In 2005, a 16-year-old, red-headed Hayley Williams spoke nervously about her love of writing in an interview with MTV after a live show with her band, pop-punk powerhouse Paramore.
"I've always liked writing." she began, nervously. "It started out with just poetry, and that's actually how 'Conspiracy' started". 'All We Know Is Falling', the band's debut, had just been released. It was clear from the get-go that Williams, even in her formative years, was a uniquely talented songwriter.
.@yelyahwilliams's debut solo album #PetalsForArmor is out today. Back in 2005, the @paramore singer talked to us about her love for songwriting, and how poetry was her access point pic.twitter.com/ukCtcsNFkS
— MTV NEWS (@MTVNEWS) May 8, 2020
Since then, now at 31-years-old, Williams has been a part of Paramore. Touring and recording has taken up a signifcant amount of her life so far. They've seen huge success, having released five albums (two reaching number one in the UK charts) and headlined some of the biggest stages around the world. But, it's fair to say it hasn't been without its turbulence.
It has been a mantra of the band for many years, that Paramore Is A Band. Williams has spent much of her career on the defensive, swerving unwelcome criticism that she is the sole and defining characteristic of Paramore. An array of separations from band members has more than once left the band fractured. But much like the Japanese art of kintsugi, with each release, the band has been brought back together more loved and valued than before.
Following their most recent release, 2017's 'After Laughter', Paramore decided it was time to hit pause. It was important to spend some time focussing on developing themselves and their friendships, outside of the band that brought them together as teenagers. During that time, Williams began therapy. She explored her recent divorce from New Found Glory band member Chad Gilbert, her relationships with her bandmates, and her longing for a stable family that she can keep united. It was during this therapy that she was encouraged to start writing again. Here, the first pieces of her debut solo album 'Petals For Armor' began to take shape.
While the album bears her name, it isn't without influence and collaboration from her band mates in Paramore. The album was produced by Taylor York (guitarist), and Zac Farro (drummer) appears on a number of songs, and directed the video for single 'Dead Horse'. It's understandable, when it comes to subject matter, why the album is a solo project rather than part of the Paramore back catalogue. Thematically, the tackling of identity, beauty and femininity in songs 'Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris' and 'Cinnamon' is deeply personal. It is executed delicately and with the utmost sincerity.
Trauma has its own, dark place on the album too. It is unsurprising, considering the record was effectively born out of therapy. Williams deals with her experiences of loss, tragedy and PTSD in the likes of 'Simmer' and 'Leave It Alone'. But, in equal yet opposite doses, Williams balances love, desire, friendship and hope. It's evident in the likes of 'Sudden Desire', 'My Friend', 'Pure Love', and 'Crystal Clear'.
As a collection of songs, the breadth and eclecticism of Williams' songwriting is clear. Citing influence from the likes of Solange, Bjork and Radiohead, it is a triumphant record which boasts phenomenal vocal control and an unwavering vision of music that bounces elegantly between R&B, pop, indie and rock. Williams' obvious adoration for music of a variety of genres is brought to fruition within the 15 songs on the album, in the form of her own artistic creation and with the help of her band mates, peers, friends and fellow creatives.
In 2005, Hayley Williams explained it started all with poetry, and fifteen years later the poetry remains present. And so, in 'Petals For Armor', Williams establishes herself a rounded and expertly talented musician in her own right. Paramore Is A Band. But Hayley Williams Is An Artist.
Listen to the album below!
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