Interview: Wils Makes History as the First Openly Gay Male Chinese Singer
The pop singer was dropped from his label in Asia after coming out.
Wils is making history as the first openly gay male Chinese singer. The pop star recently graced the cover of Men’s Health magazine in Singapore. After showing off his ripped physique, he was nicknamed “the Beast of the East.” He took time to speak about living his truth, his new single “Open Up Babe,” and the state of pop music.
Derek: If someone was new to you and your sound, how would you describe yourself and your music?
Wils: I love to poke fun at silly things just for a good laugh. My spirit animal would probably be a raccoon. Eats junk, stays up all night, but I’ll be your friend! If you give me food. My music definitely falls in the pop category. Subcategory is probably electronic. I’m a singer-songwriter that writes tunes that trigger heaps of emotions! I love the feeling of love!
D: You are making history as the first openly gay male Chinese singer. How does that feel?
W: There are so many underrepresented LGBTQIA people in Asia that are constantly being bullied and stigmatized by society. It makes them cover up their identity to protect themselves and the people they love. I feel that opening up my sexuality will help others who’re going through a hard time with their identity know that they’re not alone.
D: The music video for “Open Up Babe” is scenic and romantic. What were your inspirations for it?
W: Aww, thanks! Hopeless romantic, check! When I began dating a couple of years ago, I was always worried about what people think about me when I was with another guy. That was a constant voice in my head, that made me not enjoy the moment because of my fear... I wanted the music video to be out in nature, where we are as free as nature to love openly.
D: Any funny moments on set?
W: Absolutely! We were holding hands and walking down this path. Rob Pexton (who’s seen in the video with me) had his shirt unbuttoned for the scene. An older man walked by, pointed at Rob’s chest and said, “That’s pretty cool.” Rob couldn’t say anything because we were shooting the scene, so we just started laughing.
There was a scene where we were stepping on heaps of plant roots and we had trouble keeping our balance. You could see in one of the scenes that I actually almost fell, but had to keep my cool when I was spinning, and had no idea what I was doing. While we were doing that scene, Rob asked me to jump on him. I looked at him with a surprised face. “Like literally jump on you?”
“Yup!” he said, “Show me the best you’ve got.” So I ran from a distance, jumped up, and we almost fell. But Rob’s a strong man, so he definitely saved me from a face plant. By the way, it was Rob’s first ever music video. He isn’t a trained actor. What a natural!
When we shot our first ever scene, Rob leaned over and said, “I’m sorry I’m so awkward!” Which I then told him, “That’s okay, you do you and that’s your greatest part!” Which in turn became such a fun shoot, because we were both laughing so much at each other.
D: What’s your recording process like? Take us through a day in the studio with Wils.
W: I can’t sit still when I’m writing. I’m a total child at the studio. There’s just no rules. It’s the place to have fun! I normally strum a couple of chords on a guitar for a chord that goes well with the feeling of the day. Then I’ll sing a melody over the guitar with lyrics that don’t make sense. Example: “The cat ate the dog.” I’ll go eat some kind of sugary food (chocolates), because my brain starts replaying the melodies for hours and hours and it definitely needs glucose. It’s like a freaking music player that won’t stop. If the melody stays in my head after a couple of hours, then that’s the one. I’ll normally pick a couple of song references for the closest feel sonically to the idea in my head.
The producer builds the track, I sing the melody over the track. I fill in the lyric over the track. Jump in the vocal booth, wrap a blanket over my shoulders — looking like some crazy old witch just because blankets are comfy — and let my emotions flow through my opened mouth!
D: Pop music has taken a backseat to other genres in the late 2010s. Why do you think this is?
W: Probably because of the bloom in technology. Traditionally, people are fed music genres of a certain kind. But when there’s an explosion of technology, people discover other genres that they like through their form of technology. Which is totally cool, because it has allowed cross-genre mixes. It’s like when two genres mate, they make new cross-genre babies. This really made music so much more fun with influences from different genres.
D: Who is your biggest inspiration, musically?
W: Oh God, this is tough. I have so many — and they’re all so different! I’d say I really love Coldplay a lot. Their music takes you on a whole journey and takes you so far away. The Sonics, too; their songs are just so lifting and opening. It’s like having an eargasm.
D: Do you have a message to your supporters?
W: Life is so much more fun when you are you. Don’t let anyone take away your happiness of being truthful to yourself. You have to accept yourself before you can accept others. And being yourself is the best gift you can give to your soul, and those around you. Thank you so much for supporting me, I’m forever grateful. Hugs and kisses!
What do you think of “Open Up Babe”? Tweet me! @DerekPlease