Poolside at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia in Singapore, pop artist Tom Jay Williams is showing me a photo of a smashed iPhone screen, courtesy of Port Power’s heartbreaking loss to the West Coast Eagles on Saturday night. You can take the boy out of Adelaide, it seems, but you can’t take the Adelaide out of the boy.
To listen to him talk about his recent travels though, you’d be forgiven for thinking Williams has his mind on anything to do with home at all.
“We’re doing some work with YouTube,” he explains. “They’re sending me all across the world and filming in their spaces. We filmed the “Closure” video in Sydney and then the new single, “Figure it Out”, we filmed in India. That was super cool. It was a whole other world.”
For his first time in Singapore however, Williams has been introducing himself to crowds via Music Matters Live. His music has been embraced well by the Singaporean crowds and indeed, by much of the Asian market he’s been able to visit over the last few years; if there’s one thing we’ve noticed over out here, it’s that pop is definitely the name of the game. As Williams explains, it’s a totally different realm from that of Australia’s music industry.
“I feel like, without stepping on anyone’s toes, they’re a little bit too cool for pop,” he admits. “If you go away and you break it outside and then you come back, they’ll embrace it. It’s a different vibe for sure. Here, they scream, they yell…if you tried to do that back in Australia, it’s a little different. We have to tweak the show a bit so you don’t look like an idiot. Up here, you can do that stuff and they scream for it.”
With a social media following exceeding 600k on Facebook and 74k on Twitter, Williams has long been generating hype and momentum around his music, whether it has been for his solo project, as vocalist of At Sunset, or his appearance as a finalist on Australian Idol back in 2006.
Now in his early twenties, Williams admits that such experiences have brought with them much needed perspective triggers that have informed how his artistic development has continued to flourish.
“After leaving the band, I had about eight months off to gather my thoughts.” he says. “I’ve been in the industry flat out since Australian Idol, I haven’t really stopped. After that, I was pretty defeated. It didn’t end well. I took some time off for myself, just to gather and think about it and to get the team right. I was looking for ages to get the right team; I wasn’t willing to waste time again. I found the team that I’m working with now, who are great.”
“I’m working with Troy and Paul and a great team out of Sweden, who produce just bangers. The guy who produced my first and second records, Freddie, who did The Chainsmokers‘ “Paris”. I’m mingling with these people I never thought I’d have the opportunity to work with, it’s crazy. It’s definitely a pay off and I’m happy with where I am now and with the way it’s going. It feels really good.”
Looking ahead to 2018, Williams is optimistic even if he chooses to keep mum about his touring plans. It’s easy to tell that he knows what he wants now and with lucrative digital partnerships behind him as well as an international team, he’s got a good deck of cards to play with.
“I’ve gone through so many phases: I’ve had blue hair, I’ve been punk pop, I’ve done the Short Stack thing.” he says. “There have been so many weird things that I’ve done and At Sunset was the closest to what I love. My favourite band are The Jonas Brothers; I’ve always wanted to be in a pop band like that, but it just didn’t really click. We did have a positive response [though]; we were touring Asia and in the Philippines we had police escorts. People were trying to tip our vans over, it was crazy. We had billboards, it was crazy.”
“This year was a year of finding the team, finding myself as a person and getting my life together. I’ve gone through a severe break up and I’ve needed to find myself. 2018 is going to be great, there’s going to be a lot of music and international touring. I’m really looking forward to it.”
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