As part of homecoming week, NYCFC wanted to put a spotlight on those New Yorkers impacted by COVID-19. We spoke to Will “Red” Hawley, a producer and multi-instrumentalist with funkyouJEFF about his experience of the last 12 months, the feeling of crowds returning and everything in between.
Tanner Smith: First of all, can you introduce yourself and tell us what it is you do?
Will Hawley: My name is Will “Red” Hawley, I guess my profession is producer and multi-instrumentalist. I’m doing a lot of different things so I’m trying to think of how to incorporate it into one -- we’ll go with, producer and multi-instrumentalist.
TS: How did funkyouJEFF come about?
WH: So funkyouJEFF is one of my projects, probably the best one of my solo projects so far. It's a seven piece, funk band. We were based uptown, but now I'm out in Brooklyn. I'm a big fan of the 1970s generally, especially musically. Parliament-Funkadelic is like my favourite band of all time. This was just a way for me to write music that I enjoy. That's basically what funkyouJEFF is.
TS: If you’re describing the band and the sound people are going to hear, what would you say?
WH: You're going to think of P-Funk. It's very horn heavy. Just kind of like in your face, like horn funk. That's kind of what it is. We're definitely a party band. We play clubs and stuff in the city, and that's cool. TS: What did COVID do to funkyouJEFF and the music industry? WH: Well, the last time funkyouJEFF played together was February , so it's been over a year. I mean, literally no gigs, and the gigs that there are, it's like, playing a bar for $50, and you have to split that up with three or four people. The State Liquor Association has banned venues and restaurants from having gigs that are dedicated gigs. Any music has to be incidental to the dining experience.
They can't pay you to play like normal and they basically give you a per diem for food. It's completely decimated [live music] and a lot of people I know have left the city, including several members of the band. One guy moved to Texas. One guy's back home in Baltimore. A lot of people have left because there's no work and it's expensive to live here. Personally, I just started pivoting to more home produced music and working as a producer, like, you know, I'm doing for Gudi [Thórarinsson] and working in the studio with him and for my wife, Helena, as well, she’s also a musician.
TS: Can you talk to us more about the work you’ve been doing with Gudi, how did that come about?
WH: We're still working on it. We've recorded like seven songs altogether. We spent five or six days in the studio recording and editing and, and mixing, we still have to master it. So it's not quite finished, but it's getting really close, and it sounds really good too. I'm really excited for it to be out.
TS: What's it been like working with him?
WH: He's such a cool guy. The pandemic happening has definitely made it so like we kind of only saw him for like six months so we became pretty close friends. He's a great guy. He's way more talented than he gives himself credit for - both in football and musically. He’s a great guy, writes really good songs. He's really fun to work with because he trusts us and trusts that we're working with him for a reason.
TS: You mentioned the pandemic, things are slowly opening back up, do you feel that there’s an optimism about going out to live events again?
WH: I'm definitely more optimistic now than I was four or five months ago. I was pretty down on it. We had actually seriously considered moving to Sweden, because Helena is Swedish, but we ended up deciding to stick it out. She's going to do a Master's programme in the city at Powerstation Studios, which is a pretty sick studio in Midtown, but yeah I definitely am a lot more optimistic.
The vaccine rollout in New York has been going pretty well; I'm vaccinated. I kind of feel energised to get out for the first time in a year. I'm more optimistic for our outdoor and private gigs and stuff like that, which we've done in the past with Funk You, Jeff. And it's been like a huge success because people want to do stuff.
TS: You mentioned getting out and doing stuff. As an NYCFC fan, are you excited to get back to home games, even if it’s in a slightly different way?
WH: Yeah, for sure. I feel a little crazy, but literally anything to get out of the house and get on the train, and go see some friends even if we have to be 20 feet apart or whatever, like, yeah, sitting outside man. I've been a Third Rail member for a couple years, and I was in another supporter group before that. I don't have a lot to say about that other than I'm excited. Yeah, I think that's for everybody. And I need it really badly. I think everybody does.
TS: You said you’re excited to get back to get back to matches, as a musician is that something that resonates with you, the power of a crowd?
WH: It’s definitely something that resonates with me and has been extremely missed for the last year. The feeling you get when you look out and see people are right there with you helps propel everybody to the next level, and I know that’s the same for the players. I think that’s the feeling I’m looking forward to again the most.
You can listen to funkyouJEFF here.