Music interview '“ Westerman: '˜I prefer to work on feel'

Will Westerman is a young London-based singer-songwriter who has caused a quiet stir with a couple of electronic EPs that fuse influences from Arthur Russell to Neil Young.

Westerman. Picture Jamie Sinclair

He spoke to us ahead of his gig at Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds on October 16.

You began your musical career in more of an acoustic vein. At what point did your songs start to shift in a more electronic direction? Did it happen as other influences started to creep in?

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I had never recorded properly until I made the first EP. That process opened up a new way of looking at how you can present what you are trying to express. It wasn’t so much a conscious thing as just realising different possibilities and the start of a continuing process of better understanding space and colour in music.

Do you feel your songs still have to stand up on an acoustic guitar for them to really work for you? Or has that become less of concern the more you have gone on experimenting?

The songs need to stand up with a single instrument accompaniment, definitely. I think there’s an argument that they should stand up a capella! I have some things I’m working on which are less in the form of traditional song and are more pieces of music. That’sdifferent – but the songs should stand up without the other elements. It’s a good acid test.

You were once a chorister. Are you still drawn to classical and ecclesiastical music? And what did you learn from a more formal style of composition?

I like harmony a lot, and I’m interested in counterpoint. I think a lot of the principles from classical music are transferrable. I don’t know if I learned much from formal composition as my theory is useless and I have always played or sung by ear. I believe thinking too much about formal music when creating it can be quite stifling. I prefer to work on feel.

Why do think you’ve become more lyrically direct in songs such as Confirmation and Edison?

I think it’s through growing more confident in my own voice.

There’s a real sense of space in your most recent single, Easy Money. Have you come to value minimal arrangements?

I have been working to those principles for the past year or so. I definitely don’t adhere to the notion that bigger is better. I think it can be bolder and more emotionally true to let fewer chosen elements breathe properly. I enjoy maximalist music too though, I would go there if it felt right for the material.

How close are you to completing your first album and are the songs united by any particular themes?

It’s going quite well. I am in a good place with it. It should be done next year. I hope that there will be distinctive strains in it both lyrically and musically. I don’t want to give too much away as it’s still in process. Let’s see!

Westerman plays at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds on October 16.