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December/January 2021

by Liana Casci

Fresh Talent: Chris William

by Liana Casci

Fresh Talent: Chris William

Almost two years after releasing his first EP ‘Out Of Sight’, Christchurch artist Chris William is fresh off his NZ tour for the release of a new EP ‘Light Shines Above’. Influenced by singer-songwriters including John Lennon and Mac DeMarco, Chris stripped back from the electronic heavy sound toward a new acoustic folk-inspired style.

“The first EP was more electronic sounding, it was quite synth-heavy and a lot of drum machine and it was quite in your face in that regard. But since then I’ve become a lot more interested in folk music and I’ve become a lot more confident in my singing and my songwriting as well. I think in the first one there was an element of, ‘I’m not really sure if I like the sound of my own voice,’ so I’d put on heaps of synths and heaps of layers and it’d sound really big, which I think in some ways was out of insecurity. On this one I wanted things to be a lot more minimal, I would rather have fewer layers but have everything in there has more intention, like have more finesse.”

“I brought this old bass off the Facebook marketplace and it made me wanna play bass in this weird folky guitar type style quite a lot, so a lot of the songs on the EP have these weird sort of finger-picked guitar ideas, but all on the bass. So leaning toward more of that folk direction, and I guess trying to improve my songwriting and let that carry the music more than the fancy production stuff.”

Along with the stripped-back folk style came the use of samples that connected William’s landscape inspired lyrics and imagery captured during his travels around NZ.

“I really like the idea of recording some organic samples rather than just using a lot of the same preset samples that everyone else is using. I kinda feel like every little layer, if it can be as personal as it can then hopefully that will help have a general sense of that coming through of the music being personal, and only could have come through you.”

“One specific example is that I like putting in little voice memos or recordings that I record on my phone and try to utilise them in some way in the songs. Like the title track, Light Shines Above has this sort of bird song in the background which I recorded in this spot called Kawakawa Bay.”

“My favourite thing about the South Island is just how quickly the geography and the landscape changes, you’ll just go somewhere and be in a completely different landscape. And so I think just the sort of feeling that that evokes in you in feeling quite eclipsed by how enormous the landscape is and how it changes your perspective. It makes you realise how small your experience is in the world compared to the enormity of the landscape.”

Invoking thought is also a large motivation, Wiliam saying that his intention with this album was to create an “…elusive blend of detail and then leaving gaps for the listeners’ imagination”.

What his next album will look like, Chris William isn’t exactly sure at this stage, saying only that it might be a bit more groove-oriented.

“I’m not exactly sure. That’s the fun part of it though, not knowing, just writing stuff and seeing where it goes.”