Paramore's Hayley Williams on touring, Zedd, and fighting

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Image Credit: Mark Venema/Getty Images

Paramore have hit a lot of milestones this year: They released their first album as a trio, scored their first entry into the radio top 10 with the single “Still Into You,” and are about to embark on their biggest arena tour yet—including their first headlining spot at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The trek kicks off tomorrow night in Seattle (complete dates are here), but before she packed for the road, singer Hayley Williams took some time out to talk about the new run, the damage done during the “Still Into You” video, and how she ended up on Zedd’s “Stay the Night.”

Entertainment Weekly: You’ve been at this a while, but these are some of the biggest rooms you’ve ever played coming up on this tour. Do you still get nervous?
Hayley Williams: I still get nervous. I get nervous before every show, even if it’s small. I just want everything to be perfect. We’re sort of perfectionists until we get out there, and then once we get out there, anything goes. I have really big butterflies — I’m kind of freaking out about all these rooms. I’m really excited and, like, throwing up in my mouth about Madison Square Garden.

So what sort of show are you putting on in Madison Square Garden?
Have you ever seen that war scene in Metallica’s show? We’re not doing that. [Laughs] We have never actually done a big production. We generally tend to show up on stage with our gear and a backdrop and some pretty lights. So we put a lot more thought into this show. The set list is longer; we’re playing almost two hours every night. I feel so old—I cannot believe we’re playing two hours a night! But when we’re playing it goes by so fast for me. We’re mixing in a lot of the new stuff and still playing a lot of the old stuff, and I’m so happy to be doing it. It’s a roller coaster ride, a nice roller coaster ride that you want to go on over and over again. I’m just really happy we get to show the fans who have been following us for eight years how far we’ve come, and then also introduce new people to what we do as well.

You still haven’t played a bunch of songs from Paramore live. Will more of those be showing up on this tour?
Our fans follow every single thing we do online so closely. Even before the last tour, the setlist got posted two days before the show started, and I have no idea how they got that. So it’s hard to surprise people, but it’s one thing to see it on paper, but when you’re there it comes to life and it becomes this memory and this emotional connection.

Taylor and I have been talking a lot about where to put certain songs, but we have a set list right now that we’re so in love with, and it feels so good to play and people seem to be really happy with it. Normally we can’t make anyone happy—there’s too many old songs or too many new songs. But we seem to have hit on a perfect balance. I just keep telling fans not to worry about it. Just come to the show and feel it and experience it, because it really is becoming more of an experience.

“Still Into You” is your first top 10 at radio. How did you celebrate?
We don’t really party with every milestone we hit. But we’re all really excited about “Still Into You.” People ask me all the time, does it matter to have critical acclaim or commercial success? It’s totally not the most important thing in the world, but it feels so good that people are loving that song and loving our record.

That video is great. Where did they let you ride bicycles and fill with balloons?
It was shot at a women’s association club house that’s been around forever. It was right outside of Austin, Texas, and it’s like 100 years old. It was a total Southern, fancy vibe. Lots of pastel colors everywhere. The day we were filming we were riding around on our bikes, and I guess some of the women who run the place were preparing for a fancier party event, and we got the worst looks. I don’t think we told them that when we were going to be shooting a video there that we were actually going to be destroying the place. Hopefully they can appreciate that people are into the video. I woke up yesterday to it on VH1, so maybe it means something to them now.

Is it true that my favorite song from the new album, “Ain’t It Fun,” is going to be the next single?

It’s definitely going to happen. We’re working to figure out what to do about the video. I wrote a blog about it but it hasn’t been posted yet. I’m going to fill our fans in about the “Ain’t It Fun” video that we already shot, and we’re probably going to be making another one. That info should be out any day now. We’ve sort of strung our fans along for a little while on that song. It’s my favorite song on the record too. I can’t wait to play it in America and do it on the tour, because it’s going to be one of the bigger points in the show.

How did you end up on Zedd’s “Stay the Night”?
John Janick, who signed Paramore to Fueled By Ramen when we were kids and now runs Interscope, he e-mailed me. He was involved in the project, and he knew that Zedd was a Paramore fan. So he told Zedd he should think about putting me on the song, and I got an e-mail from him basically with a demo of the song. It wasn’t finished, it needed some lyrics and melodies, and he wanted to know what I thought and whether I’d be interested in finishing it. And I loved it—the second I heard it, I felt like it was something that was already in me. That happens a lot with good music. When people connect with music strongly, I think it’s sometimes because it feels like something they could have wrote in another life or something they were already singing before they heard it. I had a really strong emotional connection to the song. We were in Paris about to play a show with Muse and Fun., and I went into a studio there and did my part. I love how it turned out. Zedd is brilliant and I’m really honored I got to do a song with him.

Are you a fan of dance music in general?
I’m not a fan of straight up dance music. You’re not going to find me listening to that on a daily basis. But I’m really a fan of great melody, and when there’s a lot of that in dance music, I really love it. And I love to dance. When I heard Zedd’s “Clarity” for the first time, I could hear all the melodies in the tracks, the different musical things. He has such an incredible ear for melody and rhythm. It’s very unique sounding. “Clarity” is such a hit. That track alone is a hit, and you add that incredible vocal on top of it and it’s an incredible song. I think he did it again on “Stay the Night.” What I do love about dance music is how it’s trickling down into pop and alternative music right now. A lot of bands are inspired by that. We did more electronic sounds and picked up more cues from that genre of music than we’ve ever done before. I think it makes for a great vibe.

You have this tour in front of you, but in March 2014 you’re hosting a cruise. What can we expect?
We’ve talked about it very little, but we’re thinking about two shows. We’re doing the interludes in our shows right now, and those are done with ukuleles, so we really want to get creative with ukuleles since we’re going to be on an island part of the time. I think besides the actual set list itself, it’s going to be a real intimate experience. We’re going to be really close up with these people who have taken a whole weekend out of their life to spend with us on a boat in the middle of the ocean. I think that’s a pretty rad thing. I think it’s going to feel much more intimate. All these other bands that are on the bill we’re close with, the whole feeling of the entire thing is so exciting to me. It feels like a mini Warped Tour or a mini festival on a boat, and we get to be a part of that. We’re excited man. It’s like nothing we’ve ever done before.

Finally, I know you’re a UFC fan. Who do you have in the heavyweight rubber match between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos?
I think I’ve got Dos Santos for that one. Who do you got?

I like Velasquez. He has that killer instinct.
You’re so right about that. I don’t know what it is with me and Junior Dos Santos, but I’m going to be rooting for him so hard. I wish we were home more for fights. I’ve only been to one show in person, and I really need to get back to Vegas and do that again.

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