“It’s been a very long walk” — Will Varley on his journey from the Ginglik to the Empire, and why he’s happy feeling uncomfortable
On February 9, Will Varley will step out onto the stage at Shepherd’s Bush Empire for the biggest show of his career to date.
For the Kent-born folk musician, this is just the latest milestone in a 15-year journey that has it’s roots in a slightly less illustrious venue just the other side of Shepherd’s Bush Green.
He said: “I used to play at the Ginglik on Shepherd’s Bush Green. It was a converted toilet, and it did an open mic night in the basement and I used to play to about four or five people.
“I used to walk past the Empire on the way back to the bus stop and look up at all the big names playing there, and honestly not in a million years did I ever think I’d be playing there.
“For me it never felt like a goal.
“So when I was going to those open mics and playing those songs and having a little fiddle around with some words, it still feels very similar to that, it still feels quite playful.
“At the time I definitely wasn’t thinking, ‘I’m going to play there.’
“It would have been very unfathomable to me to be playing there.
“Now looking back at all these years and all these shows, it definitely feels like that will be quite a moment.
“It’s taken 15 years to get from one side of the green to the other, basically. It’s been a very long walk.
“There’s something quite full-circle about it.”
Currently in the midst of a UK headline tour ending at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, there will be no time for reflection as he then heads off to America in support of cult folk band Skinny Lister, followed by a string of European dates before returning in time for what promises to be a hectic festival season.
Having just released fifth studio album ‘Spirit of Minnie’ which for the first time featured a full backing band, Will appreciates he must continue to push himself creatively.
He said: “When I was writing the songs I could feel with this set of songs that something was missing, I could hear drum parts or bass parts playing the back of my mind so that was an indication.
“It felt like quite an organic step to make, the band is made up of quite good friends of mine and it felt very naturally.
“I hope with this album I’ve moved in some kind of direction from where I was.
“With the band, it feels slightly uncomfortable and I think being slightly uncomfortable is quite a good place. If I can try and stay in a place creatively where I’m quite uncomfortable I’m quite happy with that actually.”
Will plans on taking the same set-up on tour – a marked development for an artist who appears determined to continue evolving.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done a headline tour, obviously I’ve done a lot of festivals and support slots but it’s been a while since I’ve been out on my own and I’m looking forward to it.
“It feels like the stakes are a bit higher because people are there to come and see you.
“Equally I feels slightly more, because people are there to see you, you get a bit longer and you can put slightly more into the show
“This is the first time I’ll be out there with the band and that is quite a big change for me having done the last fifteen years with just a guitar and a pint of beer.
“Other than that it will be hopefully quite similar to what people have seen before, but notched up a level.”
For an artist who admits openly that he cares more about craft than adulation, there are still a few things he’d like to achieve.
Yet for Will, whichever side of the green he ends up, he just plans to keep on making music.
He said: “I’ve never headlined America, so one day that is something I would like to do.
“If you put too much pressure on yourself to do this or that by a certain age, you’ll lose sight of why you’re doing it.
“Ultimately if I get to carry on writing songs and touring and doing this thing then I’m quite happy with that
“Even if people stop coming to the gigs in five years time and I’m back the other side of the road at the Ginglik playing to six people with a new song I’ve been writing, I’ll be okay with that”
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