A truly transformative record, ‘Push Ups’ is William Wild’s ‘Pet Sounds’: A breathtaking musical, emotional, and sonic journey into the depths of our individual experience.
for fans of Handsome Ghost, Phoebe Bridgers, Novo Amor
When asked to describe his new album in three words, William Wild opts to remind us that, “IT’S ONLY MUSIC,” but what he of course recognizes is the emotional power and sheer beauty conveyed through the right mix of instruments, words, and production. Music has the ability to transcend time and space; to transport listeners to another realm. It can be a healing force as well as the driver of individual or large-scale change; it can inspire movements and help ignite a change of heart. Music is so much more than meets the eye (or ear), going well beyond being a thing of commercial art and entertainment; despite what many might have us think, music is a major catalyst in all our lives.
Stream: ‘Push Ups’ – William Wild
It is within this framework that we can begin to appreciate the work of William Wild. The moniker for Knoxville, Tennessee-based artist Garrett Sale, William Wild independently released his self-titled debut album in 2014 and has been actively exploring the intersection of folk, rock, “indie”, and alternative music ever since. His sophomore album and major label debut Push Ups (released March 20, 2020 via Sony Masterworks), finds the artist more at home in the studio and taking fuller advantage of its sundry tools to produce a sound that is as classically timeless as it is wholly of the present day.
The album’s singles “All My Life,” “Rental House,” and “Holy Ghost (where did my life go?”) evoke a mix of soundalikes as eclectic as Father John Misty, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Paul McCartney – but if the artist can claim any sort of ownership over his sound, it comes through in reverb-drenched guitars and the silken, hauntingly gorgeous vocals that soar throughout every song.
As an entity, William Wild can perhaps be understood as a mix of Garrett Sale’s own self, as well as a piece of his artistic identity. “Making Push Ups really put a lot of pressure on the parameters of William Wild for lack of a better term,” Sale tells Atwood Magazine. “As soon as I brought people into the writing and recording part, I realized how personal the project had become for me, and I clammed up. So owning up to it being “my thing” was a great moment for fluidity and productivity, but also it is just a project. The more I think about making a William Wild record like a science fair project, the better off I am.”
A truly transformative record, Push Ups is William Wild’s Pet Sounds: A breathtaking musical, emotional, and sonic journey into the depths of our individual experience.
Various songs stand out for their gorgeous instrumentation, achingly sweet vocals, and so on, but this is an album best listened to from start-to-finish in order to appreciate William Wild’s artistry and Garrett Sale’s artistic brilliance. Light and dark contrasts collide in consistently evocative displays of music as emotion, whether in the bombast of the arresting “Slow Records,” the driving push-and-pull of “Older Brother,” or the grandeur and bittersweet, harmony-laden glow of “All My Life.”
“What if maybe it was love I had to give, I could give you more, if you let me know where I might just find you.” Beginning with the exceptional, intimate song “Let Me Know,” with its immediate ethereal vocal swell, its expressive range, and its glistening array of guitars and orchestral strings, Push Ups sucks listeners into William Wild’s singular musical plane – one full of tactile sounds so front-of-mind and in-your-face, if you close your eyes it feels like you can reach out and touch the instruments as they play.
“During the course of making Push Ups, I experienced some of the most intense moments of my life along with encountering face-to-face some of the biggest questions in my life,” Sale explains. “I didn’t fare well, either. It was like that scene in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone where they fall into that patch of Devil’s Snare. You know, it’s that crazy vine thing that wraps them up, and then Hermione tells them to relax or the vine will suffocate them. I should’ve relaxed… At this point it’s like a mountain range in the rearview mirror.”
He continues, “Being involved with so many more people put a lot of pressure on the music in a good way. All of a sudden the music was literally the only thing I was responsible for. Actually, that’s more just the way I was looking at it at the time. I think in hindsight, part of this record was again me learning the parameters of William Wild. I ended up finding that I need to be heavily involved in many aspects of the project to feel right and honest. Sony Masterworks made it easy for me to define those boundaries, and gave me complete freedom.”
Premiered on Atwood Magazine earlier this month, the song “Rental House” is an especially beautiful offering that serves as quintessential Push Ups material, finding the artist sinking into himself and his layered, yet impressively spacious and inviting tapestry of sound. Showcasing William Wild’s stunning vocals through breathtakingly poetic imagery and visuals, “Rental House” finds Sale reflecting on his childhood experience of life post-parental divorce and remarriage: “I had been thinking about that era for a few weeks and one day I pretty much just sang those lyrics in one go,” he explains.
While it can help shape our view of William Wild and Garrett Sale as an artist, we don’t need to necessarily know every lyrics’ original meaning in order to understand and connect with his music. “Everything I had made up to the point of starting Push Ups had come from an almost unconsciousness place,” Sale explains. “When I look back to the previous releases I don’t even remember making decisions… it was all just happening. Finding that beautiful place of fluidity and building a home, so to speak, was a massive part of this record.”
Push Ups is easily Sale’s most intimate work to date, finding him presenting his full self through colors, textures, lyrics, expressive vocal inflections, and so much more.
“The songwriting process was all over the place on this record; for some reason, I had to constantly shift things up to stay engaged,” Sale explains. “I had several different writing locations and setups. A lot of moments were conceived at my personal studio which was a rental house that I had turned into a studio – that place was great, super vibey. I would go there and just open a Pro Tools session and start creating a world. Other times, it would just be on acoustic guitar at my house or sometimes at night. I would go to my current studio that was under construction at the time. At that point, it was a giant open room that was essentially an echo chamber. I [also] worked a lot with Tim Friesen (producer) on this record, and we went on several writing trips where we would go to the beach or something and set up a bunch of gear in an Airbnb. That was nice because it created an intentional zone, and it was nice to see a different visual palette. Tim really had a lot of patience with me on this record and gave so much of his time; what a guy.”
Sure, Garrett Sale is right: At the end of the day, “IT’S ONLY MUSIC.” But music like that on his sophomore album is so much more than a mere 37-minute collection of songs. The world William Wild builds is one of vulnerability and self-reflection, as much a vessel for self-discovery as it is a space of tranquility, movement, emotional upheaval, and catharsis. Push Ups is an artistic masterpiece of sound and color – a beautiful and memorable genre-defiant collage of nuanced timbres and personal reflections on who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.
Coming out the other side, Push Ups leaves us refreshed and inspired – appreciate of our past, and ready for whatever the future holds. Experience the full record via the below stream, and peek inside William Wild’s Push Ups with Atwood Magazine as Garrett Sale goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his sophomore album!
Stream: ‘Push Ups’ – William Wild
:: Inside Push Ups ::
Let Me Know
“Let Me Know” started out as a folky fingerpicking song that I started writing on tour in 2017. I had a few days off in LA and stayed with some friends which was a really welcome break from what had been my first completely solo tour. I was out for 35 days and sleeping in my van! The verses, melody, and lyrics were something that I rediscovered probably a year later as a voice memo called “Brock’s House” when going through my phone. I ended up channeling the sense of isolation on that trip into the context of someone silently suffering in a relationship due to poor communication and a lack of safe space.
Tim Friesen, who co-produced the record with me, helped flip this song on its head and that was really the beginning of finding the sound of the record. We moved the chords around, threw some wacky sounding synths on it and wrote a couple of completely new sections.
This song came together about halfway through the process and really was a catalyst for finishing the record. I was not in a healthy place and was struggling to write or even work on music at all. Somehow I found enough energy to try and simply finish a full song…not caring what it sounded like stylistically and not worrying about what anyone would think about it. Once I found the simple chord progression the first line that popped out of my mouth was “Sometimes I feel better tethered to the dark”. I’m pretty sure I burst out laughing when I first sang that… out of relief, I guess. From that point, I spent several nights on my back porch over the course of a week or two finishing the lyrics. My friend Tyler Anthony stepped in at some point and kind of held my hand through finishing it!
“Older Brother” was the easiest song to make by far. My friend David Silverberg came over to write with me for the first time and we basically came up with the whole thing that day. We have since gone on to make all the videos for the album and written several more songs. It was a very unexpected and fruitful new creative partnership that I’m very thankful for.
Hard Lines, Hard Times
My good friend Tyler Anthony and I started sharing songs back and forth in an attempt to try co-writing from a distance, or maybe it was just to inspire one another to do something. Either way, I basically wrote this whole song in an hour just so I would have something to send to him and make it seem like I was actually doing something. Socially and politically I was feeling handcuffed and afraid to say the wrong thing, but I started thinking about how real community and relationship kind of makes all those lines disappear. The imagery was very easy to find and the ease at which this song came together makes it one of my favorite I have ever written. “Hard Lines,” like many others, also started out as a folky fingerpicker and morphed over time. Tim Friesen had the idea to try a recording technique where you sing the whole song at half speed. We then sped the track back up to normal speed and pitched it down back to the original octave. I ended up loving this idea and so almost every instrument on the song is recording at half speed which gives everything a very unique and surreal character.
Pictures (the push ups)
In early 2018 I had an LSD experience that completely changed my life. I was relatively new to the drug and took a high dose to see what it was all about. I stayed up all night writing and discovering, it was a beautiful night. Around 8 am, something like 9 hours into the trip, I decided to do some push ups before I went to bed to sleep all day. Probably due to exhaustion, I got an adrenaline rush while doing the push ups… my dog started barking at me ferociously, I guess because she could tell something was wrong. I hopped up off the ground and was immediately thrown into a never-ending nightmare. I spent months and months and months recovering from this moment, my nervous system was shocked and my emotional infrastructure was incredibly confused. I will never be the same. It’s very hard to explain this event, but ultimately I’m very thankful for it. This song is about that night and the following year of dealing with my fragmented hard drive.
Holy Ghost (where did my life go?)
This song was started on a writing trip with Tim Friesen in the mountains in North Carolina. I couldn’t write anything so Tim left me alone for a while. When he came back I had nothing except some chords and so jokingly sang the first line “I need more time”. Eventually, the song came together pretty easily, it was new and fun to write such personal lyrics to music that was so easy going.
Wound Up (alt.)
“Wound Up” came very early in the process, maybe even before I knew I was making a record. Musically I had an idea of a massive chaotic swell as a chorus so I found the chords and for a while would just kind of yell the “Ahh” part when the chorus would come. This was pre-acid trip but was getting at some of the issues that arose from that experience… owning up to what I had become. It’s kind of a play on words about being “wound up” as in stressed out, but also watching your dreams fade and coming to terms with how you actually “wound up.”
This guitar part is at least ten years old. One of my oldest friends, John Knight, wrote most of the chords and riffs in high school, and over the years I would play around with it. The lyrics happened in one stream of consciousness vocal take and that is the only time that has ever happened. I didn’t know it at the time but I was channeling some childhood experiences with my dad and crazy stepmom. This was the first song recorded on the album and it took me a couple of years to even consider it eligible for the album! Now I love it and really appreciate the history of the music and the ease at which the lyrics happened.
All My Life
“All My Life” started with the refrain part “I never lied, I never lied, I never broke a promise too.” Those lines popped out while sitting at the Rhodes one day and it took me a while to figure out where to take the rest of it. Ultimately, the production became an experiment in electronic music production. Through my co-producer Tim and several other new friends, I started to learn some things and also picked up some new toys. There’s a lot of DX7 and Prophet 08 on this one. I had a studio in an old house at this time and the entire thing was wired up in a beautiful way… there were so many instruments and keyboards and everything was set up so you could just walk up to it and it would make noise and be going into the computer.
Radio (where im goin)
Tim and I co-wrote this at an Airbnb in Charleston, SC. All the key changes were confusing for me at first, especially getting into the chorus, so I sat on it for a really long time. Tim would always ask about it, we would try something, and then just move on. Finally, when it moved away from the acoustic guitar it started to come together. I was super into Peter Gabriel at the time and I think that really came through.
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📸 © Dillon Matthew
an album by William Wild