South African rising star Will Linley chats about attaining fame on TikTok, connection during the pandemic and the joy of performing.

The pandemic was a time where so many people across the world felt isolation, but there was an opportunity for connection there, too. Will Linley, an artist growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, took to social media when the only means of connection was digital and started releasing music, and suddenly found that his personal feelings had a much bigger resonance beyond himself.


Linley has become a big hit on TikTok with over 100K followers, buoyed by the huge success of last year’s debut single “miss me (when you’re gone)”, which was embraced by the app’s users as a relatable insight into the anxieties of relationships. Now, he’s ready for the next chapter, which begins with the new feelgood single “Wrong Time”.


On the tune, Linley says, “The song is about meeting the right girl at the wrong time. It’s a very personal song and means a lot to me as an artist. I love the up-tempo guitar riffs and it always makes me wanna vibe out!”


There’s clearly much more to come from this talented up-and-comer, so we sat down with him to chat about viral success, growing up in public and pandemic isolation. 

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How did growing up in Cape Town influence your growth as an artist?

I dunno, I have really thought about this a lot over the last couple of months. I think the fact that Cape Town doesn’t have a huge music scene, in comparison to the LAs and Londons of this world, I was truly able to just experiment with my sounds and not be influenced too much by the “noise” of those other industries.

Your song “Wrong Time” puts an upbeat spin on a potentially sad experience. Why did that feel right?

I am someone who generally likes to keep things upbeat and positive and that just felt like the right direction when it came to finishing that song.

How did you come to TikTok as such an important medium to you?

TikTok really levelled the playing fields when it came to marketing my music. I could reach listeners all around the world totally free of charge. I wasn’t having to pay for marketing plans etc. That’s what was so helpful!

What did the experience of viral success with “miss me (where you’re gone)” feel like?

It felt rather surreal honestly. I couldn’t quite believe that a song I was releasing was connecting with so many people around the world. I felt incredibly grateful to be in that position.

What kind of relationship do you hope to foster with your listeners?

One of vulnerability and positivity!

You’ve talked about pandemic isolation influencing your work. How has the world reopening affected your process?

I think with life now moving at 100 miles an hour, I have less time to just create and lock myself away in my bedroom! But I am still finding ways to create on the go for sure.

Have you had a chance to play live? What are you hoping for from that experience?

I have played a couple shows now! It has been so incredible. I have loved connecting and interacting with my fans. They are the ones who have made this dream a reality and I could not thank them enough. Performing is my favourite thing to do.

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Do you find validation in others connecting to and relating to your experiences?

There is an element of that, but I think there are times when I need to pull away from that. I have to remind myself that I cannot control how a song makes my listeners feel, however I can control how it makes me feel, and if I connect with my songs, that’s the most important thing because chances are someone out there will connect with the song too. I just want to be vulnerable and real in my music, that’s something I can control and through that I hope my listeners can connect with my songs too.

What’s inspiring you outside of music right now?

My family and friends have been a huge inspiration in all of this.

Do you find that people have a preconception of you based on your early songs? How do you work with that?

I’ve never thought of that. That’s a really cool question. I guess maybe they might, but I do feel that we are growing this all together. As I mature in my sound and writing, my fans will grow with me. That’s what’s important to me! I wanna build a strong community, rather than chase a viral moment.

Congratulations on your new track, “I Don’t Wanna Be Yours”. Can you tell us more about it?

“I Don’t Wanna Be Yours” is such a special song to me. It’s actually the first song I wrote with producers David and Bubele. I still remember the session. It was the first time I’d ever gone into a “proper” studio and recorded vocals in a booth. It was such a fun experience and I’ll remember that day forever. It was a very different experience to what I was used to. No lawn mowers going off in the background while I’m trying to get a good vocal take! The song is about not wanting to get into a relationship because you see it ending before it’s even begun, wanting to save yourselves from inevitable hurt in the future.

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How do you deal with vulnerability in your music?

It scares me. I won’t lie. But I know that that’s what I want. It’ll take me a while to gain comfort when it comes to vulnerability, but it will come.

Do you see a need to follow the traditional paths of music success given your rise to fame on social media?

NOPE! Not one bit! Remember, there are no traditional ways to do this music thing. The industry changes every single week!

What’s an artistic inspiration of yours that might surprise people?

John Denver!

Your work draws intensely from your own feelings – how do you bring collaboration into that process?

I feel that a lot of people go through the same experiences when it comes to love, life, friendships etc. There are just so many different perspectives. So when it comes to collaboration, I find it an awesome practice of merging the 2 different perspectives and carving out a song.

What are you manifesting for 2022?

Lots of live shows and new music!!

Listen to "i don't wanna be yours" below: