“I don’t really think of myself as an artist, I just think of myself as a guy who tries to express himself.”

Music

9.19.2017

Tourist Talks "We Stayed Up All Night" & What Inspires Him to Carry on

William Phillips is a tough love kind of guy; he credits completing Tourist’s first debut album—which was years in the making—with simply “just getting on with it, in the studio, and working as hard as you can.” Now, U has been out for an entire year, and time has allowed Phillips the perspective to look back on Tourist, how he’s grown as an artist, and speed up his own creative process—lucky for us, he wants to be a bit more prolific in the future.

His next album may not be on the horizon just yet, but Phillips says he’s feeling inspired, and that leaves us in anticipation for what’s to come. While we wait, the artist (or shall we say, “guy trying to express himself”—he shrugs off the former moniker) has released a little treat to tide us over: new visuals for “We Stayed Up All Night.” It’s a dreamy, narrative-heavy vid that embodies everything we love about a youthful all-nighter that never wants to end, and it’s exactly what you would expect from a musician who prides himself in his commitment to authentic creativity above all else. Watch it below, then keep scrolling for our full interview with the Londoner whose making waves both stateside and across the pond. Oh, and make sure to cop tickets for his stateside shows, while you’re at it—he’ll be in San Francisco on September 23, San Diego on September 24, and Los Angeles on September 27.

I was just watching the video for “We Stayed Up All Night”—it’s lovely.

Oh thank you. Yeah, the guy who directed it did a really wonderful job. He was really talented, and it was nice to work with a director who was quite headstrong, he would be like, “No, this is how I want it to be,” and it’s nice when people really have their own vision and are unwavering in it. So it was good, because I think it turned out for the better.

Right, do you usually have people just agreeing with everything you say?

[Laughs] Well, it’s definitely nice to be told “No” sometimes, actually. Sometimes the control freak in me comes out but it’s cool to just let creative people be creative, and that video is kind of a summation of me sort of relinquishing a bit of control. I trusted the guy and I think he did a really good job, so yeah I’m glad you liked it.

Yeah, just bringing it to life visually, was it a really collaborative thing or did you have a vision for the video before you started?

Well, I knew that it had to involve movement, because I think the song…I had played the song and just watched different films and things while I listened and it stood out to me that the song benefits from something that’s kinetic. It was funny, when we got the treatments from all these people, everyone kind of did the same story, ‘cause I think they heard the story. So it made me think there’s probably only one video for this song. The decision about choosing the director was not really that his treatment was better than others—most people had that idea of kids on a night out—but it was more his style, his writing, that I liked. So that was as much as I collaborated with him, guy called Daniel, he had done some stuff for other electronic artists before and I just really liked the way he shot things. Kind of similar to Wes Anderson.

So I know your debut album was just out last year and then you had three EPs prior to that—was there any intention behind waiting so long to finally release a full-length record, or did it just happen that way?

No, you know what, I definitely should have done it sooner I think. But I just didn’t get my shit together soon enough, and I think I learnt that lesson, that it’s really important to put out new music. You can be so precious with things, but actually, a real resolution of mine going forward is to really try and finish everything I do. I listen to demos I did three years ago and am like, “Oh I should have just put that out, I kind of like that,” and I think that not enough of my music exists because before, I was perhaps too hesitant in giving it out to people. And I don’t know why, but certainly a resolution of mine is to be more prolific in the future. I’m like 30 years old now, and I’ve only done one album, and that’s a bit shameful. [Laughs] I will try harder next time. But everything I’ve put out, I’m proud of, so I just want to keep doing that but more frequently.

I mean I’m sure you have that feeling of “nothing’s ever fully done” or “things could be tweaked,” you know?

Yeah, I mean nothing’s ever finished, is it? It’s just when you choose to say it’s done. So it’s one of those things, you can always do more and more, and half of the skill of being someone who’s creative is just knowing when you want to move on. So yeah, I need to get better at that.

Do you feel like, since self-titled debut, you’ve grown a lot or just evolved as an artist in general?

Yeah, I think I’ve just changed as a person. I don’t really think of myself as an artist, I just think of myself as a guy who tries to express himself. I think, as I change as a person, the things I make will change as well. Hopefully it feels as though it all fits together, but also might sound quite different at points. And I think I always wanna do things that feel like a reaction to what I did last time, so it will always change. If I only did one thing, that would probably be a lot easier for me, but I like trying different tempos, different sounds, different beats, so I always want to experiment with Tourist, and I always want it to be a place for me to really not feel restricted. And maybe that’s the reason I took a while with things, because with each EP, I try and do something quite new, so I don’t quite know what’s coming next, but it’s that uncertainty that I live on, really. That’s what makes me excited.

So you said that each one is a reaction to the one prior—does that mean they’re all interconnected or not really?

I’m not sure they’re all interconnected, it’s more so that I just kind of channel whatever comes out of me really. When I was deciding to do my album, I wanted to focus on sounds more than songs, and I think it was a story, about a personal relationship that I went through, and that felt like the song, that story, and then each one of the pieces of music on there were probably part of that story. I don’t know why I do what I do, I just know that I want to do it. It’s just an intuition thing that I try to listen to and follow.

Is there any one song on U that’s particularly close to your heart or that you just really love?

Yeah, well I like most of it because I wrote it [Laughs]

Of course! [Laughs]

Yeah, but the ones I listen to the most are “Waves”, I think that’s a cool tune, I like “For Sarah”; those are the ones that really have resonance for me. And “Run”, as well, that was something that I didn’t think I’d write and then I did, and I finished it, and it turned out to be the most popular song that I’ve done. So it’s funny, it’s really nice to have a bit of perspective to look back on what you’ve done, and see that that’s what I was about last year. Perspective is such a nice thing when being an artist because it’s very difficult to be objectively critical about things that you’ve literally finished a week ago. You just need time to let it effervesce into your life, and it’s nice to have perspective on things. I think those three songs are the ones that I look back on and am proud of.

From when you created the album up until now, do you feel like you’re in a different headspace and are able to look at it more removed from that time?

Yeah, definitely. I feel far more objective on it now. It’s funny, when you’re writing your first album you can never imagine finishing it, and then you can never imagine what awaits afterwards. There was this strange feeling of emptiness that I had after I finished my album, it’s just a strange feeling of maybe feeling slightly depleted creatively, but then you go and live and do stuff and see your friends and go out and be a half decent human being. And then more things happen in your mind and you feel creative again. The better of a person I try to be, the better creatively I become. And that was something I learned. And the other thing is just getting on with it, in the studio, and working as hard as you can. It’s not supposed to be easy. If it was, everyone would do it. Half of being an artist is just being audacious enough to get in there and pretend what you have to say is important to the point of finishing it and giving it to other people. You just have to accept that that’s something you’ve got to get on with. Not sitting around and worrying if you’re good or not, but actually just doing it.

I mean, if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, nobody will.

And you can never write to people you don’t know. So as soon as I start trying to imagine who my fan is, and I start writing music for what I imagine people might want next, I instantly write the worst music possible. And as soon as I realize that I should literally just try and please myself, then that is the best kind of compass for me to follow towards a slightly successful creative venture really. So yeah, I”ve learnt that, and I’m always learning really, about my process, and just how it all works.

Do you think it will take as long for the next album to come?

No, not at all. I feel very inspired at the moment, and I’ve got a quite good idea of what I wanna do, and I’m just working now, which is such a nice thing to just crack on. Everything I do I always do it with a really sincere intention, and then the day before I put it out I get really worried, like, “Oh my god is this a mistake?” And then actually people are into it. You can never underestimate people’s capacity for accepting or listening or thinking about what you do. It’s quite relieving. The best stuff just rises to the top. You’ve just got to get the work done and finish it and get it out and make sure it comes from an honest place. It’s amazing when I push the sound of Tourist to different places, I don’t seem to lose fans, I just seem to gain them. And that’s quite inspiring. I don’t see myself as successful I just see myself as hardworking and hopefully honestly. So as long as I try to keep doing that, hopefully it just takes care of itself.

Yeah, I mean the music almost takes on a life of its own, and you just don’t know what someone’s perspective is when they’re listening.

Right, you don’t know other people’s lives. You just don’t. And that’s the magic. I would love to hear my music through someone else’s ears. That would be my dream, to really experience what it’s like. ‘Cause I don’t really know and I can’t be objective anymore so I just have to make it and put it out there for people to listen to.

I guess that’s the magic, that you just have to trust strangers that you’ve never met and probably will never meet.

Yeah, I mean the happiness that I get from listening to other people’s music, and the kind of relationship I have with someone that I don’t know, you feel like you know them and they know you because they speak to parts of you that you didn’t know existed. It’s amazing, a relationship where you’ve never exchanged a word with someone but you feel like they’ve spoken to you directly. The idea that that’s happened with someone with me, with my music, is the most mind-blowing thought in the world. It’s the biggest inspiration to carry on.

Featured image courtesy of James Lyndsey

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