There is no shortage of woefulness or melancholy in Jerry Williams' music catalog. Even with the impossibly catchy ones, like her 2019 breakout single "David at the Bar," we are still given a sense of dark undertones. But this is a master lyricist who valiantly dances between the lines of light and dark, so I was unsurprised when a sunshine-like attitude answered the phone from her home in Portsmouth, UK.
In her EP Gameshow, Williams enjoys playing out the duality of light-and-dark: Gameshow is a pop project with a heavy rock influence. "I basically wanted to be a rock chick when I was younger," she laughs after discussing our mutual love of Avril Lavigne. Her lyrics might be sad, but she plies you with melody lines that are buoyant and full of mischief. We start slow, discussing the last year and her tour with Finn Wolfhard's band Calpurnia. "That was one of the highlights of my whole life," she gushes. Her excitement for everything, from her music to her life, is infectious. Despite her optimism, it's been a bit of a slow burn for the 23-year-old. She did her time as a waitress in a few different cafés prior to getting signed. "Touring with not very much money while working two jobs to try to fund it all is pretty difficult," she says, quick to add that "it's also really rewarding, to know that you love what you do and you've started it from scratch."
One of the hallmarks of Williams' songwriting throughout her various releases has been that she breaks the "write what you know" rule, for a wonderful effect. Most of her songs contain vivid characters. She tells stories not solely from lived experience, but from the perspectives of people she's met along her journey. "When I first started, the songs I was writing were about [boys] not liking me back…as I got older I just found it quite nice to draw from other people's lives. It gives me more insight into things I haven't experienced and maybe won't for a while. Other people are inspiring," she says, with genuine humility. It does seem that Williams has been doing the same for those people, as her fan base has grown exponentially in the past year and a half. "Online people are saying really lovely things and that I've inspired them. That means so much to me," she says.
"Gameshow," the title and opening track on her EP is perhaps an odd choice for the first tune on a pop record, given her effervescent nature. About a family friend who passed away from cancer, the song "is about her speaking to her son, saying 'don't worry about me,'" Williams says. "She wasn't very well for a long time and when she passed away, it was really weird that she wasn't here anymore…it's also about how normal life is carried on after someone's gone. How everything will turn out how it's meant to be." Gameshow is every bit as heartfelt and earnest as its creator. Through this earnest exploration of self, Jerry Williams's music is an honest expression of an artist seeking out the balance between darkness and brightness.