Keller Williams is a jokester, in conversation and through his music. If you’re around him, you’re likely having a blast. He brings his solo loop-based dance party to Vinyl Music Hall this weekend. I’ve seen Pensacola crowds look as if they’re standing on pins and needles through entire concerts. That’s not happening this time.
IN: For those unfamiliar with your shows, what should they expect from your solo Pensacola show?
WILLIAMS: Expect positive music with a dance beat. One song will be grounded in solo acoustic music, then the next will be a total dance groove along that fine line of electronica. Expect to hear songs you may have heard before but done in a different way. And hopefully you can see some hungry hairy people bumping into one another.
IN: You play seemingly every type of music out there – from bluegrass to electronica. What would you consider your sweet spot?
WILLIAMS: I can’t narrow it down to one type of music. That’s what makes it fun, but rawness and stripped-down nature of playing the solo acoustic loop-based stuff is very liberating.
IN: As a musician who dabbles in electronica, what do you make of the recent explosion of that scene?
WILLIAMS: I’m a fan. What I love the most is the groove consciousness that happens at those shows. People don’t have to know the specific song, but they understand the build-up and tension. When everyone is that much on the same page, it’s a special thing. Maybe it’s an opposites attract thing for me because I’m very much acoustic-based, but I’m most definitely a supporter.
IN: Was it a conscious decision from the get-go to be so immersed in the live aspect of the business?
WILLIAMS: That’s where it all started – my love of performing and interacting with others. I haven’t really been about trying to sell music as far as the record goes. It’s always been about the live experience. It’s where my heart is. I’m grateful to be able to do that for a living.
IN: What’s your mindset like going into a show? How do you typically prepare, especially when you’re out there on a nightly basis?
WILLIAMS: On the night of a show, it’s important for me to keep my adrenaline in check and be present-minded. The fact that people are there to see me is huge and I need to respect that every time I get out there. Each show is different. A lot of time it’s up to the crowd. Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint where the energy of the show is, but I’ve learned how to overcome and embrace things. It’s an interesting dynamic between me and the crowd that plays out throughout a concert.
IN: You mentioned how you’ve gotten to the point where you can overcome nearly anything thrown at you. That reminds me of your set a couple years ago at the Hangout Festival when a huge storm tried to take out your set, but you stuck with it. How do you deal with things like that that are beyond your control?
WILLIAMS: There wasn’t much I could do with that one. There was a single dry spot on the stage, but it happened to be behind the drum risers. We had to peel down the tarp so you could barely see my head. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Maybe 100 people saw that. It’s always interesting playing a set to an area that’s been evacuated.
IN: The fact that you’ve done so many collaborations with bands across so many genres proves you have friends throughout the industry. What’s the secret in building those relationships?
WILLIAMS: Time, for one thing. You have to get yourself out there and actually blaze those paths so they can be crossed. It all starts with the love of music and like-minded people. To get to hang out with people that I’ve idolized has been very surreal, but it’s taken a lot of hard work to get there. And when you get that opportunity, you have to treat people with the upmost respect. That and cell phones. Cell phones help a lot.
Photo: Keller Williams Official