Ray Wills is a current student on the Creative Artist pathway at ACM Guildford.
Guest post by Music Business student Christy Field.
‘Hypnotising’, ‘beautiful’, and ‘captivating’; just some of the words used by gig-goers in Purple Turtle on Wednesday 26th April. Despite being the support act for the evening, Ray Wills and his band gave such a heartfelt performance that their songs resonated with the audience long after the headliner closed the show.
Being an intimate, characteristic venue, Purple Turtle seems the ideal place for Wills’ atmospheric display. The dimly lit, poster-strewn room almost echoes the grungy, alternative music music; minimal lighting, as this is a sound that demands attention, which they certainly have obtained. A brief introduction before they zealously climb onstage indicate that they are excited to perform for their crowd of loyal followers and curious newcomers.
Ray Wills is the songwriting force behind the band, with soulful vocals accompanying his melodic guitar, and he attributes his keen interest in music to his mother who performed as a jazz musician. This is evident in his songwriting, as are elements of his main inspirations; Jeff Buckley, Matt Corby and Radiohead to name a few. A band of like-minded, talented friends was exactly what he needed to put together an engaging, well-rounded set. On lead guitar is Oli Rushen, bass is played by George Maclean and the complex drums are provided by Jack Geary. The close relationship between the band members is clearly evident through their synchronisation, cracks and jests with each other. Wills talks to the audience as a close friend would, letting the room in on the bands’ close-knit rapport – we are invited to be a part of their jovial, boyish camaraderie, and from the moment the delicate guitar and seemingly-effortless falsetto begins, all eyes and ears are on the stage.
This is the beginning of Fake Love, with it’s emphatic, catchy chorus, and the audience are keen to hear more – what follows is a tranquil, downtempo song named ‘Bathed in your Light’. The smooth vocals, a mix of falsetto and luscious deep tones lie atop melodic guitar, unaccompanied by drums or bass. A song about love and longing, with Wills declaring that ‘only you can hold my hand.’ This is juxtaposed with the livelier ‘How Selfish’, which is made up of time signature changes, growling, powerful lyrics and a repetitive chorus which allows the accompanying instrumental to crescendo and become more complex, leading to an abrupt end; this song without doubt inspired the most energy throughout the venue.
Another downtempo, intricate song follows – this time performed solo. Accompanied only by his own delicate guitar playing, Wills’ honey-sweet voice is extremely enjoyable to listen to. The mix between smooth high-pitched vocals, deep growls and soulful bursts keeps the listener engaged throughout. It isn’t until afterwards that we find out Wills improvised this song entirely on the spot! A heavier, more textured ‘Fine’ follows, which is met by some violent head-banging, and the final song is preceded by a funky, perfectly in synch improvisation, during which the frontman leans to the microphone and light-heartedly freestyles for a few bars, showing that although the themes of Ray Wills’ music are slightly sombre, the band work together to provide much-needed breaks; they are not by any means ‘one trick ponies.’ The last song, ‘My Mind’, is introduced as being extremely new, and ends the show on a lively note. Although it has only been performed a handful of times before, the band receive bouts of positive feedback, as they also do about the gig as a whole.
The reception of Ray Wills and his band is always extremely warm no matter who they play to, and they are developing an ever-growing following of loyal fans. This is down to the personalities of each individual band member and their ability to immerse their audience in whichever atmosphere their songs create – although the genre of their music is expressive indie/alternative folk, the wide range of styles and emotions that they touch on keep their gigs exciting, as do sudden changes in time signature and tone allowing the listener to be transported to wherever the band take themselves when they play their music – it’s certainly out of this world.
If you’d like to be a student at ACM to kickstart your career in the music industry, please call our Admissions Team on 01483 500 841 or visit www.acm.ac.uk/open-days/ to book a place on an ACM Open Day today.