Interview with Keller Williams, Playing Tonight at Revolution

Interview with Keller Williams, Playing Tonight at RevolutionEXPAND
photo by C. Taylor Crothers

Touring in support of his 13th album, Odd, Keller Williams is just that. That's meant in the best way possible. The 40-year-old fits the very definition of unique, having toured almost exclusively as a one-man-band since the early '90s. (Exceptions include short stints with String Cheese Incident, Umphrey's McGee, and the WMDS.) Funky, acoustic, and electronic aren't three musical descriptions that often work together, but Williams' somehow manages to be all three, while mastering any instrument he stumbles upon. His lyrics, meanwhile, display an unmatched spunk and humor.


Between a run of Southeast shows last week and three Florida dates this week, I had the privilege to chat with the creative genius known to fans affectionately as K-Dub. We discussed the set-up of his current tour, his new album, and his syndicated radio show, Keller's Cellar. 

Using the jocular "Day at the Office," a favorite track of mine from the new album, as an opportunity to set the scene, I begun by asking Keller to describe his day at the office on this fine Tuesday afternoon. "After taking my five-year-old to school, I ran some errands, you know, hit the post office, grocery store," he recalls.

This may seem, well, odd, considering he is mid-tour, but Keller has finally reached a point in his career where he only plays choice nights. "We've found a nice stride right now being gone 3.5 days and home 3.5 days, and only playing shows on the prime nights of the week," he explains. Now that Keller has two children (the other is two and being watched by Williams' dad as we speak), he stresses the importance of maintaining a balance between his family life and the weekend music scene.  

With a new, streamlined approach, Williams now flies to and from appearances with companion/road manager/sound-tech/harmonizer, Louis Gosain. "In and out and nobody gets hurt," he says, quoting "One Hit Wonder," a brilliantly satirical track off a previous album, Laugh.

His current scaled-down stage show also reflects this new paring-down. "We are focusing on the energy created between me and the audience, and that's different," he says. The multi-instrumentalist's previous Guitar Store Tour featured just that: a guitar store set full of instruments that he used throughout the show. "Without all the tuning and figuring out what songs to play on what guitars, I can just play anything and everything that comes to mind, which is really working for me." 

Williams is, above all, a raconteur, whose songs each boast a lengthy back story. For proof, visit theonceaweekfreek.com. It's a library of information on all tracks on the new album, with full lyrics explanations and many, many bonus audio and video tracks. This has all been available since before the disc's official release date, and it's proved enormously popular. In response to the success of the site, there he continues to share unreleased studio recordings and unique live takes of his popular ditties, every week.

Still, one question had remained unanswered online. Was he happy that Blender magazine folded? There is, after all, a line in "Day at the Office" that more or less tells them to eat shit following a negative review. But the wit-master seems caught off-guard. "It's a sign of the times. Blender was notorious for their dry humor and they always had negative views of the whole jam scene," he says. "[The review] didn't really surprise me. It was one of those things where I was reading it and I wasn't prepared for it. My management didn't tell me that it was there and probably hoped that I didn't see it. But I did, in the airport, and I wasn't mentally ready for it. That was my first and only real major magazine review, my first real heartbreak with mainstream media." 

Williams, obviously, survived, bolstered by his devoted fan base and, these days, his increasingly popular radio show, Keller's Cellar. It's now 144 episodes deep and syndicated to 45 stations across the country (primarily triple-A and college stations). Providing unpredictable playlists, you can expect to hear a mix of popular artists and cult acts with unsigned talent thrown in, as well as a different original theme song each week, penned by Keller. Bands are encouraged to submit their music in hopes of receiving Keller's endorsement.

It's all born out of a true love for music, a fact proved by the the roughly 300 songs in his repertoire. "I'm a music lover first," he says, "a musician second, and a songwriter third."

Keller Williams. 8:30 p.m. Friday, February 26. Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $19. 954-727-0950; jointherevolution.net


-- Matt Beck



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