Will Young heads to Ipswich Regent with an album full of new dance-floor hits
- Credit: Archant
Pop superstar Will Young is enjoying a new sense of freedom and that is reflected in his new album and forthcoming tour, which includes a date at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich.
Will Young is a man of many parts: singer, stage-actor, film star and now he is about to go back out on the road to support his latest album Lexicon, his seventh studio album, which he says has been a labour of love - not a description he would apply to all his earlier efforts, most of which have entailed a fair degree of pain and soul searching to achieve in reality what he heard in his head.
But, changes made in his personal and professional life mean that he is no longer having to second-guess what other people expect from him, he can simply go away, make the record that he wants to make and then let the public decide.
For the love of pop
As a result Lexicon is a happy album and one, he feels, which will transfer well onto the concert stage. "It'll be one big party," he beams.
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He says his new album shares many of the same happy vibes as Echoes, his 2011 release, but has also provided him with a new beginning of sorts.
For the first time, he has no management, having come to the conclusion that authority is not something he thrives upon. "And there has been zero stress," he explains, happily.
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This newfound sense of liberation has reinvigorated his love for pop music and for being a pop star. "This record has been wonderful," says Young. "I always say that there's no point in doing it if it's not joyous. That's been my motto: do it the way you want to do it."
Rather than strike out alone, Young has used his independence to re-cultivate old friendships. He says that Lexicon was born out of a desire to work with friends, producer Richard X and songwriters Mima Stilwell and Jim Eliot, who had worked with him on Echoes.
"Lexicon was recorded as a definite package for a couple of reasons. I had always wanted to do another album with Richard X and with Mima and Jim Eliot. I knew that I had found something special in me when I aligned with those three people. It's all about the people you spark off.
"Also, I knew approaching this one, I knew I didn't want to write as many songs as I usually do. I didn't want that kind of pressure, so I decided we would start collecting songs and by the end we had this collection of about 200 songs from some fantastic pop writers."
He said that it was then a case of deciding on the feel for the album and then going in and recording it fairly quickly as a complete package.
"Apart from knowing I wanted it to be quite electro, mid-tempo and have quite a lot of space in it, I had no real preconceived ideas about what it was going to be like. I wake up on the day and then just start thinking. I believe in the magic of the room and it seems to work for me.
"It's all about having a scrapbook in one's head and that's what all creative people do. You open up your brain and you get to choose from a hundred great thoughts and ideas and you pick the one that is right for a particular time or project. That's the joy of being creative for me, you are never bored."
Acting, dancing and anxiety
Young likes keeping busy, his starring role in the Stephen Frears' film Mrs Henderson Presents, opposite Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, in 2005, was an early indicator he wanted to be challenged by other art forms. He followed this with stage roles in Noel Coward's The Vortex and a West End run and tour in Cabaret.
But, this creative activity, along with maintaining a pop career, came at a cost. In 2016, he had withdrawn from Strictly Come Dancing early in the competition, as a result of anxiety, depression and PTSD. In 2018, he starred in the stage musical version of Baz Lurhmann's Strictly Ballroom in the West End. It all led, slowly but surely, to Lexicon.
He decided it was time for a personal overhaul. He left his record label and shed his old management, preferring to manage his own affairs, He says this left him free to make the album he wanted to make and work with the people he felt were in-tune with his sensibilities.
"The key to any great collaboration is about choosing the right people. I don't go in bossing people about. I want to hear what they have got to say - that's why you chose them, that's why you want to work with them. You have got to give them the freedom to do what they do. You can't be a control freak.
"Having said that if someone suggests something that you feel is wrong, you have to stand your ground but say why, it's not some fancy whim. It's about everyone working together to make the album better. My end goal is always the audience. I am that person in the audience saying: 'entertain me'."
All the Songs
Young says that the new album will be easy to translate on stage because it originally came out of a concert-related conversation.
Work on the album started in earnest in June 2018 as Young emerged from a long run in the West End.
Strictly Ballroom had been a highly regimented affair and the rigid format of it made Young yearn to break the rules, just a bit. "I missed it. So I did a summer gig for a festival, and I decided that I wouldn't do a record, but I'd do a tour. But I needed a song to promote it. So I went back in with Jim and Mima and we wrote All the Songs."
All the Songs, an upbeat, piano-led, dancefloor-tilted heartbreak anthem dedicated to the dangers of musical memories, was intended to be a stand-alone single but then something happened inside Will. "I sent Richard that song and said, shall we just do a record? You just 'know'. You get a feeling."
All the Songs was written as a full-throttle pop song. "Jim and Mima are brilliant at that. It's unashamed pop. It was a slightly different style for me, a lot of words in the verse, a bit more talky. It's conversational, and I like that."
He also likes the sound that Richard X has come up with for the album. "I revel in the music. I listen to what Richard's done and he's got such good taste. I've been driving along listening to the record, to work out the running order, and I realised that I would listen to this record! And I would love it. As you get older, you get more confident. Also, what's the point in trying to be someone else? Just do what you want to do. It's been about enjoyment the whole way, and I suppose that's the over-arching theme."
Mixing the old with the new
He's also looking forward to playing the new songs live.
"I love melancholy mid-tempo electro-pop, and Jim and Mima have got the most incredible rhythm. I call them flowy songs. They're slightly offbeat. A bit like old Sugababes pop songs, you know when you're just in the flow? I could sing those songs every day of the week."
He went back to mate Eg White, for Get Me Dancing, and the wry, poetic I Bet You Call. "It's a brilliant pop song," says Young. "It's bit Imogen Heap. It's one of my favourites Eg can really get your heart. I'm looking forward to singing that one live. There's something very special about when something clicks creatively, and I have always connected with his songs, always."
On the tour Young is going to mix Lexicon in with a spread of past hits. "It all comes back to the audience. If your fans have lived a song for 18 years, then I am always going to play that song. I think that's really important - it's a shared heritage - it's how I connect with my fans."
An Evening with Will Young comes to the Ipswich Regent on Saturday, October 5.