“For me, it was a risk to put out an album under my own name. I’ve always been a band guy all my life so it was quite a psychological and emotional hurdle for me to imagine putting out an album and call it a William DuVall album.”
William DuVall has had a musical career that proves to be far from boring. The Alice in Chains frontman has a decorated list of projects and bands that he has been a part of. This month, on October 4th, DuVall released his first solo record One Alone.
The all-acoustic body of work provides an intimate view of DuVall’s work as a guitarist, singer and songwriter. DuVall’s raw lyricism draws from heartfelt emotions, creating something meaningful – a trait that isn’t always found in today’s music.
This fall, DuVall will be touring across North America and Europe in celebration of One Alone, beginning October 21 in Atlanta. Tickets and information can be found here.
One Alone is available for purchase and streaming on all major platforms.
Guest contributor Hannah Boissonneault (bassist of Detroit based band Blank Slate) spoke with DuVall about the creation of his first solo album, what fans can expect from the upcoming tour and his advice to young musicians today.
Hannah Boissonneault: Congratulations on the release of One Alone! It was such an incredible album.
William Duvall: Thank you, thank you very much.
HB: Of course. You just released it – I’ve heard you mention in other interviews that your intention was to present an album that is completely different from your previous works and projects. Can you speak a little on what you want listeners to take away from One Alone?
WD: Well, my highest aspiration in this album is to become a friend to somebody. We all have those records that we put them on, and even as we put them on, we are transported to a different and better state of mind, you know? That’s regardless of whether the music on that album is attaching to your memory. That’s a different category of (chuckles) friend, you know. I’m happy for people to take this music into their lives however they may, but I’m particularly speaking of those records we put on when we are by ourselves, and we’re having more of an internal dialogue, and we have certain soundtracks that help facilitate that internal dialogue. I’m thinking more along the lines of one of those albums.
HB: Definitely, I completely resonate with what you just said. Along with being known as the vocalist of Alice in Chains, you’re also equally proficient on the guitar. You also have a signature model with Framus. So I was wondering how your instrumental proficiency has played a role in the creation of One Alone for you.
WD: (Laughs) Well, I’m uh, not one hundred-percent certain about the mention of my proficiency, but, you know, I’ve been doing this for awhile. Guitar is what I started out on, and I’m not proficient by the standard of people like John McLaughlin – [whom] I figure is someone who I have technique envy [for.] There are others too, but he’s the main one.
I’ve just been doing this so long; it’s part of what I am. I’ve been playing since I was 8 years old. It has always been something that I can rely on, so I still rely on it. To this day, when things are going off the rails, I can pick up the instrument and just play it out, you know. So, it’s always been there, and I early on began using it as a vehicle to not just play, but also to write songs, to compose songs.
That’s another aspect of my guitar playing is you know; it’s just playing it out. That can take on any form, and that’s what I’m talking about when I’m by myself. And then there’s the playing that I do and I grew up doing-when I’m jamming with other musicians, and again that’s more of a free-form thing, and it’s just really about being inclusive in the moment and being present and listening to other musicians responding, and all of that sort of thing.
And then there’s composing. Music today of sorts, songwriters being one of those things. It’s just all part of the whole thing. I began taking on all of those roles at a pretty young age, and I find myself here all of these years later; it’s just what I am.
HB: I really appreciate that. Going along with how the guitar is a part of your performance and who you are a musician. I noticed that you’ve chosen a lot more intimate venues for this tour in contrast to your tours with Alice in Chains in big areas. I was wondering what experience do you want your listeners to have, and what your reasoning behind this choice was for your tour?
WD: The lyrics on the album are very intimate so it’s due to that reason it would be a lot cooler that [it’s performed at] more intimate venues in order to facilitate a better experience for everybody in the room. I’m going out and trying to show a new thing and a new experience. People are not used to having just me, and perhaps not expecting it. You have to factor in all of that when booking a tour and that’s what went into the venue choices. Hopefully it works out, it’s a leap of faith.
HB: I think your fans will definitely appreciate that kind of environment. It’s something that like you said, they’re not expecting but it’ll be really appreciated. You are involved in many bands like Alice in Chains, Comes with the Fall and Giraffe Tongue Orchestra. What aspects are you taking away from tours with each group for your One Alone tour?
WD: Well, I suppose just the act of touring itself – the experience of touring itself is something that you learn over time. You learn it over the years, I’ve toured for many many decades now. I think all experiences from past tours definitely offer lessons for future tours. Like okay, this works for me, this did not work for me, that sort of thing. I expected that those experiences are going to prove to be valuable once I actually do stuff with One Alone on tour.
Having said that – I’ll be touring now by myself, there’s no band. Touring by myself is very different because you don’t have to deal with band members and scheduling. You’re not having to try to streamline everyone into one schedule. It’s really just me. It’s a lot more mobile… I can change things that aren’t working a lot faster. It all revolves around me and the show and what’s going to make that better for me. With a band a lot of factors have to be taken into every decision, and those things impact every day on the road. With this, there’s really none of that, so it’s going to be interesting.
HB: What is your personal favorite track off of One Alone and are there any tracks that you’re looking forward to performing live on this tour?
WD: I love all of these songs…they were conceived out of various and special circumstances, life events and so forth. I will say that “Til the Light Guides Me Home” was a breakthrough. I’ve never written a song like that before. It will always represent a kind of watermark in my career as a songwriter because it is different in so many ways.
I think [it is] very successful in terms of exploring techniques I don’t often use. I’m not much of a finger picker- I’m kind of one of the worlds worst. To play a [song] that is all finger picking, that is just very different for me.
Sometimes you’re able to tell the truth in a way that can potentially cast a very wide net and that’s just something that you don’t get everyday as a writer. Everyone who does that sort of thing will tell you it’s a tough bar to reach. When you do hit it, its like “oh wow that’s really great.” That’s not to say that other songs can’t be really good that you like but sometimes you just cut through it all and it’s just so [profound]… it just stands out.
HB: I honestly had a similar experience listening to “Til the Light Guides Me Home” and I thought it was really striking due to your lyricism and harmonic tendencies.
I found it interesting that the chords and melodies that you used were primarily in a major key, which is often associated with happiness in music. But, the lyrics are very melancholy, dark and expressive. I was wondering if you made this decision intentionally, and what this contrast means to you?
WD: I can’t say it was intentional like I was thinking about a major key with dark subject matter, but I do think that that is a device that other writers that I admire have employed very successfully…like McCartney has done it, there’s lots of examples of that sort of thing.
It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part to do with “Til the Light Guides Me Home.” That song just came out in a matter of minutes. It was playing like a record in my mind.
Originally I was going to give that song away believe it or not. Writing is thinking “oh this is good but for so and so”… I had imagined a slightly different rendition when it came to picturing this other artist doing the song – there were more harmonies, there were more instruments. I was thinking of like a bluegrass kind of thing.
I went in to record it as a demo and I thought “well I’m not going to do all the harmonies I’m just going to rough it out myself in order to present it to the other artists and they can fill it out from there.” Well, needless to say it never made it that far. So what you hear on the album is what I originally thought was a demo.
HB: Wow that’s incredible. You have tour dates in the U.S. coming up – you start really soon on October 21 in Atlanta. I was excited to see that you added tour dates in Europe as well. But you have a big gap in between November and February, do you have any plans for those months, maybe visiting family, or packing it with more tour dates?
WD: I’m looking at it as two chapters to the U.S. tour. The one you mentioned starts on the 21st and runs until November 3rd – which is kind of like a little appetizer. Then it picks back up again in St. Louis on the February 14th. The European tour, that’s more of the size of a proper, real tour in the way I think of touring.
In between, it’s just living life. A lot of set up goes into these tours and into an album campaign like this. I wear a lot of hats in service to these campaigns, I’m not just a singer. I’m having to do a lot of administrative work, there’s a lot you have to deal with. My time, when I’m not on stage it’s just taking a step back and anything else that comes flying at me down the pipeline. There’s a lot of that stuff and then yes time with family.
HB: That’s awesome! You’re the face and crucial member of many prominent bands and you inspire countless young artists today. What advice would you give a younger up-and-coming musician who’s pursuing a career in music?
WD: The truth is, anyone who is really driven just the way I was when I was coming up – there’s almost nothing you can do to deter them. I would just say one thing is listen to a lot of different kinds of new music. It doesn’t seem to be quite as much of an issue today as it was when I was coming up. Now people are exposed to all kinds of things that are right at their fingertips.
When I was coming up, it was a bit more stratified and just in order to access new music it took more of an effort. My friends and I would spend all day in record stores scrolling through the racks. You’d hear about a record…and you’d have to drive to North Carolina to get it, or you’d hear about someone who had it and see if they could make you a tape. Everything was more of an effort. In terms of pace and genre there was more of an exclusivity kind of thing where metal-heads were metal-heads and punk rockers were punk rockers and if the two found themselves at a show tonight they would fight…now it’s not as bad.
I would still say to a person coming up that the more you know, the better off you will be, if you can really get around your instrument. You should learn something about every genre…for example if you’re trying to be like a soloist and you don’t know who John Coltrane is, I don’t care what instrument you play, whether you’re a guitar player or a piano player you still need to listen to Coltrane because that guy was exploring not just with his instrument, but himself as a person. As a spiritual being he was trying to tell stories with the notes. You’ve got to listen to the best of the best. If you’re a jazz person but you don’t know Hendrix, well you should know Hendrix because Miles Davis was blown away by Hendrix….he did it all, you know?
HB: I really appreciate that. After all of this knowledge that you’ve accumulated over the years, what’s been the most rewarding aspect of creating this solo record? Maybe your biggest musical risk that you took?
WD: It’s rewarding seeing the initial reaction to the One Alone album, people are starting to receive their pre-ordered album, they have been for the past week or so. You know, I see these comments, I see people posting pictures of themselves with the LP, that’s wonderful. It’s really really, really nice.
For me, it was a risk to put out an album under my own name. I’ve always been a band guy all my life so it was quite a psychological and emotional hurdle for me to imagine putting out an album and call it a William DuVall album.
HB: Well it was a great risk.
WD: I couldn’t find a more honest way of releasing an album like this. I know solo performers who adopt pseudonyms and different band-ish monikers to put out what is essentially solo music but I didn’t feel like doing that. It’s like “hey this is what it is man this is me. This is a solo album: it’s just myself and a guitar that’s all you’re getting.” If you think I’m going to call this something other than William DuVall – it seems ridiculous. So I called it what it is, William DuVall, One Alone.
HB: Well I’m sure your fans really appreciate that and really resonate with it as well and they will on this upcoming tour.
WD: I hope so, I like how you think!
HB: I really appreciate your time today, and I really wish you the best of luck on your tour, it’s really exciting!
WD: Thank you, thank you very much.