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A Conversation With Paramore's Haley Williams, Plus Elton John's "Mexican Vacation" Video

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Paramore album cover

A Conversation with Paramore's Haley Williams

Mike Ragogna: Haley, what inspired the writing process with your latest album?

Haley Williams: The main thing that I feel like is different and helped fuel our fire was sort of feeling like we were fighting this sort of apparent end to our band. It felt like it was an end of an era, but also a lot of people were wondering if we were going to go away, so we were fighting that. Not so much on the outside, but internally, the three of us always knew that we were going to keep the band alive. We had our doubts in the beginning with the whole process. While it sort of left us drained with little confidence in the beginning, it also fueled a fire in us that honestly we might have needed. We might have never had an album come out this way had we not gone through the things we went through as a band.

MR: To me, "Grow Up" seemed like a testament to that.

HW: A little bit. None of the songs are wholly about losing two band members and going through that drama, they are all parts and pieces of our daily life. It's not an autobiography of Paramore. I think we already did that with our last album Brand New Eyes. It was in our mind that we didn't need to re-create a Brand New Eyes Part 2. This album was more focused on growing up, moving beyond the downfall, all the negative energy. At the same time, there's no real ignoring or denying the stuff that we've been through. I think those things shape the way that see myself, the way that I see the world around me and at some point those instances in my life are going to come up whether I want to flat out lie about it or not.

MR: You close the album with "Future," as in what's past is past and what's the future is the future.

HW: We talked about opening the album with that song, but then we were like it doesn't make sense, it's a very melancholy sort of vibe, and it's super long, like 11 minutes long. That is the way that I felt throughout the whole process; I didn't really want to talk about the past. Then again, I couldn't really move forward without sort of addressing certain things that happened in my life, in the past, with the band. It sort of felt necessary to acknowledge all that I have been through, but then, at the same time, to tell people, mostly our fans and ourselves included, that it was time to do something new.

MR: The album kicks off with "Fast In My Car," a real anthem. It set the tone, and it feels like a song about survival.

HW: Yeah, there was like a point where we had been through the drama and decided we were over and decided to move on to bigger and better things. But people, whether it was some fans and media, wouldn't let us live it down. We are not bitter to talk about anything because it's a wonder people want to talk to a band like us at all. I think it's an amazing thing but it sort of gets tiring. You're sort of trying to tell people no we really are okay, everything's fine, we are making music and really happy. Some people don't always want to see the positive; some people are more drawn to the drama and the negativity and the train wreck of it all. And that song is sort of our anthem and our way of getting past that and letting out that frustration and telling our fans, really, we just want to hang out and have a good time with this music again. And that's another reason why I did a nod to Riot in that chorus, because there was a point when we were writing Riot and when we started to tour with that record that we were so naive and having so much fun that we did not see what was coming. We didn't know that we were going to get tired and burnt out and drama would build up. We sort just went out guns blazing; we were really excited to be a band. So we feel that all over again now and that's just a fun fact about that reference in the chorus. We feel those feelings and the excitement again.

MR: It seems like with this album you were not only redefining the sound but redefining the mission.

HW: Yeah, absolutely, and that's why the album's called Paramore. We self-titled it because we felt like we wanted to make a statement out of this album. The time we took away was just as much for each us personally as it was for the band, and this kind of musical journey that we've been on. We needed to go away, we needed to take some time and live real life at home and just feel that for a minute. It was nice, it was really refreshing. I found out really quickly how much I am in love with Paramore. It kind of got a little got a fuzzy for a while. We all kind of sat there thinking, what are we doing, what's happening, why is everyone miserable? And taking the time away allotted us to re-focus and figure out what it is we love about this, what it is we love about each other. We are better friends now too. Hopefully, it shows in the music. But I think it is extremely obvious when you come to the show versus videos from shows in 2009 when we were all just depressed. It was a really hard time for us. Now we look like a completely different band on stage.

MR: You guys had a lot of songs featured in video games, anything more coming up like that?

HW: Not video games, that I am aware. We love that stuff so hopefully we get to do more but we slowly but surely have been writing new songs and just having a good time with what we have left over. Basically, where we're at now, we' re just really open-minded . Whatever comes our way that we feel good about, we're gonna do.

MR: Including a certain "ParAhoy!" cruise?

HW: Yeah , I'm so excited about that. It's crazy.

MR: Is this the first time you've done a cruise?

HW: Yeah, it is. I am not really fully sure what to expect. But I am just excited to do something different, and to be surrounded by friends, fans and people who want to have a good time. To me, it's something that bands usually do when they're much older and been around for a lot longer than us. I'm just really excited to be able to enjoy it early on. Who knows what it will be like, but if it's great, maybe we will be able to do another one you know.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

HW: Oh my gosh. Wow. For me, even sometimes now, but in the past, I would get hung up and stressed out over the small things. I'm really involved on the social media front, with different promotions we do. I'm very excited by those sorts of things; that's sort of the nerdy side of me. I actually like marketing, even though I'm in a band and I'm an artist and sometimes those two worlds don't really mix, but I actually really enjoy it. Sometimes, I get way hung up on all that stuff and I really have to remind myself and this is another reason why taking time away was good; just to enjoy the core of what you're doing , enjoy the music, enjoy going out and playing shows to whoever wants to come to your shows whether it's 20 people or 2000 people or more. I think if anything, the three of us have learned over the last few years the only thing that matters at the end of the day is what you're doing and why you're doing it. The music that we make, we are so passionate about, and we know that once again, that's all there is to focus on. The good promo and the good opportunities and all those cool things, they will come and go. One day, there will be a million people knocking at your door and the next day none of them will want to admit they know who you are, and it goes up and down like that all the time. You can't focus on those things. I am sort of still talking to myself in ways, because I think it's just east to get caught up in hype. And you always have to know that's not what it's about...that's not what it's about at all.

MR: If you could talk to the younger Haley in the days when she was starting out, what advice would you give her?

HW: That you're on the right track and to stick to your guns. It's a wild world out there. A lot of opinions and social media just gives a voice to every Joe Shmo and every street corner. You really have to listen to your own core values, your heart, your opinions, and go with that. You have to be open-minded too, but there's a fine line when it comes to artistry. You have to really know what you want and why you want that. I would tell her to stick to her guns. You're doing fine.

MR: Are you excited to play Madison Square Garden?

HW: Yeah, I'm freaking out, I'm still kind of speechless, I don't exactly know. I don't think I have formed all my thoughts and excitement about it. I'm so psyched. I can't wait to see our fans show up to that place and I have faith that they will. Our show and the energy between us and the people that come to the show is so strong. They deserve to go to a Paramore show at Madison Square Garden, it's humbling, I'm excited.

ELTON JOHN'S "MEXICAN VACATION"

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Elton takes another plunge into the pop world with "Mexican Vacation (Kids In The Candlelight)," a track from The Diving Board, his first solo studio album in seven years. Produced by T-Bone Burnett and featuring twelve songs co-written with longtime collaborator and lyricist Bernie Taupin, the album will be released on September 24th. Including another key track, "Home Again," The Diving Board returns Elton John to his early signature piano/bass/drums approach of his seventies classics, and the artist reveals that the project "...is the album I've been waiting to make for decades."

Check out this video that also serves as a teaser for both the album and Elton's return to recording.