10/1/09 Spiewak Outerwear's interview with Tim Williams, Brooklyn-based musician and crooner extraordinaire
How would you describe your musical style? How has it evolved over the years?
My songs are based on lyrics and chord progression. My musical style has evolved as I’ve evolved. In high school I played drums and was really into punk rock. I listened to a lot of Southern California bands like Social Distortion even though the cornfields of Ohio surrounded me. I still love bands like that even if they were a bit out of place. Later on I found something more appropriate to the grayness and rain of Ohio in Brit-pop bands like Blur and Oasis.
Your new album Careful Love is due out Oct 20th on Dovecote Records. How does it differ from 2007’s When Work is Done?
The first thing people will notice is that my new album is 98% electric guitar. My other albums have been acoustic based.
Who or what influenced the songs you wrote for Careful Love?
A few things: I had open heart surgery in May 2008 to have a pulmonary valve replaced, which was a correction of a surgery I had as a child. It’s never convenient to fit a heart surgery into your life, but I eventually had to have it done. I went to California last year for the first time. Living in New York City you’re trained to hate L.A. But after I went to California, I realized that I like warm weather and palm trees. A friend from New York was in L.A. helping me recover from heart surgery, and we ended up falling in love. She helped me realize I wasn’t a broken soul after going through that ordeal.
I wrote all the songs for the album in one week and recorded them shortly after. So each track is very connected to all the others. I know people tend to download one or two songs. But I hope they will listen to the album as a whole, because all the songs feed off each other.
Your last album in 2007 was a solo record. For Careful Love you partnered with keyboardist Misty Boyce and guitarist Matt Welsh of Phonograph. How is working in a band different than being a solo artist?
It’s been really nice. I don’t feel all of the pressure. I can relax and enjoy it more. As a solo artist you have hired guns helping you, but they don’t own the project. Misty and Matt are as much a part of this album as I am. It’s more of a family vibe on stage. I’ve never been part of a band professionally like this. So this really excites me.
I heard you stayed in The Hotel Chelsea in 2004 when recording a previous album. What was that experience like? When I first moved to New York, I lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn when it wasn’t a very desirable area. Today people want to live in the huge abandoned warehouses there. But when I lived there, no one wanted to be there. It was so loud. I’d be trying to record demo tracks, and planes from JFK would be flying overhead, while the train was shaking my apartment from below. I couldn’t write and make good music there. So I booked a room at The Hotel Chelsea in 2004. It’s an ideal place for writing. The work I did at The Hotel Chelsea culminated in Tales of Digression, which was my first dance record. Ha - joking of course.
A lot of legendary artists have lived at The Hotel Chelsea like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious, and Andy Warhol’s entourage. So much history there. Did you pick up on any of those vibes while you stayed there?
Yes, it kind of seeps out of the walls. There are beautiful, huge paintings that line the hallways there. I think a lot of artists must have given their paintings to the hotel instead of paying rent. It’s one of those places where you can escape Manhattan, even though you’re right in the middle of it.
Which musicians or artists have influenced you most?
Recently I’ve been listening to Loudon Wainwright III who is a folk singer. He is Rufus Wainwright’s father. I remember buying Loudon’s live album, Career Moves, when I was in high school, because I liked the album cover. Then it stayed in my album collection, untouched for years. I started listening to it after all these years, and it really spoke to me. Also I’ve been reading a lot. Paul Auster’s book Timbuktu has influenced me and my songs quite a bit.
What is in your iPod right now?
I think I’ve listened about a million times to a song called Rain by Patty Griffin. It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard. But there’s something very comforting about it. I’m really drawn to sad. I’m trying to listen to less pop music, so I’ve been downloading a lot of podcasts like Fresh Air and This American Life. I’m a big NPR nerd.
You travel quite a bit to promote your albums. Any places or experiences from the road that stick out in your mind?
My favorite show was in Eastbourne, England. We had just played in Brighton, and everyone was telling us Eastbourne was a retirement community. They called it Granny Town. We almost cancelled the show. But we went and had a such a great show. It was this beautiful seaside town. All the kids were so enthusiastic- they had bought out all our albums and merchandise. Not everyone can live in New York City. I grew up in small towns in Ohio. So I can appreciate that small towns need some lovin’ too.
What is your personal style?
I like clean lines and well-fitted clothes. I’m not going to wear something with a big pony on it. I think quality clothing speaks for itself.
What cities or stores do you like to shop in?
I’ve been addicted to this place Built by Wendy in Brooklyn. The stores in London are great. It’s pricier, but the clothing there is nicely fitted, even in vintage stores. I lived in Nashville for a year, and they have some really cool stores as well.
Where can we hear you next?
I’ll be playing at the Rockwood Music Hall in the Lower East Side (in Manhattan) on October 14th. Then I’ll be playing five shows in three or four days at CMJ Music Festival in Manhattan the following week.