With the release of his debut album, Creatures, Seattle-based artist Adam Williams has arrived with stories, interludes, and some pretty dope guitar solos. Featuring songs that are equal parts flavorful and vulnerable, Creatures has a way of making you feel like you know the person behind the music.
The beginning of his story, “On My Way,” tells of the moments crucial to his departure from everything he’s known– and leaves you knowing the tracks to come are bound to impress. With groovy flair, he lays it out plain and simple: “It’s time to get out.” In “Empty Street” he asks, “Would you laugh on an empty street?” In “Doe Bay,” he shares deliberation over time, love, and patience. It is the analytical nature of Williams’s curiosity that makes you nostalgic and think reflectively about the life you’ve lived yourself.
On top of conjuring up these philosophical questions, Williams has proved to be one hell of a performer. Alongside The Adam Williams Band, he has performed all over Seattle as well as virtually in the Nectar Virtual Concert Series and on the #TogetherAtHome livestream put on by Amazon Music.
With undeniable passion and grit, Williams is only just getting started. Without the slightest shadow of a doubt, there’s so much more to come.
We had the chance to pick his brain, talks about his new album, and more.
Both personally and musically, what’s one thing you want people to know about Adam Williams?
I always try to put myself in situations that create inspiring experiences.
From your Instagram page alone, it seems like there’s always a guitar in your hands. How did you start playing and writing music?
I started playing guitar after discovering Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin through a guy that worked at a store down by my house. This is where the guitar obsession started and remains to this day. Growing up, I was always drawn to music – specifically I loved the contrast between different genres and bands and how that contrast made me feel. I would create mixtapes that would have, say, Led Zeppelin, Wu Tang Clan, and Elton John ballads all on the same tape. That is a big part of what artists I like to this day – bands that take you on a journey of a lot of emotions in a single album or live show.
In terms of starting to write, it was always about being really into a band and wanting to play what they played but in my own way and through my own lens. Over the years, I have been obsessed with so many bands and musicians and have loved diving down the rabbit holes of their musical worlds. Now, as a writer, I naturally want to create something of my own when I am moved. Songwriting is just something that I enjoy doing – usually in the morning with an acoustic and a cup of coffee – and most of it comes from just messing around until I stumble upon a melody or feeling that starts to move me.
Where do you pull most of your inspiration from?
I would say the music, artists, and bands that have inspired me (which is a long and diverse list) and also just my own personal experiences – traveling, meeting people, personal struggle, and growing internally.
Your debut album, Creatures, was released earlier this year. While creating this album, what was most important to you in terms of creating your musical introduction?
Three things really:
1. That my voice is featured, because I have always been a guitar player first, and so it has been a symbol of growth for me to sing my own songs.
2. That the voice of my guitar is featured in a melodic way because that is always where I feel the most honest – playing guitar that has a moving melody.
3. Communicating the natural chemistry of playing music with people that I love and jive with through in the album.
Something to note about Creatures is how sonically cohesive it is. What is it like developing your style as an artist?
I am drawn to melody first and foremost. Melody needs to really move me in order for me to build a song around it and, in this way, a collection of melodies need to move me collectively in order to create an album around them… and so I do think that part of it is just the symbiosis of melodies that I am drawn to musically. I give a lot of credit to Brad Laina, the producer and engineer for the cohesion of the production. We spend a lot of time hanging out and listening to music and albums such as Good Dog, Happy Man by Bill Frisell, say, and Billy Breathes by Phish… Obviously very different styles but both have themes of ambient texture throughout the albums… both create a sort of a hypnotic effect. Brad is amazing at taking things that might not seem connected on the surface and finding what their common thread is.
How does personal experience impact your writing process?
A lot of my writing happens when I am in a new place. It’s when my mind is taking in new things when I feel the most creative. I wrote the songs on this album in a ton of different places – all over Washington State, New Orleans, Nepal, India, Vietnam, and France. I write a lot of songs at home, too, but the ones that usually resonate are often written when traveling or facing something new internally.
In your opening track, “On My Way,” you explore a change in direction per say. What was the inspiration behind this song?
“On My Way” is a symbol of both musical changes and life changes. On the music end – historically, I have always written songs for other people to sing, or play as a hired sideman guitar player. That song came about as I started to realize that I could front my own band and sing my own songs (and that I wanted to). In terms of my life, I have had a lot of inner ups and downs and haven’t always handled the downs in healthy ways. Getting out of the low points and feeling good again is a really good feeling. This moment of new beginning and an uplift is what the song is all about.
Another track that caught our attention was “Doe Bay.” What was the songwriting process like and the inspiration for this song?
I wrote the lyrics to that song with my wife Julia who is a music teacher and an amazing musician in her own right. We collaborate on a lot of songs and lyrics. We got married at a place called Doe Bay on Orcas Island in Washington state. We were messing around with a song and thought it was cheesy to have a song about getting married and our wedding (haha), so we decided to create this as a story of struggle about love and loss. Right away, this storyteller setting resonated with us a lot more and the song started coming to life.
Do you believe that where you’re from has influenced the trajectory of your music?
Very much so… I feel like my music is a combination of rootsy mountains (the Pacific Northwest) and rootsy swamp (New Orleans). One thing that most people don’t know about me is that I went to college and spent a lot of time in New Orleans. That had a huge influence on me and helped foster my love for improvisational music. Although now my songwriting has taken on a different vibe than New Orleans funk and groove stuff, it still comes out in my playing and songwriting. Everywhere I have lived has become a part of my musical identity and it is cool to let that continue to evolve.
If you can pick one in particular– what might be the central message you want to convey with Creatures?
Creatures is meant to help people connect with themselves and the world around them. It’s meant to inspire people to grow.
What might the latter half of the year have in store for Adam Williams creatively?
Well with COVID, everything is up in the air. I never was able to have a legit album release so it would be great to have a celebration of the album in a live setting. I would also like to use my music and playing in a way that can have a positive impact on or support the social issues that are going on, specifically around the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle that musicians and venues are going through as a result of COVID. Lastly, I want to make music and recordings. I love making music, and simply want to just keep doing it. I need to keep doing it… and doing it and doing it.