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Why Keller Williams is so unique

Why Keller Williams is so unique

Who else plays acoustic dance music?
Why Keller Williams is so unique
Keller Williams is at The Egg on Thursday night.
Photographer: Provided

There’s no one else who genre hops quite like Keller Williams. 

The prolific artist, who has released over 20 albums, is slated to take his unique style to The Egg on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Although one of his latest albums is an acoustic album, Williams is well-known for what he calls his ADM (or acoustic dance music) style. He fuses folk with jazz and electronic to create a unique style that’s put him on “Entertainment Weekly's" list of top concerts to see this year. 

Here, we talk to the artist about how he got his start and some of his weirdest concert experiences. 

Question: What got you into playing in the first place?

Answer: Buck Owens and Roy Clark. They were the guys pickin' and grinnin' on a show called “Hee Haw,” back in the '70s. My parents knew one of the girls popping out of the cornfields in the show so they watched it a lot. I would always pretend [to play] at an early age and then a friend showed me some chords when I was about 13 or 14. I had my first paying gig when I was about 16 so I went off at an early age. 

Q: Right, a paid gig at 16 is pretty good.

A: Yeah, and at that time the minimum wage was about $3.35. Working temporary construction jobs, hard hat boots in the summer, scraping mortar out of concrete walls, you make the same amount playing on a stool in a country club or something. That’s when I knew I could possibly avoid getting a job. 

Q: How did you come up with your acoustic dance music style?

A: I guess it starts with a love of electronic dance music. I’ve always been an acoustic guy, I’ve been in electronic bands but my main stable day-job is acoustic music. But opposites attract so I’ve had this unhealthy obsession with electronic dance music. What I’m trying to do is follow the formula of electronic dance music, where the tension builds and the groove, the funk and some of the darkness. Everyone listening is on the same page and knows where the drop is going to be. I try to incorporate that into acoustic music with acoustic bass and drums. But realistically my show is a looping thing where I’m creating samples on the fly, nothing is pre-recorded. However, coming to The Egg I’ll be bringing one of my favorite bass players of all times, Danton Boller. He’s in my band called “KWahtro.” This is a long time coming, something I’ve been really wanting to do; acoustic bass and guitar.

Q: How often are people getting up and dancing versus sitting down [at your shows]?

A: It depends on if there are actual seats. I don’t ordinarily play places with seats, but I did 27 shows as a co-bill with Leo Kottke, who is this amazing guitarist who is one of my heroes. It was all really nice theaters and performing arts centers and that’s where my record called “Raw” came from. [It] was from that tour, of not having anything to represent that type of show, which is just a sit-down show and focusing on my songs that get overlooked in a dance vibe, [they’re] more story-telling songs that you really have to listen to. [However] normally, people are dancing. There [are] places I [perform] that I was going to in my teens and early 20s to see these shows that are pin-drop quiet. Skip ahead to ten years and I get to actually play these places and it is not pin-drop quiet, far, far from it. 

Q: Your album [titles] are often just one capitalized word. [Any reason] why?

A: Well it started in ‘94 with my first record, “FREEK,” just the playing on the word “free” and then putting a little “k” on the end. By ‘94, I was trying to do the most with the absolute least. I had very little money but so much fun and a lot of passion. The idea is to describe the entire compilation of songs with one appropriate syllable. So each record presented that syllable.  In hindsight, we could have put nouns and adjectives and created an endgame sentence but that never to pass. 

Q: You have a lot of hilarious song titles. What are some of your favorites that you’ve come up with over the years?

A: "Butass Nipple," that’s one of my favorites and it just means that it’s really cold. It’s an instrumental song, so what do you do with an instrumental song? “Dance of the Freak” I like that one. 

Q: What’s one of the strangest things that have ever happened to you while you [were] performing?

A: Oh, that’s easy. I was in Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida, beautiful amphitheater, a natural bowl, trees, Spanish moss hanging down. I opened my eyes to see a circle in the crowd right in front of me. No one was really freaking out but what had happened was a big branch had fallen from a tree [and] hit a guy in the head and he was laying on the ground. On the limb was a giant snake that had half a squirrel in its mouth. The whole time I’m sitting there playing, the EMT rushing in and the game warden rushes in with a sack and a stick. Then I finished the song. It’s a pretty long song.

Keller Williams

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: The Egg
TICKETS: $29.50
BUY: theegg.org

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