Keller Williams: My Page (The Art of Finding the Right Song to Cover)
From the August issue of Relix, here’s Keller Williams’ take on performing other artists’ material
When I’m covering a song, I always like to leave evidence of what the original song is all about because my own personality seeps in without even thinking about it. I don’t put too much thought process into how I’m gonna do it—I just do it. It’s not like I’m searching for songs to play, it’s like they find me. They get trapped in my head and I have to play them—learn them, record them and play them live—in order to get them out of my head. It happened like that when choosing the covers on my new album Thief as well.
A handful of the songs the Keels and I cover on Thief, we’ve been doing live for a number of years, so it was pretty easy to sit down and play them in the studio. The most obvious were Kris Kristofferson’s “Welcome to 2003 Minus 25” and Cracker’s “Teen Angst.” It was pretty easy to sit down and do that one in one, maybe two, takes. Then there are other ones, like Patterson Hood’s “Uncle Disney,” that we had never played before and turned out to be my favorite. The whole record is full of stuff that I really love listening to—both the original versions and our versions.
Some of these artists I have met and played with like Bob Weir, but I’ve never met the Butthole Surfers, never met Amy Winehouse and never met Jack White. I have met and played with Danny Barnes—he’s an amazing songwriter with a really different approach to the solo act—this century’s John Hartford. He calls it folk-tronica. I’m pulling for him.
We did two Kris Kristofferson songs, which are the first and last tracks on the album, though I’ve never heard the original versions of either of them—if they even exist. I heard those songs as covers by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. My dad and mom had this 8-track and we used to listen to those songs in the car—they were a big part of my childhood. And, of course, it’s no secret that I have a borderline, healthy-unhealthy fascination with the Grateful Dead, depending on who you ask. My wife will say it’s probably unhealthy, but it is probably healthy for Relix. We play “Mountains of the Moon” on Thief, and I’m elated to be playing on the West Coast as part of the Rhythm Devils this summer. I’m pretty sure it’s going to have a lot of Davy Knowles and there’s a whole other side of Mickey Hart that I’m seeing—the more electronic side that’s coming to the forefront.
Another artist we cover on Thief is Ryan Adams. I’ve never met him but the Cold Roses album is really special. I was familiar with his music from Whiskeytown, but I didn’t really latch on to him until the Jammys in 2005 when he played with Phil Lesh and did “Wharf Rat” and “Bird Song” and found some sort of slow, Jell-O-y groove to those songs. And from that performance, I got the Cold Roses record and really dove in and connected to him in that era. Everybody goes through phases and that was a really strong one for me. I don’t know how it was for him: he’s constantly moving and progressing. He’s left his mark on history. He’s a true artist and an amazing songwriter. Ryan Adams is definitely one of those guys who is going to be known long after their gone.
Keller & the Keels’ new album Thief is now available.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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