Hayley Williams talks abuse, anger, femininity in a male-dominated space
Hayley Williams has been a massive force in the music industry since Paramore formed in 2004. Currently, Williams is proving her immense talent with a solo project and is set to release her album Petals For Armor this May.
The 31-year old Mississippi-born singer/songwriter is finally looking into her past to heal some wounds that needed tending, and she didn't have the tools to mend them before.
Williams spent the better part of ten years in a relationship with New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert. The marriage officially ended in 2017, a year after it began. It left Williams feeling like "a failure." But, it wasn't smooth sailing before that as Williams had postponed the engagement in 2015.
Speaking on the houses and hobbies her and Gilbert moved between, Williams tells the New York Times, "Your girl spent a lot of money in those years trying to fill a void that was not fixable."
Williams began the relationship in 2008, when she was only a teenager.
“I was already trying to understand my capacity for domesticity,” she said. “I think for a long time I wanted to create what my parents didn’t create for me.”
Williams soon realized that the happiness she sought would not come from best-selling albums or Grammys, but needed to come from within.
“During After Laughter it was really rough,” she admits. “My dog is the reason I’m alive, because he would’ve been waiting on me to get home, no matter what. You know how little sweet little puppies sit and they wait, I couldn’t think about it.”
“And I’m glad, you know? Life is still hard, it didn’t become a breeze overnight or anything and it’s been years and it’s still not a breeze, but it’s so rich and now that I’m taking account of all these feelings and I’m feeling all of them. There’s this beautiful rainbow versus just the deep end.”
She goes on to state that her depression was causing her to hide other feelings like anger.
“Taylor’s [York] the first person that ever told me anger is neither a bad nor a good emotion. It’s just an emotion, it’s a feeling, it’s a thing. You don’t have to assign it to something.”
“Just let it breathe,” she continues. “Just feel it. I had the hardest time being angry while we were writing After Laughter and I clearly had a lot of to be mad about, but I was depressed. I think often depression is masking other pointed feelings.”
That anger stemmed from many things that Williams had yet to address.
“Every woman in my family on my mom’s side, they’ve all been abused in almost every sense of the word," she tells the NYT. "I’ve always felt like something was wrong with me or I was an underdog or I had something to prove.”
She also admitted to Lowe that her struggles continued after the last Paramore tour.
“All the things that I let go of, or I tried to let go of, when we went on tour just came crashing back down on top of me a few days after Art and Friends 2018. I had to go to intensive therapy. It was rough. It forced me to ask a lot of questions… I was making a lot of mistakes in my personal life. I was self-sabotaging left and right. And I joke about it in songs, Paramore songs, but it’s not funny to live it, right?”
Essentially being raised in the male-dominated punk scene, Williams has crafted her own version of femininity. “I think what we’ve grown up seeing as like a stereotypical feminine body, feminine personality, feminine dress, I didn’t relate to that,” Williams said to NYT.
"But I kept thinking about, what is it to me to grow up in a man’s world, [in] an industry that I’m surrounded by men all the time," Williams said in a separate Lowe interview.
“I am a woman. How can I own that without shame? How can I just be proud about my feminine side, all of my feminine sides? Because I got masculine sides too. Everyone’s got both sides of it. I feel like I’ve been so comfortable with this other side of myself that is so not feminine, that what does it feel like to step into femininity?”
Williams is embracing the trauma and moving past it. Speaking on Petals For Armor, she says its just that—armor. But also, that vulnerability is the best armor you can have. She deals with her anger in a more effective way.
“I think, for me, it’s somewhat of a mantra to try and stay soft in a really, really hard world and feel pain and let all of it come to you and try and put out something that can redeem it all, even if it’s ugly at first, Williams says. “The lyric is 'wrap yourself in petals for armor' because I kept feeling like the way for me to protect myself best is to be vulnerable and be OK with having a lot of pain at certain times and also feeling a lot of joy at certain times.”
“As long as I’m staying soft to those things and I’m open to letting those things in and out of me then I actually can survive the world a lot easier than if I stay hard and with my fists up all the time.”
As stated, Hayley Williams just dropped the first part of her solo album Petals For Armor. Part I consists of five songs and includes the hits “Simmer,” “Leave It Alone” and “Cinnamon.” It was also recently revealed that all three members of boygenius—the indie-rock super group consisting of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus will all appear on Petals For Armor.
Williams also spoke on why she's releasing the album in parts. She wants fans to experience it the way she did.
“There are a lot of themes covered on the album as a whole and I thought it best to separate some of these themes so that there can be time for everyone to digest some of the songs before we move along to others,” Williams says of PETALS FOR ARMOR I. “It’s a way to include people on the journey in the same way that I experienced it.”
The full ‘Petals For Armor’ releases on May 8. Preorders can be found here.
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