KELLER WILLIAMS : : THE NEXT STAGE

 
"Well, I can relate artistically and I think they [Phish] are looking at it for themselves too as well for the sake of history... I think that they did a really noble thing, to quit while you're ahead."
--Keller Williams
Photo by C Taylor Crothers
 

Well, I think that for an opening act such as myself (laughs), in that realm of shows, that's the pristine, sweetest opening act that you can have. I guess when The Dead was touring and playing all the stadiums, that DMB was pretty much the pristine opening act, and I guess Dave is kind of stirring away from the stadiums, you know, which is kind of good for him because 20,000 people feels a bit more intimate then 80,000 (laughs). That's funny, to think that 20,000 is more intimate (laughs). But the way we went about it was that we put it out to them that if they were ever interested in having us that we would do it, I don't think we were actually seeking it out, I think it was more general knowledge that if you are where I am at right now, then you are more than welcome and willing to open for someone where he is, and I am just blown away at how far Dave Matthews has come. I mean I used to see him at the same places I was seeing Phish, you know, there was this one summer where he would play every Tuesday at Trax, every Wednesday at The Flood Zone and every Thursday at The Bayou in D.C., and those shows would be free. I mean completely free. So that summer, he had built this huge Virginia-based following and just took it from there. It was really exciting to watch his rise to fame. You know, in the beginning he was just this bar band with this different, unique thing going on with the fiddle and sax, all monstrous amazing quality music instructors for music. I really like Dave Matthews in the sense of a musician, and he really sticks to the acoustic, and I really appreciate acoustic music, and I love his sarcasm in his interviews, I just think that is really cool. One way that we differ is that I read that for Dave when everything is bright and happy, he doesn't really feel like writing, but when things are dark and dreary, he gets into the writing phase a bit more. Whereas I am a little bit more inspired by the things that are good. I am kind of writing in the other direction, with the more upbeat positive aspects of things. He still has definitely had some hits that I really like, and I could sing 12 Dave Matthews hits and the wild thing is, that if you go and see him, or at least when I went and saw him, I only recognized a few tunes, so it seemed that he doesn't stick with the one hit show. I really find that I respect that about him. It's like there are these people who hear him on the radio and go to the shows just to hear the hits, but there is this multiple millions of people that really follow his career very closely and they are there to hear the stuff that is much deeper that doesn't get played on the radio, and I can totally relate to that.

So then after the festivals and the stint with Dave Matthews Band, you are going out with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and Yonder Mountain String Band. That's such an amazing lineup to go out on the road together. Is that just happening on the East Coast?


Keller Williams :: Bonnaroo 03 by David Vann
I think it goes around the Midwest and the East Coast. There are two different segments of the tour. It's more like two weeks on and then one week off and two weeks on again, that type of thing. Yonder and I will be rotating and there will be some venues I will go on first and other places they will go on first. It's pretty much a nightly rotation, I think.

I would imagine that you are pretty excited to be playing these shows with the Flecktones, as I know that Victor Wooten is a huge influence on you and someone you have looked up to in the past.

Yeah, he has been a huge influence and inspiration. Just that whole bill though, I mean Yonder too, these young, youthful, hungry guys who are continuing on this old tradition of bluegrass music in that actual tradition of acoustic style but even taking it further and taking away the stage monitors and plugging in their instruments so they can crank 'em (laughs). That is just so cool, you know. But, I love bluegrass music so much, and I love the crazy space jazz of the Flecktones too, and I am just really excited about this bill.

Moving onto your writing styles--you seem to bust out quite a few new tunes as each tour comes around. Do you find that you are writing constantly or is it an on-the-whim type of thing? It seems to me that through many shows, there's never a lack of new material with you.


By Adam George
Oh cool man, that's so great to hear, thank you. Actually, I'm lucky to get about ten songs a year and some of those songs die a quick death at that. Music is something that is a constant in my head, though, whether it be something I wrote or not. The stuff that I cover usually just takes me over without me having to learn it. You know, all of a sudden I am singing along and I pick up the guitar and I can just play it. It feels more as though the song absorbs me rather then me the song, so going back again, that is also how I choose my covers.

One thing about your new release Stage that I was really excited about was that it includes some of the newer material like "Keep it Simple" and "Novelty Song." It's giving some people a chance to hear the newer stuff that they might not have been able to hear live over the past year or so. It's great to get those recorded and out on an official release.


By Zack Smith
That's super cool of you to notice that, Matt, because that's exactly what it is. A lot of times people want to record the songs in the studio and then if they do a live album it might be included on that live version. When I put out my first live album, Loop, which came out in 2000, it had a few songs on there that had not been recorded before, and that was exciting, but the majority of the stuff that I do in the studio has been road-tested for a good year or so. This next studio album I'm going to do this winter is going to have a lot of songs that if people have been to my shows and paying attention, they will recognize these songs that have been around for about a year or so.

So when you go back into the studio for this project, are you going to be heading in alone like you did on the last album Home or are you going to have other musicians like you have done on other albums like Laugh with Dave Watts and Tye North and of course Breathe with the String Cheese Incident?

This next record is actually going to be full of guests, lots and lots of guests. Nothing has been nailed down or completely decided about this record, but I am going big as far as the word big goes, big in my world (laughs). I'm actually very excited to talk about it, but I probably shouldn't at this point.

(Laughs) Fair enough.


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