In February this year Will Philips, aka Tourist, released his second album ‘Everyday’. Stuffed full of twinkling electronics and woozy synths, the lush record is brimming with life, and contains some of the 32-year-old’s most honest lyrics and stunning music yet.
Since it dropped he’s been touring relentlessly (including his biggest headline show ever at London’s EartH in March this year), but has now come face to face with a fairly quiet festival season. With some breaks in his schedule, is it now time for a break? Well, yes and no.
“I’ve been writing my new album ever since I finished my last one,” Will says on the phone from a holiday he’s on with his wife. And that is due out later this year. Being able to constantly release music is something Will is passionate about. “Releasing an album every five years is not the one for me, because it doesn’t feel fresh,” he says. “I want to do it yearly.”
He adds: “None of my albums are going to change the world, I’m just grateful to be able to put them out, and I want to keep building a catalogue. Fleetwood Mac’s biggest album was number 11, ‘Rumours’. I think what I want is that catalogue. Maybe my 15th album will be the really big one.”
Until then, his stellar collection of releases as Tourist will more than suffice. Since emerging in 2012 with his first EP, ‘Tourist’, the south Londoner has released four EPs and two albums of shimmering, jubilant electronic music. In the past he’s collaborated with musicians like Years & Years and Lianne La Havas, and co-written songs with the likes of Sam Smith (he won a Grammy for ‘Stay with Me’).
But now he’s enjoying writing his own music, and his two most recent songs ‘Elixir’ and ‘Bunny’ are “my favourite things I’ve done in quite a long time”. Which leads us nicely to a question that’s begging to be asked…
Why is ‘Bunny’ called ‘Bunny’?
“Bunny is my nickname for my wife, which is where that came from, it’s a term of endearment. I’m trying to make music about being in love.”
How did she react when she heard it?
“She loved it. And she loves rock music, so she’s not a huge fan of electronic stuff, it’s not really her spirit. But for her to tell me she loved it, it was like wow! It’s a bit cheesy, but who cares.”
What’s your new album going to be like?
“The opposite of ‘Everyday’. I want it to be this sonic world that can mean anything to anyone, which is really inspired by my current life. It’s my psychedelic-y album, tripped out and blissed out. Maybe a bit similar to my first EP, ‘Tourist’. It’s a being in love dance album.”
‘Everyday’ is mostly instrumental, with a few words here and there. How do you pick which words are included?
“An interesting problem I have is often people don’t really know the context of how the albums are written and what they’re about. Which is why I think it’s important to pick words carefully. In electronic music that doesn’t have featured vocals, it’s really important that you put words in there that are actually meaningful or relevant.”
In ‘Emily’, from ‘Everyday’, the opening lyrics (“And there’s just days when you wake up and you just wish/At the end of the day, you hadn’t/Because you hadn’t done anything that hasn’t just been a trial”) relate to mental health. Was it important to include lyrics like that on the record?
“I found this quote, and it was just this chap talking about days when you wake up, and you get to the end of the day and you’ve done nothing and it feels like it’s been a trial. And I really liked that sentiment. We always have that expectation that we should be happier, we should be sadder, but sometimes you need to embrace the fact that sometimes you’ve got to live in this strange mediocre middle of the road place, that maybe we should embrace and not fight against. Emily is my big sister. And she’s had a tough time recently, and I guess that’s my brotherly… gift. I don’t know if it’s a gift, I don’t know if she liked it a lot, but you try and make things for people and that was for her.”
Did anybody reach out and say I can really relate to that song?
“Lots and lots of people said that. It’s nice when you make something and you feel like it’s been received in the way that was intended.”
Looking to the future – what’s one big thing you want to achieve in your career?
“I think the point of music is conversation, as it’s an innately human thing to try and communicate without words. Or with different words and a different palette of language. I think the idea that I would speak to somebody in a way that I didn’t really intend, through music, is literally the point of it for me. That’s the only reason I ever do it.”
Have you experienced this when listening to music yourself?
“Yeah – I know how it feels to listen to a song for the first time and be like, “Oh my god, this really, really spoke to me. I felt like this person knows me.” And how the hell would Royksopp know who I am, as a 10 year old kid listening to their music? Or Massive Attack? I felt like I had a personal relationship with them and they brought out parts of me I didn’t realise existed, because of music. If I’ve done that to anyone, I’ve already won.”
Tourist’s next album will be out later this year. ‘Bunny’ is out now.