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Q&A: Renowned Bluegrass Artist Keller Williams

BY EMILY BURDS | FEBRUARY 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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Audio: Keller Williams

"Something Else"

The Daily Iowan had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with renowned bluegrass artist Keller Williams about his upcoming show, his music, and his unique style. Williams will bring his quirky one-man performance to the Englert stage at 8 p.m. today. Admission is $22 at the door.

DI: You’ve been touring and making music for quite a long time now, so how have things changed for you over the years?

Williams: I had a couple of kids, and that’s changed the way I tour, which is primarily on the weekends. I’m usually home during the week, and then I’m gone on the weekends doing shows. So that is significantly very different from how it used to be.

DI: So what do your kids think of you touring?

Williams: I like to think that they are getting used to it. But they understand that Daddy disappears on the weekends, and that’s what I do. I put out a kids’ record a couple years ago and did about a dozen matinees to support that. And normally when I go on, it’s past their bedtime, so they don’t usually get to see what I do. But I think they get it and they understand.

DI: So obviously, with the downside of touring being apart from your family, what is your favorite part?

Williams: I think for me, it’s just the release on stage that I get. I just have so much music inside that I love to get out, and to be able to do that on stage is fantastic. A connection with the audience, [is like] the audience being a part of the band, so to speak. Especially when I’m solo, that’s probably one of my favorite parts, when they are all right there with me the whole time.  The energy is great, me giving and them taking and then giving it back, it just keeps circulating. I think that’s the coolest.

DI: So what inspired you to create music with such variety and diversity?

Williams: It could possibly be attention-deficit disorder. But I have not been diagnosed as such, but that could be a factor. But I love so many different types of music, so I can’t really get stuck into one genre. Whether I’m listening to it or playing, I think it’s just a love for music.

DI: So how was it recording your latest album, Pick, with legendary bluegrass band the Travelin’ McCourys?

Williams: It was fantastic. We did most of the tracks in about three days. We did it almost all live in the studio. They to me, are bluegrass royalty, and I’m very, very grateful to be in their presence and especially on the record. And it was fun to get together with them and play those songs. We have a handful of shows together coming up I’m really excited about.

DI: So what can fans expect for the Iowa City show?

Williams: They can expect possibly hearing songs that they have heard before, but done in a different way. They can expect a show that is deeply rooted in acoustic music as well as what I call acoustic dance music, where every other song will have a dance song that will be created by samples that I’ve created on stage, live. Nothing that is pre-recorded.

DI: So finally, do you have any rituals or traditions that you do before your shows?

Williams: Yeah, you know, it’s a pretty intense setup that I have in the sense of electronics and how it all fits and is shaped together. So it takes awhile to dial that in. And in sound check, I love to take my time to feel the room and makes sure my gears are working properly, and then right before the show, I’ll probably just have a nice cocktail.


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