A tune of one’s own

Holly Williams’ original Americana at MU Hamilton

By Justin Kreitzer

Photo: Holly Williams performs Nov. 14 at Miami University in Hamilton; photo: Heather Baker

Nashville-based singer-songwriter Holly Williams comes from country music royalty—her father is Hank Williams Jr. and her grandfather is Hank Williams. That kind of pressure and the lofty expectations could have easily persuaded Holly from a music career, but she has carved out an impressive music career of her own with three critically-acclaimed albums including her most recent album, The Highway, released in 2013.

Holly Williams is touring this fall in anticipation of a soon-to-be-recorded new album and will play a show at the Hamilton campus of Miami University in Parrish Auditorium—as part of the Miami University Regional Artist Series—on Nov. 14.  Singer-songwriter Heather Maloney will open.

The Dayton City Paper spoke with Holly about her family, upcoming album plans, her retail career and more.

Obviously your name attracts a lot of attention. Despite that, how do you think you stand out as an artist in the crowded music scene in Nashville? 

Holly Williams: I’m actually not in the country music scene so it’s nice not to have that pressure of living up to my dad’s successes or other artists in town! I’m in the Americana genre with artists such as Patty Griffin, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell, Brandy Clark, Lucinda Williams, etc. I’m a singer/songwriter just following my musical passions, and they’re very different than what is being played on country radio right now!

Who are some of your musical influences? 

HW: I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, all the great songwriters! I discovered them early on; we were never really around the country music scene. My dad spent time with us on the farm, not at concerts, so that was nice quality time with him!  

In addition to your music, you have also created the successful Nashville-based women’s boutique, H. Audrey and White’s Mercantile that you describe as a “general store for the modern-day tastemaker.”  What was the impetus to get into the retail business and has that experience influenced your music in any way?  

HW: I have a family history of retail! White’s is named after my maternal grandparents and my great-grandpa owned a mercantile in Louisiana. Hank and Audrey Williams owned one of Nashville’s first clothing stores on Broadway called the Western Corral. I love business, making business plans, looking at P&L statements, buying, merchandising, helping customers, all that nerdy stuff! Whitesmercantile.com just launched so you can shop for all of the best things I have found from touring right there on the website. It’s nice to come home from a long tour and get into a different mindset for a little bit. It’s still very creative, but just in a completely different way.

Your most recent album, The Highway, was released back in 2013. Do you have plans to release a new album and if so, where are you in that creative process? 

HW: Yes! Writing at the moment and really excited to go into the studio in February with acclaimed producer Dave Cobb (he has produced Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton among others). Can’t wait to work with him and get new music out!

Will you be playing any of the new songs on this tour?  

HW: At the moment I’m sticking to songs off this record because fans are still loving them and I have never played this market before! I’m really stoked to bring these songs to a new fan base. Hank Williams once said, “If a song can’t be written in 10 minutes it ain’t worth writing.”

“Drinkin’,” the opening track on The Highway, with its close-knit harmonies and lovelorn lyrics recalls the spirit of Hank Williams, in my opinion, and is my favorite on the album.  What inspired that song?  

HW: Oh, thank you so much! That is one of my favorites and one of those 10-minute songs that came out of nowhere! I sure do wish I had those experiences more, haha!

Several standout songs on The Highway are duets with male vocalists such as Jakob Dylan, Jackson Browne and Dierks Bentley. How do you replicate that in a live setting?

HW: My husband tries to be as good as those boys (and he is!), if only all of those guests could sing with me every night!

What can new listeners expect from a Holly Williams show?

HW: It’s a very intimate acoustic songwriter’s show. You will hear lots of stories, and really get the meaning behind these songs. Some fans of my daddy come expecting a big band and a rowdy show; it’s definitely not that though those shows are a great deal of fun to be at! It will be a trio [in an] acoustic setting. I sing some covers of a few favorite artists like John Prine and Bonnie Raitt. I can’t wait!

Holly Williams and Heather Maloney will perform on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Miami University in Hamilton in Parrish Auditorium, 1601 University Blvd. in Hamilton. Advance tickets priced at $12-22 plus fees are available by calling 513.529.3200 or online at miamioh.edu/boxoffice. For more info visit hollywilliams.com. 

Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at JustinKreitzer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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