Willow Blames Gatekeepers for Metal Fans Often Being Older White Men
Willow started turning the heads of many rock fans in 2021 with her collaboration with Travis Barker on "Transparent Soul" that hit the pop-punk / emo sweet spot for many listeners. Now the one-time "Whip My Hair" child star is ramping up to the release of her second rock-leaning album, Coping Mechanism, and sharing the impact that harder rock has had on her life.
“Rock has always been inspiring to me,” she tells Metal Hammer. “Ever since I was born, I’ve always been inspired by Deftones, Lamb of God, Crowbar… But I think that when you start doing something at such a young age, your mind is still growing in a lot of different ways. Then you grow up and you understand [that] you need to really apply yourself in a way that you might not have thought of.”
Willow grew up with metal playing in her household as her mom, Jada Pinkett Smith, was the frontwoman for Ozzfest vets Wicked Wisdom. "The first artist that inspired me was definitely my mom,” she reveals. “She was the first rock artist that I ever saw perform up close.”
That said, Willow admits there wasn't much representation that she saw as a young woman of color in her youth, and it's something that she is hoping to help provide for the kids finding hard rock and metal today.
“I am always hoping to spread more joy,” she says. “I think the only reason why it’s older, white men mostly listening to this music is because metal has been gatekept for a long time by these people. [Now,] new people of color are coming to say that that’s really not the way that it should be. Rock is for everyone [and] I’m gonna bring my people to the space and we are gonna vibe it out like we always do… hopefully the old white dudes vibe it out too.”
Willow will have a chance to "vibe it out" with a national viewing audience this weekend. She's the musical guest on NBC's Saturday Night Live. The appearance comes a day after the release of her latest album, Coping Mechanism, which is due this Friday (Oct. 7). The set features the song, "Maybe It's My Fault," which carries a wicked metalcore breakdown towards the end. You can also hear Willow joining Yungblud on the song "Memories" that will be part of the NHL '23 EA Sports video game soundtrack.