Show and Tell #7 - Brooks Williams

Brooks Williams
06 September 2017

Brooks Williams (pictured right) is a member of State of the Union band that will give a magical, stripped back and enthralling Americana and blues music performance here on Saturday 23 September. Brooks hails from Statesboro, Georgia, the town made famous by country-blues legend Blind Willie McTell. Ranked in the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists, he’s a mean finger-picker and a stunning slide guitarist. He got his start in the clubs and bars in Boston USA (the same music scene that years earlier sparked the careers of Bonnie Raitt and Chris Smither) and from there he has toured in ever-widening circles for nearly three decades. In 2013 Williams was nominated best male vocalist by the UK’s foremost roots-music mavens, Spiral Earth. 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
That’s a tough one! I’m not sure there is such a thing as perfect anything. But I do believe that we come close to achieving it when we are part of something larger than ourselves, when we look outside our own ambitions and needs and consider the larger picture or the longer view. I believe we can experience personal happiness and realise personal ambition as well as be a part of the greater good.

What lies at the heart of your own desire to do your creative work?
What draws me to songs is stories. I love a good story. Stories are how we make sense of ourselves, our families, our communities, our country, our world.

What are the first things you do in developing an idea in response to a subject?
Initially, I try to write down song ideas without editing. The voice of one’s editor can be very loud and persuasive, and it can shut down creativity.

What’s your favourite film and why?
“Johnny Stecchino,” starring Italian actor Roberto Benigni. Incredible farce about mistaken identity, fame, fortune. Hilarious!

Choose 1, 2 or 3 of your all-time favourite music tracks.
King Of California by Dave Alvin. Mr Blue Sky by ELO. 

From your favourite poem – could you give us a few lines that mean something to you?
“If music be the food of love, play on.”

If you were to die and come back as a person, animal or a thing, what would it be?
I think my cat has a pretty good life, but I’d probably get bored. Too much laying around! If push came to shove, I’d have to say I’ve always wanted to be one of those American stadium rockers like Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen.

What is your greatest extravagance?
I spend a lot of time on the road, so when I do get home, my wife and I like to splash out on a night on the town. We love stepping off the “merry-go-round” of work, even if it’s just for a really nice meal.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
I love an uninterrupted morning with no phone calls, no emails, no airplanes to catch, no motorways to rock down.

Which artwork/film/book has most inspired you?
When I was thirteen, one of my teachers (a tough, no-nonsense character) had us read the book “Sounder,” about a young boy and his dog in deep south USA. That story inspired me to try my own hand at writing things down. Later, I found out that my teacher had actually written “Sounder.” 

Favourite website/blog?
I don’t have a favourite website or blog, but I do listen to podcasts. Some are very “blog-like” in their episodes. My two favourites are “This American Life” (and it’s spin-off “Serial”) and “Radio Lab.”

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Will it matter in ten years? Probably not.

Piece of equipment you can’t live without?
My acoustic guitar - is that equipment? - would be sorely missed were I not to have it.

Best recent read?
I’m looking! Any recommendations?

What is your final word?
Let the show begin.