Former The Academy Is... frontman gets back to roots, stops in Grand Rapids

William Beckett lost his band and his label last year, but that hasn't slowed him down.

He leapt into a new solo project that will release three EPs and tour across the country this year -- all as an independent artist.

"I've never been happier," Beckett said.

Beckett was the frontman of the pop-rock group The Academy Is... until the band disbanded last October. Beckett started the group back in 2003, and over the next seven years The Academy Is... produced three studio albums and four EPs.

The band received huge recognition, performing as a main act for the 2006 Warped Tour, appearing on late night shows such as Conan O'Brien, Carson Daly and Jimmy Kimmel and touring as far as Australia, Asia and Europe.

But in the fall of 2011, Beckett broke up The Academy Is...

"I lost my identity," he said. "Having questioned and second-guessed and compromised so many times with songwriting and performing and even the clothes that I'm wearing within my band and my team, that it really rained on me-to the point where I had to break off and be my own person again.

"When you stop being friends, it's really hard to write songs together," he added. "I couldn't pretend like I was happy in that band and pretend like my voice was being heard, because it wasn't."

So Beckett started a solo project with his longtime label, Atlantic Records.

And they dropped him.

Undaunted, Beckett went through with his plans anyway. He released his first EP, Walk the Talk, independently on April 17.

"Musically, it's exponentially different and exponentially more boundless [than The Academy Is...]," Beckett said of his solo work. "I'm not tethered to what we, my band, accomplished before. I'm not tethered to what sound we became successful on."

Walk the Talk is Beckett's foray into this new start and one way of reclaiming his identity.

"[The album] is really about being yourself and about embracing who you are and not being afraid or apologetic for that," he said. "Everything that I write moving forward-these EPs that are coming up, as well-it all encompasses who I am and what I'm experiencing in life, without any filter."

Beckett plans to release two more EPs later this year, and he's kicking off the month-long Walk the Talk Tour this May. The tour will go back to Beckett's roots.

"I started on my own, like this-I did not start in a band, I started as a solo artist," he said. "I booked my own tour on the East Coast, you know, just with no money, my dad's blue minivan and a box of handmade shirts ... from there, it just grew and grew and grew.

"I want to get back to that natural growth of starting in a small, intimate environment and really reconnect with my fans and connect for the first time with some of those people who are just now discovering me."