Will Pfrang is a singer-songwriter hailing from Port Washington. He’s been a touring artist since he was 16 and is known for his buttery, charming voice. He fronts the pop rock group Will Pfrang and the Good Land Gang, who play a wide variety of covers as well as warm, inviting originals. His recent solo album “Oh Boy, You’re A Blessing!” came out in July and he’s coming off from a long summer of shows and weddings.
BEN: Okay Will, first things first. Tell us about how you got involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures.
WILL: So I believe it was Nate Herlache who reached out to me first, and was like “hey, I just started talking to this person Allison Emm, and what she’s doing is bringing musicians together from all around Wisconsin and helping book shows” and then I talked to *you* Ben Slowey, and you were like “you have to join” (laughs).
BEN: There was no way out of it.
WILL: Because you and me were talking about promotion and stuff that we could do…and it’s funny that you’re working for Wisconsin Music Ventures now. That’s some bananas stuff.
BEN: We’re like cousins, dude (laughs). Well I’m glad you jumped on in – it was money waiting for you.
WILL: Yeah, so as soon as I had a conversation with Allison, I felt like I’d known her for longer than I have. I mean, I talked to her at like the beginning of summer and she said she’d love to get me going with their stuff, and literally on that phone call she was like “well I’ve got a gig you can play in Port Washington” and I’m like “of course I would love to.” Allison has hooked up a bunch of really cool stuff this summer. I always make the joke that by being a Green Room member you just get access to Allison where you can just call her and be like “Allison…I’ve got an issue” and instantly she’s got something cool for you.
BEN: She sure does. She has that impact on people, where you do feel like you’ve known her for miles and miles. She’s like the gig mom. Shoutout to moms everywhere (laughs).
BEN: So Will, you’ve been a singer-songwriter since you were 16, correct?
WILL: Yes. So I started playing guitar when I was pretty young…I think I got my first guitar when I was 12 and I started writing songs probably that following year. I asked my parents to send me out to this songwriting school in Colorado, and it turns out that I had been to these festival grounds back when I was a really little kid. I didn’t realize that I like knew this place…but my dad said yeah to sending me out to this camp…like dude, I found this camp on Google…I didn’t know any songwriters or anybody who plays guitar really; I grew up in a bit of a vacuum. That’s why I’m so freakin’ weird bro (laughs).
BEN: I get it, man (laughs). You were just a guy hanging out at Fish Day.
WILL: Yeah dude, I’ve just been hanging out trying to catch salmons (laughs). Anyways, so I go out to this songwriting camp in Lyons, Colorado; it’s called Rocky Mountain Song School. I’m only 14 years old and had never flown by myself or really get out there and do stuff by myself. I get there, and it’s nuts man. There’s people wearing tie-dye everywhere, people are LGBTQ…and it’s literally a group of 400 people. We all get together in this gorgeous canyon, and there’s a river than runs through it, and there’s a big main stage, and what they do is they break you up into classes every day. So I set up my tent, and I met this middle-aged woman named Jill…she rules. She’s more fun than I think anybody I’ve ever met, and we’re sitting in her camp with tapestries all around me, and we just started working together and writing songs, diving into what makes a really good song and how to take one apart, and how to rewrite stuff and not get too attached to anything. I kept going there, and in high school I was pretty much this musician hippie kid; I built skateboards, I like started a company with my buddy and we built longboards and skateboards for people. I was really into woodworking, playing guitar, and just having fun. I was a little maniac.
BEN: Dude, you were out of control (laughs).
WILL: (laughs) I was nuts.
BEN: Well it sounds like you were a venturer from a young age, which is a rare gift. You were like a young Frodo.
WILL: (laughs) I was out there.
BEN: So your most recent record “Oh Boy, You’re A Blessing!” you did solo, and it just came out this past July. Tell us a little bit about why you wanted to put this record out. What do these songs mean to you? How do the songs feed into the overall theme?
WILL: So I’ve been touring and playing out since I was 16; I came out with this record “All Figured Out” when I was 19 years old, and so that would’ve been in 2015, and I toured that record on the East Coast primarily. When I was home and in the Midwest I would play shows with a band and it was kind of a rotating cast of players, but I’d go out East on these big extended trips, and so like I’d play in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, New York City, Boston, New Jersey…the first time I sunk my teeth into embodying what it is to be a musician because a lot of what it is is being alone on the road and sleeping in the back of your Volkswagen, and buying groceries and having them tucked in the front seat, and having a sleeping bag when it’s cold as shit outside while you don’t have money to get a hotel. It’s definitely a trying period where you step into this weird pocket of being alone for several days at a time, and you’re deciding whether or not you love this shit. How much do you love it, to sleep in a parking lot in Boston. You really have to care. It was kind of beautiful in hindsight, really getting out there and pushing what matters to you. It creates this steadfastness in what you want and where you want your life to go, and if these songs are worth it. And trust in the fact that life has a point. And so, the songs from this project hearken back to this time back then, on when I was alone and being a singer-songwriter heavily involved with the folk circuit. I’d play house concerts and stay at peoples’ houses, or play listening rooms, and follow down the East Coast and into the South. Within playing that kind of stuff, I transitioned into having this big chunk of time where I’ve been in The Good Land Gang, and that was kind of the first time where I actually had something that felt collaborative. Before that, it was just me making the decisions. It was really cool being able to loosen up and have faith in your dudes. It’s invaluable for getting better and not having to stress so much. “Lake house country” is how we define the genre for the record, and I just wanted to make something that felt reflective and cool, like a different sound that I haven’t gotten into. I feel the sound for this record was more Americana but I still wanted to keep pop in the forefront. It’s been a fun summer; we actually just put in an order for CDs. You think you don’t need them but people like CDs still.
BEN: Oh man. The floppy disks.
WILL: Hell of an order of floppy’s coming.
BEN: My last question is, what you’re working on now? What’s going on Will?
WILL: So what’s next for me…I’m gonna keep pushing this new record because I’m very proud of it. I feel like it’s been a very successful 2021 coming out of it and I want to play some more out of state shows. I’m looking to build more of a team and have more people around me to work on stuff. I think this next project I’m coming out with is gonna be indie rock but kind of sexy. It’s gonna be upbeat. There might be a new project with The Good Land Gang coming up as well, so we might head back in the studio at some point. Outside of that, I’m building a recording studio right now and actually a video studio as well. It’s like a business barn; 50 by 50 square feet, ceilings are 17 feet high, and we’ll have a big stage set up that’ll be heated for the winter time and we’ll be able to shoot music videos in an enclosed space. We’ll get different photographers involved from around Milwaukee and also have recording engineers come up. Setting this place up where we can collaborate with a bunch of people, I think the goal for the next couple years is I want to make a movie. I want to do something that’s compelling and interesting to all of us, so I’m bouncing around stories for that right now.
BEN: You’re playing with the mediums, man.
WILL: There’s that, and I just bought a new 2021 van that I’m converting into a house because I’m determined to do some more traveling. I was just out in Boise, Idaho. I had pizza with Doug from Built to Spill.