Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Warner Music Singapore was the label that dropped Willie Tay. We regret the error.
For a few years, Willie Tay was considered a rising pop star in Singapore’s music industry. Performing under his pseudonym Wiltay, the singer amassed a legion of more than 300,000 followers on his Instagram and was well on his way to a breakthrough in the music industry. It was during that time that the singer realized he was gay. “I just felt like I couldn’t be myself, being in the closet,” he tells Billboard. “I felt like it just affected a large part of my life … I was just constantly living in a lie.”
Now, Tay is ready to be as open as possible with his fans. The singer released his new single “Open Up Babe” on Tuesday (April 23), now under his new stage name Wils. The video for the new track shows Tay dancing around a set of cliffs in Los Angeles with his lover, as he sings about being honest with yourself.
Tay spoke to Billboard ahead of his single’s release about coming out on his own terms and the status of LGBTQ rights in his home country of Singapore.
This video serves as your official coming out — what drove you to make this announcement via a music video?
So, about two years ago, I was trying to write a couple of songs, and I just felt like I couldn’t be myself, being in the closet. I felt like it just affected a large part of my life, like hanging out with friends and family, I was just constantly living in a lie. I decided that I was going to take a two-year break, and I’ll find myself and who I am and unlearn the fears I had since I was a kid. So ultimately, when all was said and done, I came to that point, and I decided that this was the best way to let my fans know.
What do you think is the message that you were trying to get across in the song?
It’s about being truthful to yourself, and that sometimes, when we live in fear, we’re not able to enjoy the truth and the beautiful things in life. So it’s about finding that truth and accepting yourself. From there on, you just have to focus on living in the moment and enjoying life.
You originally hail from Singapore, which as a country, has a pretty dark history with homophobia. How did that contribute to your mental state that led to your eventual coming out?
There’s a law in Singapore called Section 377a of the Penal Code, which says any consensual sexual acts between two men can be criminalized. There are a lot of gays in Singapore, and it’s OK to live as a gay man, but it’s just not really spoken about. That has led to a lot of bullying in the society. Like lesbians are being raped by men, and the men would say, “Oh, what can you do about it? Shame on you.” That led me to feel that … it’s upsetting to see that people have to live through being bullied just because they are themselves. I didn’t want that for anyone, and I didn’t want that for myself.
What are you hoping fans can take away from your new video?
I’m really confident that my fans are going to love me for the way that I am. I’m hoping that they’ll be able to learn to live truthfully with themselves — it’s not just about sexuality, it’s about everything in life. Be comfortable with yourself, because when you accept yourself, you can just be the best version of yourself.