Behind every great artist is an equally great producer, who’s an integral part of their come-up. In Yelawolf’s case, that beatsmith was and still is WillPower. As a behind-the-scenes asset to the Shady Records star for over a decade, this humbled hitmaker has not only produced the majority of your favorite ‘Wolf songs, but helped guide his overall sound into the brand of speaker-abusing Trunk Muzik you’ve come to know and love.
To find out what makes Will’s production palette so applicable to an artist as versatile as Yelawolf, and to get a scoop behind the scenes of their upcoming Trunk Muzik Returns project, TSS Crew’s BEWARE chopped it up with the brains behind the boards. Speaking on everything from preferred recording techniques to the repercussions of having a 21-inch subwoofer in his studio, WillPower lays it all out for Slumerican fans.
TSS: You and YelaWolf just dropped “F.A.S.T. Ride,” which is the second song released off Trunk Muzik Returns. Both feature the same heavy-hitting, yet lush production that made the original Trunk Muzik a classic mixtape. Were you trying to recreate a winning formula or did your joint chemistry just pick up where it left off?
WillPower: We just picked up where we left off. When we go in the studio, we don’t ever really try to have a blueprint. We just vibe and we do what we love to do. Trunk Muzik is a brand that we started, which did so well the first time we just titled [the project] that afterwards. But, truth is, we just went in and vibed and that’s just what we do. We just picked up where we left off. And we’re happy with it [LAUGHS].
TSS: And I’m assuming the fans will be, as well. However, while I understand the Trunk Muzik name is more from a strategic-branding approach, did you two find yourself falling into any of the same patterns recording-wise as the previous project?
WillPower: Somewhat. You know, Yela and I have been recording together for over a decade now. We started in 2002. So, it’s just a cultivated relationship, man. It’s kind of like being on a basketball court. He knows what my move is. I know what his move is and together we just make good music.
So, when we get together and put ourselves in these situations, we just vibe out and look for good energy. If we’re both jumping around when we’re done with the record and all our energy is gone from the session, then we know we did a really good thing. That’s just how we approach it.
TSS: Well, obviously the chemistry is there, especially if you’ve been working together since 2002. Good Lord.
TSS: Since the original Trunk Muzik project basically put Yela on the map, how much has he changed in the studio since recording the first project?
WillPower: Honestly, it didn’t change him much, man. From day one, he’s been a perfectionist. So, when he’s in the studio, he’s just about perfecting what he’s working on. So, since the record deal and the first Trunk Muzik, I think that his focus has broadened, but his work ethic has remained the same. He’s always been that guy that you almost have to drag him out of the studio, when he’s in recording mode. He’s focused.
When he gets in the booth, you’ve got to have a really good engineer in there, that understands how to work the session, because he’s very fast and detailed about what he wants. And he’s been that way from the beginning. I remember when I used to engineer his sessions and do his beats. He used to aggravate me sometimes, because he’s so dedicated to getting it right.
TSS: So you’re saying he’s still going to work you, until the song is perfect. The amounts of tracks he’s taking to record might just be fewer.
WillPower: Yeah. He’s been known to cut a record, walk out, then come back in and say, “listen, let’s trash this one. This ain’t it.” I’ve seen him do it hundreds of times. So, if something makes it to the public, it’s been really thought out. One thing I know about ‘Wolf is that if something hits the street, he’s 99 percent proud of it. I don’t know about things that got out he maybe didn’t approve, but if he approved it, he was happy about it.
TSS: And that’s the sign of a good artist, to have that foresight to know what your fans want and delivering, opposed to just working the law of averages and trying to just appease the masses.
WillPower: Yeah, that to me is one thing I have seen him grow with, that I admire, is his connection with his fans. At first, when we first did Trunk Muzik, we were looking for fans. You just throw it out there and kind of see what sticks.
He started to realize who his fan base was and who these people are and how to connect with them and I give him props for really continuing to cultivate that relationship with his fans, because that’s important to him. That’s why he doesn’t do the whole, let me try and do a record like everybody else thing. He’s always trying to be different, to be innovative. And I think his fans appreciate that and I hope that new fans will start to appreciate that as well.
TSS: Well I can definitely tell he tries to stay off the beaten path. But, before I move forward, I asked how he’s changed since Trunk Muzik. How have you changed?
WillPower: I’ve changed a lot, man. Growth has been my biggest venture. When ‘Wolf got his deal, being the homeboy producer that was doing his beats before he got signed, I just felt like I had so much to prove. Because, immediately, once a record deal’s done and the budget opens up, then all of a sudden you’ve got all these [producers] who have this history, these hits and all these things you don’t have – including equipment and engineers and this stuff you don’t have. All you have is your computer and your beat machine you’ve been working on your whole career. Now, you’re up against guys that can do things amazingly.
TSS: You’re up against your idols, to a certain extent.
WillPower: Absolutely. And, I think that for me, that’s my biggest challenge and one of the things I’ve come to adapt to. I had to step it up, man. I do this every day. I’m of those guys who truly works on their kick drums and truly works on his snares. I really take the time to work on my mixes. I finally have my own engineer. We’re one now, you know what I mean? It’s been years of trying to put together a system that can compete and put me on the level that I need to be on.
TSS: Back to the Trunk Muzik Returns, I’ve read you and Yela basically blocked out a month to knock out the project. What’s a typical daily schedule consist of? I know you were going super hard, but I’m curious as to what extent.
WillPower: Well, we got the phone call in December that ‘Wolf wanted to finish Trunk Muzik Returns, so we blocked out a month in his basement. We could’ve easily gone to a label studio and done all the bells and whistles, but he was really adamant about capturing the same vibe we had on the original Trunk Muzik. So we basically put a studio together in his basement, at his house.
And we would wake up in the morning, get breakfast and get to the studio about 1 pm and not leave, until about 1 to 2 in the morning. The only break we would really take would be dinner. And since we’ve got some really great management, they would make sure we’d have home-cooked meals. So, for a month, we had home-cooked meals and ‘Wolf would request we all sat down and had dinner together. So, it’s really about feeling at home and and having a real comfortable atmosphere.
From our past experiences, not having comfort will have you doing something you didn’t want to do or kind of be forced into a situation you aren’t comfortable in. So, he’s big about that now.
TSS: I can imagine. Shit, after ten years of grinding, being comfortable has got to be at the top of the list. Lastly, in regard to the project, are there surprises fans can expect or anticipate?
WillPower: We’ve got some really good surprises. The truth is, though, I can’t be the one to tell, because I don’t want that problem [LAUGHS]. I will say this, though: he’s doing a lot of the project himself. I think that he’s going away from the norm. Everyone’s got a whole lot of features and got a whole bunch of people on their projects, it’s almost hard to tell whose project it is sometimes. So, he was very careful about making sure this album is another piece of artwork from him. But, we do have a few features that are incredible. Without me giving up any names, I would say fans and other people will be excited about who we’ve got on this project.