The elegant, aching poetry brought alive through Will Varley’s seemingly innocuous guitar and his oh-so warm timbre has gained him followers and critical acclaim at a rate of knots. This is no average rambling folk singer.
His third album Postcards, From Ursa Minor, has whisked him from Kent to sold-out gigs at London’s Scala, then upon a ship full of music, friends and fans before a huge US tour with labelmates Skinny Lister and Beans on Toast.
Scottish legends The Proclaimers loved him so much they invited him back for 25 dates of their summer 2016 tour, as did Bestival organisers who have booked him again for this year’s event.
It’s no wonder. The stellar ambition both hinted at in tone and explicitly expressed in title of Postcards has left listeners in awe. Produced by Tristan Ivemy and mastered at Abbey Road by Frank Arkwright (Arcade Fire, Blur) it is a master-class in song-writing that pushes the boundaries of the ‘one man and a guitar’ format.
It’s hard to pinpoint just where things began to get out of control. A 2015 autumn tour with The Proclaimers? Supporting Frank Turner at the Royal Albert Hall in support of Teenage Cancer Trust? Being played by Radio 2, 6Music and Radio X? Perhaps it was just the enormous impact of the album that made people realise they were dealing with an unassuming master of his craft?
Whatever it was, it hardly matters now. Like his songs, his journey has been compelling, poetic and haunting. 2015 closed with a month-long Frank Turner tour support culminating at London’s Alexandra Palace, where Will firmly cemented himself in the hearts and minds of the adoring crowd.
2016 began with Will’s largest solo UK tour, where many shows sold out; a collision of sound and heart on the Xtra Mile Recordings US tour; and a continually respondent crowd unwilling to leave without one final yelled chorus. From rowdy drinking songs with sprawling chaotic arrangements to his sparse solo performances, Will covers a range of subjects with his trademark sprinkling of social commentary, politics and wry humour. And it’s this that has brought him all the success he’s had so far.
He’s a man who is autonomous. He makes his own videos – including clips for ‘Seize the Night’, with its 6Music and Radio X plays, and the haunting ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’. He co-owns a record label and a festival, and was self-releasing his music up until last year when he signed with Xtra Mile.
Will has visited some of the country’s finest music festivals – performing his fiery brand of contemporary folk songs from Kendal Calling to Cambridge Folk Festival and everywhere in between. This will be his first time at Greenbelt. We salute a rising star.