Cancer Won't Stop Billy Clayton From Making Pop Music & Working with Charli XCX

Courtesy of Billy Clayton
Billy Clayton

Norwich, England-based pop singer Billy Clayton has been writing and producing bass-heavy synth-pop tracks from his bedroom since 2016. However, in recent years, the 21-year old’s health has been a rollercoaster ride that has affected his ability to make music.

In August 2015, Clayton learned he had Ewing’s Sarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer that typically occurs in children, adolescents and young adults. The impact of the disease has left him in a weakened state, without a voice. For the past two months, he has been unable to sing, and he currently can’t speak without coughing several times through sentences.

“It has definitely been very challenging at various points for me over the last three and a half years to maintain focus on my work and life in general,” Clayton tells Billboard in an email interview. “Having an illness like this is so extremely debilitating and really robs you of life’s simplicities.”

Despite his condition, Clayton remains resilient and has pushed through his symptoms in order to continue producing music. To him, the drive to make music is something that comes naturally.

“I do this because I believe it’s what I’m meant to be doing,” Clayton writes. “The drive is from a place of enjoyment, excitement, passion, and generally the need to be a creative individual.”

As an avid listener of “classic Grimes” and Slowdrive, Clayton’s love for synth music has influenced his sound and style. While Clayton’s several treatments have been challenging to go through, a dose of brilliant electronic music grounds him, and relieves him from his disease, even if it’s just for a moment.

“I feel the serotonin leaking into my brain when I hear a good synth bass,” Clayton writes. “That’s been a key component to the music I’ve worked on and released so far.”

Clayton’s tracks all carry a dreamy sound that fans of electronic music will easily take to. His voice also carries the same hazy and euphoric qualities that listeners can get lost in.

Identifying as bisexual, Clayton holds the LGBTQ community close to his heart. Having grown up listening to LGBTQ artists, from Billie Joe Armstrong and George Michael to Lady Gaga and Baths, Clayton is inspired by the impact these musicians have made for the community, especially women in the industry.

“Women in pop and music in general have provided for many people who didn’t feel they had a ‘scene’ or place of acceptance for a while,” Clayton explains. “That feeling of isolation still exists for many people, particularly in places in our world where gay men are being locked away for their orientation, or women are being forced into heterosexual marriages without their consent.”

While Clayton has a deep admiration for many female artists, his heart belongs to pop singer Charli XCX. The duo have had a history of talking to each other about music for the last three years, through Twitter DMs. The two finally met in 2016 after Clayton put out his first EP, Luminary. Charli XCX heard it and asked Clayton to come with her to a studio.

“I remember waking up and freaking out over the messages,” Clayton writes. “It was a really chill experience and it was the first time I ever met someone I looked up to in a pop culture context, so it felt really rewarding to be appreciated by her.”

Charli knew that Clayton was ill but did not know the severity of his condition. After learning the details of his treatment, the pop singer hosted a benefit concert called Billy Ball, where proceeds went to help Clayton recover from his illness.

When Clayton found out about the event, his heart was warmed knowing how appreciated he was by artists and listeners alike. “I’ll always have an appreciation for what Charli has done for me,” Clayton writes. “I think the support really shows the kindness of strangers and mutual music lovers.”

Clayton pushed through his health issues to follow up last year’s four-track EP Bloom with a new single titled “Fear.” The track was written a year ago and was finished this past May. “I wrote the lyrics in various places really, including my hospital bed,” Clayton writes. “The song is both personal and vulnerable to me and also referring to the lives and experiences of others that we don’t see ourselves.”

As Clayton continues his fight with disease, he is determined to get better and continue pursuing music. “I want to fight for my life in this extreme trying time and get myself to the position I need to be in life,” Clayton writes.

Take a look at Clayton’s GoFundMe page for more information about Clayton’s condition or to donate.


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