Reviews Zone

Will Whisson: Nowhere Bound EP (self-released) 30th October 2017



5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)



There’s a bit of a story behind how I first discovered this guy. It involves a backstage VIP toilet and the awning of a tent, late one night last May!

I had a chance chat with a guy who looked like a musician, as we were both leaving the loo! He tells me he is there to do various acoustic spots that weekend, and later that night was due to perform a “thank you” mini-gig for the guys and gals who run the merchandising tent at this groovy little festival we were both at.

The  merch’ chaps had managed to get his old band in to perform at that same Derbyshire festival previously, and had done the same again this year for Will as a solo act. So he’d set up his gear in the rear of their merch’ tent, and was all set to give them and some of the main stage crew a treat, when they’d all done for the day.

Will invited me to give him a listen. I have to say, his sound took me by surprise. I expected a bog standard singer songwriter with an acoustic guitar, delivering a perfectly pleasant set of songs, and me leaving after one or two. But I stayed for the whole thing and really wanted to know more about this guy.

He really was superb. Using loops and possessing a real virtuoso skill on guitar. His voice is fabulously addictive, he has an inviting personality where you feel you’d probably like to hang out with him, and he has some very strong self-penned material. This is real talent, and a virtually undiscovered one at that.

He’s 29, looks about 18, born in Kent, raised abroad, eventually returning to the UK; living in London for a few years before him and his partner Kate quit their jobs and hit the road in a camper van. To pursue his dream of being a full-time musician and songwriter. He built a profile across nine countries in a year, since his nomadic adventure began in the summer of 2016. Also embarking on a 15-date UK tour in the summer of this year.

His rootsy sound nods to the likes of John Butler and Jack Johnson, and such guys as John Mayer and Ben Howard. With a Dylan-esque emphasis in his lyrics, and a percussive element to his playing, his material is melodic, meaningful and engaging.

Will played guitar in his former band Electric River, but he didn’t sing. The band’s one commercial release, “The Faith & The Patience”, met with acclaim from the music media, and sold well. It landed them tours and festivals before they split at the end of 2015. He hadn’t given up on a life in music though, so he took singing lessons and grabbed his guitar, penned new songs and off he went busking and solo gigging around Europe in the summer of 2016. Organically growing a fan-base and blagging gigs as he went along. All venues wanting him back.

Recording and releasing his debut EP “Age Of Wonder” in September last year. Produced by Brett Shaw (Jess Glynne, Florence and the Machine) and songs based around embracing change and overcoming uncertainty. To know he did 80 gigs in nine countries in 11 months, shows this guy is pretty determined to get his music heard.

His voice is warm, with a timbre and breathy tone similar to the great Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. He spent 10 years with his band, and their longest period on the road was three weeks at a time. He’s been on the road in that old camper van now for around 16 months. His travels playing gigs, busking and flogging his EP, have not been without drama and stress. The camper van has broken down a fair few times and drained the funds again and again to keep the show on the road.

But he’s managed to save some pennies to fund his latest EP release, “Nowhere Bound”, which he has self-released to sell at gigs and from his website. Four self-penned songs for the digital release and a deluxe seven track physical CD. I only have access to the four tracks at this time, and have not been told what the other three tracks are on the physical CD. Produced by Peter Miles (Dry The River, Lonely the Brave, Andreas Moe).

The full version of the title track opens proceedings, and is also the first single from the release. The music video for the track was shot immediately after the studio session, and saw Will ride a bike 450 miles (the length of England), raising over £2000 for Cancer Research.

“Nowhere Bound” weighs in at six minutes and 39 seconds long, as the impressive opener. It kicks off with some atmospheric, distorted, isolated guitar, before the crisp snare drum signals the start of the groove, and some very sweet guitar licks. Will picks up the vocal at one minute and 57 seconds in. He has a slight Labi Siffre meets Cat Stevens vibrato to his vocal, and a lovely timbre.

The song is wonderful and the  simplicity of the vocal, electric guitar, drum and subtle bass lines, along with the crystal clear production, sucks you in. The tone on that electric guitar – and I am always loathe to mention the “T” word on reviews, because I am not a guitar anorak and when they bang on about gear and tone it sends me to sleep – is most definitely worth credit here.

He never overplays, and those brush strokes and that colour he paints on the palette, with restrained licks is quite something. Will has his own style on guitar, for sure. The track leads into some acoustic strumming a bit later. The backing vocals are really cool and add value. The track builds in intensity and is a really commercial sound without being too poppy.

His guitar skills are top end. But the anthemic feel to this track is to be admired, and should be heard far and wide. An outstanding piece of work and a credit to the producer for allowing the song to stand on its own two feet, without throwing too much at it in terms of instrumentation.

The second cut, “Little Island” is so beautiful. His vocal is sensitive and at the same time, urgent. A slight Celtic flavour perhaps. The backing vocals again, icing on the cake. A super piece of song writing.

“Start” showcases his percussive and deft skills on guitar. A mesmerising, almost aboriginal rhythm and core riff. A bit like early solo Peter Gabriel. Another commercial cut and could do well for radio, this one. Love the sentiment in the final line of lyric: “To get to where you want, you got to start”. Yep, indeed.

“The Wayward Slope” has a country core to it, and if you told me Dolly P. wrote it, I’d believe you. I don’t have any credits for the backing vocals, so it could be Will multi-skilling, or someone else. Apologies if it is, and I cannot name check them for a great job.

Will is touring the UK and Ireland over the autumn in support of his new release. Well worth the ticket and an evening of your time. See you there…



By Simon Redley




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