Will Linley

The Cape Town-based singer-songwriter hits his stride with "Last Call" and "Tough (The Girls Song)"

A Magical Night In NYC

Will Linley’s debut show in the US took place this past February at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC. Even before Linley took the stage, there was an energy in the room rarely felt in there these days. It appeared to be, roughly, 30% fans and 70% industry people… songwriters, producers, journalists, A&R, etc. all coming out to support an artist who has achieved so much in such a short amount of time. This show was the final hurrah of Linley’s month-long trip to the States, and, for him, a necessary one.

“I felt a lot of pressure and a lot of stress,” he said, on his writing sessions throughout the trip, prior to visiting New York. “I felt like I didn’t say anything that I liked in any of the songs. I was like, ‘I’m not SAYING anything. I’m not saying anything with my chest.’ I felt like my concepts were flopping. It was because I wasn’t showing up in the spaces the way I wanted to and felt was necessary. New York put me into a space of looking back on the last year and seeing what’s happened. To be surrounded by people who have just impacted and helped guide me along this journey was a really special moment. It was like… ‘Remember the reasons you’re doing this. You’ve gotta make 12-year-old Will proud. You’re doing it for that kid and for all the people who are in your corner.’ It was a great reminder of all of the love and support I’m surrounded by.”

At the Rockwood show, he debuted a handful of unreleased tunes. One, even in an acoustic setting, stuck out amongst those in the room. Five months later, that song, called “Tough (The Girls Song),” is out now.

Record Year and kill all my feelings 

Linley, the Cape Town-based singer-songwriter who burst onto the scene just a few years ago with the infectious pop banger “miss me (when you’re gone),” had an incredible year in 2022. He dropped an EP called kill all my feelings over the summer, was selected to open for OneRepublic on their South Africa tour dates, and released the single “Last Call,” which currently sits at around 14 million streams.

“kill all my feelings,” the title track of the EP, did not perform the way it was expected to even after months of teasing on Tik Tok, but is, arguably, Linley’s best song to date. The wall-to-wall pop-rock opus took Linley to the limit vocally and contains his most dynamic bridge yet: “Don’t wanna ruin the friendship / But don’t wanna numb all my senses / That second guessing keeps on messing with me and you / Why do I want what I can’t have? If you fall in love I’m defeated / Wish I could kill all my feelings.”

The lack of commercial and/or viral success for songs like “kill all my feelings” or “wrong time,” the follow-up to “miss me (when you’re gone),” while unfortunate, only makes him want to work harder. “We’re building longevity rather than virality,” he said. “Cool, we can use a viral moment to continue building a career, but if you chase viral moments all the time it can discourage you and it can, maybe, affect the way you build an artist’s career. You just continue releasing music and building a portfolio and catalog for people so that when the next song goes viral, people will find the music, and songs like ‘kill all my feelings’ will get listened to. It’s all about building a sonic world. As soon as you get out of the space of, ‘If this song doesn’t go viral, my career is over,’ it changes the way you build and create. I think it’s important to just back yourself and put out the music that you love.”

“Last Call” and “Tough (The Girls Song)”

Recent releases like “Last Call” and “Tough (The Girls Song)” are the result of collaborations with artists like Teddy Geiger (“For You I Will”) and Jackson Foote, one-half of pop duo Loote, respectively. Working with two experienced creatives, both with different methods of creativity, has allowed Linley the chance to grow, and to consider aspects of the writing, delivery, and sonic scape he may not have before. “There’s a lot more intention,” he said, “There’s a lot more thought process of, ‘What are we saying? How do we want to say it?’ This project feels a little more refined. The guitars feel refined, it feels cleaner. It feels less shouty, more melodic.”

Refined guitars, less shouty, and more melodic certainly apply to “Tough (The Girls Song),” which sounds like an 80’s pop throwback: “I was ready to jump / You said you weren’t ready for love, tough / Girls just wanna have fun.” Linley’s vocals are well-positioned in the mix, and there is a bit more weight behind the words than on past releases. “Last Call” is a party anthem that expertly builds suspense at the start of every pre-chorus with its memorable hook and twinkling piano line: “Now at a bar / Met this girl through a friend of a friend / We started dancing to ABBA now I can’t pretend to play it cool / Not be a fool / But I don’t want it to end / No, no I don’t want it to end.”

Locked In

While Linley is the focal point of the operation, he knows it takes a village to make music come together in its most authentic, complete way. “What’s shifting a bit more is being more intentional in the spaces that I’m working in. That comes with time. Using and working with people like Teddy… using her as someone who can help add color to the canvas.” The same goes for his live shows. “There’s a better understanding of what I want the live show to be,” he said. “When it’s just me onstage playing a track, it’s really hard to imagine what the show could be. As soon as you can start seeing it as a picture and a visual thing… it’s like ‘Oh, here’s this artist with say, a drummer and a guitarist… there’s something for people to hold onto.”

Through all of his success, Linley remains the quirky, effortlessly funny, and kind young man he always has been. At the same time, he is different from what he was a year ago. He is more confident, locked in, and aware of his rising trajectory like never before, and much more seasoned in all aspects of his job, onstage and off. He has the rest of 2022 mapped out with a tour of Europe booked for the summer, more upcoming releases, and another show in New York planned for the end of the year. It feels like one victory lap after another.

Stream “Last Call,” “Tough (The Girls Song),” and more: