As a music loving kid growing up in Gerrards Cross, Will says “I played my first gig at the age of 8…not sure if that even counts, but music has always been my thing”. He soon went to launch his own mobile disco business making £20 on his first gig. From the age of 15, Will Manning was discovered by BBC 1xtra where he presented a show for 18 months before moving on to KISS and Hits Radio. Currently, he presents the Weekday Drivetime and Official Big Top 40 shows on Capital.
But he doesn’t stop there. Inspired by the chart-topping DJ and producers he has met whilst presenting, Will decided to make writing music his priority. Having met some of the biggest names in music along the way, ‘Don’t’ has already been endorsed by heavyweights including Calvin Harris, Lewis Capaldi, Ellie Goulding and Joel Corry. “I was in Ibiza and I saw Calvin Harris and I thought, I can’t wait to do what he does” he told us. Having worked hard to hone his songwriting and producing craft, Manning looks set to step into the limelight and become a huge name in UK dance music.
As Will continues to cement his place as a respected DJ, producer, presenter and curator and is fully equipped for the next chapter in his music career. His infectious summer anthem ‘Don’t’ is out now!
How have you been?
Tired, thriving, surviving.
Being a radio host, is it weird now to be asked questions?
Yeah, it's really weird. The more interviews I do, the more I'm getting used to it, but I'm still a little bit holding onto it, it’s a bit out of control, I don't know what's going to be asked next kind of thing.
I'm trying to embrace it because it's quite liberating, actually. Just being out of control in a way as well.
Do you enjoy being interviewed more?
I love them both because on this side I get to talk about my passions, but on your side, I get to find out about other people's passions, and I find those conversations really interesting. I also really enjoy meeting all these incredible people, finding out about how they make their music and all of that. It's fascinating, isn't it? So, yeah, both sides are interesting, have their advantages.
And you mentioned your passion. What is your passion?
I know it sounds so broad, but just music every day, it's like, literally my fuel. It is my energy. If I'm having a bad day, put a song on. It’s a game changer, a mood changer. It literally is as simple as that. So being in the studio, creating, being with other creatives, finding out what they want to do with a tune, what their ideas are, honestly, you should see me in the studio. I am just myself. Yeah, but I'm buzzing. It's like me elevated, of course. And then when I'm not, I really feel it like this week I've not been in the studio.
So you can't wait to go back to go back into the studio?
Absolutely! I was in Ibiza and I was watching Calvin Harris play the biggest dance music in the world. That experience has made me itching to get back into the studio.
Is it what you've always wanted to do? Has it always grown inside of you and now you have the chance?
I’ve actually been DJ’ing since I was eight. I did my first disco, and always wanted to play music for other people. Throughout the years, I realized that all the big guys were playing their own tunes, getting their own main stage gigs and touring around the world. So you kind of have to adapt and yeah, when I got in the studio the first time, I was like, this feels right. And when I was bringing ideas and the big guys were respecting what I was making. That's when I realized this was my place, so it kind of naturally clicked.
How did it happen? How did you find yourself in the studio?
Yeah, I know, right? It is nuts. So the first studio visit was early last summer, and it was with the guys who I made “Don't” with - Goldfingers. They messaged me on Instagram saying that they’d love to play some demos to me. And that was my first experience, I sat in with some of the biggest producers in the world.
That sounds like a dream!
Yeah, literally. I could not believe it. Their discography is insane. They work with some of the biggest names in the world. They played me some tunes, and funnily enough the first song they played me was “Don't”. It was a ballad. And that's the song that I was like - we have to flip this, do something with this hook, write a new verse or whatever because it was an absolute banger. And yeah, it's kind of weird that the first studio session and the first tune I heard is also the first tune that I brought out. It all kind of made sense.
And speaking about, obviously your single “Don’t”. Tell us everything.
You know, there's always those relationships or those situationships where it's run its course, but there’s one person in the relationship/situation that doesn't get the message like “leave me alone”? It’s just about someone not getting the picture that it's done. You can call me as many times you want, it's not going to happen and I’m not going to pick the phone up anymore. It's really interesting because everyone's like, I can so relate to this tune that it's so personal. It can be, and it is to me. So that's why when I first heard it as a ballad, but I made it my own.
And what was the process of creating and making a song?
It was long, so obviously it's the first time I've done, so I didn't realize how long it would take!
Were you nervous?
Yeah, I was so scared because I didn't know that these guys would trust my ideas, and obviously they did, and that's how we got it out in the end and it's like my little baby. I keep calling it that because I'm so proud of the track and how far it's come from the first demo. But, yeah, I had a lot of harmony, ad lib and new verse ideas, as well as production ideas. It went through a few different versions!
Do you like to be in control of your own production or you just ask other people for help at the same time?
It was a team effort, but it's got to come from me. Yeah, it's come from my weird brain, but the fact that they trusted me with it's given me so much confidence.
What are your plans for the next singles?
Single two is there and single three nearly there. I'm so confident now in the studio. If I've got an idea, I'm going to say it because at the end of the day, it is my song. So, yeah, I love the writing process, I love the harmonies process, I love the melodies. I like all of it. I'm just honestly obsessed and it really excites me.
Is it nerve wracking to have a team behind you who's also following this dream project that you have, considering that it's your first time?
I guess it makes me feel like I'm on the right path and I've got the backing that I've got. I feel like it's all going to be okay. It's not all down to me, necessarily. We've got a lot of great people helping.
So, second and third single, what is next for you now?
Okay, I'm not going to give it away. For the second single, we haven't got a title for it just yet but it's different to ‘Don't’. “Don't” kind of set a tone, it's like a little introduction. I feel like “okay here's Will making music now”. Now let’s go for some more music, new singles.
What do you listen to at the moment?
My musical taste is so diverse. I go through my recently played tracks: from Calvin Harris to Bastille. I'm obsessed with Post Malone’s new album, Holly Humberstone, Disclosure and, it's so varied!
Do you get a little bit overwhelmed by music sometimes since you’re always surrounded by new music?
Correct. Yeah. There was a moment where I thought, do I even know what music I want to be making because I love so many different genres. Then I look at people like Diplo, right? He is the master of genres. He can flip from dancehall to house to country. And why not? You don't necessarily have to be defined like that. So, yeah, I want to be able to do all of it, really.
And very cliche question, who would you like to collaborate with?
There’s this up and coming artist called Sekou, he is just great.
Are you working towards playing new shows?
Yeah, a million percent. I don't want to do any live gigs until we've got a good solid live set, so I'm working on club tunes as well right now, so I've got a good foundation for when people do come and see me play. It can be the fun radio stuff and I guess more underground dance stuff as well. But yeah, I want to have something solid. I just want people to come and see me play one song and then an hour of other people.
Don’t is out now.
Follow Will’s journey here.
Words by Sal F.
Photos by Federica B.
Will Manning wears AW23 Criminal Damage and AW23 BOY London