Dar Williams: Parenting, veggies, and the big open spaces
Famous folkie Dar Williams talks as if she lives in Charlottesville– even though she just moved to the "post-industrial" town of Hudson Highlands, New York.
"We have a collective garden behind our house, a totally happening farmers market, and I'm really involved with Hudson River causes," says Williams. "We're all walking around with our bees, chickens, gardens, walking up and down the street with tomatoes and zucchinis."
Her life is more than veggies, as she now has a four-year-old son.
"Instead of being law and order, which I though parenting would be about, it's people trying to figure out how to keep making music in their lives, where they'll find space in their lives for all these things."
With the recent release of Promised Land– her first album in three years– propelling her on a cross-country tour, Williams soon swings by Charlottesville's Gravity Lounge. Having last performed in Charlottesville at the now defunct Starr Hill in 2005, Williams returns to a changed Charlottesville music scene– as a changed musician.
The Hook: Your music is said to mature as you do. Is that true for Promised Land?
Dar Williams: As I get older, I laugh more at how my insides become more irreverent. I'm becoming wiser, looking at mistakes I make, realizing how important it is to be a fool for God, as a friend says.
The Hook: Fans have waited three years after My Better Self, so how does Promised Land reflect that longer process?
DW: Things got really good in the sense that if you're in college and you can take a lot of different courses, and if you go interdisciplinary, that can be a really cool way to learn new things. I was getting involved with my community and my personal life as a parent and because I live in a cool town, writing, touring– everything was cross-disciplinary.
The Hook: How did you prepare for the new album?
DW: For a year before I went into the studio, I consciously took the time to walk in big open spaces, especially contemporary art museums, with provocative stuff around me to twist my brain around. I chose Brad [Wood, best known for his producing work for Liz Phair and Veruca Salt] as my producer. Everything he does just creates this quality of air, so you can hear the space as well as the instrument. My writing M.O. has always been to seek out open spaces.
The Hook: How did Wood help bring out your message?
DW: Brad is my professor of rock. He's very good at doing what they did in his favorite era, '78-'81. There's a focus on lyrics and clean, acoustic guitar. I really enjoyed his encyclopedic knowledge and how opinionated he was. Some men can't really hear women's voices at all or have too many issues and can't listen. Brad is one of those people who loves women, and when we were in the studio together, there was a really playful quality to it and a lot of laughing and listening– which is really good for a project.
The Hook: You worked with a new group of musicians on Promised Land. How will we see that displayed at Gravity?
DW: It made enough of a difference that I chose to tour with a trio of percussion and keyboard instead of piano and guitar– it was a keyboard-driven project. We'll play half of the new album and bring other songs into the set, and I'll do a couple of solo songs. I'm very pleased with a trio– it propels the whole sound, yet you can focus on the lyrics if you want.