Don’t let Hayley Williams’ age fool you. She may only be 16-years-old but when you hear her behind the mike, she sounds like a seasoned vocalist with incredible range. Williams is the voice of Paramore, a Tennessee based power rock/pop act fresh from releasing their debut album, All We Know Is Falling, on Fueled by Ramen. Armed with youth, Paramore are grabbing attention from coast to coast. They have already played the Vans Warped Tour and have shared the stage with the likes of Less Than Jake and Copeland- it is hard to believe that this band is just getting started.
Williams recently took some time to explain to Sound the Sirens the growing pains of being young and in a band, using youth to draw inspiration, and how life on the road for a young 16-year-old is really like.
At the age of 13, Paramore began to take shape. How did things come together from the eyes of a 13-year-old?
Williams: I met Josh and Zac at my school and we all became friends and learned that we shared the same passion. Back then, I guess we were all thinking, after school we’ll go to the house and practice. It was what we loved to do for fun, and still do! I don’t think any of us really knew this would turn out to be what it’s become.
Did you grow up taking voice lessons and were you involved in musical projects in some capacity?
Williams: I started taking lessons from Brett Manning, the best in the world, around the time that I moved to Franklin [Tennessee]. Growing up, I did the normal stuff like school plays and little things like that.
Who were some of the musicians/artists you looked up to?
Williams: [Laughter] *NSync! I also loved The Temptations. I actually listened to a lot of soul and R&B music before I got into the type of music that we play. It’s good stuff.
You are 16-years young and have incredible vocal range.
Williams: I don’t know … I mean, I get comments about it quite a lot but I think the biggest asset I have, and that all of us have in the band is each other. We are each other’s biggest assets.
Your developing voice, how hard is it to deal with?
Williams: My voice developed pretty quickly into what it is now. Even though it will most likely become more mature sounding I won’t have to worry about it cracking or anything close to what a lot of young guys have to deal with. That would be embarrassing.
Where do you draw your inspiration when writing lyrics?
Williams: Just life. Things that happen to me or the people I love. I actually think being young is inspiration in itself for our band. We are learning a lot of things for the first time and all kinds of emotions come from learning. They are important emotions to express and I think a lot of people can relate to the honesty.
Do you ever feel you are missing out on every day 16-year-old things? You have to wonder what some of your life would be like if you were attending high school everyday.
Williams: I don’t think I would do well in public high school- with all the drama, the social ranking and everything. We all miss home sometimes and wonder what we’d be doing if we weren’t sitting in a van traveling to the next venue, but at the same time, some kid might be sitting in class wondering how it would be to be sitting in a van traveling to the next venue. We are all doing what we love and don’t regret any of it.
Are you furthering your education at all or is it all strictly music right now?
Williams: Yes, both Zac and I are doing an over the internet home school program. We just started this school year, so hopefully it won’t get to stressful.
What is the road life like for a 16-year old girl touring the country and playing shows night after night?
Williams: The greatest gift and most wonderful opportunity anyone could ask for. It’s like a dream. Not to say that it’s never hard, but it’s wonderful.
But is it tough being the only girl in a band full of guys?
Williams: There are tough moments, as with anything, but I always know that the guys are my best friends in the world. They are extremely patient with me when I act like a bratty little girl, and for that I am eternally indebted. We all love each other.
I’ve noticed that some people are lumping you into a category with Avril Lavigne and Ashlee Simpson- a gimmick type band on a punk label like Fueled by Ramen. Does that bother you at all?
Williams: Yeah it does, but people love hearing themselves talk and everyone knows that. So we all just try to be patient with it and understand that not every part of this job is awesome. If people want to know us and get the truth about us, they’ll come to see us play and get the truth.
And your personal opinions on artists like Ashlee and Avril?
Williams: Well, they do their thing and if that’s working for them why should they change?
Significant advantages or disadvantages to being a female artist in a rock band?
Williams: Even though in reality we are a female fronted rock band, we all see this as a regular band and nothing else. I think because of that we rid ourselves of the limitations we may otherwise have.
We all hear about the groupies flocking over the boy bands but what about for you, do the boys go nuts for you and what is that like for you getting that type of attention night after night?
Williams: We aren’t The Beatles or anything, but the people who come out to our shows are dedicated and are always so much fun to be around. Most of the people coming out to the shows seem much more interested in the music and what we do, rather than what I’m wearing and how I look … and that’s such a great feeling for all of us.
Over the summer, your band released its debut full-length album, All We Know Is Falling. What was the recording process like the first time around for you?
Williams: We learned a ton. We recorded demos in Nashville before, the ones that John Janick [founder of Fueled by Ramen] heard, so we had an idea of what it would be like and how it would go. But working with such amazing producers like James Wisner and Mike Green had a lot to do with how much we grew as a band during the recording process of this record.
Does the album have a personal side to it that relates to your life experiences?
Williams: Of course. Our songs can’t help but reflect all the things we go through. The first song on the record, “All We Know,” was written in our rehearsal space in Orlando just two days after Jeremy, our original bass player left us. That song is one of the most obvious songs on the record. It’s like a letter to Jeremy telling him that we’ll never forget him. The whole record has little stories like that.
What is your writing process like? Do you sit down and just write songs whenever you feel like it or what?
Williams: Josh pretty much always initiates the writing of a song. He comes up with such great stuff. How we normally like to do it is he will have music and sometimes a lyric idea or a vocal line, and he’ll bring it to me. From there, I come up with more words and melodic ideas and we just build off of each other. We think a lot alike, but have different strengths. I think we make a really good team. After that we bring what we have to the rest of the guys and work out arrangements, transitions, intros or outros. It’s worked great so far.
Where do you see your future in music heading to?
Williams: What I do as an individual depends on Paramore. Paramore is something we’ve all committed to. Who knows where this next year or two will take us. Whether we are playing clubs for a couple hundred kids or playing on big tours in front of much bigger crowds … we will be playing.