10 Questions With Hayley Williams As She Releases Her Debut Solo Album ‘Petals For Armor’
Everyone has had a Paramore phase. Or I just assume so. My entire friendship group in my early secondary school years were obsessed. Total superfans, Parawhores if you must. They were the first band we all went to see live as a group, I even had a countdown on my phone for the gig as soon as we copped tickets. They’ve been soundtracking those awkward adolescent years for teens across the globe for over 15 years. From the angsty cuts of 2007s Riot! to the chart-friendly bops of their 2013 self-titled release, they’re a band who’ve been able to tug and pull their sound between colliding genres whilst always sounding distinctly Paramore. Members have left and rejoined once more, but one thing has always stayed the same. Front and centre is Hayley Williams. Unmissable for her fiery locks or peroxide blonde curls, Williams’ presence is as ferocious as it is infectious. Whether you’re listening to her flex her vocal chops through your headphones or watching the band perform 20 metres in front of you, she demands your attention. Full of swagger and a seemingly unshakable confidence, Williams cannot be ignored.
With each album the band has released, Paramore has continuously been able to top themselves. Williams doesn’t contest this viewpoint, as when I ask the 31-year-old if she could only listen to one Paramore album for the rest of her life, she chooses After Laugher: “obviously, because it’s our best work yet,” she says. After Laughter was the band’s latest full-length album, released back in 2017. Punchy, 1980s pop-rock influences took hold to make the album one of the best released that year. Yet it also features some of Williams’ most personal songwriting to date. Themes surrounding mental health and spiralling relationships make moments on After Laughter rather poignant, even through the dazzling synths and nostalgic guitar riffs. Through the making of After Laughter and the album’s gruelling tour schedule, Williams was at her lowest. Her marriage to New Found Glory member Chad Gilbert had broken down and ultimately resulted in their divorce just months after the album was released. Battles with her own mental health resulted in the artist seeking therapy. It was her therapist who encouraged Williams to put her traumas to paper, which eventually blossomed into her debut solo record Petals for Armor.
“Petals For Armor is really just about the discovery of true strength within my vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Creating conversation around my experiences and trying to look at myself from many different vantage points has helped me to level with myself and grow,” she explains. Stripped away from the shredding guitars and bellowing drums you’ll find buried in a Paramore album, Petals for Armor is quiet and considered, with Williams often singing through a whisper. Album standout ‘Dead Horse’ begins with voice note – ‘It has took me three days to send you this, but sorry I was in a depression / I’m trying to come out of it now’, says Williams with a heavy reluctancy in the cracking of her voice. Her words are resilient, addressing her marriage breakdown and mental wellbeing head-on into flourishing moments of healing.
On ‘Creepin”, she sings of being stuck ‘sucking on the memory of him’, whilst two tracks later on ‘Over It’, she proudly boasts ‘If there’s resistance, it makes you stronger.’ Moving through the album, Williams walks through her darkest hours, moving slowly but surely to a place of happiness by the album’s climax ‘Crystal Clear’. “At a certain point in life, we have to learn to find a balance between loving ourselves gently, as we would an innocent child, and challenging ourselves to growth, as we would a friend who’s a danger to themselves,” says Williams. “There is softness and strength in every living thing.” Although her petals may be wilted, on this record Williams has fully blossomed. In celebration of its release, we asked the lady herself some questions – take it away Hayley!
1. How do you plan on celebrating the album being released in lockdown?
“Hopefully by doing some type of an event or show for fans, remotely, from Nashville. Otherwise, I’ll have a glass of champagne and thank my lucky stars I got to do this whole putting out music thing again”
2. Which song from Petals for Armor are you excited to perform the most?
“As of today, I’m really anticipating performing ‘Sugar On The Rim’ from the last part of Petals For Armor. It’s so entirely different from anything I’d ever written for Paramore or Petals… It feels industrial and powerful and cool even though it’s ultimately a dance track. We’ll see if I can pull it off how I’m hoping to…”
3. What’s the best thing about making a solo album?
“The best thing is just the opportunity to make more music. It really could’ve been any project. I just never want to have to stop doing what I love.”
4. What’s the worse thing about making a solo album?
“That people assume it means I’m “going solo” and the band is done.”
5. If you could have any singer, dead or alive, perform a cover of ‘Simmer’, who would it be and why?
“Hmm… Sufjan Stevens because I want it to hurt and heal me at the same time.”
6. If Petals for Armor were a superhero, who/what would be its arch-nemesis?
“A human man who’s bottom half is just an office chair and he just mansplains all the songs to people.”
7. What’s the key to making the perfect love song?
“The key is to have your heart broken enough and then still never stop trying to love someone.”
8. Are you planning on making a TikTok dance for any song from Petals For Armor?
“No way. I’m too old for TikTok. Anyone who tries to convince me that I’m not is just looking for a laugh… Or money, maybe. I humbly leave this one in a different generation’s hands.”
9. What’s the first record you’ve ever bought?
“It was either Breakfast With Girls by Self or Thursday’s Full Collapse, which I bought on white vinyl from Grimey’s Records in Nashville. Still my favourite record store.”
10. Who are three other pop stars we should be listening to in lockdown?
“I’m really impressed with Dua Lipa’s latest release, so definitely Dua. Other than that, I’d go a different route – listen to Sade and Mr. Twin Sister. Those are great home vibes.”
Photographs by Lindsey Byrnes. ‘Petals for Armor’ by Hayley Williams is out now.