Willow has opened up about the impact of the success of her debut single ‘Whip My Hair’, which peaked at Number Five in the US charts when it was released in 2010.
The musician, who spoke to NME for the latest Big Read cover interview, said that the gruelling press cycle and attention that arrived right at the start of the career made her question her path in music.
In 2011 she supported Justin Bieber on the UK leg of his ‘My World’ tour but wanted to drop out of the upcoming Australian dates, with reports that she walked off stage in Dublin.
She told her dad, the actor and musician Will Smith, that she was done. After Will refused to let his daughter back out of the commitment, the then-aged 11-year-old Willow shaved her head in protest. It would be another three years until she released new music.
“I was extremely done with music after that. I tried to do so many other things. I didn’t make music for a whole year, which is insane for me,” she told NME.
“I wanted to do other things to figure out if music was the real deal or not. But it just stuck, man. It would not go away. It’s like music was saying, ‘I’m in your mind and in your heart; your forever roommate. You could write a book if you want, but it’s not going to be your main thing. You’re not going to leave me behind and be an author.’
She continued: “I definitely could do both, and that’s going to happen soon – but still: music has my heart. She’s got me by the ovaries.”
Elsewhere in the Big Read interview Willow spoke about her mother’s experiences of racism in the music industry.
Willow recalled being introduced to the rock world by watching her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, play live shows in the heavy metal band Wicked Wisdom. However, she also witnessed her mother being subjected to racist and sexist abuse.
“She showed me what being a woman is really all about,” Willow told NME. “There are literally no words to describe having to get up in front of people who literally hated her, every night. She did it with such grace and power. And at every single show, she won them over.
“By the end of the show, the people who were calling her racial slurs and throwing things at her were like, ‘Actually, they kinda went off’. That made it really worth it.”
Willow, who has experienced anxiety in her life, also told NME about how important it is for her to use her voice to help others.
“A lot of people might think, because I have resources or am supported in so many ways, that those things [mental health issues] don’t come into account. But we all feel lonely. We all feel like we don’t have a purpose. We all need to find the reason to get up everyday and continue. I want people to know that we all feel that. As humans, I hope we can connect on that and be kinder to one another and more understanding,” she said.
“Even if my music was trash and I wasn’t talented at all, I would 100 per cent still want to have the content of self-love, love for the planet, love for each other and unconditional compassion,” she added. “That’s so important to me.”
In other news, Willow plays a one-off London show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom this Thursday (December 9) in support of her new album.