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William Carney '12

When William Carney ’12 was a second grader at NA, he grudgingly endured piano lessons for about half a year, before quitting in protest. That was the last formal music training he ever received.

From then on, he taught himself. In sixth grade, YouTube tutorials were his pathway to playing drums, starting with tracks from a favorite band, Coldplay. By middle school, he was producing orchestral pieces on his computer, and sharing CDs with Middle School Director Gary Laws, who challenged students in his history class to produce “something creative.”

By Upper School, he was working as a DJ at the Norva, opening up for more well-known bands and DJs, drawing NA friends to experience the burgeoning electronic music scene. His “instrument” back then was Ableton Live, a digital audio workstation popular with many DJs, which he still uses today.

By the time he headed to Tulane University, he knew that music “was what I wanted to do and what I planned on,” but he wasn’t yet ready to unveil his unorthodox vision to his family. He entered as pre-med, still considering the possibility of becoming a doctor like his father and brother Marty ’09, if music didn’t pan out.

Within days of arriving at Tulane, he had booked his first show. More gigs followed, in large measure due to his dogged persistence. “I was a furious cold emailer,” he said. “Being fearless and putting myself out there. That developed in high school.”

Soon enough, as word got out, the need for cold calls abated. He adopted his professional moniker — Carneyval — and traveled around the country, juggling gigs and coursework.

A highlight of that period was DJing at the BUKU Fest in 2015, a New Orleans festival that drew major rappers, bands, and DJs. “My family saw me perform,” he said, and it was a revelation to them. “I had the biggest crowd that whole weekend.”

Immediately after graduation in 2016 with a degree in business, Carney headed to L.A. Within six months, he hit it big: A song that he created with NA alum Jackson Breit ’09, “It Ain’t Love,” reached #1 on Spotify’s U.S. and global viral charts. “That was a big deal,” he said. “It opened doors for both of us.”

During the pandemic, he got on TikTok, spurred partly by a bet among friends about who could get 1 million views. His mashup of Ariana Grande/ Bazzi/Blackbear in June 2020 did just that, and he was off like a rocket. Artists like Jennifer Lopez started sharing his mashups on their own social media, and others soon reached out to collaborate.

He currently has more than 3.5 million followers on TikTok and 600 million views. His hit single “Me Time” is part of a new record deal with Universal Music, and he continues to DJ for live events, traveling to Istanbul, Sardinia, and the Cayman Islands. In November, he was Apple Music’s featured artist for its “Today’s Hits” playlist — the equivalent of a billboard marquee in the music world.

“The competition is steep in a good way,” Carney said. “I am still an entrepreneur. I am always trying to reinvigorate myself.”


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 edition of Academy Magazine. 

William Carney '12

William Carney '12

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