FIVE QUESTIONS: Will Foley releases new single, ‘Memoir: Despair & Mayhem’

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ALBANY — Will Foley released a new single, “Memoir: Despair & Mayhem,” on June 25.

Foley is a self-dubbed “a voice for the voiceless, face for the faceless; a self-contained musical unit who fits neatly in small places creating simple music for a complex time.” The new release is a song of triumph and realizing that you hold the key to your escape. A visceral kaleidoscope of negative emotions that only your mask can cover; it’s shining the light in the dark places. Foley is also co-host of the Above Ground Podcast, one of Nippertown’s premier podcasts on the nitty-gritty of navigating mental strife and the road to recovery.

We sat down with Foley to talk about “Memoir” and his journey to his latest release.

Katie Lembo: “Memoir” is beautiful! Tell me about the inspiration behind it.

Will Foley: The title really is a reflection of my story and the story of anyone who struggles with mental illness and/or mental health. I’ve had several bouts with mental illness in my life, both with my own experiences and those of my mother (who has been in and out of psychological care my whole life) and it’s a reflection of the life of someone with a brain like mine. I consider my music as a curator of stories that not a lot of people tell anyone; in 2013, after two accidents and serious depression, I had made a plan to end my life. The song is my story, but at the same time, I look at the words and they come through me, but they’re not really related to me, if that makes sense. I was just a vehicle for these lyrics.

KL: You use some incredibly strong words in the title of this song: despair and mayhem are extremely powerful vocabulary to describe titular emotions. How did they generate and fit into your songwriting process?

WF: In between despair and mayhem, you find peace. I have yet to fully find peace, but music helps me get there. When I quit music earlier in my life, it was because I had a bad experience during a show where I lost my voice. My first reaction was selling my gear, taking the postal exam and getting into the post office. While I knew the circumstances surrounding the experience — I was tired, I wasn’t hydrated — my gut reaction was to, and pardon my expression, throw the baby out of the bathwater. I never understood why my first reaction was to do something harsh. It’s like when I tell people I’ve always struggled with low self-esteem and they don’t get it, because in their mind, how can I be self-conscious and get up on stage each night? Because mental health is invisible, it’s often not as sympathized with or understood as well as a physical injury.

KL: “Memoir” is in collaboration with Kevin Maloney. Talk to me about the artistic partnership between you two and how that works.

WF: Kevin and I have been friends for 30 years. He’s a member of The Final Sleep and was with Withstand in the 90s. He’s a metal guy, but he’s also much more. When I started working on the song, I had sent it to Kevin and asked if he would be willing to lie down some guitar parts with me. I knew he would be able to give me some dark guitar parts that I was longing for. He was interested pretty much instantly, and we spent the better part of December through February sending the tracks back and forth and brainstorming. The beauty of the work we did is this song is lyrics, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. Kevin’s guitar playing, and the mixing done by Jason Bourdeau of Drift Productions, was what really wrapped the bow on top of the single.

KL: You host a podcast for Nippertown, “Above Ground Podcast,” that focuses on mental health. How does making music influence the tide of your mental health?

WF: I’m a real big energy guy. My first memories of music surround KISS. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with music; it’s been my lover, my best friend, my partner, my enemy, the thorn in my side. Music is the big connector in the world. For better or for worse, there is music. It brings me back to a couple of years ago when a close friend died by suicide. At the time, I could never write about how I felt, but like anything else, the songwriting process is drafts upon drafts of an evolving story. The key change at the end of “Memoir” is a representation of something I live my life by: you hold the key to your prison and the key to your escape. It brings to life what it’s like to live in a mind like mine.

KL: What are some of the differences you see between the podcast community and the music community here in the 518?

WF: Podcasting and music combine my two loves. I wanted to be a disc jockey when I was a kid but I never got the performance thing down. Podcasting allows me to fulfill that dream and talk in front of the microphone. That being said, the content between music and podcasting is so different; a similarity lies in the fact that both musicians and podcasters are usually pretty comfortable talking about things, either through the mic with words or in a melody. I love creating, cutting things up, putting sound beds under talking. Through the skills I’ve learned at both, I’ve been able to work on projects that even if they didn’t see the light of day, I still was able to create them and hone those skills. So the skill sets are very much the same — and in both mediums, it takes a ton of marketing and hard work to get the content out there.

“Memoir: Despair & Mayhem” is available on all major streaming platforms. To keep up with Will Foley, visit https://www.facebook.com/willfoleymusic.

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