"More musicians than not have issues with mental health" – Interview with Wil Wagner (The Smith Street Band)

In our interview with Wil Wagner, the Smith Street Band singer talks about mental health issues among musicians, opens up about his own coping with fear, his friendship with Jeff Rosenstock and gives a look ahead to the band’s new album More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me and the upcoming touring.

„In our world of musicians and artists I think more people than not have these issues with mental health. „

Interview with Wil Wagner (The Smith Street Band)

Wil, “Panic attacks on German TV”: Are these lyrics fact or fiction?
Wil Wagner: They are fact! On one of our German tours I was having a pretty horrible time with my mental health and just after we performed on a German TV show I had a panic attack!
Anxiety and coping with insecurities are recurring themes in your lyrics. Is music your way of getting these issues out of your system?
Wil Wagner: Absolutely. To me writing is a form of therapy before anything else and writing about my feelings helps me to feel better. That’s what made me start writing in the first place!
Your producer & buddy Jeff Rosenstock has the same cathartic approach by singing about his depression (especially on WE Cool). Has this „similarity“ contributed to your bond with him?
Wil Wagner: Yeah it’s something we have definitely spoken about. In our world of musicians and artists I think more people than not have these kind of issues. But Jeff and I bond far more over what makes us happy than what makes us sad!
I know you prefer to act instead of talking about your social engagement, but I just listened to the playlist you put together for IWD17. Why do you think is even the “tolerant, open-minded” indie music scene too often still a male-dominated subculture?
Wil Wagner: Lots of complicated reasons that I am not qualified to explain. I think all I have to do is my part, sharing as many talented artists with unique voices as I can. Everything I do I want to come from a place of positivity. I think this issue especially is viewed so negatively by all sides of the debate. I like to just focus on how many amazing bands and artists there are out there doing the right thing and share that community and spirit of inclusiveness. To be honest, I’ve never really felt comfortable or fitted in with the ‘band bros’ crowd so I’ve always been surrounded by inspirational people who don’t fit that mould.
„Suffer“ is so far my personal favourite on the record. Did you intentionally go for a sound that totally sticks out from the other songs or was it like this from the beginning?
Wil Wagner: Thankyou! Yeah we definitely wanted that song to be super heavy and fuzzy and to really kick into a louder gear. It’s kind of the death rattle of my anger on the album before it calms down on the last two songs. It’s super fun to play live!
Jeff & Uncle M here in Germany are constants for your band – but a lot has changed for The Smithies between „Throw Me…“ & „I am more…“. You’ve grown “quite big” in Australia. Were you able to ditch “jobs that pay the rent” by now? Is it still a hassle to combine the life as musicians with the “normal” one?
Wil Wagner: Haha I haven’t had a proper job for about 5 years now! Our success in Australia has meant that we have been able to live off music and do so much international touring. It’s been amazing! It’s tough to combine a normal life and a touring life for sure, but it’s very rewarding and the positives absolutely outweigh the negatives!
Last year I hopped over the border & saw you in kind of a shoebox in Belgium (I think it was called The Box, actually) with the Muncie Girls & Coppersky. A lot of fun for sure, but are tours like these a big financial risk for you guys?
Wil Wagner: Ha. I mean we don’t do incredibly well in Belgium, no. But we do well enough in other places on those tours that we don’t lose money. And to be honest, what’s the point of having band money if you don’t spend it touring. That Belgian show you went to definitely had a better turn out than our last Belgium show, so slowly our plan is working.
This summer you’re gonna head over for another extensive Europe tour. Any special things you are already looking forward to?
Wil Wagner: That tour is going to be so fun! Playing great festivals and venues all over Europe, I can’t wait. I’ve been working my fucking arse off getting stuff ready for the album release so I’m excited to be out from behind my computer and playing shows again!
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