MORRISBURG – “My writing and my music simply energize me. When I write, the music and the lyrics come to me at the same time. I believe: don’t write every day, seek inspiration every day.”
Dar Williams has been described by The New Yorker as “one of America’s very best singer-songwriters.” An artist who toured with Joan Baez, she released her first CD, The Honesty Room, in 1993, her ninth, Emerald, in 2015. She has had outstanding hit albums in between. Her critical acclaim and her following have only grown over the years.
On Saturday, October 12, at 7 p.m., singer/song writer Dar Williams will be at Upper Canada Playhouse, in concert, with the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage.
“I’ve seen Dar perform several times and she has an incredible capacity to draw listeners in,” said Sandra Whitworth, president of the SLAS. “You feel like you’ve known her, and the worlds she is sharing, your entire life. There’s a shift of perspective, or something unexpected, or something very poignant.”
I talked to Dar Williams about her music, and about her latest creative venture, a new book What I Found in a Thousand Towns, which has won wonderful reviews.
“I actually thought that writing music and writing books would be complementary,” Dar laughed, “but they are very different. In a song, every single word must count equally. Well, that just isn’t possible in a book like What I Found in a Thousand Towns, where you have information to impart. A song to me is an actual piece of poetry. In a book, you have to infuse descriptions and exposition with colours and meaning.”
Yet her songs and her music are also deeply infused with colour and meaning.
She leads a retreat called Writing a Song That Matters.
“You can’t force creativity. It really takes time to work on a song and you have to let it take on a life of its own. You have to let the magic of the song find its own place and time.”
Dar laughs that she doesn’t know whether she is “blessed or cursed” in that the songs that “mattered most to me have always been my most successful. Songs I thought were lighter and more radio-friendly had their time, and did well, but the songs that were most important to me personally have had the biggest impact.”
Her “muse,” her personal shorthand for respecting the creative brain, has led her to write powerful, evocative songs which have struck chords with her audiences.
However, she does not see herself as linked to any specific musical genre. “I would call myself a performing song writer.’
As Sandra Whitworth pointed out, Dar Williams makes powerful connections with her audiences.
When she toured with Joan Baez in the ‘90s, Dar performed with several women who ultimately went on to create Lilith Fair. It was a rich experience for her.
“The Woodstock generation came out to hear Joan, but their kids, brought along by their parents, had heard of me. Back in the day, kids and parents argued about Perry Como versus Jimi Hendrix, but now I think we can all share our music. Those multi-generational wheels keep on turning as all ages come to my concerts.”
Dar has never shied away from the challenges of society in her music. “The song “Empire” came from my musing about the dangers of any one nation becoming totalitarian: one of those dangers is fascism. Yes, there are some political overtones to what I write, but a song always takes on a life of its own.”
She continues to explore what it means to be a songwriter in this dramatic “moment in history.”
Music, she says, never grows old for her. Constantly touring can take a toll on any artist, but she refuses to be a musician who just “phones in” a performance. Instead she has found in the inspirational songs of other artists and in the intimacy and support of a live audience, ways to “remember how powerful music can be.”
“I find that I am happier on the concert circuit,” she said, “but at the same time some of my closest friends and colleagues have come from studio sessions. However, coming to small towns, off the beat, is often the best part of my career.”
She was invited by the board of the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage to perform in Morrisburg, and, as she reflects in What I Found in a Thousand Towns, “on tour, I often find myself in a downtown setting, getting to know people. I am always very excited to explore the hearts of towns, to see how they grow and take on identities.”
The St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage is thrilled to have artist Dar Williams in concert, at Upper Canada Playhouse, for one performance only, on Saturday, October 12, 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.