Being both an Olympic athlete and a platinum-certified musician, Will Claye perfectly embodies versatility. Fueled by his determination and purposeful mindset, he is on the brink of launching his long-awaited debut album later this month. Throughout the summer, he has been leading us toward the album's release with a series of captivating singles. We spoke with Claye about his roots, influences, and the overarching themes behind his recent singles.
Let's get into your roots. Where are you from?
I’m from Phoenix, Arizona, by way of Freetown, Sierra Leone, where my mother and father are from.
In order to be as multi-faceted as you are, you undoubtedly have to have a very special work ethic. Talk about how you stay motivated and disciplined on a day-to-day basis.
Coming up as an athlete, I’ve known nothing other than work ethic and grind to succeed in anything. Being multifaceted with it came from not having much growing up and having to learn and create ways to make it through days, school years, etc. I had to figure out multiple ways to put myself in spaces that I wanted to be in, which was like playing sports, selling fake Jordans (sorry, Mike), and just being authentic and fresh with how I dressed and carried myself. I’m doing the same thing now, just on a bigger scale with my current resources.
What artists did you grow up listening to?
Yellow Man, Bob Marley, Jay Z, OutKast, Snoop, Dre, Nate Dogg, Eminem, Celine Dion, and a bunch of African artists I don’t know the name of, but I know all their songs which came from me having two older brothers and my parents throwing parties when I was growing up!
What sparked your initial interest in making music?
I wanted to make music because of the way it made me feel. It’s a feeling music gives humans that is unlike anything in this world. That feeling got me into the church choir/band and then into hip-hop.
What was it like when you first transitioned into music? Were people open to the idea of it, or did you receive push-back due to your public recognition as an athlete?
From the first song I ever did for just the homies, to my first studio record to YG, to my music now, I have always gotten a reaction of people being shocked at how the sonics of my music sounds. It’s like they expect it to be on some regular athlete trying to make music-type vibes, and they hear it and can feel that it’s real music, and I’m a real artist. This ain’t something I’m playing with or doing just because I had a following through the Olympics!
If you had to pick a favorite single of yours, which one would it be and why?
I’d say, "Bend the Corner." It just feels smooth and makes me want to hop in the old-school whip with my lady and bend some corners on a Sunday.
Let's get into your debut album set to drop in a few months; describe it in just three words.
Dusk til dawn. This is a project you can spin through all emotions. This project brought me out of the dark and into the light. It’s like me emerging from the soil and sprouting up as a refined Will and using all that fucked me up in my past to now grow into this artist that’s trying to bare fruit forever through my music.
The inspiration behind all of these records is LADIES FIRST. I wanted to, first and foremost, show my love, respect, and affection for the ladies with these records before I drop my album.
Describe the overarching energy of both your recent and upcoming singles. Any common themes?
It encompasses the essence of me through the west coast production; it’s gonna make you want to hustle, it’s gonna make you want to turn up, it’s gonna make you appreciate your loved ones, it’s gonna make you want to cry, it’s going to make you appreciate all the trials you made it through, and it’s gonna connect you to your higher self.