Live Interview: Keller Williams

10 Jan 2016 - Jam Cruise - MSC Divina

for The Lot Scene by Parker

In addition to all the incredible photography opportunities and review material we were exposed to during Jam Cruise 14, we also had the distinct privilege of sitting down with Virginia’s own Keller Williams for a short, but very sweet interview.  We had a super enjoyable time discussing several different topics with Keller which we’d like to bring you now:

TLS: First of all, thanks for sitting down with us today.

KW:  My pleasure.

TLS:  We heard Annabel mention that you were on the first Jam Cruise, which is pretty cool, and now you are on your sixth at this point?

KW:  I think so, yeah.  I don’t really know exactly how many I’ve been on, but I think it’s less than half.  I think six is a good number.

TLS:  Well, six is definitely more than a little…

KW:  //laughter//

TLS:  Couldn’t resist.

KW:  It worked.  //laughter//

TLS:  So, what is it about those past Boat experiences, things that happened to you and things that you did, that made you say “yes” to coming back this year?

KW:  Oh, man.  Well, this thing that’s happening on this boat is…not normal.  It’s a very unrealistic utopian type of thing that’s going on.  And, just to be a part of it, just to be invited is an honor.  To be able just to come on it without playing is an amazing, amazing thing.  But there have definitely been some amazing moments musically that I’ve witnessed, you know, as a fan.  Probably a little more memorable than my own sets, so to speak, you know?  When I am doing my sets, I am in the zone.

TLS:  Focused.  

KW:  Seeing so many of my favorite musicians play with others of my favorite musicians at the same time, it’s really surreal.  And, just the walls between fan and musician are dropped.  It’s exciting to feel people’s excitement.  It rubs off on me and I could go on but I think…

TLS:  It’s a special kind of special.

KW:  It’s a special kind of special, yeah.  Mmm-hmm.  

TLS:  Thank you.

KW:  You bet.

TLS:  This one goes a little towards your process in general.  You’ve obviously got a lot of musical irons in the fire, a lot of projects going on, studio recordings, tours — there’s a lot of stuff, you’re a busy man.

KW:  Mmm-hmm.

TLS:  With those moving parts, what does your strategic planning look like?  Are you looking five years out?  Is it something that happens more organically from the hip?

KW:  As far as the projects go?

TLS:  How does that stack up for you?

KW:  Well, it just starts with loving music and certain types of music and surrounding myself with people that I respect and want to work with.  And them allowing me into their world.  And, the bluegrass thing is so easy compared to the whole full band thing.  The guys come over with their instruments and they sit around in a circle and we put together a set.  No problem.  There’s no drums or bass rig or anything, everything is acoustic and that’s really, really exciting for me because my solo thing is so much signal path with the looping and stuff.  But, once a connection is made with different musicians and a project is formed and recordings are made, then, as far as presenting them live, it’s kind of what people want to see from me as far as different festivals…  Say I played a festival 10 times, we try to work a little solo thing in there somehow and then maybe bring a different project each year.  And I’ve been building towards that and to give people an option like More Than A Little, my funk band, is a perfect party band for the deck.

TLS:  Amazing set by the way.

KW:  Thank you.

TLS:  It was my first More Than A Little, I don’t mind saying, and it was unbelievably good.

KW:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  It worked, you know?  I always find with that band the rehearsals go much better than the shows.  So I made a point of it not to rehearse and it all worked out.  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//  It worked out really well.  So, to us, as fans knowing you and your music for awhile now, there seems to be no limits on the music you can or are willing to play…which is one of the things we love about you as a musician.  So when you come to a unique festival situation like Jam Cruise and you know there is a plethora of incredible musicians on board, when you start thinking possible guests, when you start thinking “I might want to guest”, what’s going on in your head with that?  Are you like a kid in a candy store thinking “I wanna guest with that band and that person and that band”?

KW:  It starts with the connections that have already been made.  Even possibly something that we’ve done before.  I mean, there’s not going to be any rehearsal or anything like that and it starts with confidence and a comfort level of a person that I know would be able to pull this off.  And it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to do a couple of these songs in this kind of situation.  And it’s very laid back, you know?  And it just goes from there.  If you look on the website of Jam Cruise and scroll down one after the other of musicians at large here to jam, it’s like, let’s get him and her and them.  Things like a possible trio with Reed Mathis and Roosevelt Collier.  Now, the three of us haven’t done anything but I trust both of them so that I could say “let’s try this” and I think they both would be on it.  Now I put that out in the Universe and I’m not really sure that that’s going to happen, but hopefully it will.  I’m hoping that that goes down.  So with that mentality you try to think of something that they can latch onto that’s not too difficult.  Like “do you know this song?”  If they don’t know it then maybe you can play something that’s got some chords that repeat and those guys can just take it further.  And then the improv can happen and kind of bring it back.  And both of those guys are super pro.  But then there’s other folks like Nicki Bluhm…  We’ve also been talking about other songs today during our signing and Anders and Paul from Greensky, you know, we’ve been been threatening a ‘Phish Grass thing’ — I don’t think it’s going to happen, but we’ve been threatening it.  And I think there’s a couple of songs that we all three know that we could probably grass up and people would appreciate it.  And then there’s the Stringdusters — we’ve done 20 shows together.  And then, of course, More Than A Little will be a big part of this friend parade that comes through on this ‘solo’ set tonight.

TLS:  Not really solo. //laughter//

KW:  //laughter// No, not really solo, yeah.

TLS:  That’s at what time?

KW:  10:30 in the atrium…you know lights are on…like a living room.

TLS:  Nice and cozy.  Well, that’s all we have for you today, Keller.  Thanks again so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with us.

KW:  My pleasure, my pleasure.

Many thanks to Mr. Williams for this lovely interview.  Many thanks as well to Carrie, Alex, and the rest of the Jam Cruise staff who helped put this all together!!

Parker Otwell Roe and Keller Williams

Parker Otwell Roe and Keller Williams