Pictured: Landon Williams
Artist and DJ collaborations seem to be the norm these days - but if you know how most collaborations work, then you know that most of the time these mega stars are never in the same room with who they are collaborating with. More often than not, they are recording in studios on other sides of the country after production is mostly finished.
What's different about artist and producer VILLA is that the project's collaborations are just that–real life actual collaborations. The artist is invited to VILLA's so-called "tree house" studio and there, they set out to push each other out of their comfort zones, working to shake up what both parties are used to and get thrown into an arena of genre-less jamming.
In a past life, VILLA was strictly a producer working with chart-topping artists like Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, and Fifth Harmony. His more recent projects include that of synth-rock band A R I Z O N A, who are currently on tour and are having much success in their first year of release.
Now, VILLA is making his first foray into the land of being an artist–at least sort of. Though you won't see him front and center in any shirtless photo spreads, you will hear likely hear his tunes. His new project is a series of artist collaborations under the guise of "VILLA" - literally meaning "house" in Italian. To VILLA himself, the name takes on the meaning of an artist collective that can feel free to create inside a supportive art-house of sorts.
VILLA has just released his first single featuring Landon Williams, "I Like It Like That," a track with a hip '70s bass line, '80s growling synths and vocals like The Weeknd on steroids. A new artist himself, Landon grew up on a steady dose of rock music and is actually a shred expert on the electric guitar. Though you won't get to hear any of those skills on this particular single, Landon's voice is smooth and sexy, and brings an unexpected R&B vibe to an already slick track.
For now, we're left with one track to listen to on repeat–though VILLA assures us that there is more on the way. Get to know both artists in our Q&A below;
OTW: How did you decide on the name VILLA? What does it represent to you?
VILLA: It was kind of an idea based on me wanting to have a retreat where I could produce and write with artists and have a creative sanctuary more like a vacation spot than a recording studio. So I bought a place in Sherman oaks that had a really cool vibe and artists started calling it the villa. I've moved from that house but the idea stuck that I want to consider myself more of a retreat or vacation from the music industry and creative sanctuary so to speak
OTW: You've been behind the scenes for most of your projects, how does it feel to be on the artist side doing cool collaborations?
VILLA: My passion is helping artists' find their sound and creating worlds around their talents - but what I never realized is that I basically become a mini band member in every collab I do. This project is fun because it allows me a bit more freedom to create something fun and maybe out of the ordinary. Being an artist rather than just a producer makes it a bit more exciting and freeing for me.
OTW: You've worked on a ton of other projects in the past, including A R I Z O N A, LP, and Nick Jonas - which of those past projects has been your fave up until this point?
VILLA: It's been really fun to see artists like LP and especially A R I Z O N A take off this last year. I almost look at both of them like siblings or something. I have a deep attachment to those artists and their records and seeing the music we’ve made really take off feels super validating.
OTW: Since VILLA is all about collaborating with other artists, what type of vibes do you look for when you are going to create with someone?
VILLA: The idea behind the VILLA project is that when we collaborate, we get in the studio and do whatever the fuck feels good. Sometimes when I hear an artist say “I can’t do this for my brand or project because it doesn’t sound like anything that's out." My response is "Let's put it out anyway as a collab!" I definitely don’t want to get stuck in any one genre or direction. I'm all for good vibes and pushing boundaries and most importantly, keeping it fresh.
OTW: What's next for VILLA?
VILLA: I have a bunch of collaborations in the works with one of my homies from Elektrik People and Matt Kali, ranging from EDM, to pop, to some really weird experimental stuff and everything in between.
OTW: How did you get into music originally? What other projects have you done?
Landon: I just grew up on really good music. My mom was enamored by The Boss, so I'd listen to every album of his front to back. Ironically my Dad who is the truest form of an American Cowboy hardly listens to any country and bumped mostly Motown and blues records. I just wanted something more from music than listening to it viscerally. Electric guitar happened to be the most popular instrument, and my mom bought me this black and white fender for Christmas from this yard sale. If you stick out the growing pains of any instrument, it becomes rewarding–and I dug that. That practice or task eventually became a deeply cultivated passion. Professionally, I've never been a part of another project, pretty much just major rebranding. The first EP I recorded was in Nashville, and it was deeply rooted in these John Mayer/Jack Johnson vibes because guitar was certainly my strength at the time. Before that, I played lead guitar in my friends' screamo band throughout middle school and high school.
OTW: How did you decide to collaborate with VILLA? How did the project come about?
Landon: I've known VILLA for 3 years now. Through some Nashville connections I started working with this PR/Management company and they sent me a list of producers to work with. I picked him to do some singles with, and that became a major launching pad for me. At the time I was very naive to the industry and all the snake-y oil salesmen out here in the Wild West. Once I came to the conclusion he was a solid person, he really became a beacon for me. We reinvented my sound together and currently all of my biz connections spawned from his old studio in Sherman Oaks. That place was a hotspot musically, and LP and Nick Jonas came through frequently. "I Like It Like That" came together organically just by him being my homie and fam.
OTW: What was the process like working together?
Landon: Traumatic…(laughs) No, the best experiences I've ever had in the studio are with VILLA. He moves super quick and is otherworldly charismatic. On this song, it was just great vibes. Instrumentally, me and my boy Joel had the track already built up about 80%. VILLA gave it a nip tuck and added his pure swag. The song happened fast, we wrote the verse, pre, chorus, and lyrics in an hour.
OTW: What is the song about? Is it about any true to life situations?
Landon: It's just about hitting it off with a girl at a club/bar, wherever. Things happen quick and you're contemplating, because she is dope. What is going to become of it? Short term versus long term… The chorus is pretty much the consummation, whatever that means to the listener. Holding hands… etc (laughs). But the second verse implies NC-17.
OTW: The artwork for the song is obviously an ode to Stranger Things and possibly Knight Rider, how does that tie into things?
Landon: I'm blessed and very resourceful–the Ferrari and King Air just happened to be something available to me. The song has a very retro feel to it. So with the intent of the '80s and 35mm film, this artwork was the outcome.. And the graphic designer took the Stranger Things nod literal.
OTW: What's next for you? Next projects or shows?
Landon: I have a bunch of new music in my hands that I'm very excited about. The last few years have been me chopping my way through this jungle, making connections, and trying to sculpt my sound. I have that under control now and will be releasing dope shit every 2 months with rad visuals until something sticks. Certainly shows come springtime.
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