NewTracks New Artist: Goodwill

NewTracks New Artist: Goodwill

Ōtautahi musician and producer Will McGillivray, aka Goodwill, gained international fame with his previous alt-pop band Nomad, whose hit track Oh My My peaked at #2 on the NZ Singles charts. These days better known as a producer, his single Get Angry encapsulates the sense of having a “first world problem-sized bad day”. NZ On Air Music included it on their March NewTracks compilation.

What’s your given name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Will McGillivray. I’m from Christchurch, and I’m a singer and guitar player, and I pretend I can play lots of instruments when I’m in the studio.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

In terms of music training, it’s all been through experience. I learnt a lot at high school, but mostly just through playing music. I hung on to a small amount of theory-based stuff, both musical and in the engineering field, that still helps me day-to-day, but listening to music and playing music with others was the thing that taught me the most, which I guess was in replacement of formal lessons. I like the jumping in the deep end approach to learning!

Any previous (or current) projects we might know you from?

When I was 15, I started a band which was later called Nomad, with my two best mates in high school, Aasha and Cullen. We ended up doing that for eight or so years, continuing after school and playing shows overseas, and having some pretty instant success with radio. It was a super fun time that I have endless great memories from. I also do a lot of production work for artists around Aotearoa and have been lucky enough to produce for There’s a Tuesday, Bexy, The Knews, The Butlers, and heaps of other cool musicians.

What’s the background story to how Goodwill came to be? 

Having my own solo project was always inevitable for me. It was just a matter of when. Collaboration is so valuable and fun, but the idea of doing something by myself after years and years of working with collaborators was also pulling me. It’s so freeing and so chaotic at the same time, being the only cook in the kitchen! Wins and progression during the process come slowly, and tinkering can be endless. But that snail’s pace approach of having a heavy filter on things that make it into a song works for me.

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

The way I write songs hasn’t changed much from when I first began. I still never know what the next step is with a song, and it just takes a lucky spark or disciplined time spent writing to get something across the line.
The thing that’s definitely changed is the height of the bar I set for myself and the things that I’m chasing. To get there, I put a heavy mental filter on the whole process, so anything that makes it in the song is something I feel really proud of. Back in the day, it was probably a little more like, “Once I’ve got all the lyrics and chords, I’m done”, and now I try to keep pushing past that point and refining.

I think I’m so heavily exposed to everything I work on that I usually have pretty little perspective of what I’ve made by the time I’m done with it. But I hope the music I’m making now has become a little more angular and interesting than what I was doing when I was 15. I’m always trying to challenge myself first of all and make something that I want to hear, and if other people want to hear that too, then that’s super cool.

When did you come up with the project name?

The name Goodwill came about 3-4 years before I actually started the project. I don’t remember even thinking of it initially. I just remember that was always what it was gonna be called when I eventually started my own project! It was buried deep in my iPhone notes somewhere, I think.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

I think my favourite memory of playing music is this show in Germany one time with my old band. We were super jet-lagged and were pretty unaware of what the gig was, going into it, but it ended up being a 13,000 strong audience on a summer evening in this outdoor stadium, which was mind-blowing, especially coming from small festivals back in NZ.

What makes Get Angry stand out for you as a single?

Get Angry is the song I’ve made to date that I’m most proud of. It can be pretty hard to see the appeal of your own work after hearing it a million times usually, but this song feels finished to me and like everything is where it should be. It’s the last song that I wrote off my upcoming body of work, ‘Incontrol’, so it also has a currency to it, and I feel like it represents where I’m at right now, which is why it felt like the right first piece of music for people to hear.

What’s the lyrical story behind Get Angry?

I was having a first-world problem-sized bad day one day, and the first line of the chorus, “Sometimes I get angry,” popped into my head when I was walking to the car. I’m generally a super happy person. The song isn’t about depression or rage, it’s an exploration of the idea of being angry, but not in a searing kind of way, more like dull, draining anger. I was having a bad day because of pretty pathetic reasons, I think, and sometimes you need to wake yourself up from that kind of state, you know? 

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the song?

The thing I’m most proud of in Get Angry is the feeling of restraint. Every time I’d record a new part or try to sing the vocals, it would always sound too energised, so I kept playing everything quieter and singing quieter. The more I added to it, the more it would feel like “ANGER”, but I didn’t want that. I wanted it to feel lethargic, so in the end, it became softer and more stripped back to get that feeling. The lyric, “Boyracers in their shit cars are getting louder, so I never feel alone,” made me laugh. I’d written it in my notes app after being woken up in the middle of the night by some obnoxious car, again!

Did you record/produce the single with anyone else?

Once I had the initial idea for this song, I packed my car up with a few guitars and synths and went to the West Coast to work on it by myself. I spent a few days in a bach by the sea, giving my undivided attention to this song and came back with a fully-fledged demo and finished lyrics. When the lockdown in late 2021 happened, I hunkered down in my home studio and finished the final production. Having all the time in the world to tinker probably played a part in the detailed nature of the production. Once I’d got it to a point where I was done, my friend Brad Banks played a few extra guitar parts, and my friend Andrew Maury recorded the drums in his New Jersey studio and mixed the song.

What would you like listeners to take away from Get Angry?

I hope people listen to this song while they’re in a car or bus somewhere. That’s always what I imagined. It’s a car song. Or an eating breakfast song.

How do you generally determine what song would make a good single?

For me, picking singles usually aligns pretty well with whatever songs are the most captivating or even just the best. I think the role of a single has changed pretty dramatically with Spotify being a thing, and I think it’s opened the parameters up a little bit. I feel like there might be less of a need for things to always be fast, loud, and hook-based now.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I’m releasing my first body of work this year for Goodwill. It’s called ‘In Control’. There are two more singles to follow Get Angry too.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

Three other local tunes that I would love to sit alongside my music would be…

  • Aldous Harding: Party
  • The Clean: Anything Could Happen
  • Marlon WilliamsNobody Gets What They Want Anymore

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

In my experience, good planning prior to applying for NZ On Air funding has always been key. Having a release plan, knowing who’s mixing the song, having a tour planned etc., probably helps to show the panel that you’re serious about your release and that you’ve got great ideas to back up the music.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I’m a big consumer of podcasts, especially music-related ones. I often listen to Hanging out with Audiophiles, Song Exploder, Tape Notes, and Talk House, to name a few. There’s so much I learn from listening to musicians talk about their process or philosophy. I occasionally read Pitchfork, Tone Deaf or similar blogs too.

support nzm