Tim Williams thrives in the Philadelphia music scene, playing 300 live shows annually, including a regular slot at Manayunk’s Bourbon Blues every Sunday night. His EP, “We Begin,” was released in 2009, and he is currently putting the final touches on his first full-length, “Blue Ribbon,” tentatively set for release later this month.
Williams hopes to have the album ready for his upcoming Radio 104.5 Block Party show on July 28, where he will be opening for Of Monsters and Men. Williams also hopes to offer fans a package deal at the show which will include a copy of “Blue Ribbon” and an advance ticket to his album release show at World Café Live on Sept. 26.
“We’re hustling to get it done in time,” Williams says. “I’d rather everyone know the tunes at the CD release- it’s more fun for everyone that way.”
And these tunes are some that have been carefully constructed over the past few years. Williams released the singles “Back Again” and “My Fix It Up Life” previously, but has since re-recorded both of them for “Blue Ribbon,” a record about family and friends, and how spending time with them is “more important than achieving that goal, that promotion, that record deal, that whatever-that blue ribbon.”
The rest of the record will be entirely new material, coming into existence within the last year. With as much as he plays live, Williams knows the benefits of road-testing songs before they hit the record for good. The process allows him to carefully craft songs and see what works and what doesn’t.
“It’s become a necessary step in my writing- playing new song ideas live and seeing what they become,” Williams says.
His first EP allowed Williams to gain experience with the recording process, as he worked with mentor and producer Matt Santry. The two paired up again to collaborate on “Blue Ribbon,” showing that their partnership has flourished.
“He hears things that I don’t and steers the tunes in certain directions while still respecting and honoring my vision for them,” Williams says. “We have some differing opinions at times, but that friction usually leads to a good final product.”
Williams has released his albums on iTunes and physical copies are available on Amazon, as well as at any of his live shows. Although Williams embraces the versatility of services like iTunes, he still has a soft spot for the old days.
“iTunes is great for reaching people regardless of geographic location, but nothing beats having the actual CD,” Williams says. “I hope that never goes away.”
Although Williams says his social life is “behind a microphone,” he surrounds himself with friends who are also musicians and makes time to go see shows every once in awhile as well. His favorite artists to see include those who inspire him and influence his own career as a musician, like Butch Walker and Matt Nathanson.
“I think [Walker is] hands down the best songwriter and performer in the game today. I’ll plan a night off to catch a show or two when he tours. Nathanson puts on a great show too,” Williams says. “I can relate to him on certain levels and I like how he offsets his melancholy singer-songwriter type songs with humor on stage. I try to emulate that as much as I can.”
Along with his weekly shows at local Philadelphia eateries and bars, Williams also has an impressive resume of great local venues including the Tin Angel, World Café Live, and Milkboy Coffee, as well as places like the Rockwood Music Hall and Pianos in New York City.
“I prefer the intimate venues,” Williams says. “I love that moment where the crowd is completely quiet and you can hear a pin drop during a song. I also love how communal it is. There’s no fourth wall. The audience is on board with you wherever you take them- sad songs, sing-alongs, jokes. It’s a shared experience and the up-close and personal shows are a ton of fun.”
Having great relationships with fans as well as other musicians is important to Williams. Collaborating and networking are two of his biggest tips for up-and-coming musicians. For his summer tour, Williams has plans to hit cities including Nashville, Charleston and Chicago, with a cajon player, “Mr. Mike,” who frequents the local Philadelphia music scene as well. Additionally, artists Simplified and Jenn Bostic, from Charlotte and Nashville, respectively, will be opening for Williams at his album release show, in exchange for opening spaces of his own at their shows while he’s in town.
“I think that’s the smart way to go these days- friends helping friends in their respective hometowns really helps build up out of state audiences in markets that you otherwise wouldn’t draw in,” Williams says
Williams is one of many independent artists these days, giving him complete creative control on tour as well as in the studio. However, he acknowledges the financial and marketing support he could gain from being signed to a label or from snagging a spot as the support for a national act on their tour. But overall, Williams likes his indie status.
“I’d like to think that the harder I work, the more it separates me from the very crowded world of lanky, white singer-songwriters out there,” Williams says.
Although Williams usually plays smaller venues, he’s looking forward to translating his vibe and personality to the larger crowd the Radio 104.5 Block Party show will draw. Williams is currently in rehearsals for that show and plans on playing a few fun covers to hook the audience, along with debuting some of the new material.
by Carol Mannix