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Keller Williams’ Mind is Anything but Idle

Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 18:04

Keller Williams

Madison House Publicity

Keller Williams performs at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival on Sunday

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Keller Williams is a rambling man with a new project always on the horizon. The multi-talented musician has tinkered with nearly every music genre from bluegrass to reggae, techno and even a children’s album. The one-man band never stays put for long and is known for indulging his musical desires. Williams has put 17 albums under his belt since 1994 and says there are more still on the way.

In an industry that hardly believes in putting out albums, Williams manages to not only continue making music but finding true joy in it. He is currently touring with The Travelin’ McCourys, and they’re bringing their powerhouse bluegrass to the McDowell Mountain Music Festival on Sunday.


College Times: What’s it like to share the stage and make music with The Travelin’ McCourys?

Keller Williams: It is a complete honor and mystery somehow. I don’t see how I’m worthy. I’m such a fan of theirs. I’ve played with so many people and when we play together there’s this element of respect that I have for them. They’re so real and genuine and they play so perfect. They’ve been all over the world and played with so many amazing people and heroes of mine. I’m right in the middle of it right now, too. We’re mixing the record right now, and I’m listening to a lot of this music we’ve made and putting the final touches on it today and tomorrow.


Was it a collaborative effort?

I brought in a handful of songs. They brought in a handful of songs and it’s definitely a bluegrass pitch. We played it live in a couple of days and it came out pretty genuine.


You have a pretty broad spectrum of music that influences you.

Music is a tricky thing. There’s different kinds of music for different kinds of situations. I have lots of different recordings but there’s also the situations where I’m reaching out and trying to hear something complete new and different and listening to internet radio stations and Rhapsody. I’m constantly filling myself with songs I’ve never heard before, looking for different grooves and things that I’m into. There’s very little silence in my world that’s for sure.


I always considered your music really guitar based. How did your latest (guitar-less) album, Bass, come about?

I’ve always had a love for the instrument. I just wanted to play bass in a group and collected this really cool keyboard three-piece and it turned out to be so different from what I’ve done before on the guitar but not so different to where it was completely foreign. A lot of this type of music makes its way into my solo set and I dedicated the whole record to this type of format. It’s really been exhilarating and fun to drive a musical train on bass. It’s got a lot of power behind it.


It must be pretty liberating to be a solo artist and collaborate with others.

Playing with humans has always been the object and the goal. I’m grateful that people like to hear me as a solo act but, at the same time, I really long and thrive to play with humans. That’s where it’s at for me.


What keeps you motivated to try new things?

Attention Deficit Disorder? It definitely doesn’t hurt when it comes to trying new things and switching it up, staying locked down in the same kind of way and message. My love for different styles of music and my want and longing to do things differently for people who come and see me every year in different times. I don’t want them to be watching the same thing. I want to keep them interested. It’s kind of the goal.


One of the coolest albums you’ve made is your kids album, Kids.

Yeah it took about seven years to come up with 28 minutes of family friendly music but I was really happy with the results. When I set out to make a bunch of records, it seems like an obvious direction to go to at least make one kids record. I’ll be releasing an all-piano record at the end of the year too, so it’s just different concepts that take place and it’s fun and interesting for me.


You seem to always have a hand in something.

Yeah, “an idle mind is the devil’s playground” is what they say and I kind of live by that. I definitely stay busy and then when there’s not something musical happening I’ve got two kids that are 4 and 7 and they keep me up in this world.


McDowellMountainMusic Festival w/The Travelin' McCourys feat. Keller Williams, Soulive, Bob Schneider, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Compound Grill, April 15, 4 p.m., $45

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