On the heels of his latest album ‘VAPE,’ Keller Williams performs at State Bridge
If you go ...
Who: Keller Williams.
When: Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m., music at 8 p.m.
Where: State Bridge amphitheater, Bond.
Cost: Tickets start at $25.
More information: Visit http://www.statebridge.com.
BOND — When Keller Williams got started on the music scene in the early ’90s, his goals were simple: make a living playing music.
“However that was achieved was what it was,” Williams said. “I was prepared for the bucket seat bed in the truck stops and the rest areas. I didn’t really think much past that.”
Twenty years later, and with 20 albums to his name, Williams certainly isn’t sleeping in trucks. But based on his demeanor, you somehow wouldn’t be surprised if he were. Despite having thousands of fans around the world, Williams is still down to earth and approachable. To most of his fans, he’s known simply as “Keller.” He built his reputation initially on his engaging live performances. No two are ever alike. For most of his career he has performed solo. His stage shows are rooted around singing his compositions and choice cover songs while accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. With the use of today’s technology, Williams creates samples on the fly in front of the audience, a technique called live phrase sampling or looping. With nothing pre-recorded, the end result often leans toward a hybrid of alternative folk and groovy electronica. A genre he jokingly calls “acoustic dance music.”
Like the rest of Williams’ albums — “Freek,” “Home,” “Kids,” “Thief” and “Bass” among them — he named his latest album with another single-syllable title: “Vape,” which was released on the apropos date of April 20. On the album, which features 10 original compositions, Williams is backed by a variety of fellow musicians including Samson Grisman on bass, John Kadlecik on guitar, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Rob McCoury on banjo, Alan Bartram on bass, Jason Carter on fiddle and others.
Williams returns to State Bridge tonight, where he’ll perform a solo set as well as a set with singer and guitarist Larry Keel and his wife, singer and bassist Jenny Keel, a string trio project dubbed Keller & the Keels.
Williams took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: Tell us how your stuff with the Keels is different from your solo set? What can people expect from the evening overall?
Keller Williams: Keller & the Keel is psychedelic Appalachian freak-grass, and the solo looping set is more like my “day job” of trying to create acoustic dance music. It’s a big difference, at least to me. I also play completely different instruments in each set. With the Keels I play the role of mandolin player. The solo set is rooted in solo acoustic music with every other song focusing on loops created live onstage, with nothing pre-recorded. The Keels and I are three friends playing music together on stage at the same time. They’re both real yet completely different, so people can expect two completely different sets.
VD: Is it strange to share your name with a realty company?
KW: I was thinking about changing my name to Sherman Williams. The real estate company is actually two different guys, last name Keller, last name Williams. I’ve actually heard they are really cool dudes. My mom wrote them letters back in the ’90s urging them to hire me for the corporate picnics, but they never did. I met one of their sons in a disco at 5 a.m. on Jam Cruise; that was an interesting conversation.
VD: What’s your goals for the next decade?
KW: To continue to create interesting music that entertains me. And to teach my 10 year old how to drive stick shift. Don’t worry, I have a long driveway.
VD: What inspires you? Does making music ever feel like a job?
KW: Occasionally I have to draw on my inner thespian, but not often.
VD: I love the “Donuts” song on “Vape.” Tell us about its origin.
KW: Paul’s Bakery is an iconic place in Fredericksburg, Virginia. When Paul’s son took over, he had an idea: Get local musicians to record songs about the bakery and sell them online. People walk into the bakery, play the song and get a free doughnut. I’m not sure whatever happened with that project.
VD: Why have you always stuck with one-syllable album names?
KW: The idea of the monosyllabic title was to simply describe the entire vibe of the compilation of music with one syllable. Something simple that was very prominent in the recording sessions.
VD: What are you most excited for as far as upcoming shows, projects, etc., this summer?
KW: I’m most excited about my upcoming trio project with Jeff Sipe on drums and Rob Wasserman on bass. We have a bunch of dates coming up in late summer and fall. I’m really excited about the possibilities of the music that can be made with these musicians. A live record might be in our future.