William McCarthy is set to return for his second solo outing in Dublin this weekend, but his first since former band Augustines called it a day at the end of last year. Over the course of the six years of their career together, they released three critically acclaimed albums, amassed a loyal fan base and played their heart out across America and Europe.
With the Augustines hanging up their reigns, lead singer and main songwriter William is already back on tour, with a new single ‘Time Ain’t Always By My Side’ in tow. When we talked to William, we asked him was getting back on the road this quickly always the plan?
“No, truthfully I had already gone on a solo storytelling tour earlier in the year,” he explains. “I was just really feeling an instinct that artists need to stay busy nowadays and I am so lucky I followed through on that and it went well.” Those final shows with Augustines went very well, venue sizes increased, and it looked like the band might stick around. The primary reason for the split, however, was financial.
“Plain and simple. We had more and more offers, headlined some festivals, and became a night time main stage act. With that you need more crew and you really need that hand when you’re doing that kind of volume right? Touring 15-20 countries. I feel Spotify has evaporated what was to be gained on the album (sales) side, so yeah we were left with touring hard. A bus costs about $30k a month, so you can’t get sleep and stay healthy.”
Despite the strain that touring was putting on the band, William is delighted to be back on the road. “Travel and learning are my passions,” he says. Augustines were known for their passionate live performances, and when questioned on the main difference between taking to the stage minus old bandmates Eric and Rob, William offers, “I was actually noticing last night, before going onstage I was stretching! Sounds small but it’s fairly poignant. We did two and a half hour high energy rock shows. I’m now doing a two and a half high energy folk show. Same sweat, smaller stage.”
Releasing new music and a book through the crowd funding site Patreon, there was a certain attraction to the platfrom for William. “I just found it cool for fans and artists alike.” But it’s not just on Patreon that you can find his new music, he has decided to make his debut solo single ‘Time Ain’t Always By My Side’ available to download via his website for free.
“I feel money will come if it’s gonna come, what I’m focused on now is the live show and giving people something that resonates with them when they leave the venue.”
As to what fans in Belfast, Dublin and Galway can expect to hear from William this weekend, there’s a fresh sense of excitement that’s palpable. “It’s a mash up. I went out last night and pulled the set list outta my pocket an hour into it! I just was glowin’ and flowin’. So yeah man. I have lots of old, new, borrowed and blue tunes for you.”
“If I’m 100% honest with you,” he goes on, “it’s such an interactive show that the song selection is only a portion of the greater experience. We laugh, we talk about the world, the past, where we are going etc. and I say ‘we’ because I encourage the crowd to interact with me.”
Those who have been to an Augustines show know how close McCarthy is to the audience – and fans of the band have always seen themselves as a sort of fourth member. William could often be seen climbing into the crowd for a couple of unplugged tunes right at the centre of the audience, encouraging fans to sing along.
Reports from the current European tour have been extremely positive, but Europe has long been a second home, having spent several years living in Berlin, William has only recently returned to his native NYC. That’s not the only recent change. We wonder why the change back to William – in his Augustines days he was always Bill or Billy. “I like growth, and I think William is like John – John, Jonny, Jonathan…William, Will, Willie, Bill, Billy etc. I thought I’d go back to the name I was born with and be a grown up,” and on that note, when can we expect to hear a full William McCarthy solo album. “I’m thinking June, or September.”
Renowned for his animated and heartened live performances, as well as being a passionate storyteller; William McCarthy os cut from the same cloth as Springsteen. When he brings his two and a half hour “folk rock show” to Ireland this weekend, be sure not to miss it.
Black Box, Belfast – Friday 28 April
The Workman’s Club, Dublin – Saturday 29 April
Loam, Galway – Sunday 30 April