An overview of the making of new Why Don’t We album “The Good Times and the Bad Ones”: an insight into the magic behind the album and the creation of a masterpiece

Why Don’t We on release night

Iris Breckenridge, Managing Editor, Columnist

Sadly for Limelights, the “8 Letters” era of Why Don’t We has officially come to an end. This ending just means the beginning of a new era for the Why Don’t We boys, starting with the release of their highly anticipated new album. Released on Jan. 15, 2021, Why Don’t We’s second studio album, “The Good Times and the Bad Ones” (TGTATBO) has been a hit so far. 

Why Don’t We is a boy band of five made up of Jack Avery, Corbyn Besson, Zach Herron, Jonah Marais and Daniel Seavey. Formed in 2016, the boys recently celebrated their four year anniversary, shortly before releasing their latest album. In September they came back from an eight month social media hiatus with a new look, a new sound and new music. 

 

A Much Needed Social Media Hiatus

After touring for three years straight, the band needed this well deserved break to find their way back to normal and reevaluate themselves and their music. Coming into the music industry as kids, they still had a lot of growing up to do, but in light of that were able to experience unique things with each other that most teenagers can’t relate to. But the industry was fast paced and never seemed to give them a break or much time to find themselves. Marais stated, “We’ve had all of this success and it’s amazing, but we never really had a chance to sit back and talk and think about ‘who do we want to be, what do we want our message to be, what do we want our sound to be?’ This year was that for us, and it brought a lot of clarity.”

Not only could the boys tell that they needed to take a touring intermission, but fans could tell as well. For a long time, even though they have loved all of the music they have ever put out, they have also always wanted to put out music of their own, which was something people could tell they wanted to do. “Shoutout to the fans because they kind of kick-started this idea of why aren’t we putting out the music that we make?” Besson said. “That was big for all of us, and we had had a few conversations with some fans about just being a little bit burnt out by the end of last year. Some people were kind of starting to tell that we weren’t doing exactly what we wanted to do, or what we felt we were capable of doing, [which] sparked the conversation between us to really sit down and [think about] who we want to be for ourselves and for our fans; [to ask ourselves]: what are we really capable of and can we do it? That’s the challenge we put upon ourselves, and I’m so glad we did,” revealed Besson. 

The break wasn’t needed from a lack of getting along at all, but from being burnt out from their continuous spotlight and missing time with family and friends. Seavey said, “The break was well needed for us and without there even being any tension in the air, we just all selectively chose to take [some time] from hanging with each other.” They used this time to rest their minds and bodies and enjoy much needed family time. And although it was exactly what the boys needed, it extended for much longer than they had originally planned.

“[The hiatus] wasn’t planned to be as long as it was. We were only supposed to be gone three months, maybe four, and then the pandemic hit so we were kind of forced to extend our stay a little bit,” Besson explained. “We [realized] we sort of don’t have a choice but to be dark right now because it’s not right to promote music right now, and there’s a bunch of stuff that was just much more important than dropping music,” he continued. “[When] the pandemic hit mid hiatus and we couldn’t hit the studio anymore together, we had to wait a few months to continue the process which delayed through the whole summer. But I think there’s a silver lining because we wrote [almost] half of this album during quarantine.” 

Without the extra time they wouldn’t have written some of the songs on the album and with it, they were also able to perfect the kind of music they wanted to make. Social media is the main way they are able to interact with fans, especially during the pandemic, and even though they missed that connection, being away from their phones was a good way for them to clear their heads. “For me, it was nice being away from my phone; one less thing to worry about once I got over the addiction of reaching for [it],” Seavey admitted. “It gave me a lot more freedom and time to be more creative for the album. I’m sure if we were on our phones as much as we used to be, ‘Fallin’’ wouldn’t have been a song, because we were always on our phones prior.” In regards to the making of the album as a whole, Marais explained, “We took [the] extra time and, honestly, made some of the best songs on the album.” The album could have been very different without that extended period of time.

By September, the boys were beyond ready to make their comeback and start interacting with fans again. “We really took a step back [from everything], we were just so ready to [come] back,” Marais said. “It gave us all the more confidence that we had this album. When we came back and saw the fans’ reactions, their reactions [to] releasing ‘Fallin’,’ and [then watching] it go to number one on iTunes right away, it was insane [to realize] that this is where we’re at.”

But even after all the time apart, the boys came back together easily. “The second that we got back together, it was like no time had even passed,” said Seavey. The way they were able to jump back into everything so quickly and normally goes to show exactly how close the band is and how strong of a bond they have created over the past four years. Part of their ability to get along so well stems from the fact that they were friends before the band. Each as solo artists, they met at different shows while touring. The band was something they collectively chose to be a part of, instead of randomly being grouped together. “We’ve been through everything together, we’ve been around the world together,” Marais said. “We all decided that we want to be in the band together with each other as friends; we weren’t thrown together.” 

 

Trying to find themselves

Since their making of the band and their extended social media hiatus, the boys have changed their look and sound, trying to creep out of the typical boy band look. They have since changed their hair, outfits and the theme of music videos. Besson touched on the idea of fitting into the boy band look in an interview explaining, “We came into this kind of thrown into the fast lane. There was a certain kind of mold for the past three or four years that we’ve felt like we should try and fit; just the way pop music works and the way five guys in a band typically is. And it got us here.” But over four years they have grown up and grown out of the look, maybe not even feeling that was what they wanted to look like in the first place. Besson continued, “It felt like it was time for us to really be the masters of our own destiny. We had this urge to make the music we wanted to make and prove to ourselves that we could do it. This is a really big turning point for us in our careers.”  

Adding to that, Seavey explained how there was a constant pressure from the world and the industry that to “make it,” working with writers and looking a certain way was a must. He said, “You have to learn everything about this industry and so that’s what we did all these years. We’ve come to this point where we finally had time to sit and take a break and think about ‘who really are we? What do we want to say? What do we want to sound like?’” With the break, they were on a mission to find the answers to these questions. 

 

30 days with Why Don’t We: the truth behind the industry

They have done just that, starting with releasing “Fallin’” as well as creating a short YouTube series called 30 Days with Why Don’t We, consisting of four episodes of a build up to their album and the making of it. The series was a behind the scenes look at what their life has been looking like in regards to the album and quarantine. Most fans maybe would or wouldn’t be surprised at how much stress came from the making of the album. To the outside, it’s all rainbows and sunshine, but behind the cameras and social media glorification they were stressed about leaks, album signing, perfecting the songs and more. While it was great to see how much work they put into the album, it was also fascinating to see parts of their daily life and who Why Don’t We has become from 2016 until now.

(You can watch 30 Days with Why Don’t We here).

 

The Making of Fallin’

Fallin’ single cover

Two weeks after their announced return, the band released “Fallin’,” their first single since “Chills” in December 2019.  “Big shout out to Kanye for clearing the Black Skinhead sample. We sampled black skinhead and the drums, and he cleared it for us which was pretty bizarre,” Seavey said. Despite the fact that “Fallin’” was the first single, it was the last song written on the album. “We [actually] wrote ‘Fallin’’ during quarantine,” said Marais. “We had [the album almost] all done and we were working on a different song that day at the studio. Daniel had the melody of ‘Fallin’’ pop into his head on the way. We set aside what we were working on and sat down in a room for 45 minutes, and we knew that it was the single right away. So if there’s a silver lining to having this extra time, it’s definitely [writing] ‘Fallin’’.”

“Fallin’” had a lot of success; even on the first day of its release it was number one on iTunes. Unlike most times, the music video came out the same day of the song’s release and over time has accumulated almost 25 million views. The band has done many virtual interviews discussing the making of the song and breaking down the lyrics on various networks. They shot the video during quarantine about two weeks before its release, and it was a whole new experience for everyone. Marais explained, “It was wild dealing with shooting a massive production music video in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone had to get tested on the way in, they had these COVID security guards walking around and making sure everyone was six feet apart at all times [and] everyone was wearing these exact masks that they provided.” It was a strict environment, but with the kind of security necessary in a time like this where everyone’s safety is the number one priority.

The video itself was also different from their previous videos, matching their new vibe. Besson said, “I feel like part of the magic of the song is the video. Our look has changed quite a bit over the hiatus, and the visual pairs really well with the song. The song is already so high energy as it is, that when you watch the video, it’s like chaos.” He went on to describe specific parts of the video and said, “there are cars falling from the sky, Jack’s levitating and Zach’s on a radio tower in the middle of a storm. We’re also doing a whole live performance where we’re all playing [instruments]. It’s just a whole new look for us and it’s going back to our roots.” Each of the members plays at least one instrument, and by bringing that back and playing the instruments themselves they are moving away from the boy band era.

(Click here to watch the making of “Fallin’,” the music video and more).

 

Reinventing themselves

Along with starting to play instruments again, the boys have been reinventing themselves by writing their own music, which is why this album is so special to them. They have spent hours writing, perfecting and recording the music for it and more hours doing countless interviews, live performances, album prep/promo and more. Putting in more work than they ever have, the album is an artwork that is personal and real, and something that they are beyond proud to have made. Besson stated, “Starting with ‘Fallin’,’ the rest of this album is the most honest and genuine that our music has ever been. ‘Fallin’’ came and ties it all together, but we’re so proud of this album, and just as much, if not even more, proud of ‘Fallin’.’” The boys have stated in multiple interviews how they have dreamed of making an album like this and to finally have created it with it now being out in the world is an incredible feeling. “This album, ‘TGTATBO,’ we’ve dreamed of making since we started this band. [It] is just even more personal, and in some cases even more vulnerable than any of the music we’ve ever put out. Just that alone feels crazy from our end, because it’s literally our lyrics, our melodies, our feelings, straight to the fans,” Besson said.

 

Escaping the boy band look: writing their own music 

The album had been in the works since their 2019 tour, and even before that going back until 2018 during the “8 Letters” tour. Many of the songs were written to be played in front of a live audience, like “Lotus Inn,” for example. Because they were written on tour the songs have the energy of a show behind them. Seavey mentioned in an interview, “We were on tour for three years, so during that whole time we were writing this album, envisioning it on the road and on tour.” After having some of the songs for so long the boys are ecstatic to finally get to show the world this new side of them and to get back on tour when it’s safe. “We’ve been sitting on some of this music between one and two years, and it feels really crazy to have [it] out right now because we wrote a couple of them during a time where we thought they never would come out,” Besson admitted. 

Because this was their first time fully writing and producing an album themselves it was more difficult and time consuming. Seavey talked about how even though the album was a lot more work to do on their own, it was also more fun. He is extremely musically talented and helped write all of the songs on the album, even writing two of the ten by himself with inspiration from his bandmates and life experiences. 

A big part of why they had never put out their own music before was due to confidence. There is always a fear of failure, especially in big industries like this one. Coming into the music industry so young and knowing that when bands start branching out and writing their own music only to not succeed, was a fear that the boys shared. It was a risk not knowing how the world and their fans would react to this new era of them, but they put their all into it to make it the best they could and represent who they have become. What really helped them through this idea was the support they got from fans. Seavey said, “[They] inspired us a lot to write and produce this new album because we hadn’t in the past, and they knew that we were writing and producing our own music. They started suggesting during meet and greets, [and] were asking ‘Why don’t you just come out with the music you guys are making?’ It was a bit of a confidence issue,” he continued. “It’s tough to give your full self out to the world like that. But we took a chance with this album, and I think it’s honestly gonna pay off.” 

 

Naming the Album

As the title implies, “TGTATBO” is about how life is basically made up of good times and bad times. The name came from a lyric in the eighth track on the album, “I’ll Be Okay.” “We did it for the good times and the bad ones.” The album has a large variety of genres within it, but they are all evidently summing up to this idea. “We named the album ‘The Good Times and the Bad Ones’ because it summarizes, first of all, just life in general, and it summarizes the music,” Besson explained. “The music is all about our previous experiences with love, and with touring and anxiety. It talks about all those good times, and touches on some of the bad times in there as well.” 

Before settling on the good times and the bad ones, the band discussed many possible names while making the album, but none seemed quite right. During one of many interviews, the interviewer brought up the question of whether or not “Be Myself” could have been a possible title. “‘Be Myself’ could have been [the album name], but [the] good times and the bad ones relates to everything on the album,” Herron responded. “‘Be Myself’ relates to that song, a couple others on the album, but I feel like [not everything],” he said, which is why the album wasn’t named after any single song. 

 

The tracklist

A significant part of any album is the tracklist, which can sometimes take a long time to perfect. Their management and label were a big help in determining the order and eventually they were able to settle on the list that seemed right. “There was an original sequence that told the story in a more chronological [way] about a relationship,” Besson said. “We came to the consensus that musically this order feels very right in terms of the journey it takes you on sonically.” They wanted their tracklist to musically flow and as Herron said what they came up with was just “what your ear wants to hear.”

Another special thing about this tracklist is that together the songs tell one, long story. “I hope [fans] listen all the way through without skipping one song,” Avery said. In past interviews the boys have revealed that each song is like a chapter in a larger story. If fans want to get to know the band better and learn more about their personal lives, listening to the album from top to bottom will help. 

 

A variety of music

While the album focuses on a theme of good and bad experiences there is a wide variety of genres and inspiration in it. Before it had even come out, revealing what little he could about the album Besson said, “What’s cool and what should be said about it is that none of the other songs in the album sound like ‘Fallin’.’ None of the other songs on the album even sound like each other which is kind of crazy, but in the same right, it’s got this very cohesive but diverse personality to it.” Even though the music was diverse, what united all the songs was their voices leading the songs’ melodies and lyrics. 

Besides the influence from Kanye West in “Fallin’,” the album also includes inspiration from Post Malone, Borns’ “Electric Love,” 90’s rock and overall pop music. Besson added to their points of inspiration talking about the different genres they used to create the album. “Some of the songs in the album [have an] alternative flare,” he said. “There’s a couple songs that lean [towards being] R&B and are a little bit dancy. [Overall], the album came out really diverse, so it was really cool when we played the full [track] back for the first time, top to bottom. We [realized how] we’re [truly] touching on a wide spectrum of genres.” 

The song “Slow Down” had lots of influence from 90’s rock. It took inspiration from the 90’s rock band The Smashing Pumpkins and was sampled from their song “1979.” Although it uses the same melody as the song, the Why Don’t We boys took their own song a completely different way. Another example of this album’s diversity is “Be Myself.” This one is exceptionally special to Avery because it is a song about his anxiety written by Seavey. The track is slower compared to others on the album and also one of the most vulnerable songs with a more emotional sentiment. Explaining the meaning behind the song he told MTV, “I’m a young dad and this year hit and I was going through a lot of personal stuff. Then COVID hit at the same time, and I couldn’t see my daughter,” he continued. “I was stressing out a bunch and having a lot of panic attacks and anxiety. I ended up telling the boys because it was getting hard for me to go to the studio; I was always anxious and scared to be around anybody. Daniel took it and wrote a whole song about it.” 

The other uniquely slow song on the album is “Grey.” As a ballad it is a very melancholy song and anyone listening is subject to shedding a few tears. “It’s the first really true ballad we’ve written and put out,” Besson said. “It kind of hits home for us and a lot of people. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that.” While the upbeat songs may be more fun to dance to, it is refreshing to have this variety of genres and tempos as well. The mood strongly contrasts with the two songs before and after it, but fits into its place in the album because of the story the album tells as a whole. With inspiration from their real life experiences Besson explained, “It shows the emotion and tells the story of the turmoil of a relationship that ended, and maybe ended badly. But also the regret from our side, or from the first person story that ‘I wish I didn’t do this because my whole world turned grey after I let you go.’”

 

Breaking it down: the making of the songs 

A key part of this album and what makes it so precious to them was the fact that they had written and produced all the songs on the album themselves, something they had never done before. Now, they are able to talk about the lyrics, the stories and meaning behind them, the process and so much more. Here’s a look at what they’ve said about a couple of the songs:

“Love Song”: “Conceptually, I love ‘Love Song’ because it’s kind of like you’re writing the song as you’re singing it. It’s like: ‘I wrote another love song, baby, about you/I’ve written one for every second without you/It goes like this’ and you’re singing the song that you wrote about her. It’s a pretty cool concept,” Besson said.

“Stay”: This song took the longest for the boys to write. “It’s the last one on the album and we’ve been working on that one for two and half years. We wrote probably 30 different versions, but it was worth it. It’s a special one,” said Seavey. With advice from Shawn Mendes, Seavey told MTV, “He said ‘it doesn’t matter who tells me, when I know a song is a hit, I know it’s special.’” And even though it took a while they took that advice to heart and were finally able to come up with the perfect version. 

(To watch the full breakdown of the songs watch this or this, and click here for the official breakdown of “Fallin’”). 

 

Promo and Performances

Some events they’ve done to promote the album. You can watch some of these on Youtube!

The boys have been doing lots of promo for their album, including many live streams, interviews with various networks, an abundance of social media posts and have even been on Good Morning America, Ellen and The Late Late Show with James Corden. In an interview with I Heart Radio, the boys said that they have been super busy the last couple of weeks, getting the album ready. “I think some fans have this idea that we’re just chilling every single day, not doing much, but literally we’ve done thirteen hour days for the last couple weeks,” Marais said. “It’s insane. It’s [been] good though, it feels like what we should be doing.” And the day before the album’s release they were up almost all day and had to stay up to be ready for Good Morning America bright and early on January 15.

They also participated in a New Year’s Eve performance with radio station 99.7 NOW, singing their three singles from the album and two other favorites, “8 Letters” and “What Am I.” And while Jingle Ball was sadly virtual this year, the boys also participated in it yet again, making it their fourth attendance. Shortly after “Fallin’” was released they also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to be part of the virtual show. Additionally, they also appeared on Ellen to again perform “Fallin’.” The band has dreamed of being on Ellen and even though it was only a virtual performance it was still a big moment for them. They have grown up watching her show and were so excited to get the chance to be on it themselves, although they were disappointed about the timing. They performed “Fallin’” live for one of the first times and it was definitely a success. 

(Watch some of the live performances here!)

 

A Look Back on the Year

As much as the year was full of never ending chaos, the boys learned a lot about themselves, the world and life. If 2020 taught them anything it was to remember to always be kind and never take things for granted. A big takeaway for Seavey was about slowing down and enjoying normalcy, while Marais said 2020 taught him to face his fears and anxieties, diving deeper into who he is as a person. On a larger scale, Besson said, “For me, and for all of us, for America especially, I think it’s taught everybody to be a little more aware and just a little kinder. Throughout all the negative that’s happened this year, I think there’s a silver lining in the fact that it’s exposed a lot of truths, and hopefully we can move forward and go only up from here.” 

Musically, and also just in general, the five of them have done a lot of growing up in the past four years, learning a lot from and about life and becoming better song writers. This year especially has brought about a lot of trouble and chaos, but the making of this album was a real silver lining for the band. “We dreamed about the time that we would actually be the creators of our own destiny and actually writing and producing everything. It’s like the beginning of a new era,” Marias said. With the successful release and all the support on the album, it’s like they had been holding a long breath and can breathe again now. Seavey explained, “[The album] is like our baby. It’s weird, it’s like you’re sending your child out to the world and hoping that the world likes him. We love this album so much, so it’s a bit scary to just put something that you care so much about out and have the rest of the world’s opinion.” Not only did they get the rest of the world’s opinion on the album, but the world seemed to love it.

 

On the Charts

“The Good Times and the Bad Ones” reached number two in the US on iTunes the day of its release and moved up to number one the next morning. Overall the album has been a complete success and the boys are so excited and grateful for the love it has been getting: songs from it have been put on Pandora, Spotify and Amazon Music playlists, they are on billboards in LA and Times Square, the album is number three on the Billboard 200. As if the album wasn’t getting enough love already, additionally, it was recently announced as the number one best selling album in the US pure sales this week. Selling albums and getting streams is always an accomplishment for musicians, but the real goal for the album is for it to be something that will help others and that they will be able to resonate with. Seavey said, “This music is about real stories that we’ve been dying to tell about our life; some real advice that we really wanted to give our fans. Hopefully, this is actually going to be helpful to the world.”

The Why Don’t We boys have come a long way since their formation in 2016. They have released 6 EPs, over 20 singles and two full albums. Never before has their music been so personal and vulnerable. Knowing that this album has come from their own experiences and journeys through life makes it that much more meaningful to the band and their fans. It might be early, but the boys seem well on their way to accomplishing all of their dreams, with much more to come.

(Check out the album here!)