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Interview – Karl S. Williams



Who are you and what are you doing here?

My name is Karl S. Williams and I am a musician from the Gold Coast in Queensland. I play my own style of music which is a pretty broad agglomeration of folk and blues but I unify it under the banner of ‘blues’ because in my heart, I want for the music to always hold as its central tenet this particular type of feeling that runs through the core of every living soul. That’s ‘The Blues’. When did you know you wanted to pursue music as a career? I think I knew the moment I picked up a guitar (which happened rather late for me, about the age of 19 years) I resisted for as long as I could but after trying a few other occupations, my soul wasn’t in the best shape and I just couldn’t really focus. I kept hearing music in my head at work and I figure it wasn’t fair on them to pay me when I was so distracted all the time trying to write down what I heard. It is less of a career and more a compulsion.


How would you describe your music?

I’m trying to sound like the earth and mud. Simple yet complex. Unadorned yet beautiful. Whether I’m wringing the neck of some old guitar or my Bettie Mae (that’s my banjo), or running my busted hands over a beautiful piano. I’m always reaching beyond the notes for the emotion that’s hiding in the shadow. I’m always trying to play something with all the artifice cut off and hopefully just the kernel of truth remains.


If you had to choose one song you’ve written that best defines your sound which one would it be?

I fear that I have not yet reached that pinnacle where I have written one song that defines my sound. It may be a life’s work, but perhaps a good starting point would be my newest single, “Is This Love?” It’s a piano ballad, influenced by Nina Simone and Antony Hegarty so stylistically it’s somewhat removed from the bulk of my repertoire which leans more toward the blues. Nevertheless, it’s representative in that I feel it evokes a pretty universal emotional response and that is the main goal for me when writing a song; to find a subject that is so essential as to be universally applicable and then to articulate it in such a way as to let people really feel as they can inhabit the song. It’s a transcendental goal, maybe vainglorious but I feel it’s worth pursuing.


In this day and age where anyone is pretty much able to pick up an instrument, what would you say sets you apart from the rest?

It’s a good time to be alive, that music is accessible to all. I like to believe it always has been, as long as you can sing in the shower or clap your hands you can make music. Nevertheless, I get what you’re driving at, the internet really makes it possible to release music globally that you can make in your bedroom, and that is a very wondrous thing. If anything sets me apart aside from my old weird sounding voice, I suppose I would say that it’s the way my music can strike the heart in a certain way and leave it ringing. It may not strike everybody so, but I’m attempting to appeal to the essential parts of our humanity and so far I may have found one or two moments that reached the deeper place. I have a long way to go yet in this quest but this seems to be the thing that most people share with me about their own connection with my songs.


Where are people able to hear your songs?

I have a website, www.karlswilliams.com and you can listen to my music through there. I just released a video for my song ‘Is This Love?’ so you can hear that one on YouTube (and a few others that I filmed sitting in a field or a room hereabouts). If you don’t object to Spotify then hat’s an option too. Furthermore, I’ve had a lot of support from community radio stations, ABC Gold Coast is very kind and also my friends at Rabbit Radio here at home which goes out online. I just talked to a gentleman from ABC in Alice Springs the other day, so mercifully they’re playing it out there too!


Are you playing any shows anytime soon?

Absolutely, it looks like I’ll be on tour from March into May so far. Starting with a support run with an amazing band from New Zealand called Trinity Roots. That finishes at the end of March and then I start a headlining tour for my latest single ‘Is This Love?’ that runs all the way through April. Somewhere in the middle I’ll be playing Bluesfest in Byron Bay which may be my most anticipated gig to date and I also get to do a couple of side shows with Mr Donovan Frankenreiter. Beyond that I’m looking forward to The Big Pineapple festival on the Sunshine Coast in May.


What is your proudest moment/greatest achievement as a musician?

Well, being offered a gig at Bluesfest was a really proud moment, I was kind of incredulous because it’s such an institution (and Peter Noble used the word zeitgeist in his announcement!) I truly feel a sense of pride (though it’s a sin they say… fulfillment?) every day I get to live solely to make music. It’s nice to look ahead and feel like I could build a life upon songs.


Tell us 3 bands that we should be listening to/be keeping an eye out for?

Well, my good friend Marcus Blacke is about to go make a masterpiece in the USA. He has an album out already and one in the bag but this next creation will be his opus, I’m certain of it. He calls it gothic folk, and there’s certainly an aspect of the American Gothic to his wordsmithery, which is beautiful and damaged all at once. Add to that some really ornate fingerpicking and you have something really special. Secondly, on my last tour I had a beautiful songwriter called Leah Senior join me at The Old Bar in Fitzroy. Leah delivered a set of these exquisitely wrought folk songs, the like of which are rare in this world. It called to mind that particular melancholy of artists like Karen Dalton or Linda Perhacs, just an alien talent that seems to come out of time. I get up and holler a lot, but she could whisper and shake the foundations because every word carried such a weight of intent and emotion. She has a debut album coming out soon and I can’t wait to play it on every rainy day henceforth. Thirdly, I would like to shine a light on my friends Jimmy The Saint and The Sinners. Jimmy is like Dr John and he just wails and sweats like a mad creature while the band, The Sinners, beat out this really authentic swampy sound. It’s brutal and beautiful, the kind of music that provokes full body convulsions and feels as much like some backwater religious ceremony as a concert (they’ve never been too far removed anyhow). Hallelujah.


Anything Else you’d like to add?

Thank you to everyone who has had faith in me, and any who come to feel the same. I am about to make my second album and I really hope to reward your faith with something of transcendent beauty for all the world. In any case, that is the goal every night for the rest of my days.

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Interview – Karl S. Williams (plus single stream)