"Having music in a video game feels so timeless to me": Vo Williams on being featured in 'Watch Dogs 2'
Vo Williams talks about the surreal experience of having music featured in video games, his eclectic musical influences growing up in Sarasota, FL, his upcoming EP and more.
Vo Williams is a dynamic musical force and industry trailblazer for the rise of African American representation in entertainment. After a captivating personal journey, Vo has already emphatically established himself with an impressive body of work that includes song placements on heavyweight TV shows including the likes of 'Empire', 'Ballers', 'Lethal Weapon', 'SNL' and 'Atlanta,' and he's achieved all this without ever receiving any form of formal musical education.
His musical style does not fit any of the traditional boxes but ranges from Hip Hop to Rock elements. Vo uses the term “Epic Hip Hop” to describe his sound. He designs his music with the thought of being visual, to support massive cinematic images, as well as having the intention of being heard in stadiums. Vo wants his listeners to feel “powerful, unstoppable, understood and heard” even if only for a moment’s time.
Vo grew up in the small city of Sarasota, Florida where he knew he wanted to pursue music at an early age. He admits that the limited musical exposure while growing up made him "hungry to discover new sounds from around the world."
His influences are all over the place and borrow from an eclectic field of Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Electro, Heavy Metal and Jazz, and he reminisces fondly of the days he discovered Jimi Hendrix's music.
Vo landed his first major break when his music featured in the international trailer for 'Big Game,' starring Samuel L Jackson. Since then, Vo’s music has found itself in a variety of TV shows, movies, and games. I caught up with Vo Williams for an e-mail interview to discuss his fast-rising career, his eclectic musical journey through childhood, influences, having his music featured in video games, his upcoming projects and more. Read on to see what Vo had to say.
Meaww: From experiences like having your music in SNL to the Lethal Weapon series, you’ve come a long way. Looking back, did you see your career taking the direction that it has?
Vo Williams: When I began creating music, I had a completely different vision for my path as an artist. Like most musicians at that time, I believed the only way I could really launch my career was either through radio play, or by being backed and distributed by a major record label. So everything I was doing supported that direction. Then, when I landed my first sync in Film/TV, it completely shifted everything for me. Music in Film/TV and gaming, expanded the boundaries of what I thought was possible.
Meaww: Could you take us through what you were going through when you made the song 'Supernatural' that was featured in the video game ‘Watch Dogs 2.’? Are you a gamer yourself?
Vo: Supernatural was a powerful moment for me. The moment Robin Loxley (co-writer) played the beat for me, the words “I feel supernatural” reach up out of me. The song flowed outward so naturally, that I felt less like I was creating it, and more like I was streaming information from some commanding source. Sometimes it’s so automatic and synergetic that it feels like I’m just tapping into something that was always there.
My gaming skills need some love, I won’t lie. I bought a gaming system so I could play ‘Watch Dogs 2’ and ‘The Crew 2’ to just feel the experience of having my music in them. So maybe I’ll buy a few others and get more practice in. It’s surreal to be playing a game and for one of your songs to come on in the middle of a mission. Having music in a video game feels so timeless to me. I feel honored that my music will live in these games forever!
Meaww: You’ve dropped two singles ‘Rampage’ and ‘I Am the One'. Can we expect more or an EP soon?
Vo: Yes, I am in the studio developing my next EP right now. In the meanwhile, I have a hand full of tracks being released that I want to stand out as singles.
Meaww: Where did you grow up? What kind of music were you exposed to in your formative years?
Vo: I grew up in a small city called Sarasota, Florida. Although the city was home to a few incredibly talented and creative people - there wasn’t a unified community, or cohesive sound movement happening. The limited exposure made me hungry to discover new sounds from around the world. I discovered pieces of myself through Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Electro, Heavy Metal, Jazz, almost everything I got my hands on. I was jumping in emcee battles at the lunch tables, and I was also at home rewinding videos of Jimi Hendrix playing ‘Train a Coming’, and trying to learn by ear and through following his fingers on my guitar.
Meaww: Who are your greatest influences from the contemporary music scene?
Vo: I’m really inspired by where Jay-Z is at right now. The kind of value he’s offering with ‘4:44’ is so pure and rich. I’m also really feeling what Childish Gambino is doing as well. Ultimately, I get inspired when creators create, so often I feel like I discover something dope that broadens my perspective in some way. I think the reception of our peers is always in the back of our minds as creators. We get hype when we make something dope, because we know other creators are going to wild out when they hear it, see it, experience it.
Meaww: What is that you hope to convey with your music to listeners?
Vo: I want to share a feeling of empowerment, confidence, and hope. I want for my music to be a useful tool in life, and for people to be able to live a better human experience through applying what we create.
Meaww: Any new collaborations that you’ve been working on/looking forward to recently?
Vo: I have absolute bangers dropping soon! I have collaborations with Sjae (co-writer on ‘All or Nothing’), Hidden Citizens, and Robin Loxley (co-writer on ‘Supernatural’ ,and ’Light em’ Up’). I’m really excited about ‘Battle Cry’ its such a special piece of music.
Meaww: What’s next for Vo Williams?
Vo: More hard work, more dreaming, more practicing, learning, and of course creating! We are sitting at the table with some incredible people, and discussing how we see the future, and what we can contribute to that vision. What’s next for me and my team? Wins, epic wins!