The 22-year-old New-York based singer-songwriter, Chris Wills, will be releasing his six-song EPThis Place Ain't For Me on Aug.11. The EP was produced by acclaimed and Grammy-nominated engineer Koby Hass, who's known for his work with Rihanna, Paul Simon, Lady Gaga and many others. Wills' single Please Don't Turn Out My Light” was the featured song in the 2016 Coca-Cola and Regal Films program grand-prize winning film "Blindfold." Before going solo, Wills played guitar and sang in a number of rock and and blues bands. He decided to go solo when he was 19, and it has paid off well for him.
Will is premiering his single, "Since You Said Goodbye," featured on his upcoming EP, exclusively with AXS, and decided to chat about the song itself, the process of working with director Ameer Kazmi and how he felt about the video overall. Watch the exclusive video premiere in the music box at the top of this article.
AXS: Tell us about the song. What is it about and what prompted you to write it?
Chris Wills: I went to see a friend of a friend play at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. I’ve never heard him play before, and I remember it was very loud before the show began, even for the small room where stage 3 is. People were talking and drinking as he stepped onto the stage, then bam! He started belting out the most beautiful song. The room went still, completely transfixed by the sound of his pleading vibrato. For a moment, I was lost too. Lost in his lyrics. He was singing of a lost love with a confident vulnerability in a way I’ve never heard. I couldn’t believe he felt comfortable sharing these details, with so much angst, to a room full of strangers.
I realized that besides the obvious beauty of his song and voice, the reason I was transfixed was because I wasn’t being honest with myself about my own relationship. I was stuffing my feelings down and pretending they didn’t bother me because I thought it was uncool. But when I heard his song it felt so good to express these feelings even in a vicarious way. Then that thing got into me where I think there might be a song coming. I woke up the next day ready for it but the problem was that now it was Christmas Eve. I was with my family and had to be attentive and social! Long story short, I couldn’t avoid the feeling and I disappeared into my room and wrote the song. Everyone was pretty angry with me, but I think they get it now! (Laughs).
AXS: Whose idea was the video treatment? What story did you want to tell with this video?
CW: This was Ameer’s idea! We wanted to do something bigger than the average DIY music video that so many people expect from an artist’s first release. So being that this project would be people’s first exposure to our work, we wanted to set the precedent that we like to do things with intention and avoid just blending in. We both wanted it to be dramatic on the visual side and challenging on the technical side. Meaning, if he came up with something that wasn’t hard to organize and didn’t make us nervous about attempting, then we didn’t have the final treatment. With that in mind, and the back story of my past relationship, Ameer went off, did his thing, and I love what he came up with!
AXS: Where did you film the clip? Are those real friends of yours or actors?
CW: Those are my real friends who happen to be great actors! Everyone involved, including the crew and director, are all friends. That’s how we did the whole project! Just kids in our early 20s and late teens trying to make a cool video! But we shot this in two locations. The house party, where you can see me performing, was shot at the Director of Photography’s house in New Jersey (Alex Echevarria). And the the pool party and the underwater scene were shot in New Jersey too but at a friend of the producer’s house. (Lizz Astor)
AXS: How do you think the video turned out overall? Does it fit the song the way you wanted it to? How so?
CW: I love it! I think everyone did such great job and I love the final film! All the technical, behind-the-scenes stuff, went really well also. The underwater camera operator (Anthony Carella) must have been in the cold water with Annie Unger and I for hours trying to get some of the shots! (Annie played my ex-girlfriend by the way.) But I think the film starts to really make sense towards the end when we see a new connection forming between myself and a girl at the party. If you noticed, the girl who swam underneath me during the opening scene of the video, played by Adriana Santos, is the same girl that I end up holding hands with at the end of the video. It’s a nice touch that Ameer came up with that really helps to convey the message and overall purpose for the song.
AXS: What's your favorite part of the video - favorite shot or favorite scene?
CW: Definitely the underwater sequence, but for two reasons. One I love what it represents. I can’t stand seeing my ex-girlfriend with another guy (played by Kordell Pritchard) so I disappear physically underwater. But then like a dream-state, the underwater environment becomes my subconscious. Annie swims up to me wrapped gracefully in fabric, she grabs me tight and pulls me close to her, we lock eyes, but then right when I’m at the height of a torturous ecstasy, she wraps me in her fabric and pushes me away. I become tangled and sink to the bottom of the pool as I try to free myself.
Besides that being thematically interesting, I just think it’s very symbolically cool! Secondly, and it’s a more technical reason why I love this scene, but it’s one thing to have the idea and it’s another thing to actually execute it. Everything done from the lighting to the post production coloring done by Rony Portillo, looks and feels amazing. Again, I only mention all of this because it’s not like I hired an established director and said “Go for it!” The majority of people were essentially college students, my friends, and friends of friends. We were able to bind together over a common goal, organize, budget effectively and create a great music video! Everyone executed and rose to the occasion which I love and can’t wait to keep making more stuff!
Keep up with Chris and his upcoming tour by checking out his website here.