After being recruited by the rap label Joy Ride Records, William Hennessey (formerly known as Maldito) offers us an album that’s as fascinating as it is impossible to pigeonhole: De pire en pire. We spoke with this truly free spirit, who seems at one with nature.
William Hennessey doesn’t do anything like everyone else. When he composes, in a room at the Université Laval, he simply “entrenches” himself, even he risks getting kicked out. Here rejects the rules, whatever they may be. “I flunked my music classes in high schoo,” says Hennessey. “It was all theory, and I don’t read music… I compare it to swimming lengths in a lane in an indoor pool, compared to swimming in a lake. I much prefer swimming in a lake.”
He’s marked by a somewhat scandalous reputation, of which certain traces still persist to this day. Hennessey abandoned his Maldito name to start anew, and make a new name for himself. He sand-papered his image and found a new balance, he explains with stars in his eyes, like a carriage horse wearing blinders. The animal is featured on the cover of his still hot-from-the-press album. “It completely changed me,” he says. “I used to have real vices that disappeared. It happened progressively, and they’re almost totally gone now, thanks to this presence and energy that brings out the best in me… Ever since I got that horse, I get the impression that it’s me, but in another form. It’s like we’re one and the same.”
Empowered by those DYI zoo-therapy sessions, the singer-songwriter was ready when Joy Ride Records came knocking, but he played hard-to-get for a little while. He wasn’t initially convinced he would accept Carlos Munoz’s offer of a “carte blanche” that would allow him to fully express his “dual personality” and sonic eclecticism. “I’d just been screwed and used by my old label, so I was a little hesitant,” says Hennessey. “When he approached me, I thought it would be the same scenario all over again. He told me the same stuff… In the end, I asked all the right questions, Carlos answered them clearly, and I said OK. He’s got cash, so that’s reassuring.”
“I don’t like the image of the eternally poor artist.”
Backed by a solid team that propelled Loud to Cloud 9, as well as radio trackers and other professionals devoted to the promotion of his songs, the Québec City-based musician is currently busy courting radio pundits. His calling card? “Fous,” a breakup song punctuated by cheerful handclaps and staggered images, in which an older woman is his fictional girlfriend.
“The label people asked me to do a song for the radio,” he says. “I understand the game, I get that they need to capitalize, one way or another. They have good deals with radio stations, and I get royalties… I can do radio hits, so I did it. It’s not like I’m going to lose my identity because of this. I want to be true to myself, and that’s the concept of the video… It generates revenues. I mean, we have to earn a living, too. I don’t like the image of the eternally poor artist.”
And although he’s bet on the international market so far – his Maldito-era videos raking views in the six digits – he’s lately realized that “Glaciers,” “Ovnis,” and “Zodiac” also reach followers who don’t understand a single word of French. Could his music have a universal appeal after all? His YouTube channel sees kudos thrown his way from as far as Kyrgyzstan.
“Goes to show just the sound touches people,” he says. “Lyrics are important, but there’s more to life than that. Seriously, from a musical standpoint, I get nothing but positive feedback, most of the time. That’s the only truth I will allow myself. I’ve never had negative feedback saying that I’m not good, or I copy someone else.”
As confident as he ever was, Hennessey is only at the beginning of his collaboration with Joy Ride Records. An English-language album is next, as well as a documentary/bio on his rise to fame. “It should come out this spring or summer,” he says. “Cameras have been following me for a year now. People will find out everything about me and my life. It’s hot.”
Record launch: February 20, 8:00 p.m., at Lion d’Or in Montréal