Tall William – An Englishman in Vienna – Interview

‘The right lyrics for the right tone’

Tall William
Tall William is a man on a mission. After releasing his debut Raiser EP as a solo artist this year, the singer-songwriter is looking for like-minded artists to join his revolution in 2015. Substance is Meaningless caught up with the Vienna-based singer-songwriter to talk about the future, life in Vienna, and to find out just how tall he actually is.

Why Vienna exactly? 

I came here from Sheffield via Berlin. After visiting just a few times I was sold. Going back to Sheffield wasn’t an option, and I felt more creatively at home here than anywhere I’d been in Berlin. So I upped sticks! The people I’ve met here just buckle down to the task at hand. They rarely procrastinate or chat for ages about what they ‘might’ do. I like that.

As a fellow Englishman in Vienna, how has it been integrating yourself into the city?

My girlfriend is Austrian and she was kind enough to share some of her friends with me initially. Later I added a few of my own to the group by doing shows and trying to get various projects off the ground. It’s pretty easy if you keep busy and you’re not a dick.

How has learning the language been? 

Learning German has been pretty exhausting but necessary. The loved ones in my life have helped me there. Favourite word? Sitzfleisch. The ability sit in one (usually boring) place for a long time.

Where does an Englishman in Vienna hang out on a Saturday afternoon? 

If it’s sunny I have an Irish breakfast at Flannigan’s then sit around this beautiful city of ours. If it’s rainy I like to go for walks in my big coat. The sound of rain on high quality parka cannot be beat!

My favourite word? Sitzfleisch. The ability sit in one (usually boring) place for a long time.

How does the music scene in Vienna compare to the UK?

There may be some differences but day-to-day it’s all the same. I still have the same chats with bars about why I should be playing there, same as the UK. I still feel amazing after seeing a great show, jealous after seeing some hype band kill it at a festival or proud when my solo cohorts get radio play. But the pay is better.

What do miss most about life in good old blighty?

The sea.

If there was one thing you could import from the UK, what would it be? 

Henderson’s Relish. All day. It’s this magical condiment that makes anything taste 110% better. Still made in a tiny brick factory in Sheffield. So important it should have its own symbol on the table of elements.

Tall William in action. The singer-songwriter wants to have a few reinforcements on stage behind him in 2015.

How tall are you actually? 

I’m 6’3” in old English. 190 in continental.

What made you want to start making music? 

At school I wanted to get out of class for 30 minutes every week and if you learnt an instrument you could. Before that I was given a cheap acoustic from this shop in Scarborough and started to pick out notes on it. I think it was so annoying to people I had to sit in the back room of the house. There wasn’t anything musical about it really. I just enjoyed making the noise and getting a reaction. Nothing changes.

On rainy afternoons I pretend to be some sort of musical captain of industry. I even have a hat for such occasions.

When you’re not writing/recording/playing music you like to……

Develop and build my start-up ideas with friends. I’m currently working on two projects, one of which will be a musical directory tool available to the wider Vienna songwriting community and will be incorporated into the Tall William project in near the future. I relax by making progress with things, so on rainy afternoons I pretend to be some sort of musical captain of industry. I even have a hat for such occasions.

Was it easy recording Raiser EP? Did you get any financial support for it?

It was quite a process. I work slowly. I self recorded and released my debut single ‘Rattle and Hum’ back in September ’13 a year after coming to Vienna. That did OK and I made enough money back to buy some recording gear of my own. I began work on Raiser the following January. I had about 20 songs by June. I just didn’t have the heart to take some forward and ditch others. It was also difficult to choose whether to go full band or stripped down. I wanted a banjo on two songs, so there was me in April learning the banjo for the sake of two tracks! Matthius Bär (Read our interview with Matthäus here) got involved after a while and gave some good input. Choose a direction and get it to the press.

What do you think makes a good acoustic song? Which artists have inspired you over the years? 

The right lyrics for the right tone. If your guitar playing is too sloppy but your words are amazing, your guitar is some kind of useless enabler for you to sing to. If your guitar upstages your awful lyrics you should just go instrumental. A good acoustic song is the mummy bear music. Just right on both sides. Personal favourite examples of mine are Dr. Dog ‘It’, Lou Reed ‘Hangin round’ and Robert Wyatt ‘Beautiful Place’

I’m putting a shameless open call out to drummers and pianists especially!

Do you like German language music? What’s Your favourite German language band? 

I get really into some German language groups, yeah. It’s mostly stuff I’ve seen live then bought the CD off the band or other guys on the Gürtel. I don’t actively seek it out. Local band Fiaranand always get my vote. But when I want to show off my hip credentials at a function or social event I bust out my Binder & Krieglstein or Naked Lunch tracks.

What was the last album you bought/downloaded/borrowed?

Christoph Höden of Austrian music start-up Bam FM gave me ‘Everyday I have the blues’ by BB King. I don’t think I liked it actually but I’m going to give it another go.

What’s next for Tall William?

Right now I’m keeping an eye and an ear out for musicians. 2015 is going to be the year Tall William makes his first steps into band country and I’m proper excited about it. I’m putting a shameless open call out to drummers and pianists especially! I’ll also be playing a performance for the social workers of Vienna in December, as well as a few solo dates in January at Polkadot Bar (15th) and The Loft (28th) with Louis Romegoux.