Editor’s Note: William Duvall defines perseverance in his music. He not only filled Layne Staley’s shoes in Alice In Chains, but he got a different pair to create a bit of a different sound for the band. It was incredible talking to William Duvall about mental health awareness, “One Alone” and feeling Layne’s presence with Madness To Creation. I am looking forward to his solo album coming out, which is the primary point of discussion in this interview. His upcoming solo record is entitled “One Alone”, and it’s due out October 4th. William just announced some tour dates, and fans can find William Duvall at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Got all checked into your hotel huh?
William: I sure did, long flight though.
Madness To Creation: Where did you travel from?
William: From Albany, New York to Detroit, Michigan and now I’m in Rochester, Michigan.
Madness To Creation: Absolutely love the song “Til’ The Light Guides Me Home”, such a beautiful arrangement, can you take us into the moment when you penned those lyrics and did the arrangements to that song?
William: That song actually came very quickly, it was one of those amazing channeling experiences that you have sometimes as a songwriter, those moments that you live for, I sat down and it came together right then and there all at once, like a completed record that was playing in my head. Once I put that into the studio, and did what I thought was going to be a demo recording of it, I knew that it actually stood on its own exactly how it was, it really didn’t need a whole lot more flushing out. It sort of became the cornerstone of this album in a lot of ways right out of the gate. Believe it or not, I was actually going to give the song to someone else to sing, but once it was recorded and I listened back to it, I thought, “well, I should probably keep that” *laughs*. I was just kind of inspired by the real life events that have been happening to all of us, you know, family breakups, relationship breakups, record affiliations and the struggles that go with all of that, with all of those things, and yeah, there it is, like I said, I’m just very grateful that it happened.
Madness To Creation: What goes into the mindset of William Duvall when he has that pen and notepad and is writing down lyrics?
William: Nothing. Nothing goes through my mind, it just happens, if I just sat there and think about any of it, it would be destroyed immediately, just get out of your own way, the only thing that you have to do is nothing. Once you start to try to do something, you’ve already ruined the whole thing. There are some songs that you have to labor over, where it is the writing. I’ve written things where it’s kind of an on-demand situation. The way songs like “Til The Light Guides Me Home” happened, all you have to do is nothing, there’s no laboring over it.
Madness To Creation: Would you say that’s the beauty of “One Alone”, which is coming out October 4th?
William: What is the beauty of it?
Madness To Creation: To do nothing, to let it come naturally, would you say that’s how it sounds so organic?
William: The album is a collection of songs that span a number of years, some of them are acoustic re-imagining of songs that I re-recorded with the band Comes With The Fall, and others are songs that were written strictly for this album. I think the beauty of this album is that it’s a really good collection of songs that I think represent very well as a solo acoustic presentation. It sure is distilled versions of who I am as a singer and songwriter.
Madness To Creation: I see that you announced a solo date in Kansas City, what is going to be the biggest difference for you as a solo act as opposed to sharing the stage with Korn while fronting Alice In Chains?
William: Well for one, on this solo acoustic tour, it’s just me alone with an acoustic guitar featuring songs off of this album, whereas in Alice it’s more high volume in-your-face kind of performing that I do when I’m working with Alice. The “One Alone” shows are more like much more intimate like I’m coming to your house. I think it’s going to be really nice experience for everyone involved.
Madness To Creation: As a performer, do you get more nervous playing in front of a lot of people, or in a room setting where it feels like everyone is up in your face?
William: Well, I’ve never actually done a solo acoustic tour before, so I think in a lot of ways, that’s going to be a lot more nerve-racking for me, not only is it such a new experience playing acoustic by myself in front of people, but I never actually gone on stage and come out for an actual concert, so that’s an new experience, the first gig that I go out and do that, that’s going to be quite a trip. I’m hoping that very quickly I’ll become accustomed to doing it and that all of us will have a good time, and that comes with another aspect of my music life.
Madness To Creation: What is the one thing that you want to grow in as a musician or as a live performer?
William: Gosh, I don’t know, I’ve been doing this for a long time, you always want to improve on how you write, what I look forward to is time to keep pushing that particular experience, the experience of bringing something to life from thin air, or from translating your experience to writing the song that somehow crystallizes it. That’s quite a profound way to do it. I’ve been doing this for a long time and sometimes magic happens, I don’t understand it at all. As a performer, I just want to keep working. I don’t really have any goals(laughs), my standards as a working performer has always been pretty high, I’m always pretty tough on myself, I’d like to maintain that, maybe that’s the goal as a performer is to keep the bar high as best you can.
Madness To Creation: Alice In Chains continues to set the bar high. I must tell you on a personal note, the song “Never Fade” has really helped me get through seasonal affective disorder and depression these past few months, let’s say you’re having a tough day, what are some exercises or anything that you do to help you cope and get through?
William: First of all, thank you for sharing that, that’s extremely gratifying that that song helped you in any way, that’s incredible to me, and that’s the other side of the magical aspect of writing and playing, first of all the fact that you can do it, and the second part is that you get to help somebody, that’s pretty incredible to me. In terms of what I do pre-show, there are many things that I physically have to do to go out and work, first of all is the running around, whether it’s the hour or hour and a half or two hours every night, and certainly if I didn’t maintain myself, I wouldn’t be able to do it at the level that I want to do it. Mentally, it’s about getting as relaxed as I can, and it’s clearly plugging into the routine. When you’re out there on the road, you live and die by the routine, and anyone that has done this for any length of time will understand what I’m talking about, it’s similar to what anyone else in any occupation that they do, they’re at a very high level, whether it’s an athlete or a soldier. To live and die by your routine, it’s one of the things that helped me to relax, is doing the same things at virtually the same time every day, and preparing for everything that I possibly have to do on that particular day is to be as prepared as I can be and to go out and do what I have to do, and there is something that is completely reassuring about that is to just relax in all of my warmups or whatever it is that I’m doing. Even the most mundane thing, like how much water have I drank today, how hydrated. Those things help particularly when I’m on a really long tour, if I didn’t have my routine, I don’t know what I would do, and then of course watching films, reading books, I love carrying books with me on the road, I don’t use a Kindle or any device, I actually carry books, I like actually pulling out a book and holding it and turning the pages. Before a tour, I always go to one of my favorite bookstores and I stock up, and it adds a lot of weight to my luggage but it adds a lot to my mind, and I just work my way through, most of them are biographies or oral histories, or any historical, not a lot of fiction. I find real life way crazier(laughs) than anything anyone can conjure up in fiction, so those are the things that help me relax man, reading and films.
Madness To Creation: What is the book that you’re reading right now?
William: Right now? Well, I’m going to call it a biography but it’s actually a book about Johnny Carson and it’s written by his long time lawyer and confidant, so this guy was Johnny Carson’s lawyer for nearly 20 years, but he’s much more than a lawyer, he’s confidant, he’s best friend, and Johnny Carson was a guy that was not very close to very many people, it’s really interesting, I’m almost halfway through it already, it’s almost one of those “can’t put it down” kind of books.
Madness To Creation: I could talk books all day with you, I do have a random fan question for you, what makes William Duvall smile?
William: *laughs* Man that’s a good one! Looking out at the faces at the audience, that is something that is very awesome, the idea that when you look in a general direction and 500 people that just happen to be in your line of sight will all of a sudden light up, it’s like their whole face changes, that is pretty incredible, like I said, if that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will. *laughs*
Madness To Creation: Last fan question, did you ever feel Layne Staley’s presence or felt a loved one’s presence when you performed a song?
William: This was a time before they decided to ever bring back Alice In Chains, there was a time when my band Comes With The Fall, and we were playing outside of Seattle at an outdoor thing, it could have been in 2001 or 2002, something like that, we were doing the song “Down In A Hole”, come to think of it it was in 2002 at a time after Layne had passed, we were doing that song and it was one of those times were something definitely came over us and I was told afterwards by the drummer that it happened, we were told that during the song where the two part harmony hits, that a bird flew and stayed right in front of me for a length of time and then flew off and everybody saw it but me because I had my eyes closed when I was singing and everybody was freaked out by it, that would probably be one time where feeling that presence qualified.
Madness To Creation: Last question as I know you have a bunch of interviews, where can people pick up “One Alone” when it’s out October 4th?
William: You can pick it up at my website, it’s all available for pre-ordering or pre-saving on all of the digital platforms, but my website has the limited edition vinyl that you can get only from there, it’s pretty cool, you can get all the different color variants, every copy is autographed by me, and it’s hand-numbered, it’s pretty cool, and they’re going pretty fast, if you want to get into that, that’s the place to go.
And there you have it! Here are a few “One Alone” solo gigs featuring William Duvall of Alice In Chains:
Sat. 11/2- Hi-Fi in Indianapolis, Indiana
Sat. 2/15/2020- recordBAR in Kansas City, Missouri
Thu. 2/20/2020- Valley Bar in Phoenix, Arizona
For tickets and further information on his solo gigs, click here.
Two remaining Alice In Chains tour dates left. The first date features Korn with special guest Underoath. The second show is Alice In Chains only.
Wed. 9/4- Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California
Fri. 9/20- Washington Music Theater in Seattle, Washington
For tickets and further information, click here.