Taken from RICentral (Aug 04, 2017)
Keller Williams steams into The Wheel House
by DANNY EMERMAN
NARRAGANSETTâIn San Francisco last summer, I once saw a street performer create his own instrumentâa sort of Swiss Army Knife of music. His gimmick allowed him to simultaneously play the drums, guitar, piano and the saxophone.
Keller Williams, who is scheduled to perform in Narragansett at The Wheel House on Aug. 4 is no gimmick, though his artistic versatility and ambidexterity make his sound unique.
Williams, who has revolutionized a new genreâhe calls it acoustic dance musicâswitches between multiple instruments and âloopsâ his voice, whistling, or a riff of a guitar to create a harmonious melody.
âBasically, I have these machines that are essentially delay units,â he explains. âWhat I do is step on a button and sing or play something. Then I step on the same button in time and it repeats what I just played or sang. Once that initial loop is created, I can layer on a bass line or a drum line and then have this layer that I just created in front of an audience that I could sing over and solo over. Nothing is pre-recorded. Everything is created onstage in front of the audience.â
Although he has worked with other musicians before, he more often performs his solo act.
âMusically, Iâve played by myself more than not. Iâm very comfortable playing solo. Itâs kind of like my day job, you know? Itâs my normal gig,â Williams said.
With so much action onstage, Williams is a dynamic, exciting performer. He is like a quarterback in that he maintains complete control over his sound, but he does not consider himself a perfectionist.
âOh God no. Far, far from it,â he said with a charming southern accent.
Williams did not start performing alone on stage by choice; he was just trying to make ends meet and playing in a band where the other members share the profits just wasnât in the cards.
âThe solo thing just kind of happened out of necessity, just wanting to make a living without getting a job,â Williams said playfully. âAs time went on, I could actually afford to play with other musicians and Iâve gotten lucky that so many of them have let me into their world.â
He considers the âother musiciansâ who have influenced the evolution of his music a luxury. Some artists that have inspired his artistic growth include the Grateful Deadâs Bob Weir, banjo master BĂ©la Fleck, bass great Victor Wooten, American musician/poet Michael Franti and many others.
âIâve gotten contact with more humans who have allowed me into their worlds and I have been surrounding myself with more amazing musicians,â he said.
If Williams is a quarterback, his touchdownsâhit songsâare âFreeker by the Speakerâ (2.5 million streams on Spotify), âDoobie in my Pocketâ (1.1 million) and âBest Feelingâ (1 million). However, a more obscure song, âI Am Elvis,â is the tune that most encapsulates who Williams is an artist.
âIf you listen to [âI Am Elvisâ], it speaks to how I live inside my imagination. The song is very tongue-and-cheek all over the place, but thatâs kind of the whole gist of my music. Itâs not taking myself or my music too seriously,â Williams said.
âItâs focusing on entertaining, first and foremost, myself. My career is a relentless pursuit of entertaining myself, and it starts with me having fun first before I ever imagine anyone in the crowd having fun. I take having fun very seriously,â he added.
One of Williamsâ most impressive skills has nothing to do with performing. By churning out 21 albumsâall with one-syllable titlesâsince 1994, nearly one record every year, the artist has proved to be a prolific songwriter. Williams says that songwriting used to come easy for him, but then he slowed down as he had his kids Cabell, 9, and Ella, 12.
âThere was definitely a huge period of creative writing musically, lyrically, for a long timeâŠand then I had kids. And once you have kids, some people get even more inspired to write. For me, the songwriting was all about having time off...And once I was too busy for the boredom to kick in, my creativity started to slow,â he said.
Williams released two albums in January: Sync and Raw. The former a collaboration record with acoustic dance ensemble group called KWahtro and the latter being a solo acoustic album true to his signature sound. Williams highlights âCookieâs,â the first track on Raw, as a song heâs most proud of. The upbeat, acoustic ballad is a 5-minute guitar solo addressed to his wife.
In a way, Williamsâ music serves as a diary for himself. He doesnât make his music for his fans, his wife, or his kids; he makes it for himself.
âAll my records are just documents of what Iâm into, where my head is. Theyâre for me to listen to when Iâm old. Sometimes people buy it, sometimes they donât.â
His genuine approach to producing music he enjoys has allowed him to build a loyal fan base, one that travels across the countryâfrom his hometown in Virginia to Narragansettâto see him perform.