UNCUT: Will Cherry opens up about his new album "Burgundy"
Will Cherry was the first rapper I ever featured in my The Cut series.
The third day running the blog, I posted a call out for artists because I was semi-new to the scene and wanted to connect. Cherry was the first to comment and the next day I wrote the first installment of my artist spotlight series about him.
The hardest part about discovering a new artist is that you always want more music to consume and while Cherry had music out, I was really excited for what came next. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long because last night he released his debut album "Burgundy."
The Elyria native started working on this album in 2016 and tackles themes like grief, love and mental conflict. The project features 10 tracks and includes guest verses from other Cleveland artists like Tae Mills and Young Baby Tate ad Lorine Chia.
Below we talk about his process making the album, what "Burgundy," means to him and his love of film. Check it out.
You named your album Burgundy, what was the premise behind the name?
It has a few meanings, but it comes down to two things. First, burgundy has always been my favorite color, since I was a child. So it stands for childlike creativity and endless inspiration, as well as the drive to reach your dreams. But within the context of the album, Burgundy is a reference to the color of blood once it's dried. How do we deal with grief and loss after it's been a little while that the person is gone, but we're still not over it? We have to process it.
In 2015, I graduated high school and I was supposed to go to a graduation party for a person that was close to me. I sort of evaded it, and that caused the end of our relationship. The good that came from it was that I realized that me not being able to make myself go stemmed directly from the fact that my father had passed some years before and I never actually processed it.
So for big life moments that everyone enjoys with their family, I always shunned away from them when it came to me. From birthdays and on, I would almost ignore it because he wouldn't be able to call me, but it was a subconscious thing.
You’ve worked on this album for four years, what was your process when recording this album?
In 2016, I first got the idea from a conversation with a friend and that sparked the first version of the album. I made a song called "OPEN LETTER", and it was the first time I made a song that made me cry, and it was also the song that made me want to be an artist. I mentioned my inability to process my father's death before, and the creation of this album was exactly where my processing took place for him and some other people that I lost.
A lot of the songs on Burgundy were first written and recorded in 2017, but I took a lot of time refining and perfecting them. I wouldn't say I became a literal perfectionist, but I just found my rhythm and my voice and my perspective and my identity as an artist.
What was the hardest part of making it?
I didn't really have any frustrating or tough moments with the album, because I'm never married to a song and I always want to find another approach to it if it isn't working. But "VANCOUVER" may have the most iterations because it started as a totally different song, so much that its original title was "MONTREAL", but I changed it because it had become something new.
Even in having to make changes, I don't really look at it as hard because this is my passion and dream. That's one of my most diverse songs for the amount of places it goes in the two minutes and forty-five seconds it runs, and I'm extremely proud of that
What were some of your biggest influences when making this album?
It definitely doesn't sound like it, but as far as albums go, probably Yeezus. Every album in my career will be 10 songs and it's influenced by the airtight and flawless execution of Yeezus in 10 tracks. I fully believe you can tell a story in 10 songs and make an emotional impact.
As far as just general moments and the sound of it, Tank, Ty Dolla $ign and K-Ci Hailey inspired my singing on a lot of it. The "ooh yeah" I do on a few tracks is a nod to Jodeci. I use pitching on a lot of the tracks because I was already working on this album when Frank released Blonde and the way he used it just hit me in my chest.
The song "FROZE" was directly inspired by Lil Uzi Vert. I wrote the outro of that song in Brent Faiyaz's cadence because I wanted him to sing it. Wondagurl influenced the production in places, Mike Dean's work on Travis Scott's albums definitely influenced the mixing a lot as well. I'm gravitated to interesting and sometimes challenging mixes.
I'm not sure if it's because my influences are ingrained in me as an artist or what, but I can't think of any specific influence for most of the songs, like I said, this album was really made in the midst of me finding myself as an artist, so I thought less in terms of others and more in terms of what felt the most natural for myself.
The single for this album was “Death Proof,” inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film with the same name. How has film in general played a role in your music?
Well ironically, the single for the album was going to be a song called "Superbad" until I scrapped and re-made the whole thing. I love movies and I actually started writing screenplays before I ever wrote a song, back at the age of 12. My dream in middle school was to be a staff writer on Saturday Night Live. Writing and directing is a dream of mine that I want to attack and find my voice with in the same way that I did with music.
I really watch more interviews and analysis and tip videos about screenwriting than I do about creating music, I'm always trying to consume some knowledge, even if in a passive way. I don't know if film plays a huge role in my music, but it plays a huge role in my life.
You got co-signed by one of the actresses from Tarantino’s film. What was that like and how did that happen?
I really just reached out to her myself and sent the music video that they inspired us to create. When you watch the video, she mentions that "Love" was a lot of fun, and the reason she says that is because it was a Netflix show that I loved and she also starred in. Judd Apatow produced it, and he's in my top three directors with Quentin and Spike Lee so my admiration for her career has a whole other aspect to it, that I wanted her to know about, even if everyone else doesn't.
She really liked the video and sung the song because it was so catchy, so I just told her about the release date and asked her to make a video talking about it and I used that to announce my album. That was sort of a deep cut thing for people who know her work in other stuff or know the film Death Proof to appreciate her video.
For me, it just felt like a gratifying moment. "ETTA" and "DEATH PROOF" were the first videos that me and my director/DP Gregory Elek had ever done so for it to get that respect from not only a working actress, but an actress who is in the actual film, was amazing. It's kind of weird and meta to make something that's inspired heavily by what someone else made and then they make something talking about how much they love what you made. I would have never thought it was a possibility.
One thing I noticed, there are a lot of collabs with other artists on this album. But there are also a lot of producer collabs. How important is it to have so many voices helping you construct and perfect your album?
I grew up on Kanye West. I was just thinking the other day that Rick Ross on "Devil in a New Dress", Nicki Minaj on "Monster" and CyHi the Prynce on "So Appalled" are on the same album. These are career defining guest verses. But the crazy thing is when people talk about the album, it's never overshadowed by the greatness of those features.
I say that to say I want to make music with the lens of what I've seen some reviewers call "curator artists". Guys like Tyler or Travis who can have a million stars on an album in whatever capacity, but it's not for streams or attention. They actually hide the features most times. It's just an artist having the ability to know that someone else will sing this part better or the tone of their voice will cut through perfectly on this song.
There isn't a big artist in the world that wasn't on The Life of Pablo, but we will always naturally look at Kanye first because he constructed it with a craftsmanship that isn't normal in any way. The ability to corral all of this talent in a way that makes sense to the concept is a gift in itself. On some tracks, the other producers may have played a big or small role, but no matter what, their input and perspective is what I felt was needed to get to the end goal, and I'm extremely proud of the end product. As a fan of music, it makes me way more excited when I go into an album as well to know that it's a group effort. The crazy part is I actually wanted one more feature for the end of "FROZE" but I just couldn't make it happen in time.
My personal favorite track is ETTA FT. Lorine Chia. Tell me what the story is behind it and what was like working with Chia?
The song is a metaphor where having a spaceship stands for having a way out of any situation. Andre 3000 saying "spaceships don't come equipped with rearview mirrors" inspired me to make a song where I ponder what I would do if I could buy one. In a few videos we go farther in depth with the idea of me being an astronaut. I'm going to create a cinematic universe and that song really is the catalyst for it.
Kyle Ringer added some great vocals to it and a handful of other songs on the album, Greg Quincy played keys on that second verse and Chase Cook did the guitar solo on the last hook before Lorine comes in. As far as getting her on it, I really just reached out myself and got her thoughts on it. A sample was originally in that place but I knew it would elevate it if I was to write something new and have her sing it, so it was a massive blessing for her to record on it. Tre Smith played the guitar on that part and set the stage for it. Lorine is really an extremely cool person as well. It really came together perfectly.
What was the inspiration behind the album cover?
My intention for the cover was always for it to be a portrait. It's a simple approach that's been done a million times before, but I just wanted it to be something people want to look at continuously. Tracy Chapman and Deetranada had album covers that I kept looking at when it came time to figure out what Burgundy would look like.
There are a lot of things that I don't consciously think about that work out, and one of those things is that the cover really looks like a funeral program to me. David MacCluskie shot it on 35 mm film, and Shon Rosewood designed it.
What are five songs (that aren’t yours) that you have on heavy rotation right now?
"MOTSB" by WesWill,
"Outta Time" by Bryson Tiller and Drake
"Bibo no Aozora" by Ryuichi Sakamoto
"24.19" by Childish Gambino
"minding_my business" by Knxwledge and Duran Bernarr.
Kanye West, D'Angelo and PJ Morton.
What's Going On and VooDoo are fighting for the top spot.
Currently, Cherry runs his own label called So Be It but is willing to work/collab with other companies if the situation is right. To support the album, Cherry has a ton of new content planned including more music videos, his own radio station and different project called Startlite which he promises will be just as good as "Burgundy."
Check his album out now:
Let me know what you think,