Wallice is not a big shot, despite what the title of her latest EP might suggest.
“I live by not taking myself too seriously,” the indie pop artist said in an interview with The Daily Californian.
Since her last time sitting down with The Daily Cal in December, Wallice Hana Watanabe has amassed a great amount of success — from touring with Jawny and The 1975 to embarking on her very own headline tour — but her humility remains untouched. Her latest EP may be called Mr Big Shot, but she is far from one.
“I’m the opposite,” Wallice said. “I thought it was funny. I always have a little bit of humor in my lyrics and throughout my three EPs, and this last EP is a bit more serious and less character-driven. So I thought it was fun to tie in a little joke.”
Her latest EP does step away from the satire-steeped eccentricity of her past releases, which feature big personalities fit for the screen — such as the power-hungry, villainous “Rich Wallice,” or the gun-toting Western outlaw of “John Wayne.” Instead, Mr Big Shot is softer and more authentic, displaying a dreamy atmosphere vastly different from the gaudiness of her previous work. This may in part be thanks to Wallice’s integration of new influences — the EP features production from Josh Conway of The Marías, as well as Rob Bisel, who has worked extensively with SZA. Still, Wallice has not strayed from her roots, which lie with childhood friend and longtime collaborator David Marinelli.
“It’s so important to work on music with friends and with people that you’re comfortable with — I think that will bring the most authentic song,” Wallice said. “I don’t necessarily care about names or what else the other producers have worked on. I just know I work well with Marinelli.”
This is a sure sign of her authenticity, even amid all that she’s achieved. Her recent tour with The 1975 took her to Australia, playing arena shows of up to 40,000 people — and yet, she still considers herself a small artist.
“I don’t have extra money to buy anything ever,” she said. Perhaps she still has a ways to go before “Rich Wallice” becomes a reality.
Growing up in LA, it’s no surprise Wallice has a penchant for creative success. For Wallice, who attended elementary school alongside families of actors, musicians and music producers, pursuing artistry was not a question: The only undefined variable was how.
“I have been playing instruments since I was little, but I also really wanted to be an actress and I did commercials,” Wallice said. “I still really love acting. But luckily, music has taken off and allowed me to tour and pursue a creative industry. So I love it. I know I always wanted to be creative. I never was like, I want to be a doctor or an accountant.”
After dropping out of jazz school in New York, Wallice returned to LA to pursue her own avenue of musicality — a risk that has clearly paid off. She slowly began to shape her own sound, making her debut into the indie-rock scene when she was 19. It was artists such as Radiohead, Weezer and Lana Del Rey which influenced her desire to make alternative music, and seasoned female artists who inspired her to stay.
“I talk about age in a lot of interviews,” Wallice said. “For so long it was 16-year-old pop stars, a new one comes up every two years. That’s what was glorified and the next big thing, but right now, this last one or two years, it’s really cool to see Charli XCX and Caroline Polacheck, Hayley Williams, Rina Sawayma — all these people who are 30 and up have gaining popularity in their careers. Not that 30 is old, but in the past, it has been considered that for the music industry.”
Wallice herself is 25, and much of her music centers around the turmoil of growing up. Her song “23” gained popularity for its honest lyricsism detailing her fears for the future and uncertainty with her place in life: “The best of my years are yet to come.” Over two years later, her new song “Quarterlife” expresses how her perspective on growing up has changed.
“I don’t really feel that different to when I was 22. I still feel like I’m young. One of my friends was like, ‘I’m closer to 30 than I am 18 now’ — I was like, ‘that’s weird to think about.’”
Wallice may be getting older, but she is not slowing down. With her tour finishing up and a debut album on the way, there is plenty in store for the artist, who has already achieved so much.
“This last year was really great, getting to travel around and play my music. Hopefully it will just continue,” she said. “Hopefully the best are yet to come.”