Singled Out is a feature focusing on the stories behind a song, as told by the artists behind their creation. In this edition, William J Locker discusses “Between The Lines,” a track which grew out of the period of writing around his 2022 release, Brainwash. While its roots date back a little, “Between The Lines” has since found a new life for itself as Locker began learning more about the use of AI. Lyrically, the song aligns with concepts surrounding AI, but the track also utilizes evolving technologies when it came to mastering it.
villin: Is “Between The Lines” part of a broader release you have forthcoming or is it a one-off?
William J Locker: “BTL” is a stand alone single, but I originally messed around with it being part of Brainwash. It just wasn’t ready yet. I currently have seven-ish songs in the cooker for future release. Not sure if they will be singles, an EP, or an album, but I will put them out there at some point.
villin: Danceability was something dyed into the wool of your last album, Brainwash, and that vibe continues on in this song. When thinking about the sounds that you share with others, how much does the idea of movement or dance play into things?
William J Locker: One way or another I aim for my music to move the listener. Whether that be physically or emotionally is up to the song, but if I can achieve both in one track I’m pretty happy!
villin: If not danceability, there’s certainly an emphasis on rhythm in your music. Does that come from playing the drums for so long?
William J Locker: My thing is definitely groove driven, thanks to being a drummer for over 20 years. Drums, beats and loops are where I’ve been starting most of my new recordings. My first solo album and singles started with acoustic guitar and lyrics but I always have a beat or groove in my head when building a song.
villin: When thinking about yourself as a musician, does that self-conception revolve around being a drummer first, or has it shifted to a more broad view given how you’ve changed as a musician over the years?
William J Locker: I definitely think of myself as a drummer first. Mostly because that’s what I have the most experience on. I picked up bass guitar from my brother and dad always playing and having them around the house growing up. Guitar and piano, I only know a few things learning from my bandmates over the years along with watching many super talented producers and engineers, including my brother at Sonic Factory Studios. I definitely don’t look at myself as a vocalist. Most of the time I use the first couple takes and double track them because I get impatient and want to mix. Then I get “demo-itis” and don’t want to change them. It’s a quick way to get that Lennon effect, and who doesn’t love that sound?! So, yeah, my ears hear the beat first, then I produce the rest to get a finished song! The quicker I get it playing in my car, the better.
villin: Not to sound too terribly hokey, but the song requires a bit of reading between the lines when considering its lyrics. What were you hoping they communicate and where did the idea behind them come from?
William J Locker: Haha! The lyrics on “BTL” was mostly gibberish when I first wrote it and thought the title and hook makes it work so it doesn’t even matter what they mean. Then I started making the AI video not knowing it would be for this song. I then started looking at the lyrics as double meanings about AI itself and the controversy of using this exciting but potentially dangerous new tech… and I liked that. The “oh you won’t deceive me, I be reading between the lines,” is the skeptical view of AI in a couple ways like, “I know that picture is fake” or “AI will take over humanity.” Either way, we gotta roll with the change or you’ll be left behind… but keep your head on a swivel. That’s how I look at the theme anyways. It could mean something completely different to others. I also had AI master this track to complete that thought.
villin: The list of all of the different groups and collaborations you’ve worked on it lengthy, so you’re hardly an isolationist. With that in mind though, is the reality of writing, recording, and producing your own music one borne out of circumstance, or do you find that your creativity works better when you’re able to flex a little more control over the entirety of the process as you’ve done with this song?
William J Locker: I think all musicians and songwriters want their input in songs they are recording. I’ve always loved arranging songs! Drumming in my first bands, Towncrier and Bright Giant, were an excellent exercise of that. I’m always down to collaborate on songs with bands and allow everyone to have input. Once I hear what is working on a song, I try to steer the project in that direction. Too many ideas is never a bad thing, but learning to let go of some ideas is super important, in a band and solo. I want my solo songs to sound like a band made it. So playing all those rolls at once and producing myself can be hard to balance, but once I hear that “thing” that’s working for me, I go for it on all fronts.