They say America is the land of opportunity and one must take control of every possible chance dealt their way. That saying carries the most weight in the world of music, where faces come and go as the years pass by. St. Louis native Will Godfred got together with fellow STL music disciple Justin Johnson and helped form the popular Pretty Little Empire and they made great music together. Recently, Godfred had a chance to hitch a ride on Jessica Mayfield, one of the music world’s biggest indie darlings, and her tour.
Strong arming that opportunity has given Godfred a chance to open for Mayfield on January 22nd at Off Broadway. He will be playing song from his brand new solo record. While Johnson may join him on stage for a few, it will be Godfred’s first big night in front of a home crowd playing music that has been rattling around his head for years. This past week, I grasped the opportunity to speak with Godfred about PLE, the time in between, and his new solo album.
KSDK-According to your Facebook page, December marked seven years since your first rehearsal with Pretty Little Empire. Do you ever take a moment, step back and think about how far you have come with your music?
Godfred-I definitely do. I’m so grateful when I think about all the great opportunities we’ve had as a band. I definitely think we’ve come a long way when I think of all the great people and killer shows we’ve been a part of over the years.
KSDK-When did it all begin? You, music and the need to play…?
Godfred-I started playing when I was 20 or 21. I played bass casually with a few friends that also played instruments. We ended up buying a digital recorder and I started recording everyone’s songs, including my own. A year or two later I met Justin and we decided to record an album in my apartment and that pretty much became how Pretty Little Empire started.
KSDK-While you, Justin Johnson, and Wade Durbin formed Pretty Little Empire, all of you have your side projects. Johnson recently collaborated with Jim Peters on Fog Lights and Wade has We Bite. This solo album for you. Do you find differences in playing inside a band formed years ago as opposed to putting together your own record? Or is it all just music?
Godfred-When it comes to recording music, I feel as though it’s one of my strong suits. I had a heavy hand in putting together the Pretty Little Empire records, so it wasn’t a foreign place for me. Plus, I made this record at Native Sound with David Beeman who put the last Pretty Little Empire album together. It was a very familiar, open environment to work in.
KSDK-How did you get the opportunity to share a show with Jessica Mayfield?
Godfred-I started working at Native Sound studios and David was tour managing for Jessica. I had the opportunity to go on tour with them and do some stage hand work and see what tour managing was all about. Tour managing has become a part of what Native Sound Studios can provide – David and Ben (our head engineers at the studio) both tour manage and run sound on long US and European tours. It is a great experience to be a part of.
KSDK-Is there a better feeling playing in front of your hometown?
Godfred-There’s nothing better than playing in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd!
KSDK-What would you say the theme of this album is?
Godfred-I don’t know that the album has a single theme. Some of these songs are several years old. I would say the songs are a calibration of my own and my friends’ experiences in life.
KSDK-Pretty Little Empire’s music was recently played on a movie on Netflix. Being movie fanatics, it’s got to be a quiet kick hearing your music in a movie?
Godfred-It’s a surreal feeing hearing your music on the big screen. We’ve definitely made a few fans from the movie. Me and Justin went to the premier of Last Time We Had Fun at the Oxford Film Festival. Seeing how well the movie played in front of a sold out crowd was a once in a lifetime experience. Me and Justin have also drove head first into film soundtracking and scoring, so it was a great stepping stone for us.
KSDK-Where can fans buy your solo album if they don’t make it out on Friday, the 22nd?
Godfred-That’s a good question. I plan to get it in all the local record shops. You can always message me at William Godfred on Facebook.
KSDK-Any plans for more shows around the area or a possible short tour? Where can fans find more Godfred at?
Godfred-There are no plans for any upcoming shows or tours, but there’s always a chance something may come down the pipe line. I’m sure I will play more shows with this lineup.
KSDK-Can fans expect a few PLE covers when Justin joins you on stage?
Godfred-Not this time but maybe in the future.
KSDK-In closing, all these years later, what keeps you on the stage? Many people find something stimulating for a short period of time and give it up. You’ve stayed in the ring, found some success and had some fun. What keeps you in it?
Godfred-It’s really great working with all the great friends I’ve made over the years. Playing with Justin Johnson and all the members of Pretty Little Empire and working David Beeman and Ben Majchrzakat Native Sound has been what keeps me going. Being around such great friends and so much talent, there’s always something exciting and new happening. I owe everything to these folks.
KSDK-Finally, thoughts on the latest Star Wars film?
Godfred-I enjoyed it a lot, but it is nothing compared to Empire Strikes Back!
Some things are born with us. A gift, a need or a will to do something that if you do not partake in, life won’t seem as grand. For Godfred, it’s music. Making it, playing it and creating it for people to enjoy and consume. He doesn’t get to do it as much as he wants but he doesn’t waste opportunities.
When you hear him play live, a comfort and electricity enter your system. Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” When Godfred unleashes his arsenal of singer/songwriter ferocity on you on January 22nd, you won’t just feel good. You will feel fulfilled. Go to the show. Be there for something special.