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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | July 12, 2020

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Interview: Karl S. Williams

Interview: Karl S. Williams

| On 25, Sep 2014

The banjo-slinging, guitar-killing and equally impressive piano-shredding Karl S. Williams is a gifted muso who can paint a musical masterpiece with each note he sings, strums, picks and taps.

He is the industry’s up-and-coming Da Vinci, with a soulful talent that will confound your expectations.

After the release of his musical offering Heartwood back in August, and a quick trip around the nation with fellow six-string-weilders Busby Marou, Williams touched back down in Brisbane for BIGSOUND where we had the opportunity to catch up with the self-defined ‘musical fool’.

Karl Other

CD: When did you first start playing music?

Karl: When I was 19 I first picked up a guitar. So that was 12 years, too many years, ago.

CD: What influenced you to start?

Karl: I’d always had an interest in it but I didn’t own an instrument or picked up one before. My parents bought me my first guitar and it just felt really natural.

CD: What artists influenced you when you were a young musician?

Karl: Certainly a lot of delta blues artists. Son House was a big one. Robert Johnson, of course. I was also a big fan of Blind Willie Johnson.

CD: Where does your inspiration come from?

Karl: I seem to find it everywhere. Life tends to be very inspiring.

CD: Do you have any favourite artists now that you didn’t know when you first started playing music?

Karl: Yeah, so many! Steve Smyth is a very great artist who I feel a lot of kinship with. I love James Blake too. The new Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen are great as well. There’s just so much great music out there.

CD: So your album ‘Heartwood’ that was released in August was actually a re-release?

Karl: Yeah it was. I first released it independently in August last year. Fortunately the Footstomp Records people found it somehow and wanted to re-release it. So we went into the studio and recorded three new songs for the album.

Karl album cover

CD: Which three were the new songs?

Karl: Time Bomb, Golden Tears and Seeing Stars.

CD: Did you make any changes to the original songs?

Karl: No we didn’t. We left them as is, although I think they may have been re-mastered. Structurally we didn’t touch them.

CD: Did your producers Mark Meyers and Yanto Brown have a lot of influence over how it turned out?

Karl: Not as much as maybe some producers do. Usually when I write a song I don’t think about modifying it. But when we worked with Mark, who’s previously done some work with the Middle East, he would come in and make suggestions about trimming intros and adding extra choruses, which was a new experience for me. I worked with Yanto previously on the original recordings, so he’s always been very willing to facilitate my ideas. So, it wasn’t really a prescriptive sort of thing, it was more like we were bouncing a few ideas back and forth, and I was open to any suggestions they made. Their ideas were fortunately all in line with what I had in my mind originally.

CD: You also drew all the album artwork yourself. Is that another creative outlet for you?

Karl: Absolutely.

Karl album art

 CD: Do you have any other creative outlets or secret talents no one knows about?

Karl: [Laughs] not that I can think of. I like to try my hand at all sorts of things. I’m about to try and do some video editing, so that should be fun.

CD: You just came off tour with Busby Marou. How was that?

Karl: It was really great. Those guys are a lot of fun and really welcoming, so it was such a pleasure to travel with them and Darren Middleton as well. There were a lot of family vibes floating around that tour. 

CD: When you perform it looks like you lose yourself in your performance, is that what it’s like for you?

Karl: Yeah, it’s very much an unconscious thing a lot of the time. I am aware of the crowd and everything else going on but it does feel like a different state of consciousness for me.

Karl S. Williams

CD: Have you started working on your second album at all?

Karl: I’ve been doing a lot of writing, but I haven’t made any definite steps towards it. I guess the re-release of Heartwood is still pretty fresh, so we’ve been focused on giving that it’s time in the sun. I’ve certainly been thinking a lot about the next album.

CD: Any ideas of how it’s going to sound?

Karl: Angel Olsen’s first album is really quite sparse recording, and I’d love to do something like that.

CD: When do you expect you’ll start recording?

Karl: It will probably be mid-way through next year. The sooner the better, and I think I’ll probably be doing a few things over the next couple of months just towards demo-ing and trying out new things in different studios. But I think it will begin in earnest around mid-next year. 

karl live again

CD: What’s next for you?

Karl: I’m going to CMJ Festival in New York at the end of October, so that’s really the next big thing for me.

CD: Have you been to America before?

Karl: No, I’ve never been overseas.

CD: How exciting! Are you nervous about travelling overseas?

Karl: I’m probably more nervous about the size of New York. I’ve never been in a very large city before, I’ve always lived in small towns.

CD: How long are you going there for?

Karl: I’ll be over there for a couple of weeks, and then we’re coming back and doing some festivals like Festival of the Sun and Bridgetown Blues.

CD: Have you got your own tour planned for the future?

Karl: Yes, I think around those festival dates in November and December we’re going to try structure a proper album launch tour.

Image credit: Festival of the Sun lineup page and Karl S. Williams official Facebook page and Bandcamp.