BY CLAIRE LANTHIER//
With COVID-19 hitting the US, the entire music industry has suddenly been faced with the stop regular touring, performing, and oftentimes recording plans. 17 year old Wim Tapley, a singer-songwriter from Loudon County, Virginia, had plans to travel to Ireland in Summer 2020 to perform for a year while finishing school. When COVID hit, this opportunity disappeared, but this new opportunity to put 100% of his focus on music coupled with an experience performing a virtual gig opened the doors to producing his first album, The Woodlands. While Tapley never expected to be able to produce a full album at this point in his artistic career, the COVID-19 pandemic allowed for him to hone in on his craft and produce this collection of his original songs, providing a fresh and ambitious sound to the world of alternative folk rock and the DMV area. WRGW sat down with Tapley (virtually) to discuss the record, his production process, and what comes next as an artist.
WRGW: So, do you want to start off by telling me a little bit about yourself before I get into my questions I have here?
Tapley: Yeah, so… I am a singer songwriter and I like to be involved in a little bit of everything in the process, so I also like to wear a producer hat, I play most of the instruments on my records and my love is playing live music and gigging around.
WRGW: So that must have made the last six months tough I’m sure
Tapley: Yeah….but gigs are starting to come back
WRGW: Really? Yeah I’ve seen a bunch of drive in gigs happening…have you played in any virtual gigs recently by any chance?
Tapley: Yeah…the reason I was actually able to do the album was because I had a facebook gig…Basically the Pastor at my church has a TV studio in his basement because all of the church stuff is done online…this guy Ken did the sound for me (at the church’s virtual show) — and he had lost all his clients because of the virus — we did all this and made a little money and he said ‘man I really wanna get you this video.’ We cut the first song on the record (Run With It, which is the second track) and from there I kinda slowly brought up the idea of the album and he was into it so we were able to do the whole thing.
WRGW: Oh cool! So you recorded the record in this church studio basement?
Tapley: So we did the live stream gig there, but Ken lives like five minutes away from me so it’s pretty perfect. It was half recorded here in my bedroom, we got rid of my bed and put in a couch and set up a little studio, and half of it was also recorded at Ken’s house so it’s this kind of hybrid produced thing. Ken’s a beast at the mixing and mastering and stuff.
WRGW: Wow that’s awesome.Yeah, so I just wanted to know what your ideas were behind the album — like the name of it, the context that brought it out, you mentioned like, a virtual live stream started that but just your ideas behind creating the album.
Tapley: Yeah, so the album is everything that I’ve written up to this point that I felt was worth releasing. So you know, right now… I have like a whole new, you know, blank canvas where I can just start on doing doing brand new stuff, but I wanted to get all these songs that I’ve been working on in people’s ears, because I’ve been working some of these songs since, you know, my freshman year of high school. It goes into my experience growing up in the burbs around outside of DC…so, you know, there are songs about dealing with mental health. There are songs about, kind of relationship struggles and working through that, and…self image stuff. So I wanted to cover a lot of ground…but also I was really writing what I wanted to write and staying true to myself. The title was inspired by by Firefly Music Festival, because that’s like my favorite place in the world…you know, it’s kind of my number one place where I’m, you know, I’m having a great time…but also it’s like a huge learning experience for me, and I just go and I’m constantly learning from these people playing and it just like really, really fills me up.
WRGW: Awesome, yeah. So, how do you personally feel like, I know you said you’ve been writing the songs for a while, but how do you feel like finishing up the tracks and producing the album like during quarantine affected the end sound of your album, or affected the production process or anything like that
Tapley: Yeah it was an interesting situation because having all of that time to focus on the record enabled me to be, you know, pretty obsessive about it. So I was always just listening to it; every time I get a new demo I’m just thinking how can I spend this? How can I add something new? How can I take something away that’ll actually make it better. And so having all that time, you know, even though the situation in the world is pretty terrible, um, I feel very lucky that it came together the way that it did — both in the way that we were able to make the album and just the time that I was able to spend writing those parts and working with Ken…because I never would have been able to do a full record in that capacity at this point my life without the virus.
WRGW: So which song do you think on the record was the hardest for you to produce? I know you said you played all the instruments yourself.
Tapley: I, you know, there were some songs in the record where I really took risks and I tried to try new things. “The Woodlands” is one of those where I, you know, I’ve always had this dream to have just a bad-ass horn line behind me and so I actually was able to get a hold of some guys that played in my high school marching band. And I got them on the record and I was, you know, sitting in the middle of the night writing horn parts for the first time and just trying to figure it out. It was the same way with, you know, the cello on “Wonderfully Made.” I was trying to, you know, be kind of one foot ahead of where I felt comfortable; I got that from Jimmy Page because he he was always playing, like kind of one step ahead of where he felt his skill level was sitting… And we did some weird stuff, you know, on a prayer. There’s a breakdown where we were just hitting all these random drums and we had reversed symbols and all sorts of stuff. So it really gave me an opportunity to get weird with it and have fun with it.
( one of the 3 horn players sent in recordings that were added in and two were able to record in the studio with the singer and producer )
WRGW: So you briefly touched on this already, but I was just curious, Who do you think your biggest influences are as an artist and who inspires you as a musician?
Tapley: I think that just the amount of musicians that I listen to of all different kinds of genres plays a big part in building…what I could call my sound, because I have…jazz and rock and folk and singer/songwriter music, just all sorts of stuff kind of blending together…There are some key people; Sam Fender was a huge influence for me…writing all of his own stuff, keeping it real. He’s also got a badass saxophone player. I love all of the old school guys. So Led Zeppelin — trying to channel my kind of ‘Guitar Hero-ness’ on some of the tracks. Um, a lot of great great horn lines, like Nathaniel Ratliff has a has a beautiful horn line section. Tom Mesh was huge. He’s awesome with the neo-soul r&b stuff he’s writing and producing. Marcus King is my favorite guitar player…Maggie Rogers. I really look up to her and her costumes. Um, so some people really shape the sound of a record, and then some people like her shape, kind of, you know, where I want to see myself what I want my stage design to look like. Um, you know, people like Bowie and Harry Styles: how I want to present myself.
WRGW: So I know you mentioned like this all started from your church and I read on your Spotify that it’s kind of something that sparks your love for music. So do you think that you have any like, I want to say, gospel music influences or if growing up in that religious background influenced your style at all?
Tapley: Yeah, um, so, you know, I come from a pretty modern church setting… we’re more getting like the, the dry contemporary Christian (instead of gospel music)..there are a couple key worship leaders and people who I really look up to as musicians and as people, and so that played a huge role in my music, and there are religious themes on the record. I wouldn’t call it a Christian record but the the first song “Chokehold” is about…the movie A Star Is Born with Lady Gaga and, you know, I’m not a big crier at all,…. this movie from the beginning, it just made me weep. Yeah, in the theater just weeping and I was like, man, I really, you know, it terrified me for the first time. I can really remember I was like, Man, I’m really scared to do music and go into this volatile industry. Everyone’s getting addicted to stuff and is depressed and it’s like this whole thing. And so “Chokehold” was kind of my way of saying that I’m gonna, you know, cling to God and cling to the community that I’ve built and all this stuff rather than on the more destructive forces within the music industry. same thing on a prayer. “A Prayer” is like, you know, it was about my grandma passing away and it’s structured as a prayer lyrically. So I, you know, I draw at the end of the day, I want to be genuine. And yeah that’s not the biggest theme on the record, but it is a part of my life and I want to present that to people so that they get a, you know, a fuller picture of me as an artist and you know, as a person.
WRGW: So this is like, just way out of my curiosity, if you could choose any artists to perform a show alongside. They can be dead or alive. Anyone you want.
Tapley: Oh, man. Okay. Um, so first I’m saying that I would probably perform in someone else’s band, because I don’t want to compare myself to them. So if I could play in anyone’s band, um, I mean, there are so many I, you know, I’m thinking like James Brown would be really cool, but I know he was an asshole, so maybe not the most fun time. Um, you know, I think that playing with Led Zeppelin would have been cool. I think that, you know, like Van Halen, just something like the wild antics that they would pull. Pink Floyd would be really cool because they started the whole, you know, they changed the way that concerts are conducted for the rest of time with all their lights and visuals and stuff. It would be super cool to be a part of that. You know, most of these bands I would be excited to play with are like dance bands and funk bands.
WRGW: Awesome, great answers. Um, so then this is my last question. Where do you see yourself going next as an artist, any new tracks being made? You said stuff about gigs opening back up? What are your next steps?
Tapley: Yeah, so originally, I was going to move out to Dublin next week, actually. So I was supposed to be there right now and be pursuing music in Ireland and everything. But no, I’m actually super excited. Because what happened instead is I graduated high school early, and now I have a full year where I can do music full time and open a really ramp it up. You know, since I’m at the point where I am now, I don’t really get a fun break after the first album. I’m like, right into the second one…so I’m, you know, writing, producing, recording an album. And, you know, just started writing, I’ve got some songs spinning around.So you can definitely expect more soon.
Listen to “The Woodlands” here!