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by James Hawkridge

220 Kid on his career so far, advocacy for mental health, and the importance of being honest with your emotions. 

Producer, writer, and DJ. All-round loveable, charismatic chap. 220 Kid is not just rolling the dice in the music industry, but flipping the board and drawing an entirely new game in brightly coloured sharpies (and outfits). After running 220 miles in bright pink pants for charity in honour of the passing of his Godfather, the name was born. The artist, however, had been growing within for years. 

“I remember one summer I took a hundred gigs through this one long summer”, he says, as we catch up on Zoom one weekday mid-morning. He’s just finished a run, and sits in his bedroom, white Gymshark tee and sweat beading on his forehead. Me? I’ve barely pulled myself to the kitchen, having just enough energy to throw on a classic grey Nike hoody. 

“At one point, I was just driving to Newcastle and I’d come back [home], learning every side of my craft. Directing my videos, doing my own press, my own radio, song-writing production, networking”. A strong work ethic has pushed 220 Kid (otherwise known as Will) through a global pandemic, with a dedicated career focus meaning that now, as 2020 nears its’ end, he can proudly say that he has a song that’s clocked over 50 million streams on Spotify.

Don’t Need Love, featuring fellow up-and-comer/powerhouse of talent GRACEY, was only released last December. Divine timing led to radio stations picking up the track as a nation tuned in for guidance on COVID-19. “I think it massively helped that everyone was on home. Everyone turned to radio to keep moral. Our record consciously stuck in everyone’s ear. It was unbelievable, really”.

This reception was humbling, and honest expression is a key core factor of Will’s philosophy. “If something good happened [with the record], I’d cry, people were on their phones and it created a movement for the record”. 

“I had that record for two years, trying to get it out. It proved to me that you have to believe in a song. We [songwriters/artists] write so many songs that naturally we get dismissed with some of them, but if you truly believe and just keep going… if you know it’s a big song, keep knocking on the doors. Once I got offered my first deal, everybody tried to sign me”.

Whilst this level of success may seem daunting, the reality has been quite juxtaposed due to the recent online-nature shift of our working lives. “I’ll be in my room on FaceTime with Capital’s Breakfast Show, or doing interviews with America…It’s been a gentle introduction to success, not being thrown around”. 

We discuss the fatigue that can set in from being unable to blow off steam, and the anticipation to finally celebrate such milestones that really signal a prosperous new beginning. From the start of Lockdown One, where Will moved in with (at the time) complete strangers (“I had to get to know my housemates very quickly”), to now, it has been quite the trip.

“My record [Don’t Need Love] blew up the first week of lockdown so I was suddenly really busy. I had no furniture, just got sent some speakers from a company. I was lying on my floor making records and slowly adding bits to my room to make it a home. That fear of the first lockdown was terrifying”.

This honest authenticity has earned respect, and fans, of both his music and his mindset. Speaking of the importance of feeling connected in ever-isolated times, “People being afraid to tell their friend that they’re not okay. In one day you can go through a range of emotions and if you only portray that you’re great, that’s a hard thing [to keep up]”. 

“We need to be around each other, we need comfort. Letting people know that they can talk about it is a key message there”. With plans to create opportunities for increased access to therapy and a push for men to feel comfortable enough to open up about their mental health, more, the artist is hitting home-runs with everything he’s putting his mind to. 

“My friend and Godfather died in the same month,”, he continues, and I was like ‘stop wasting your life’, because my mate didn’t get the chance to explore his life, and I was like fuck it, as long as I try my hardest I’ll never wonder ‘what if’. This pang of mortality has energised not just a career but a lifestyle, and Will now charges his approach to every day by being open to bettering his human experience in any way possible. 

“In therapy, I’ve learnt to be self-critical. When you’re used to destructive coping mechanisms, when you eventually have to sit with something, the first time It’s exhausting. I was thinking, ‘if I’m feeling like this, other people must be, too, so if I write about that…’. Maybe someone who’s thinking about giving up on self-care might see that and feel supported”. 

Latest single Too Many Nights, featuring Irish legend J C Stewart, has dominated charts and airplay since it’s release in September, an up-tempo, club-ready banger to its core, if this is a taste of 220 Kid’s talent, we’re in for a treat. 

Citing Dr Dre and Timbaland as influences, and pioneers of their time, Will’s range extends from dark house, to playing with a rock-sounding band, and further. His tenacity is unmatched, and his charisma, quite honestly, is off the charts. He’s driven by a pure desire to change the world for good, and something tells me he’s only really at the starting point of an incredible legacy. 

“If it helps one person, that’s a job well done”. 

Press play on the exclusively curated playlist from 220 Kid below now…

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