Brian: On DC Music Rocks, we're shining a spotlight on the great songs and incredible people behind the DC region's music scene. So, now, let's get to know this incredible guy right here. My guest today, Billy Winn, is a Billboard-charting singer, song writer, recording artist, and performer, which captivates on stage and brings energetic dance shows to the stage. Since 2013, Billy has released a number of acclaim singles including the song Future X Boyfriend, which reached the top 20 on the Billboard Dance Chart. His music ranges from high-energy dance records to slick and sexy urban pop and emotionally-charged EDM. He describes himself as a pop artist making electro-pop music with a sexy ... And if you've seen the photos, it's a very sexy urban edge to this guy.
So, I came across Billy ... Actually, it was last year. We both played the Taste of DC, I believe. That's where I saw your name in there and I was going through checking out all the artists. We were both on stage and different stages or whatever and I saw you on there and it was like, "Wow. This Billy Winn guy is awesome." So, I reached out to him and he's got me back to me, and now it is such a treat to actually have you here to do this.
Billy Winn: Thank you so much for having me, and it's my pleasure.
Brian: Thanks for being here, dude.
Billy Winn: Trust me.
Brian: This is awesome. So, anyway, let's get to know you here. So, now, you talked a little bit earlier, but share it again. You got started in school. How did music come into your life?
Billy Winn: It kind of happened sort of by accident. I was a theater kid. I started performing when I was around six years old. At the time I was more interested in just being a performer, acting and dancing, and singing kind of was a prerequisite for that. It wasn't until I was probably 10 where I started to take music seriously and I wanted to be a recording artist. It was from my love of music videos.
Brian: Music videos?
Billy Winn: Yeah.
Brian: So, we're talking, like MTV music videos?
Billy Winn: MTV videos, like TRL and stuff like that. It made me want to ... I was like, "I can do this."
Brian: It turns out you can. Look at you go.
Billy Winn: I was already like on the trajectory. I just didn't realize it, but once I made the decision to focus more so on music, I just incorporated everything else, the acting and the dancing and all that good stuff.
Brian: Got it. Now, there's a lot ... I mean, you talked about high-energy dance shows and stuff. When people see you live, describe what a live Billy Winn show is like. Is there dancers, is it dancing, is it singing, is it ... ?
Billy Winn: When I think about performing for me, I want to give a full show, like you would see at a circus, like Circus Olay, something like that. So, it's always like performance art to a certain degree. It's going to be dancing, flipping. If you make it to the Capital Pride show, there's going to be some smoke machines and some confetti and lot of fun stuff.
Brian: Oh hell yeah.
Billy Winn: It's going to be [crosstalk 00:03:00] show.
Brian: All right. So, it's a heck of a show. What about you? So, there's this ... Before I jump to that, I also want to touch on ... So, singer and song writer. Talk about your music, because sometimes in the world of pop music and the music today, sometimes you just sing or you song write or little bit of both. How does music come together for you when we hear your stuff on the radio?
Billy Winn: Singing is just a natural gift just like every other facet of performing that I have dancing and acting. I can sing. I just focused on singing to become better at it and to make it the focal point because I really, really love music. But like I said, I was 10 when I decided I want to be a recording artist. I have a weird process when I think and I was like, "Okay, well, what does a singer need? A singer needs songs." I didn't know any song writers at the time so I decided that, "Okay, well, I can write my own songs," like Immediately following [inaudible 00:03:58] I didn't want to be a recording artist, I started writing my own songs.
Brian: Got it. Now is it, do you use a keyboard or is it you and a guitar?
Billy Winn: It's so many different ways at this point. When I was ... The one thing that I never really did starting out was play instruments.
Brian: Got it. Okay.
Billy Winn: So, I would always write a cappella, but what I didn't realize I was doing was actually still writing chords and writing melodies and things like that. Nowadays, I'd use a keyboard and I really want to start using a guitar more. I don't know why I'm afraid to, but there's something about it that intimidates me, but I really want to start using the guitar more.
Brian: I hope you do. That will be a wild addition to your set when all of a sudden you pull out a guitar and sit down.
Billy Winn: I really will like to do that.
Brian: [crosstalk 00:04:41].
Billy Winn: I want that shock.
Brian: You told us all here. So, we hope that ... I hope I get to see that.
Billy Winn: I know. I said it live on the air.
Brian: I want a YouTube video. You said it live on the air. Once you say it, it's a thing. Now, so, on the personal side, then outside of the music thing, what do you do in your free time? What's life like for you?
Billy Winn: I am probably the most boring person you could ever meet outside of music.
Brian: Oh stop it.
Billy Winn: I travel a lot, like I have a really extensive social life and that part of me is fun, but if I'm home, like before I got here. I was watching cartoons on Hulu like all day.
Billy Winn: That's what I'd do. Me and my dogs, we just chill out and we watch TV.
Brian: What kind of dogs?
Billy Winn: I have a pug. He's all black.
Brian: Got it.
Billy Winn: I have a Maltese Shih Tzu mix. He kind of looks like [carladeville 00:05:35].
Brian: Wow. Okay. Those two together, all right. "So, I got the dogs, do some marathon, TV watching."
Billy Winn: Mostly cartoons.
Billy Winn: I'm a comic book geek, so I watch Justice League and X-Men and all that stuff.
Brian: Oh excellent.
Billy Winn: If you didn't know, they're on Hulu and Netflix, so I binge all the time.
Brian: Nice. Okay. So, we got that. This is a fun question that I love to ask, but that's ... Talk about your ... Tell me a story about a time you tried and failed.
Billy Winn: Ooh, that's a good one. So, one of the reasons why I'm so happy to do this interview is to talk about a situation that sort of happened not too long ago. A lot of people ask me ... I get a lot of fan questions about where my album is, if I've ever done an album. The answer to that question is I did actually record an album. Back in 2013, I recorded an album at the time I was signed to an indie label that was signed to Universal.
Brian: Oh okay.
Billy Winn: My producer and I at the time, [rainer 00:06:50] hot net of 180 Music, we sat down and we did like 25 tracks. We were spending like ...
Billy Winn: Yeah.
Billy Winn: It was like 18-hour days in the studio, mixing and mastering and recording. I actually did an album. It ended up being like 13 tracks.
Billy Winn: At the time that the album was being finished, the indie label lost their funding and everything just sort of fell apart. So, I did an album. Since that time, parts of it have sort of been ... It's been picked apart for various reasons, other record deals and singles that I've put out. The biggest failure for me was not getting to present that collection of music the way that it was supposed to be presented. I think I've been sort of on a journey to sort of reconcile that ever since.
Brian: Wow. That must've been so frustrating, man.
Billy Winn: Frustrating is the best way to put it. It was devastating to a degree, but it was more frustrating than anything, because you ... I felt like I was onto something that was really special and I didn't get to share it with the world the way that I intended to.
Brian: Got it. It just occurred to me, earlier you talked about when the name came together or something, I meant to ask you. So, Billy Winn is your ... That is your real name or that is the stage name?
Billy Winn: Technically, I mean, it's sort of my real name, but it's a stage name. I can't sign checks as Billy Winn.
Brian: Got it. Do you hear it? You heard it here first, he can't sign checks as Billy Winn. There you go.
Billy Winn: If they come looking for me, they're not going to look for Billy Winn.
Brian: Where did the artist name came from then?
Billy Winn: I wanted a name that sounded like, "Oh Hollywood," but I also didn't want a name that was so unfamiliar that I felt like people were calling to someone else. So, my first real name is William.
Billy Winn: You get that much, just the first name.
Brian: Okay, yeah, we're with you.
Billy Winn: But my whole life, everybody just call me Billy, "Billy, Billy, Billy." Even when I went to elementary school, I freaked out on a teacher because she started calling me William and I had no idea who she was talking to.
Billy Winn: Nobody had ever explained to me that Billy's a nickname. So, Winn is my mother's maiden name.
Brian: Got it.
Billy Winn: And so I said, "You know, Billy Winn sounds like, "Oh Hollywood, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Billy Winn."
Brian: That's cool. Now, when you hear it ... When I hear your name, sometimes that good rap song (singing). I feel like all of a sudden that's like an anthem or something, is it?
Billy Winn: I never actually ...
Brian: I'm teasing you.
Billy Winn: I know. I never thought about it that way, but now the next time I hear that song ...
Brian: I changed it for you forever?
Billy Winn: Yeah.
Brian: I'm honored to have done that for you, sir, because you changed it for me forever. It's like, "Yeah, he's got it."
Billy Winn: Well, I appreciate it.
Brian: "It's like his life story in a song." I love it. That's cool. All right. Now, what's something in your music collection that might surprise us?
Billy Winn: I listen to like everything. I know some people ... I know a lot of people probably hear my songs ... And it happens. They get their impression of a person from their music. But me, I listen to everything. My music taste is very broad. So, I think if I were to just choose something, the thing that probably would surprise most people is I listen to a lot of opera.
Billy Winn: Yeah.
Billy Winn: I have a favorite opera.
Brian: Which is?
Billy Winn: The Magic Flute.
Brian: Wow, okay. Well, you listening out there, check out The Magic Flute. Next time you see Billy, have him sing some for you. You're going to sing a little bit, huh?
Billy Winn: Well, I don't know about that, but ...
Brian: Oh okay.
Billy Winn: ... I'll play my favorite [inaudible 00:10:48] but I don't think I'm going to ... I don't think I'm that good.
Brian: I got one more question for you. It's my favorite one ask every episode and that's, if you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Billy Winn: Stay true to your artistry, whatever that is. I think that, especially being an indie artist and meeting a lot of artists in the DC metro area, the one thing that I can say for sure is that everyone that I've met here, they're very true to what it is that they do as artists. It isn't necessarily about trying to fit into a particular market, which I think is one of the beauties of the DC music scene. It can sort of be a double-edged sword depending on where you come from in terms of music and your goals, but I think just staying true to yourself as an artist and what it is that you want to do and present to the world is the most important thing.
Brian: I like that and that's challenging in today's day and age, man. People tell you all kinds of things that contradict it. So, be true. That's so true.
Billy Winn: Trust what you have. I still hear some strange things as to why people won't play records or book shows. I'm always like, "What are you talking about?" It happens.
Brian: All right. Stay true. I dig it. Now I have folks who want to find out more about you or follow you, where do they go?
Billy Winn: I'm all over social media, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, SoundCloud. If you search Billy Winn Music, it's B-I-L-L-Y W-I-N-N Music. That would be my Facebook and my Instagram.
Brian: Got it.
Billy Winn: Twitter is just Billy Winn ... @billywinn on Twitter.
Brian: Got it.
Billy Winn: You can search Billy Winn Music pretty much on YouTube and SoundCloud and have my stuff.