Willie J Healey
About Willie J Healey
Born and raised in the West Oxfordshire town of Carterton, this English singer/songwriter delivers playful, organic indie rock that seems at once impulsive and thoughtful, betraying an affinity with left-field icons of the '70s such as Neil Young and Marc Bolan. At its loosest, Healey's work could be filed alongside the laid-back, slacker indie of Mac DeMarco, although his dynamic repertoire also contains enough energy and bite to differentiate him from the Canadian. His 2017 Columbia Records debut, People and Their Dogs, didn’t light a commercial fire but won him a modest fan base and led to his realization that an independent label would be a better home for his creative idiosyncrasies. As a result, he synced up with Yala Records -- a small company co-owned by the Maccabees' Felix White -- for the following year's spontaneous, Elliott Smith-inspired 666 Kill EP. That label would go on to release his inventive second full-length album, Twin Heavy, in 2020.
To his schoolmates at Carterton Community College, Healey appeared set on a boxing career. Between the ages of 10 and 16 he devoted countless hours to the sport, restricting his self-taught guitar playing to home. At the time, the prospect of a gig seemed ambitious and he was satisfied strumming along to Oasis covers with his father at Christmas. However, when a career officer questioned his enthusiasm for a potential move to university in Manchester to study sport, he opted to take a music diploma at the nearby Oxford & Cherwell Valley College. After completing the course, he briefly worked as a laborer for his father's plastering company, and simultaneously gained increased confidence in a musical path. Aping his idol Young, Healey drove to open-mike nights and Spring Offensive support slots, carrying his gear in a converted hearse.
The Boatshed -- a blog that evolved into a label -- ultimately released Healey's debut EP, HD Malibu, in 2015. Two subsequent pop-focused singles -- "Dude Like Him" and "Saturday Night Feeling" -- reinforced his gift for melody and caught the attention of Columbia, which signed him, in turn issuing the original versions of "Pipedreams" and "Would You Be" in 2016. The Hey Big Moon EP soon followed and, by this point, local musicians Chris Barker and Mike Monaghan -- on drums and guitar, respectively -- had become key to his backing band. This was emblematic of Healey's approach to music with the uncommon wonder in his immediate surroundings inspiring both his lyrics and choice of collaborators. By early 2017 he filled venues as a headliner and after the summer release of his debut LP he made appearances at both the Truck and Reading festivals. Twelve months on he signed to Yala and supported Gaz Coombes on national dates. 2019 began with a two-week U.K. headline tour and ended with the release of the Hello Good Morning EP; Twin Heavy arrived the following summer, with most of its material having been written on his friend's baritone guitar. ~ James Wilkinson