Will Wood wants to be authentic, whatever it takes

Avant-pop musician Will Wood talked with WSN about the perils of social media, his upcoming album, “In Case I Make It,” and how his mental health has shaped his music.

Edward Franco, Martin Gao, and Manasa Gudavalli

Caitlin Hsu, UTA Publishing Editor

Songwriting inspiration can come from odd places — even from trapping and poisoning a mouse in one’s kitchen. When musician and artist Will Wood first found the creature last winter, he fed it pieces of cheese, wanting to keep it safe in the cold weather. But after learning that the species carried deadly diseases, he had no choice but to set the traps. 

“It’s sick,” Wood said in a press release. “You make the mouse think he’s found an enormous supply of food in his warm new shelter. He eats it, full of hope and gratitude, then it’s curtains. I pulled an awful little trick on my friend. In hindsight maybe I also found falling for that trick oddly relatable.”

“Tomcat Disposables,” named after a brand of poison traps, is the newest release from Wood’s upcoming album, “In Case I Make It,” which is available on all music streaming services on April 29. It is the second single from the album after “Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

The music video for “Tomcat Disposables” is highly conceptual, featuring stop-motion animation with laser-cut wooden figures by artist Ivan Fisher-Owen. Imagery of cogs in a machine, rotating shapes and, of course, mice complement the song’s folky, acoustic tones. This single is one of several from the album that will be accompanied by an art-centric music video. 

A portrait of Will Wood. A man with brown hair and a beard wearing a black shirt and pants sits on a brown leather chair. Behind him is a table with plants and picture frames.
Singer-songwriter Will Wood. (Staff Photo by Edward Franco)

The 28-year-old New Jersey native’s music is famously hard to pin down. His last record, 2020’s “The Normal Album,” changes styles from one song to the next, spanning the gamut from cabaret to rock to doo-wop. Previous albums, “Everything Is A Lot” (2015) and “SELF-iSH” (2016) — released under the stage name Will Wood and the Tapeworms — boast influences from klezmer, Latin and Middle Eastern music. In the early days of his career, Wood was known for his frenetic, high-energy live performances and elusive, often unpredictable public persona. 

“When I was writing the songs on my previous releases, I was wildly unstable, unmedicated, not very far into therapy, not doing great,” Wood said. “I’d have meltdowns, and I’d sit down on the piano and smash it with my hands and scream. And then two hours later, there’d be a song. Nowadays, writing is a much more slow-paced, contemplative sort of process.”

“In Case I Make It” is the product of both a changed mentality and a changed artist. It is his most personal work yet, he says. The songs on the record are not only instrumentally different from his previous work — folkier, relying more on ukulele and guitar than piano — but they also reflect Wood’s desire to be “authentic to the point of being risky.” 

“It’s not as mired in showboatiness or grandiosity,” Wood said. “It is definitely less wild and wacky, but I think that it’s more original than a lot of my previous work.”

Like the rest of his discography, this shift is tied to his mental health journey. Wood has been open about his struggle with bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that he received at the beginning of his career. The album’s original title, “In Case I Die,” was born out of the anxiety and paranoia that plagued him over the past couple years.

“I had just turned 27 and was suddenly experiencing a significant amount more attention than I’d ever had, at the height of a pandemic, while dealing with some serious psychiatric health issues,” Wood said. “I really thought that there was a good chance I wasn’t gonna make it. And ultimately what happened is, I turned 28. Obviously a whole bunch of other things had to get better too, but that was kind of the last thing that got me out.” 

The album’s name change is a reflection of that hope. Wood has reinvented himself and taken on the responsibility of expressing himself as honestly as he can in the hopes of reaching others who may be falling for poison traps.

“I have felt so alone throughout the majority of my life,” Wood said. “If I’ve had these experiences that have made me feel those ways, then I want to reach out and say to the world, ‘Hey, is there anybody else out there who really feels like I do?’ And then offer the people who say, ‘Yeah, me,’ some sense that they aren’t as alone as I have feared that I have been.” 

“In Case I Make It” will be released in July 2022.

Contact Caitlin Hsu at [email protected]