By Michele Stevens Bernard, TSB Staff Writer
The first time I met Zane Williams was at an informal backyard potluck gathering. The dinner was put together to bring McKinney’s artists, writers, and musicians together. When I introduced myself to his beautiful wife Jodie and to him, I asked him what he did for a living. He replied, “I’m Buck’s Dad,” referring to the 1 year old, brown-eyed heartbreaker he carried and/or chased around the yard that evening. Needless to say, I’ve been a huge fan ever since.
A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to hear Williams play live, and was blown away. He is as Radney Foster says, “The real deal.” As a writer, I’m attracted to his brilliant storytelling abilities. As a born and raised Texan who enjoys a pure Lone Star sound, I can’t get my boots scooting fast enough to suit me. Radney Foster goes on to say, “[Zane Williams] has the wordsmith chops of a young Guy Clark, and the melodic sense of Rodney Crowell.” Country Weekly Magazine says, “If you’re in the mood for true honky-tonk music, you’re in the right place…” My dancing boots tend to agree.
Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with Zane, to talk about the fun stuff: a new CD, songwriting, being featured in the new television series, Troubadour, TX, slated to air September 21st on the CW network, and of course family. Read on to hear more about how a family man such as Williams is able to enjoy all that he loves.
TSB: Tell us about your new CD, “Ride With Me”
ZW: I used my live band as studio musicians, so what you hear on the CD and what you hear at a show are the same players. For me, it was beneficial to work with the band before we went into the studio. It helped us figure out the arrangements, and most importantly, the end result is a sound that I really hear for my music. We’ve honed in on what the Zane Williams sound is. This CD was able to capture that sound. It has 11 songs, all written by myself, which is pretty unusual. I got started writing alone, and developed that way, and got use to it. I think that makes the music different. It’s more personal, more heartfelt.
TSB: Heartfelt, yes. I know when I listen to your music it evokes emotions.
ZW: I think when you compare my music to music across genre, a lot of music has abstract lyrics that are poetic in nature. I can only write about concrete things that are conversational. When that’s the way you write, the challenge is to not sound corny or cliché. How do you say something that is literal and easy to understand, but isn’t cheesy?
I think the reason my music evokes emotion is because it’s about something. I’m being pretty straightforward about what the song is about. My music tells a story or talks about an outlook or shares an observation about life. I love songs that tell stories.
TSB: How does Zane Williams describe the Zane Williams sound?
ZW: I think it’s a wide open country sound. I think the sound combines lots of different influences: rock, heartland, traditional country and western, folk, blues. I try to keep it to bass, drums, fiddle and lead guitar, some piano. It’s not overproduced. It’s not super complicated. It’s straight forward. I think the strength is in the actual songs themselves.
TSB: You’re an excellent songwriter. You’ve won numerous awards and are well respected by your peers. Where do you think this unique ability to write songs comes from?
ZW: I don’t know. Nobody in my family does this. I didn’t grow up around it. I did grow up taking piano lessons. I would write instrumental piano pieces with no words. I was way more interested in making up my own stuff than doing the assigned lessons [laughs].
When I got a guitar, I started making up words. I was 17, a senior in high school. I got my first girlfriend and my first guitar at about the same time, and I started writing songs for her. I kind of had a knack for it. I continued writing songs through college. I started doing coffee house shows. I never had a band. By the time I graduated college, I had about 30-40 songs, and some I thought were pretty good. I had a little following, so I decided to move to Nashville, and try to make it as a country and western artist. Country is a comfortable genre for me to live in, but the Texas Troubadour style is probably the best fit for me of all, though.
TSB: I agree, and apparently, so do others. Talk to me about being featured on the upcoming television series, Troubadour, TX.
ZW: I received an email about Troubadour, TX. The more I found out about it, the more it sounded like it was up my alley. It’s a documentary about some of today’s up and coming Texas singer/songwriters. It’s not a competition. It’s not cheesy. I don’t have to get in a hot tub with other artists. I think music lovers and fans of singer/songwriters will like seeing the light shine on what its really like to be a singer/songwriter today. Troubadour, TX will be filming a couple of shows and doing some more filming this summer. It airs in September, and will reach 30 million households. I have high hopes for it for sure. We’ll see what works out.
TSB: That’s awesome. Best of luck! Meanwhile, what else can we look forward to, what do you see on the horizon?
ZW: Well, I’m still writing for a publishing company in Nashville, working on getting mainstream artists to record my songs. Jason Michael Carol went to #14 on the Country Billboard singles with “Hurry Home”. I’m hoping to get more of those. I’m a family guy, so I’m not sure I want to be on the road as much as a lot of full time artists are, because it’s hard on your family. I guess I’d like to see a balance between being an independent recording artist with some travel, while hopefully, experiencing some success as a songwriter. Overall, I see myself keeping it pretty low key. I’m happy playing here.
Zane Williams will be performing live Saturday, June 18th at Hank’s Texas Grill located at 1310 N. Central Expressway, McKinney. Erica Perry will open with an acoustic set at 9:30 with the Zane Williams Band going on at 10:00 p.m. Tickets are 8.00 in advance/10.00 at the door. Reservations are a good idea. Call Hank’s at 972-542-5144.