2020 has changed our lives in every way possible and if we’ll ever go back to normal is up to debate. After months of being stuck inside this year has also brought on the epitome of social media culture, we have therefore given Gen Z the power to change the dynamics in the popular music industry. Now, in 2020 we listeners have strayed away from the classification program instilled by industry professionals to filter people through genre. One of the artists that display the combination of several influences and morph it into something new is Landon Fleischman better known under his stage name Boy Willows. He is an artist that lives on the brink of experimental folk and it is his ambiguity and mystery that draws us to his music. His nostalgic yet forward-thinking mind transmits into one of the most interesting sounds 2020 has to offer. In celebration of his latest single release, ‘Fila’, GEM talks with Landon about the impact Covid-19 had on his music, the beauty of haters and the start of his project Boy Willows.
How does your music evolve throughout different projects and did Covid-19 have an influence?
Each release is definitely a snapshot of a specific time in my life. Visually they are quite reflective of how I was feeling. Every song is such a different journey. I would describe my previous work as quite mysterious and a little distant whilst my latest work is probably influenced by Covid indirectly. ‘I Love It When You Talk’ is really the first love song, happy song I have ever released. It’s about the idea of wanting to feel a certain way towards someone, and I think I was maybe influenced by being more isolated than I had been before and daydreaming about this scenario where I love someone.
How did the collab with Dylan Minnette on your latest single Fila come about?
Professionally I do lighting and LED work for other artists so I’ve been doing lighting for Wallows for the last couple of years. Organically all of us became friends, and somehow it came up that I made music and Dylan wanted to hear it, so I gave him an album worth of songs. When he first heard ‘Fila’, it was half a minute, it was supposed to be like a weird interlude thing. Dylan said it had to be longer and eventually really got into the idea.
How was the reaction to the song?
The grant majority of the people have been positive but it’s funny that I’ve also been receiving some bad comments on social media. People have been like “wow must be nice to ride on the coattails of someone else” or “Boy Willows, you’re just copying the name of Wallows”, and I probably could’ve expected it but it’s weird to imagine how people who don’t know the truth of the situation react like this. The song is such a beautiful thing because it resulted from a completely organic relationship with no agenda. At first, I didn‘t enjoy it as much but when I started to look back I realised that I must be seen by a wide enough audience to actually receive some hate. So eventually, it turned out that having haters is a good sign.
How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you or your music?
I would say, picture Nat Wolff. Okay no, the headline would probably be “vulnerable, silly goose”. The first bio I ever gave myself was “music to dance and think to” so right now I would go with “music that touches the intersection of vulnerable and groovy”.
Which moment since you started Boy Willows has had the biggest impact on you?
‘I’m Good’ was the first song I released and within the first few weeks it started to blow up, I suppose. That was the first time any of my songs were recognised as good and that was incredibly impactful. It let me know that I am good enough to have value in people’s eyes. Afterwards, a sense of urgency followed when I went to see an EMT and they told me that I might have lymphoma. Obviously, it ended being okay but that feeling of “I don’t know how long I will have” created a sense of urgency that I still feel. Weirdly enough, my music always gets impacted by sickness.
How does sickness influence your music?
I always tend to write a lot of music when I am sick. Illness always brings my project forward in weird ways. In 2016 I had a horrible case of mono and in one week I wrote three of my favourite songs, ‘Flawlessa’, ‘Shallow Hot Springs’ and ‘What Happens to Light’. When you are sick you are barely able to think which is the best thing that can happen. I sometimes get these horrible headaches and I always make music when I have these headaches because your brain forces you to not think or else you will experience some kind of pain or distress.
Do you create and curate your online presence yourself?
All of it comes from the foundation of the Boy Willows project. My friend Jordan, who is an old childhood friend, helped me in terms of creative development. He suggested the name ‘Boy Willows’ because I always knew it had to include nature and something about my sentimentality and sense of nostalgia of where I grew up. The neighbourhood where I grew up is called the Willows and I feel my most present, my most fulfilled my least anxious when I am in nature. Suddenly all of it just made perfect sense.
How do you try to stand out in a crowd?
I am still trying to figure that out. I’ve always really valued feeling like a unique person and moving to LA from anywhere is always going to be a shell shock, so if I am in a situation where I feel that there’s oversaturation with other people being “But I am also unique”. I resonate to my ability, to be honest in my music. You might not be the loudest voice in the room but you will always find people who pay attention if you are being honest.
Have you always known that you wanted to work in the music industry?
I was always just so inspired as a young kid by the comradery of bands. My main thing has always been being able to connect. I was in tons of different bands growing and the fulfilment I got from seeing people and people seeing me being vulnerable and being celebrated and accepted is just very addicting and super intoxicating. I think a lot of that ended up premeditating my love for music. It was never an option in my mind to do anything else but music.
What is your ultimate goal?
It’s so hard to think forward right now but in an ideal world, the goal would be to have the freedom to pursue every single visual, song, installation, cinema, fashion, to just being able to explore any type of media I can think of. I would also really like to see myself living in this area called Rhinebeck which is in upstate New York, preferably in a nice remodelled farmhouse where I can make as much music as I want and have people be affected by it in some way. I could think of other stuff but all of that would be shallow and just touch the surface level like “oh I want to have so much sick merch and get into fashion and have everyone be into my clothing line” but I think I rather affect people and influence them in being more present.
Text by Lauren Dehollogne
This article was previously published in LDN Magazine.