Out singer Wils on his new album, homosexuality in Asia and the ability to love freely
BY MICK SANDOVAL
Los Angeles based Singaporean pop singing sensation Wils—who revealed he was gay last year with the hit single, “Open Up Babe”—is back with a new album, Don’t Leave Too Soon. It features twelve original tracks that reflect on all aspects of loss: the hopelessness and rejection, as well as the courage and strength it takes to persevere after goodbye.
It’s a personal album for an artist who has experienced his share of tragedy over the last year, including the death of a friend who took his own life.
Wils’ message for fans throughout Don’t Leave Too Soon is to reach out to friends who are suffering and make sure they are coping. Lend a supportive ear. Assure them that after the shock, denial, pain, and guilt of loss—whether from a relationship break-up, a job dismissal, or even death—acceptance and hope will follow.
“Los Angeles gave me a safe place to be who I am. The city also has so much art and culture that inspires me and my work.”
Last year was a big year for you. Tell us about your coming out experience.
I had days of sleepless nights, worrying that my parents and my fans in Asia would disown me.
Did being Asian play a role in your fear of coming out?
Absolutely. Homosexuality is still criminalized and unaccepted in many parts of Asia. Growing up, I used to hear people making nasty comments about gay men and women. I was the only son in the family and often in the Asian culture, it’s expected for a son to get married, have kids and carry on the family name. I lived with this feeling of shame and even worse, fear that I would bring shame to the ones that I love.
How did your family react to the news?
Initially, they were worried about my safety. There is a law in Singapore, 377a, which criminalizes sexual acts between two consenting adult men. It is not actively practiced, luckily, but it gives people the right to view homosexuality as illegal. Many LGBTQ people are being sexually abused, bullied and silenced. But as far as my family, my coming out has made us closer because I can finally share my life with them.
What has been the reaction from fans?
The organizers of Pinkdot, the local gay pride association in Singapore, have been extremely supportive. I’ve also received tons of messages from fans in Asia, sharing their stories about being in the closet. I’ve learned there is an incredible number of people in Asia who are hiding their sexualities. I really want them to have a voice and to be able to love freely.
Was your intention to come out of the closet the impetus for your move to Los Angeles?
Los Angeles gave me a safe place to be who I am. The city also has so much art and culture that inspires me and my work.
Tell us about the inspiration for your new album.
Don’t Leave Too Soon is about the attachment we have to the things we love. Last year was a hard one as many people around me experienced loss. A close friend lost his husband to colon cancer. Another friend lost his battle with depression and took
Saying goodbye is the one of the hardest things to do.
I’ve been trying to understand death for a long time. I always wonder why some people get to stay longer than others. I used to have this dog, Bayskie. He was a Samoyed, the kind that look like a big, furry bear. He lived with my parents in Singapore and passed away while I was on tour, in Madrid. I cried so much. I wished I had the opportunity to say goodbye and enjoy one more walk with him. It makes you think how important it is to cherish every single moment in life.
What did you learn from writing and recording Don’t Leave Too Soon?
That feelings are powerful and we must never disregard them. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is powerful and authentic.
What is interesting is that though the topics you explore in the album are sad, the overall sense of the album is spirited and uplifting.
You’re completely right and it was intentional. I wanted to bring a hopeful light to the things that upset us, to let those who are going through a hard time know that they’re not alone and we can all relate to what they’re going through.
Follow Wils on Instagram @heywils