Westerly musician Will Evans has been keeping himself busy over the past few months. He’s been livestreaming from home and performing socially-distanced shows all over New England. He’s also recently released a new song and took part in a local video series. On top of that, he has a new EP coming out next month. During this age of COVID-19, it’s important to keep the creative juices flowing, and Evans has definitely been maintaining them.
We recently had a talk about the adjustments he’s had to make during this crazy year, taking an influence from a certain style of music, making a couple of hikers dance during a video shoot and what he hopes people can take from his next record.
Rob Duguay: As a full-time musician, what would you say is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make because of COVID-19?
Will Evans: Basically, having to figure out an alternate revenue source and sort of an alternate identity I guess. I think so many musicians who tour frequently, during the time that passes when you’re stagnant, you begin to realize that it’s time to go back on the road. There’s this internal clock that signals when it’s time to go back on tour because we’re used to traveling a lot during the spring and summer, then there’s the fall and downtime for a couple months during the winter. Then it starts up again, but with this year there’s not a lot of moving around and it certainly has taken some getting used to. I also became a father to a wonderful daughter just over a year ago, so to be honest the timing has been pretty ideal.
I’ve been around to help raise her with my wife and truly see her grow for the first year or so. I’m looking for the silver lining in all of this, there’s a lot of good things that have come out of it. I’ve also had time to really focus on songwriting and the craft, but it has been a challenge to not do what it is we normally do.
RD: It’s affected everything, but it’s good that you’re seeing the silver linings. I’m trying to do the same while counting my blessings with everything going on in my life while hoping for the best for everyone around me in my community. I can totally relate to how you feel that way. Back in September, you released the single “Lean In” and there’s a big reggae vibe within the song. Who or what inspired you for this vision when you were writing the song?
WE: I wrote that song while on the road during the spring of last year. I was touring with Trevor Hall at the time, I was part of his band while opening a lot of shows for him. We were playing all of these reggae festivals and I’ve always loved reggae music, but in that particular song I went for this Cali reggae style production. Artists like Slightly Stoopid and my friends The Elovaters, the latter who are from the South Shore of Massachusetts, have made really fierce headway and I listen to a lot of their music. I just wanted to see if I could do something in that style and create a deep reggae song. I usually dabble in acoustic-based songs that are kind of a mix of folk and roots rock, but with this I went all in with a club reggae vibe and it was really fun to try.
RD: It’s a fun track to listen to as well, it’s very uplifting.
RD: No problem. You also released a music video for “Full Moon Flow” on Nov. 5 that was filmed at Ninigret Park in Charlestown as part of The Summer Swell. The song has you playing the hang drum and didgeridoo while creating this incredible dynamic between the two instruments. How long have you been each playing the hang drum and didgeridoo for? Did you start playing them both at the same time or did you pick up one instrument before the other?
WE: I got my first didgeridoo in 2006 when I was studying abroad in New Zealand. I did some backpacking in Australia while I was down there and I became really interested in Aboriginal art and history along with the music. It took me over the next year or two to get the hang of it, especially when it came to figuring out the circular breathing technique. I’ve had didgeridoos for a while and I’ve been playing them for over 10 years now, it’s fun trying to incorporate the instrument into my music. I got the hang drum last winter and it kind of turned into a pandemic project.
I figured that if I was going to be stuck at home, then I might as well invest in a new instrument and incorporate it into my live show somehow. I’ve only been playing it for around six months, but I have a drumming background so it came pretty quickly to get in tune with the instrument. I love how it interacts with the didgeridoo, it’s a very powerful sound, so I just wanted to record a jam in a beautiful setting. The guys who do The Summer Swell are out of Narragansett and they’re really great filmmakers, so they filmed me for three songs in Ninigret Park and “Full Moon Flow” is one of them.
RD: For these videos, how difficult was it to try to find an ideal filming spot? You’re in the marshy area of the park so were you avoiding puddles of water while you were walking around? Did it get any treacherous for you?
WE: We kind of scoped it out and found a good location. We had all of the gear to bring with us so we had to truck some stuff from the parking lot but it wasn’t too far. We just wanted to try to avoid large groups of people because of COVID-19 and we didn’t really want any people in the videos. I think in one of them, there’s a couple of hikers that were passing by who are dancing in the background of the video because they heard the music and they were jamming out.
RD: That’s cool.
WE: Yeah, otherwise the guys involved in The Summer Swell did all of the reconnaissance to find an ideal location to shoot.
RD: “Full Moon Flow” and the other songs from that shoot are also going to be part of The Summer Swell EP that’s due out on Dec. 4. What can people expect to take from the record after they listen to it?
WE: All of this music has been written very recently and it’s been inspired by the events of this pandemic and this new reality we are living in. I want people to feel that energy through the music and interpret it however they want. One of the songs called “Rogue” is about this whole situation being a beautiful mess and the idea of what we were talking about earlier, looking for the silver linings in this mess that we’re in. Trying to focus on the positive and learn from this experience, because it’s unlike anything anyone has ever been through. Hopefully we can find ways to come out of this thing as better people while being kind and understanding.
Hopefully people can feel some joy after listening to the EP; that’s what I strive for. It’s definitely a reflection of the times.