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Sep19
2019

Pages: An Interview with William Black

By To Write Love on Her Arms

William Black is an LA-based producer and DJ. His songs touch on important topics including depression, addiction, love, and loss. These songs feature his signature soundscape of beautiful uplifting melodies with passionate singers. These qualities allowed his 2018 debut EP, “Universe”, to climb the iTunes Dance Charts to #1. 2019 finds William Black continuing to push the boundaries of dance music by creating nostalgia through sound on his newly released album “Pages” (listen now on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud).

TWLOHA had the honor of talking with William about his new music and personal journey with mental health. 

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TWLOHA: For our supporters who might not be familiar with you or your music, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?

WILLIAM: My name is William Black! I’m a dance music producer from LA. I tend to write music about things I’ve gone through in my life. Most often the topics involve my journey with addiction and mental health.

TWLOHA: What has your mental health journey involved? What types of struggles have you faced?

WILLIAM: I’ve struggled with addiction and depression since a pretty young age.  I just wanted to fit in and for people to like me. The first time I did drugs was because some friends were doing them and, as cheesy as it sounds, I wanted them to think I was cool. I realized that I didn’t feel so bad about myself when I was high. I’ve had depression as far back as I can remember but getting high was the first thing that seemed to genuinely make that go away temporarily. It was like a huge weight off my shoulders. Getting high went from being fun to a necessity to feel okay in my own skin, I began using anything I could to medicate. In high school, my using accelerated rapidly and my life got to such a low point that I needed to make a change. When I was 18 I made the decision to get sober and I’m coming up on seven years clean and sober. I still struggle with depression, but now I luckily have tools and a support system to prevent me from going back to how dark my life used to be.

TWLOHA: What do those tools and that support system consist of?

WILLIAM: For me what works are prayer, meditation, staying honest with my friends, & helping others. Anything I can do to get out of my own head and help another person always makes me feel better. My support system is ultimately my friends and family. I know they always have my back and my best interests in mind so it’s easier to tell them if I’m not doing well.

TWLOHA: How did creating and working on your debut album help you explore and perhaps even overcome or make peace with those challenges?

WILLIAM: Writing Pages allowed me to voice things I’ve gone through and continue to go through. A lot of the songs are about topics that I normally wouldn’t share with the public. I felt like it was my duty as an artist to talk about those experiences and hopefully it helps even one person have the courage to talk to someone about theirs. My experience has been that talking with others honestly is the first step towards recovery and so this album is important to me.

TWLOHA: The vocalists you collaborate with on “Pages” all have their own first-hand experience with mental illness as well. What was it like working with others on such a vulnerable topic?

WILLIAM: It was such an incredible experience. Going into it I wasn’t sure how comfortable the writers/vocalists would be with talking about the topics I wanted to discuss. It really showed me that EVERYONE has gone through tough experiences. I’ve been sober for a while and I was surprised to find out, yet again, that none of us are as alone as we think. All the artists I worked with were so vulnerable and it really shows on the album. Even luckier for me is that this process created some strong honest friendships.

TWLOHA: You seem motivated to help others feel less alone in their struggles with your music, were there other musicians that did that for you when you were younger?  If so, what was their lasting inspiration on your sound and goals as an artist? 

WILLIAM: Yeah, definitely! I listened to a lot of rock & pop punk growing up. Bands like Sum 41, Linkin Park & Blink 182 really helped me at a young age to feel less alone. That was a feeling I wanted to share with others through my own project. When it comes to dance music I’d say Above & Beyond, Seven Lions & Skrillex were my big three. I am definitely inspired by all of them and think they have helped mold the who I’ve become as an artist. I remember the first time I heard Seven Lions specifically and he was making emotionally-charged music you could party to. That experience was what made me really consider becoming a professional artist for the first time. I want to be like all these guys though, they all write meaningful music and seem to really care about their fans.

TWLOHA: Is there a specific track on the album that you’re particularly proud or appreciative of?

WILLIAM: That’s a hard one. I feel like every song is special to me. One of the first songs I wrote on the album, that kind of sparked the whole idea for it, was “Drown The Sky.” RØRY (Roxanne Emery) reached out to me and sent me the vocal. She had no idea I was sober or what I had gone through. The song is about the moment before wanting to make a change and stop using. I instantly connected with it and knew that the song was going to be really special.  She had recently gotten sober and it felt like fate for us to work on it together. I’m really proud of that song and what we were able to make together.

TWLOHA: Can you describe what that moment—when you decided to stop using—looked like for you? What led to that decision?

WILLIAM: It was a pretty dark time in my life. I had just gotten out of the hospital for having a seizure from withdrawals. I was looking at myself in the mirror and couldn’t recognize the person I became. When you know you’re doing wrong but still continuing to do the same actions is a nightmare that I, like so many others, was trapped in. I was scared, miserable, and lost. My parents were begging me to get help and so I made the decision to go to rehab the next day.

TWLOHA: How has that change made a difference in your personal life?

WILLIAM: My life flipped completely around. I no longer have to rely on drugs to feel okay, my parents trust me and people confide in me for advice. These things were unthinkable when I was using. I also have a much better view of myself. Every day isn’t perfect, but I don’t hate myself every moment of the day anymore. I know I have worth and that my life isn’t meaningless. I also have the freedom to be myself and pursue the things that I’ve always dreamed of.

TWLOHA: Outside of music, how do you care for your mental health?

WILLIAM: I have a daily routine I try my best to stick to. The biggest things for me are staying honest with others, gratitude, prayer, and meditation. I’m so grateful I have a solid support group of friends who I can go through anything with. They want what is best for me and they will call me out if they see me slipping into bad behavior. Through everything, my parents and sister have also been super supportive. I owe them so much.

TWLOHA: Do you have any advice for someone who might be nervous or uncomfortable about the idea of being so honest and vulnerable with another person?

WILLIAM: Society wants you to think being tough and keeping your feelings suppressed make you a strong person. I think that being vulnerable and putting yourself out there is the strongest thing you can do as a person. It shows that you are comfortable with yourself and aren’t afraid to ask for what you want or need to feel okay. I can see just how much I have grown as a person since letting people in and sharing how I felt, especially when I’m feeling down and depressed. We are all people and none of us are honestly that different, don’t let your head keep you sick. You deserve friends, opportunity, love, dreams, and all the same as any other person.

TWLOHA: What would you say to someone who is in the midst of a struggle?

WILLIAM: I would tell them to reach out and talk to someone immediately. I used to feel like I was a burden on people and they wouldn’t want to listen. That was all in my head, there are so many people who love me and care about me. I would also say, as cliche as it may sound, that everything always works out if you put in the effort. Sometimes it feels like my world is crumbling around me, but as long as I talk to someone about it and be honest my headspace changes.

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Descriptions from William himself on each new song from “Pages”:

Pages (Intro) – I wanted to set the mood for what this album is about from my perspective.  It’s happy even though a lot of the content is sad because I’m happy for what I’ve been through and get to share with you all.

Ruins – Since I was young I have had an ongoing struggle with depression and not feeling good enough despite all the good around me. It set the stage for decisions I’ve made throughout my life.

I’m Fine – I often pretend I’m doing really well to those around me even though on the inside I feel truly terrible. There is a certain delusion with addiction that says everything is OK even though it’s not.

Dying Day – Before I got sober I reached this point where I had a true love/hate relationship with drugs. Dying Day is about the decision to keep returning to something I kind of knew that I no longer wanted.

Never Be The Same – In the late days of my active addiction, I had an ongoing feeling that I couldn’t go on living this way any longer. This is a prayer for anything to change so that maybe something could be better.

I’m Sorry (Interlude) – Past the pain I caused myself, I had deep shame for how I treated my family and the people I loved. Words can’t describe the intensity of those feelings so I tried to show it the only way I knew how.

Drown The Sky – In the final moments of my using, I was finally ready to make a change. “Drown The Sky” is about that one moment after reaching bottom where I was ready to take a chance on really living life.

Back Together – After a lifetime of self-loathing and confusion I had to learn to love myself, despite everything I’d been through and done. It’s about the steps I had to take to reach that place.

Deep Blue – I reached a place where I realized I was worthy of love and happiness. This song is about the first time I met that person I was able to be honest and vulnerable with.

Miss It – Reminiscing on someone you loved and missing them—it didn’t work out but you’re glad it happened. For me, this is about my past. There are times I do miss the fun I used to have, but I don’t miss the insanity or harm caused. I am grateful for all I’ve been through because it’s given me all I have now, which I’m lucky enough to share with you all.

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