Daphne Willis is one busy girl—she’s been tearing up the Best Of charts here on OurStage all while working on her brand new album Because I Can. We think you’ll like Willis’ charming songwriting style, so we sat down with the Nashville-based singer-songwriter to talk about her writing, her first single “I Will Be Waiting,” and her unlikely love for Eminem.
OS: What’s your writing process usually like?
DW: I have different processes depending on if I’m writing by myself or co-writing, which I’ve been getting into a little bit more over the past year, professionally. Usually I’ll get a chord progression and then just write melodies over the progression—this is when I’m writing by myself—and then kind of work things out. When I write by myself I have to be alone, and, I don’t know, in a mood, or something. I don’t know what you call that… a creative mood. And when I write with other people, it depends on who I’m writing with. Some people like to do a title and will come up with a concept or a title and then write the song around that. Some people want to write to an emotion, or write a story, or whatever. You kind of map it out at the beginning—it’s going to be slow, or fast, or what have you.
OS: Do you prefer co-writing or writing alone?
DW: I think they each serve their own purpose. I think for me, the solo writes are definitely more of a therapeutic thing, where it’s more of a release for me on an emotional level or some subconscious level. Usually when I’m writing by myself it’s because I need to, and when I write with other people it’s because I want to and because I have fun writing. When it’s more of a group, collaborative effort it’s so much fun, and you get to kind of rub off on each other and learn other peoples’ styles and get in other peoples’ heads, which is just really fun.
OS: How did you decide on “I Will Be Waiting” as the first single?
DW: Well actually the next single is going to be “Do What You Want,” I think we’re switching the radio. But “I Will Be Waiting” was definitely a strong song for me because I’m always traveling and I always relate to people who are always having that longing feeling or they’re missing something. At the time we wrote it I was in a relationship and definitely felt that longing when you’re on the road, away from your loved ones … So we kind of just wanted to capture that emotion, and it just seemed like the right fit at the time when we were picking it. I’ve kind of shifted a little bit overall, and I think “Do What You Want” is going to be a great addition to our efforts and our campaigning, getting me out there this year. Both of the songs are great. And they’re both co-writes, so I had a lot of fun making them.
OS: It’s hard to tell if it’s a happy or a sad song—did you do that on purpose?
DW: Definitely. I think that the song is supposed to be bittersweet, because you have somebody that you miss, but you have somebody that you miss, you know what I mean? You’re gonna have to go through that emotion, but at least you have that emotion to go through, and you’re going through it with somebody else. I always try and stay on the positive side of things, and even negative emotions can be turned upside down and looked at in a different light. You appreciate what you have.
OS: So since you have been co writing a lot recently, are there any songwriters who you dream about collaborating with?
DW: You know, I would probably, like I could die immediately afterwards, if I wrote with Stevie Wonder. I could just die afterwards and be like, “All right, that’s it! I did what I came to do.” [Laughs] No not really, but you know what I mean. I would love to work with Stevie Wonder. I would love to work with… Gosh, there’s a lot of people. Ben Harper would definitely be one of them, from a lyrical standpoint I think he’s just a genius. And you know, we were listening to Eminem earlier today, or last night, I think it was. And we were saying how lyrically, he’s just a genius. And the phonetical way that he phrases his lyrics and how he accents and stresses which syllables in which sentences is just… he’s a monster. So I would also actually love to work with him, ironically.
OS: What are your favorite things to write about? Do you often write about love?
DW: I actually try to not write about love as much, because I feel like although love is one of the most powerful emotions, certainly, I think it’s a little bit overwritten. I like to—when I do writing sessions—challenge people to write a song that is not a love song. Write about something that is maybe inspirational or as emotionally big, but not love. People fascinate me, things like what motivates people, what stresses people out. When I listen to music I like to feel inspired in a positive way, or somehow empowered, and feel like I can go out and do things. I’ve been trying to write more stuff like that, that’s really uplifting and encouraging and just positive. That’s definitely the direction of this record and definitely the direction of the songs I’ve been writing since we recorded this record, too.
Check out Willis’ new album Because I Can to hear “I Will Be Waiting” for yourself!