Wils is the first openly gay Chinese singer. Born Willie Tay, he began his musical career under the pseudonym Willtay and built a sizable fan base in his native Singapore, amassing more than 300,000 Instagram followers.
It was during that time that the singer realized he was gay. “I just felt like I couldn’t be myself, being in the closet,” he tells Billboard. “I felt like it just affected a large part of my life … I was just constantly living in a lie.”
Wils revealed he was gay last year with the hit single, “Open Up Babe.” Of the song, he wrote, “To those who ever held back because of who you are, this song is about letting that go and opening up to the beautiful things in life. Sometimes we have to face the things we’re afraid of (the deeper you dive, the freer you get) and really look at it with courage and love. This song represents the depth of your emotions where you allow yourself to let go. A space within yourself that you explore and allow yourself to express freely. A depth of self-acceptance and love.”
This month, Wils released a new album, Don’t Leave Too Soon, featuring 12 new tracks that shed light on the darker side of the rainbow. “The last year was pretty rough,” Wils admits. “While I was experiencing a newfound sense of freedom from finally being my authentic self, the lives of important people around me were falling apart.” He added that,
“This is a very personal album and I am dedicating it to everyone out there battling heartache from the end of a season.” Learn more about Wils as he tackles the Socialite Seven.
When did you know that you wanted to become a singer? And have there been any moments in which you regretted your decision (in the moment)?
At the age of 13. As a prank, my class nominated me to go up on stage at our school talent concert. I went up and sang. It was bad! I couldn’t sing in tune and my friends were laughing. A year later, I decided to join the talent contest again and this time I got everyone to sing along with me. It was then that I realized that music was something that could bring people together.
I decided to pursue singing and when I heard about a competition that would sign the winner with a recording contract, I joined up! I came in second and was very discouraged. I remembered calling my mom over the phone and apologizing to her because I didn’t make it. And she was like “oh honey, it’s just a competition, it’s not the end of the road.” She was right! It was only the beginning.
Who has had the biggest influence on your music and why?
Coldplay. I really love how they focus a lot on making sounds that soothe the heart. Their artistry is so freeing and their craft, both lyrical and musical, are so uplifting and earnest.
Who (if anyone) would you love to collaborate with?
I’d love to collaborate with Ariana Grande. She’s such a strong girl with a big heart!
What type of music or artist that you listen to frequently do you think your fans would be surprised to learn that you’re a fan of?
I love Elderbrook. His voice is so sassy and smooth. It eases my soul.
What are you hoping to achieve with your music?
I hope to bring the LGBTQ community tighter and make the world a more acceptable place for LGBTQ people to thrive in.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Dancing, lifting weights and Boba.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Never forget to have fun, that’s where the best ideas and moments live.