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A Dirty Dozen with ROB WILLIAMS – August 2020

| 26 August 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Richmond, VA-based Americana/roots rock singer-songwriter Rob Williams is set to release his fourth album, Weathering the Storm, Vol. 1, on August 28, 2020. A natural storyteller who crafts melodies and narratives with intelligence and ease, Williams is known for his compelling, character-driven songs, and, with his new album, he shares his most moving and intimate work yet. Full of beauty and balance, each track reveals the characteristic poise and brightness of Williams’ songwriting, blending the relaxed, free-wheeling spirit of old classic country with a new, more modern consciousness.” We get Rob to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

Photo Credit: Peter Beliaev

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Most of the new album, Weathering the Storm, Vol. 1, was written as I was recovering from a long and difficult struggle with depression. That doesn’t mean that album is full of sadness and despair. On the contrary, I think the songs – even the sad ones – contain elements of hope, which is the antithesis of depression, and I hope that comes across to listeners. People who are familiar with my music will find that this album has more of a rock edge than my previous releases. Actually, I think it’s difficult to capture these nine songs neatly into one category or style. Where my previous albums had a distinct America-country slant to them, this one moves a little more away from that.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

When I was 16, my sister taught me to play guitar by showing me how to play Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” I must have played it 100 times a day until I could play it pretty well. I’m not sure that was the moment I realized I wanted to be in a band, but it sure did make me want to learn more. It was only a few months later that I got together with some high school friends to start our first band.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I saw R.E.M. play before they got really big. I was right up in front of the stage near Peter Buck, and I think it might have been that moment that made me want to be in a band. I loved the fact that he was playing with minimal pedals and effects. He was the only guitar player in the band, and he was mostly strumming chords. It made me realize that you didn’t have to play dazzling solos to be the guitar player in a band.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Old 97’s, Josh Ritter, Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, and The Rolling Stones.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Brandi Carlile. Her songs have a genuineness and sincerity that make you feel like you’ve known the characters in her songs your whole life. She has a beautiful voice and just seems like an all-around wonderful person. Plus, it would be fun to hang out on the ranch and sing songs with Brandi and the twins!

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I call it Americana. It’s a big umbrella that covers a lot of styles and sounds, but I think it works okay. I play acoustic guitar, and it seems like any band with a stringed acoustic instrument is labeled Americana these days. Early on, reviewers compared my sound to The Beatles. I love The Beatles and it’s a flattering comparison, but my songs really don’t sound anything like theirs. It’s a lazy comparison.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

When it comes to hanging out, we’re a pretty easygoing group. We genuinely like each other and like being around one another, and we all chip in. I’ve been in bands before where there were factions, and that’s not much fun after a while. When we’re just hanging out, I think Turtle Zwadlo (bass) is most likely to pick up a guitar and play some things he’s been working on.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Paul Westerberg back in 1990-something.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I love traveling and seeing the country. It’s exhilarating to see the changing landscape from day to day, and to meet people from different backgrounds and all walks of life. One thing that stands out from touring is that despite what seems so evident through the media, and particularly social media, is that we Americans have an awful lot in common. I currently teach a graduate course one semester at a local university. If I were to give up music entirely, I would probably do more of that.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I like when interviewers ask about specific songs. It shows that they’ve taken the time to listen to your work and have gotten something out of it. I’m generally pretty candid about the ideas behind songs and the songwriting process, so don’t be afraid to ask. On a similar note, I’m not fond of interviewers asking me to describe my sound. Describing a sound usually doesn’t yield much useful information. Saying that you’re in a rock band can mean almost anything. A good interviewer will take the time to listen first and then formulate some specific questions. It’s just courtesy.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

On a solo tour several years ago, I drank too much one night. Way too much. I could hardly function the rest of the tour. Although it wouldn’t change my current situation a whole lot, I’m sure that it cost me some potential friends and fans because I was a miserable curmudgeon as I traveled around a beautiful part of the country (New England). More than that though, I wasn’t able to enjoy doing what I love doing for the remainder of that tour. Lesson learned.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street is one of the greatest rock albums ever. If I could be part of one of the sessions for that record, it would be for the sessions at Keith Richards’ rented house in the South of France. They say that those sessions were loose and a bit disorganized, with tracks being recorded whenever inspiration struck. Supposedly, one night, Richards gathered up whoever was available at the house to record a song he’d been working on (“Happy”). It would have been fun to have been one of the people available that night.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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