how the set runs.
Running Second, your latest release, deals with the challenges of feeling unworthy. Tell us about this song.
It began with my niece talking about beating her personal best. She's a fantastic swimmer and has talked about trying to get better at each race she swims, etc. That got me thinking about how we all, in some way or another, are trying to do the same and how sometimes that can lead you to thinking that we aren't good enough. The song is about embracing where you are at in a more positive light.
You’ve described your musical style as nostalgic and old school. What inspires this?
I love artists that make work that you could listen to in any era, which I suppose means there are lot of 'classic' sounding artists that I have grown up with that come from the tradition of singer songwriter. For example, Joni Mitchell and Roy Orbison. I also love traditional jazz sounding tunes too which have a certain degree of romanticism and nostalgia about them. That's not say I don't want to make music that isn't modern sounding, I think I like to be able to incorporate a lot of different sounds and styles.
You performed your first Sydney and Melbourne headline shows this month. What is your favourite thing about a home crowd?
Yes! We had so much fun. The hometown crowd is kinda like playing to family, there is a certain amount of warmth in the room that is palpable!
You actively communicate with your fans via social media, even taking song requests. How important is it for you to stay connected with your audience?
So very important. Music is such an amazing platform to be able to connect to people through and I feel it's super important to remind myself that that is the reason why I do what I do...
Who are your favourite women in music?
There are so many! Charlotte Abroms, my amazing manager who also works with the very talented Haarlo, Gretta Ray and Angie McMahon. She is such a creative and inspiring person that I'm lucky to be able to work with. Musically speaking, I love Olympia, Merpire, All Our Exes Live in Texas, Alice Ivy, Sarah Belkner, Jesca Hoop, St Vincent, Feist... there are too many to mention.
What’s next for you?
New single on the way and an EP too! Better get back to it. xx
Running Scared is out now.