Lily Williams may have released How The Story Ends, but her musical journey is only just beginning. The debut project from the British-born, Southern California-based artist puts her storytelling skills at the forefront, ultimately introducing herself to the world as a lyrical mastermind with stellar vocals to bat.
Harnessing an audience following a fateful decision to post unreleased demos online in 2021, Williams’ voice enamored a vastly growing fanbase. In the year following, the singer was organically racking in milestones like a bona fide chart-topper. From reaching an impressive 10 million streams to catching the TikTok success train with the track “I Hope You Think Of Me,” the songstress quickly found herself gathering a stellar discography of hits.
The album’s release comes following the drop of a pair of singles, “How The Story Ends” of the record’s same name and “What If I Still Miss You?” both serving as a foreshadowing to the thematic goal of the release: a tale of love, heartbreak, and growth. Akin to a rock opera-esque experience, Williams is aiming to usher her listeners through a tour of her emotional turmoil of highest highs and lowest lows. Chapter one presents itself in visual form via a movie-like music video, complete with coffee shop coziness and hand-holding bliss.
Williams, as a multi-instrumentalist inspired by the songwriting of Billy Joel and Carol King, merges her lyrical talent with decades-long experience as a musician to concoct a whimsical, illustrious style all her own. After refining her skills at Boston’s esteemed Berklee College of Music, the starlet-to-be headed back to London mid-pandemic where she eventually crafted the initial workings of How The Story Ends. Polished and pretty, the 10-track story is yours to simultaneously laugh, cry, and unwind to. Let the journey begin.
EUPHORIA. checks in with Williams below to uncover the complexities of How The Story Ends from the inside out.
If people read one question from this interview, let it be this. Tell me about your album How The Story Ends. What’s the story behind it? Why listen?
My gosh, so it’s actually been a two-year process. When I started it we were still in COVID, and the first songs I wrote came during that time of uncertainty. Along the way, there had just been a lot of setbacks, which at the time were frustrating. This was originally meant to be a four-song project that was going to come out, but then due to delays and different things happening, things were actually a blessing in disguise.
In 2021, I started posting my music on TikTok and my listeners found me and the song “I Hope You Think Of Me”, which then basically started this whole project of How The Story Ends. It really began to unfurl and it all just came together. I’m so grateful for my listeners because they actually shaped this project into what it is today, and so many more songs were added because it had been so much time since I started writing it. So now it’s a ten-song project, but it’s one story, which is what I love. And even though it was a very chaotic and stressful process, it’s been so cool to see how cohesive it is, how much I just really believe it to be one story, and that the timing is perfect. It’s really cool how it all just worked out.
If we put all songs you’ve ever written into a single room. what do you think How The Story Ends would tell your older music?
I almost feel like it’s like an older sister of the stuff I used to release, and I feel as a person, that I’ve grown. There’s that TikTok trend at the moment of having that little girl still living inside you–the one with the photo of you when you were younger–and I’m so grateful for the people I get to work with and the music I get to create. I think it just shows how much I’ve grown since then. And I think I would have my song “How The Story Ends” tell my younger songs, ‘look where we got to.’ I feel that the core element of who my older songs are is still inside How The Story Ends. I don’t think the core personality has changed, but it’s evolved. There’s more collaboration and more depth to the production and to the overall feeling of the song.
The single “How The Story Ends” came alongside a video. I thought it was super cute and super creative, similar to a romance movie, so I want to touch on that. What was the process of creating the video like? How does it visually aid what you aim to communicate in the song?
Yes! I loved creating the video! I got to go back to Boston where I met my husband. We went to Berklee, we had actually met there, and I hadn’t been back since I left school. And going back, I feel like it gave the whole project this nostalgic feeling. Probably just because I’m such a nostalgic person, honestly. It, to me, has this nostalgic emotion to it and I felt like the whole project had an East Coast vibe.
I also feel like the train played such a big role in the songs. And growing up in England, we were on the train all the time. It’s where I would think and look out the window. There’s a really big line in “When All the Love Is Gone” which is talking about love: “Where did all the love go? / Is it sat on the orange line staring blankly out the window?” So I wanted this video to be in Boston with the orange line playing a huge part. And also we wanted to create the idea of alternate endings. The song “How The Story Ends” does end in heartbreak, but the very last line of the song is, “I don’t regret how the story ends.” So we wanted to create with the video this feeling of, “oh, did they really break up? Or is there, like, some hope at the end?” So the very last scene of the video creates this mystery Was that all in her head? Was she making it up? I wanted the listener to feel like they had some say in that.
Love that! I also think vulnerability is a really big takeaway thematically from your recent releases. What is the most important thing that you’ve learned on your own journey toward finding a voice amidst being so raw and vulnerable? How had vulnerability given you power?
Oh my gosh, I think vulnerability just gives you so much power in life in general. Being able to share your story with your friends just lets you know that you’re not alone. And that’s something that I’ve seen with posting my music online too, especially with the heartbreak. “What If I Still Miss You?” has a line about crying in CVS, and the cool thing was that so many people started commenting, ‘Oh my gosh, I cried so many times in a CVS parking lot too!’ There’s just solidarity in sharing your most vulnerable and hardest moments with people, and you just realize we’re all human. And actually the more vulnerable you are, the more people will connect to your music because they feel that it’s true and authentic. I think vulnerability brings you a lot of power in your life and it just frees you.
Totally agree! So when you think about the album, how do you hope it makes people feel? What do you want them to take away once they’re done listening?
I really wanted it to tell one story. I love reading, I love the highs and lows, and the journey it takes you on. I wanted it to feel like a book, and to feel like you start with the crush and then the falling madly in love, and then the ending. The project does end with heartbreak as I said, but the last two songs, I think they provide a glimmer of hope. I don’t want people to leave just feeling utterly heartbroken. I more want people to feel like they just experienced this whole love story. Even if things end in heartbreak, there is still a little good left to find and hope in the hardest situations.
I like that a lot–it’s not straight-up love or straight-up heartbreak, it’s both and everything in between. With this project being so heavy on the emotional aspect. How would you say you’ve grown since creating it?
It’s actually been such a funny process because not all the songs are 100% autobiographical. Some of them are literally about my life, but songs like “When All The Love Is Gone” and “What If I Still Miss You” are stories from my best friend’s heartbreak. Those songs are literally from having conversations with my best friends. So I think I’ve grown in listening and being able to tell stories, but also in my relationships. I think when your best friend goes through something, you almost feel like you’re going through it yourself.
I remember with the heartbreak, she had just broken up from a really long-term relationship and I was at her house. I slept over because she was obviously going through it. We had spent all morning crying and talking and then I went straight to a session. The only thing I could think about was heartbreak–it put me back into that feeling when I was heartbroken. So I think just realizing the power of stories even if they’re not your own. Sometimes you need to experience the heartbreak to get to the other side.
That reminds me a lot of Taylor Swift actually. When she announced Lover people kept asking ‘How are you going to write the breakup songs you’re known for if you’re in love?’ And she essentially said the same–that she pulled stories from her friends.
Absolutely. Jumping back to the album now that it’s release day, what do you think is the ideal listening setup for a first-time play?
I feel like the car or when you’re traveling. For me, that always puts me in a nostalgic mood. I always listen to music in my car because I’m always driving, but I really think that’s the perfect place. I tell people my music is very calm and so I think the morning is also a good time to put it on with a good cup of tea or a cup of coffee. A chill, relaxed morning.
By the time the album releases people will have heard, “How The Story Ends” and “What If I Still Miss You?” So how do those two songs fit into the universe of the project? Are those standalone tracks different from everything else we’ll hear? Or is it part of a greater story?
The thing about the track “How The Story Ends” and the reason why it’s the title track is that that song itself tells the story of the whole project. The first verse is the crush, the middle verse is being in love, and the last verse is the ending–it tells you where you’re going. I love that. And that’s why I love how it came together.
Let’s talk TikTok! It’s been such an integral component of your career so far. What has that been like for you? Are you thinking about your followers when you wrap up a new track?
It actually changed my whole life and that’s not an exaggeration. When I first moved to LA, I wanted to be a songwriter because I didn’t really have the confidence to be an artist. I did release my own music, but I never thought that that would be my main thing. But the encouragement and engagement from the listeners gave me so much confidence to start releasing more and I’m so grateful.
The listeners also totally shaped the project. “July (Later On)” wasn’t intended to come out. I just posted it because I was like, ‘Oh, I love this. I feel like people will enjoy it.” Then it connected with so many people and I had to put it out! Why would I keep this song just to myself to live in my SoundCloud? And I think it just changed my attitude toward how I release music. I look to see what connects with people.
Wrapping things up, let’s create a custom drink for How The Story Ends. What is it?
Such a fun question! I would say it’s my favorite coffee order because I freaking love coffee shops. They just give me so much joy and comfort and I just love to sit in a coffee shop. So I think it would be a hot matcha latte.
You heard her, grab your lattes and get cozy in the car. How The Story Ends is available everywhere.