Disillusioned Willis Earl Beal Explains Why He’s Leaving His Label

A few years ago, the Chicago soul singer Willis Earl Beal went from singing for commuters on El train platforms to signing with XL Recordings, becoming labelmates with Adele and Vampire Weekend. (Specifically, Beal was on the XL imprint Hot Charity.) That seems like a pretty dizzy ascent, but Beal wasn’t happy on XL, and he’s just announced that he’s leaving the label and releasing his next album, entitled Experiments In Time, by himself; he plans to drop it 8/8 through CDBaby. In a long, fascinating interview with Under The Radar, Beal explains that some of his problems came from the label — he wasn’t happy about the marketing of his 2013 album Nobody Knows — but more of it comes from the simple act of selling music, all the bullshit that comes along with it. He says a lot of things in that interview, and here’s perhaps the most revealing part:

You know, [the man who signed me] is a trendy guy. He wants to go with the modern times. He doesn’t want to spend a whole lot of time thinking about all the lonely psychopaths that listen to music in the middle of the night while riding their bikes. And those are the kind of people I want to make music for. I’m not interested in Ed Sheeran’s fans or Bruno Mars’ fans or even James Blake’s fans, for that matter. I’m my own guy… When I first got interested in music and started to really pay attention, I was paying attention to guys like Nick Cave and Tom Waits and Vincent Gallo — these are my guys. I don’t know who the hell he thought I was going to be — Aloe Blacc or somebody. I don’t know.

There’s a lot more in that interview, including a story about kicking a rude audience member in the face during an Amsterdam show, and you can read the whole thing here. Meanwhile, Beal joins Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles as the second guy on the XL roster who’s publicly aired out grievances with the label; Stickles lets loose here. One more, and we’ve got a trend on our hands.