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How Wallice Went From New York ‘Jazz School Dropout’ to Supporting The 1975 in Australia and Aotearoa

Ahead of the singer’s first time in Australia, Wallice tells Rolling Stone AU/NZ about her new music and supporting The 1975


Le3ay / Amy Lee

Sitting in a coffee shop facing the Brooklyn Bridge, Wallice Hana Watanabe may appear like your everyday New Yorker, and maybe there’s a sliver of truth in that. Just a few years ago, Watanabe attended jazz school for a year in New York before dropping out. Today, the Los Angeles native, known mononymously as Wallice, is at the tail end of a month-long tour with alt-pop singer JAWNY. But this is just the beginning of the self-coined “jazz school dropout’s” year, which looks set to be nothing short of triumphant.

When Wallice and I meet on a morning in March, the indie rock singer-songwriter details what the next few weeks look like: she’s spending her 25th birthday in Thailand, releasing a single from her forthcoming EP titled “Best Friend”, and – most notably – opening for the beloved English pop rock band The 1975 across Asia, Australia, and Aotearoa.

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Over the last year, Wallice has opened for several artists including Still Woozy, Wallows, and the aforementioned JAWNY. But for the soon-to-be 25-year-old, seeing people react to her music for the first time is still a novelty: “On JAWNY’s tour, sometimes people come up to me and say, ‘I’ve never heard of you until today, but I just saved all your music.’”

For Wallice, this holds so much weight. “That’s literally why I’m doing this and love doing this – to find new people to listen to my music. Hopefully they will like it, too,” she says. By “they,” she’s clearly referring to the fervent fanbase that she’ll be meeting very soon: The 1975 fans. 

Sporting an electric blue The 1975 sweatshirt for the opportune moment, she cups her face with her mouth agape. Her excitement for the tour is inextinguishable, especially after witnessing the spectacle herself last November. “It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. The stage design, the theatrics…” Wallice trails off. “I’m so excited to see the show quite a few times and to play the biggest rooms of my career by far.” 

This is followed by an earnest swoon of gratitude from the singer-songwriter as she recounts her initial reaction to booking the gig. “Oh, I was like sobbing,” Wallice laughs. She goes on to explain that her manager was the one to break the good news: “He was like, ‘Hey, we need to talk,’ and I was like, ‘Oh no, what is it?’ I called him and he was like, ‘Check your email.’ I looked, and he had sent the tour routing of Thailand, Manila, Australia, (etc.). I was just in total disbelief and still am.”

As for the concert experience that Wallice hopes to deliver for The 1975’s Australian fans, she’s polishing her set so it goes beyond fans’ expectations: “We’ve been rehearsing with a music director on transitions so (the set) really flows and there’s no dead space. I also had a movement coach a few days ago where I danced for like four hours. We’ve been touring for a while, but I want it to feel professional and elevated for these shows.”

Aside from sharing the stage with The 1975, Wallice looks forward to doing all the Australian clichés. For her, this means having the perfect day off in Sydney sightseeing (“the pools and Opera House for sure”), thrifting (“‘op shops,’ right?”), and seeing wildlife (“maybe koalas”). “First time in Australia… I think you have to do those touristy things,” she admits with a small smile.

The 1975’s Australia tour stops follow the band’s shows in Asia that are earlier in the week, which fall around Wallice’s 25th birthday. After wishing her a happy early birthday, the singer laughs merrily, saying she’s “a huge birthday person” and blames it on being an Aries.

Like most twenty-something-year-olds, though, Wallice is still figuring this whole adult thing out. Referencing a fan favourite song from her discography, she says, “It’s really nice to hear when people relate to “23” because when I was younger – literally like 16 – I was like, ‘When I’m 19, I’ll have my own apartment with my best friend.’ But no, I lived at my parents’ house until I was 23.” Wallice shrugs, before adding “I’ve met so many people on tour, and they’re like, ‘I’m old! I’m 20!’ And I’m like, ‘You’re a baby!’ There’s no rush to grow up. Even now, I’m like ‘I am a child,’” she laughs.

While navigating adulthood, Wallice confides that she finds a lot of beauty and excitement in growing up and that every year is better than the last. Her eyes are warm as she imagines what’s next, and she humbly expresses that her college-self would be “in shock” to know where she is today. “I always believed in myself that I could do something in the arts,” she insists.

“But even if you believe in yourself, there’s always that voice in your head doubting you. ‘What am I actually gonna do for the rest of my life?’ Last year I thought was already amazing career-wise. Now this year, with this next tour and my next EP…,” she pauses for a second with a sigh of gratitude, her gaze fixed on the 19th century bridge ahead.

“I’m just really excited,” she finally adds. “Hopefully, everything just keeps growing. But even when I toured last year, I was like, ‘I would be so lucky to play in the worst venue I’ve played in again,’ you know?” Wallice shakes her head in gracious disbelief. “For anyone to buy a ticket to listen to my music – even if it’s like 15 people – that’s such an amazing thing, let alone up to 15,000 people in a few days.”

Limited tickets remain available here.