UK based artist Will Gray has just released his Christmas EP 'Christmas With You’. Louder Than The Music chatted to Will to find out what made him record a Christmas album, and when listeners can expect more from his ongoing Psalms project.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
My name is Will Gray, and I'm a songwriter and producer based in South London who both passionately loves making music and passionately loves God. Music has been a huge part of my life from the beginning, growing up in Cardiff with a piano teacher for a Grandma and an opera singer for an uncle. God spoke to me early on, around 14/15 years old, that he wanted me to pursue music. After school, I attended a year of worship training and discipleship with Living Light School of Worship in Wisconsin and earned a Bachelor's degree in Music and Sound Recording at the University of Surrey. My goal was to equip myself with the skills to compose and produce my own music and since then I’ve just tried to hone my craft and glorify God with the music I write. I primarily write for two projects - Will Gray, where I’m writing through the Psalms as well as releasing the occasional non-Psalm related song, and Pax Cultura - a cinematic rock band who just released our first EP. Besides music, I'm a committed church member and a proud husband and father.
Tell us about your new Christmas EP 'Christmas With You' and why you decided to record Christmas music?
Strangely, I often feel like I don’t get much of a choice with the music I write. Obviously I do, but what I mean is that more often than not, songs come into my head unexpectedly and become the focus of my next project. That was definitely the case with this EP. I found myself randomly making up Christmas related songs as I was cycling and going about my life. Then they stuck and so I was like ‘well I guess I’ve got to make a Christmas EP now’. So that’s how the project began! It’s been a really enjoyable journey writing and recording Christmas music throughout the year because you get to focus in on the incarnation all year round, which has been amazing. I feel like we should all probably be singing about Jesus’ birth throughout the year! Anyway, my heart for the EP was to mainly have songs that drew people's hearts to Jesus. I hope they do that. I also, however, wanted to have a bit of a light-hearted song on there which is how ‘Christmas With You’ came about.
Which is your favourite track on the EP and why?
Picking favourites is tricky! But if I had to choose, it would probably be 'Christmas With You.' I had a blast making it, and it's a departure from my usual style. I enjoyed getting some real drums on it and I think it’s got a great feel.
You've taken a pause from your ongoing Psalms project for this EP, when can we expect to hear more from that project?
Yes, this project took me a lot longer to finish than I expected so the Psalms project got pushed back a bit. However, I'm still moving forward with it, putting final touches on the mixes. If all goes according to plan, you can expect Psalm 16 to drop early in the new year.
What message would you like people to take from your music?
Different projects carry different messages, but for the Christmas EP, I hope people are reminded that Christmas celebrates an actual historical event with a profound impact that resonates into our time. I want listeners to find their focus on Jesus through the lyrics and music and of course, have some fun dancing to 'Christmas With You.'
From the Psalms, the takeaway is that singing scripture-soaked songs is profoundly edifying. Personally, it fuels my perspective of who God is and deepens my understanding of His love for us as we come to Him broken and worshipping. I long for it to do the same for others.
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
That's a tough one. I'd probably choose Jamie Cullum; he's been a musical hero since my childhood. Working with him would be insane. He has a fantastic understanding of simplicity and good songwriting.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
Defining success in the world of songwriting is an ongoing struggle. External metrics like streams and numbers can be really distracting, but I long to define my success by whether I love the music I make and if my heart's intention is to glorify God. If I achieve that, which I can struggle to do at times, I consider myself successful - at least that's what I keep trying to remind myself.
What is your favourite album of all time?
Wow - difficult. I definitely couldn’t just choose one but I’m a fan of Matt Corby - Rainbow Valley, Israel Houghton - The Power of One and Daniel Caesar - Freudian.
As we're talking about festive music - which is your favourite Christmas pop song ever?
"Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole. It's a vibe.
What does the next year hold for you?
Who knows! I'm aiming to release several Psalms, collaborate with new people, and there might even be a Psalms study podcast in the works. I've entertained the idea of live shows with the Psalms and possibly writing more Christmas songs for the next year, but that's a long way away!