I was just thinking to myself, ‘Jesus Christ, oh my goodness. I need to retire soon,’ ” says Willow. “This is crazy.”
Very few artists could credibly declare that at the age of 21, but it’s understandable why Willow would consider calling it a day. A handful of dates into her supporting role on Machine Gun Kelly’s Mainstream Sellout tour, she’s sprawled out on an old leather couch in Los Angeles, theorizing about when she’ll get a break — sometime after the 20 dates with MGK end in August, she figures, and certainly not until after she has promoted coping mechanism, her next album, due this fall on Roc Nation.
The last four years have been nonstop for Willow. In 2019, she released a self-titled psychedelic R&B album, followed six months later by a 10-track project with frequent collaborator Tyler Cole as The Anxiety that included everything from dreamy pop (the anthemic viral hit “Meet Me at Our Spot”) to rowdy punk (“Fight Club”). Then, amid the pandemic, Willow switched gears completely, releasing the devotional meditation EP RISE, and by spring 2021, she was promoting her first full-blown rock album, Lately I Feel Everything, and its Travis Barker-featuring lead single, “transparentsoul.”
And that’s just her solo output. Lately, Willow’s clear-eyed intensity has made her the artist to call when a track needs some added edge, which she lent to Camila Cabello’s “psychofreak” and PinkPantheress’ “Where you are.” Even artists who are already firmly working in rock know a feature from Willow — like on MGK’s “emo girl” and Yungblud’s “Memories” — can add a little something extra to take them over the top.
Roc Nation co-president Shari Bryant insists there’s “not one particular reason” that these artists seek out Willow. For some, it might be the wide audience she reaches with 30 million weekly streams; others just “like her point of view. Her aura is something you can’t get anywhere else.”
Read the full Willow profile in Billboard here.