Ainslie Wills’ stunning new LP, ‘All You Have Is All You Need’, is out today, and to celebrate, the Melbourne singer-songwriter gave us some insight into the record’s 10 tracks.
If you’d prefer to have your own impressions and make up your own meanings, I wouldn’t read on any further! If you, however, want a little insight into what was swimming around my head when they were written, please read on. Xx
The concept for this song came in part from my niece Emily talking about her beating her ‘personal best’ in swimming, which got me thinking... we’re all in some way or another trying to do the same thing. The influence of media on us as a society at large tells us we aren’t enough just as we are, we should be aiming for perfection. I, like many others, have struggled with trying to find my own version of ‘perfection’ but as I’ve gotten a little older I can finally find peace with who I am; a complex, constantly changing and evolving person that will continue to do so until the day I die.
I wanted this song to serve as a reminder that we are enough as we are.
FEAR OF MISSING OUT
Fear Of Missing Out was the last song to be written for the album. The idea came from a conversation I had with a close friend about the idea of becoming a mother. Our friends of a similar age were on to their second or third kid! It does give you a feeling like you are behind in life somehow, but then again, from their perspective, they might be craving the independence in life that they once had. The song was finished fairly quickly but needed another perspective to help tie it all together. Thankfully, the wonderfully talented Paul Dempsey came on board and helped bring the chorus into what you hear now, it’s a little more universal. In Paul’s words: "We all feel like we’re missing out on something, no matter where you are at in your life."
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I attended one of APRA’s Songhub weekends in 2017. Songhubs is basically a whole bunch of writers and producers from all over the world spending four consecutive days locked in a room, trying to come up with great songs. It was an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience as you really want to come away with having done your absolute best to get a song on the table before the end of each day but it doesn’t always work out that way.
It got to the last day of writing, everyone was tired and scoffing down easter eggs with low expectations of how the day was to turn out. I was working with Mozella and Bram Inscore for the last day, a bit of a mixed bag combination of people in one room which absolutely worked in our favour.
We all sat there for a while trying to come up with some lyrical ideas. I then got talking about how I had been reflecting on my life as it stood as I hadn’t been away by myself for a long time until this weekend.
Once again, I was questioning whether I was spending my time wisely, knowing I wasn’t following the trajectory of most of the people my age. I didn’t have a kid, a house of my own etc... I had completely dedicated my entire life to music, which is what I dreamed of as a kid but somehow I felt like that wasn’t good enough or it was a childish pursuit that didn’t amount to material goods.
In the session, Mozella and I also struck common ground about the idea of about balancing careers and potential motherhood. It’s a huge pressure to feel when you want to continue creating and working in the field that you always have been in but then trying to balance that with being a mother seems absolutely impossible. Long story short, we wrote the lyrics to the entire song within an hour, put down the vocal take on the spot and thus Society was born.
Island is a cry out for equality between sexes and the wish to find balance in the way we communicate with each other. The reliance that women once had on men has/is changing as women feel more confident in their abilities. I’ve always found this topic really challenging to talk about, as in our search for creating equality sometimes we are looking to point the finger and blame someone. To me, this creates further disparity between the sexes. I don’t have the solution but have always thought that there is so much that we can learn from each other and that if we all took the time to understand people more and accept their individual way of communicating we might be in a more peaceful place…
That bolt-upright, sweating, heart palpitating terror that often comes in the nocturnal hour. I am not an insomniac but am a worrier and often have very interrupted and sleepless nights that, due to the fact you’re lying there in darkness, everything seems so much more intense.
I got into Patti Smith via my obsession with Jeff Buckley, who appeared on Patti’s album Gone Again, released in 1996. I love what Patti stands for, she isn’t defined by one thing she is constantly exploring and evolving as a musician/poet/novelist/photographer. Her book Woolgathering had a profound impact on me, so much so that upon reading the book cover to cover in a day I sat down and wrote Suzie, an ode to my childhood. My mother, sister and I used to go for night walks in the summertime to try and get some kind of reprieve from the heat but would often have to be really careful of cars speeding past as it was quite an isolated area and sometimes the cars would slow down if they’d seen us and we’d have to hide away until they continued on. In terms of fitting into the overall concept of the album, to be quite transparent, Suzie doesn’t really fit but I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t let this one see the light of day.
WON’T YOU COME ALONG
This song represents an emancipation of sorts; letting go of "that which no longer serves you", a quote from yoga guru Adrienne Mishler who has had such an incredible impact on myself and so many others. It’s beckoning those who struggle with self-acceptance to set themselves free, to acknowledge their innate power and beauty. It’s difficult to talk about this issue without sounding completely pretentious but I fully believe in the power of renewal and want people to walk through life without the worries we often carry around with them.
UNLOCK THE VAULT
This was one of those songs where I said to my longtime collab mate Lawrence: "It’s pretty cheesy, maybe we shouldn’t put this one on the record." But in hindsight, I’m glad we did. This song had a fairly easy birth, it was inspired by the sounds of DD Dumbo and is about that idea of getting someone to open up about shit that is getting them down. The ‘vault’ often contains a lot of emotional baggage that hardens over time if it’s not disturbed or pried out with a proverbial crowbar.
CLEAR AIR AFTER THE STORM
That beautiful feeling after a storm has passed - all the dust has settled, everything seems to have more clarity and there’s a richness in the colours of the atmosphere. This is used as a metaphor to describe the feeling after an argument with a loved one. It’s a high-pressure, intense situation during the storm and then this unbelievable calm and ease afterwards. Those moments are sometimes the scariest but lead to so much insight and growth within a relationship.
I was so thrilled to be able to work with Willow Stahlut, Biddy O’Connor and Anita Quayle once again for the string section. These three beauties played on the first record, You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine, and so it was great to have them back!
ALL YOU HAVE IS ALL YOU NEED
This song started as a response to a chord progression that Lawrence had given me. It was much faster and drum-heavy. I laid a vocal down over the top and then Lawrence got the vibe that I was aiming for something that was a little more downtempo James Blake-like, we had just seen his show live and I was IN LOVE with his song My Willing Heart (check out the vid with an extremely pregnant and beautiful Natalie Portman). So we changed the instrumentation and this song has one of the best bass solos ever, one of my fav moments on the album, actually.
If you have read this far, thank you for giving a shit! I know everyone is so busy these days but it means the world to me that you care about the music!
Much love to you,