Last week Adam Gold from the Nashville Scene’s Cream did a phone interview with Hayley Williams asking her how Nashville has changed, how she’s as nervous to play Bridgestone as she was Madison Square Garden, how she has no plans to go solo, how to balance fan intimacy with arena-rock grandeur. The interview was posted earlier this week. Check it our in the cut below!
You guys just did Madison Square Garden last week — and congratulations on that, by the way.
How does coming home to Nashville to headline Bridgestone Arena compare to playing Madison Square Garden as a milestone, personally and for the band?
I mean, I guess, honestly, to me they kind of feel really similar, because I feel just as nervous to be playing Bridgestone as I was to play Madison Square Garden. It’s a lot of pressure in your hometown — you know you’re going to have friends there and family there, and it’s a massive place, but that’s going to be one of the last two shows of the tour, so I feel like if any show is going to be good, it better be that one because we’ve had a lot of practice.
Since it is a hometown show, is there anything special planned for it? Whether it’s bringing out special guests or anything like that, to kind of give a nod to Nashville?
I’m not 100 percent sure yet. We talked about it and so much of it depends on who’s in town. I feel like we’re the one band that’s never in town when my friends are in town. It’s so hard to cross paths with our buddies that are on the road. We have talked about it, so it’s just a matter of logistics now.
Quite famously, Paramore was the band to break the “Nashville Curse,” when Riot! went platinum, and that was six years ago. You would think that maybe the band would have played Bridgestone back then. Why did it take six years for this show to happen?
Really, I don’t know, but I feel like with our band, everything has been a slow build from day one. And honestly, I’m really thankful for that because, obviously, with Riot! and the success that it brought, it was hard enough to transition into [being that sort of band]. … It just slowly built every year and I feel it was right for us. You know, the path that we’ve taken and our sort of journey has been right for us, and I’m not sure that it would be right for anyone else. But now it feels like we’re ready. I don’t think we would have been ready — even just as showmen and women. I don’t think we would have put on a show that would merit Madison Square Garden or Bridgestone on the itinerary. Now, we’re getting better and people are starting to take notice, but we weren’t the right band, yet, you know?
From your perspective, how different was Nashville’s music scene at the time Paramore started versus what it’s like now?
Oh, dude, It’s so much different. I mean I always liked shows and I always felt like I saw great bands, but the pulse is just so much more — to me — Nashville is so much more alive. Our music scene is much more diverse, and I really enjoy that. It’s not like we really have a whole lot of time to be home and go to shows the way we used to, but it’s just nice to see Nashville in the headlines more often, for different bands that are coming out of the city and hearing stories from friends that are going to certain shows, and I think that rules.
I think it’s really cool that there’s, like, a cool punk rock and rock ‘n’ roll scene. There’s a lot of basement shows and there’s also a lot of cool electronic bands in our town and it’s just rad. Taylor [York] was saying the other day, and he’s right, there’s a part of us that’s like, ‘Aw, man!’ It’s almost like the secret is out now. But I think that Nashville, and all the young people that are making the scene today deserve it. It’s just a really cool town to come back home to. I really don’t know that I would ever love any other city the way that I love Nashville.
Are there any bands in particular that you’ve been listening to that are from town?
We’ve always brought that band Paper Route on tour, and they’re awesome. They’re really, really awesome. Like, honestly dude, we could just pick a name out of a hat — there are so many bands right now that I think that are really, really good. Half Noise is awesome, and that’s Zac [Farro], our old drummer’s, new band. There’s a lot music coming out and on top of that. Even what Joy Williams is doing in The Civil Wars — that new record is brilliant, and the fact that that stuff is coming out of our city is really cool.
With the Farro brothers leaving the band in such a public way, and also situations with you guesting on tracks by B.o.B and Zedd, there’s this sort of constant question that people are asking you, if you’re going to go solo. Does that constant speculation bother you?
I mean, yeah. People speculate all sorts of things about me, and about the band, that aren’t real life. Real life for me is waking up every day on a tour bus with my friends and playing a show that night. That’s what it is. There’s not some scheme that I have in the back of my head, like, “When am I going to break out of here and be a solo artist!?” [Laughs] I don’t want to be lonely. That’s what that sounds like to me — being a solo artist, traveling the way that we do as a band, by myself? That sounds miserable. So let them speculate. You can’t prove to anybody what you are, you just have to be it and keep being it because that’s the only way that anyone’s going to see you.
Does it feel like the perception of Paramore as a band is something that you have to protect?
Yeah, what I feel like, and especially since this record came out — I mean, yeah, you’ve got the people that say things about me, like what we were just talking about, or whatever. But I feel like our fans, more than ever, realize that this has always been what it is today. Even if looks different, even if the songs sound different, it’s always been the same heart beating behind all of it and we have a passion that we share that makes it what it is and that’s Paramore. So to me, the perception — I don’t know, like, whatever the perception is, I know that when people come to our shows and the fans are there, they’re seeing us do what we love to do, it’s Paramore. It’s not even just a band — this is our life. This is our passion and our past, present and future. It is us.
Paramore has always been a very fan-oriented band; a band that’s always reinforced the connection with fans. Making the jump into playing arenas, is it a challenge to maintain that? Arena rock is so inherently overblown and distancing. How do you go about keeping the experience intimate, maintaining that personal connection, but also delivering a show that’s big enough to fill the room?
I feel like we can’t really practice enough to make the perfect show, and the perfect show to me is one that fills up the room and also makes the room feel like the biggest one you’ve ever been in, but also the smallest. To me, you can’t practice that. It’s a connection and it happens every night or it doesn’t happen every night. For me, on this tour and with the fans that have been with us all along, and the fans that we’re sort of recruiting this year, that connection’s been there this whole time, and I’m super thankful for that, because it’s not anything that we can do. Like, we can put on the best show that we’ve ever, ever played, but if we aren’t concerned with connecting with people — every single person in the room who has their own story and their living their own lives, and when they talk out the door at the end of the night, they’re going back to reality — if we can’t connect with them by the time they leave and do that? Then we’ve failed. It doesn’t matter if we have the biggest light show, or lasers, or if I’m flying around the room. That stuff comes and goes. We might be doing arenas today and tomorrow we might back at The End, but if we can’t connect with people, we’re not getting the job done and that’s really what makes Paramore shows so special. That’s our number one priority every night.
Since Paramore has a lot of young fans and young fans, has part of the next challenge — over the last seven to 10 years — been how to keep those fans growing with you and not growing out of the band?
Yeah, I think that a lot of that has to do with my last answer — it’s connecting with people. If you’re not on their level in some way, or at some point, then they do grow out of you because they are connecting with something else and something that hits harder with them, you know?
At the last two shows — and honestly, on every show for this tour, but the last two in particular, especially in Toronto — at the very front there were four girls that I’ve known since I was 16 years old, who we met at the Buffalo Icon in 2005, opening for Story of the Year, and they were at that show and we met them, and went back to the merch booth and we talked to them for a really long time, as we were selling our T-shirts and stuff. And they’ve been to every single show that we’ve had at Buffalo, in Toronto or New York City — anything where they could kind of get to — since 2005, and that happens every night. I literally see people in the crowd that I have grown up with — every night on this tour, even when we’re overseas. There’s kids in the U.K. that have been coming to our shows since the first time that we went there when I was 17 and that, to me, is so incredible. That’s the best thing about touring and the fans — growing up with people.
There’s a perception that we have a lot of young fans, and we do, but they’re added onto all of the people who have been following us for the last eight years that have grown up with us and then the older people who are finding out about our band. I don’t really think that we have one type of fan anymore. There was definitely a time when the typical Paramore fan had, like, you know, extensions and a faux-hawk, neon hair and wore skinny jeans, but it’s not that person anymore. It’s people from all different walks of life, who do all sorts of different things and they’re all different ages and I think that’s been one of the most rewarding parts about not quitting when going got rough, you know? Like, keep moving, put out this record this year, we’re still getting to experience these people and have them in our lives.
Talking to the fans and getting to know them, does that enhance the performance, as far as how to connect with them — knowing what they like and who they are personally?
I mean, yeah, in some ways it is, but it’s not like now, in 2013, we can go out after every show and sell our merch. That’s not realistic, but there are other ways that we try to stay connected. Whether it just be Twitter, or whether it’s me doing a blog post and answering questions, there’s a million opportunities — even meet-and-greets — to show people that they are important to you and they’re not just a number or a ticket stub or a dollar sign. You know, that’s not what these people are.
When you first started Paramore, who was your favorite local band in Nashville?
Oh gosh. Well when we first started, right now, I can’t even remember if they are actually from Nashville, but when we first started I really loved that band Celebrity. I loved Celebrity. And then also, Taylor’s older brother — who’s now on tour with us, playing guitar— he was in a band called Cecil and we really loved, loved, loved Cecil.
There’s also a lot of other bands that kind of came up as we were coming up and got real popular, like Love Is Red. I don’t think they’re actually from Nashville, Nashville, but they were always in Nashville and that’s all I can think of right now! That was a really good question, but I would say — especially for Taylor — watching his older brother play shows, that was a huge inspiration for him.