Interview: Keller Williams

About a month ago I had a chance to talk to Keller Williams via phone about his new album, this summer’s tour, his new bandmates, Bob Weir, the future, and everything in between. I believe he was walking around in the woods at the time as you’ll see in his first response. Throughout I’ve thrown in some pictures from his recent Urbana show at The Canopy Club on 04/25/2007. Check it out:

Kane Jamison: You’ve always been solo, other than some Keller Williams Incident shows, Keller and the Keels, the new album, Dream, and now the WMD’S tour. I was wondering what sparked the transition towards working with the full band more often.

Keller Williams: Well first and foremost it is definitely not a tour, we are just doing…. Whoa! There’s a snake… hello!… Uhhh… oh my god that’s a big snake right there, hang on just a second….

Ok… I’m just going to walk over here… Let’s see, we are just doing four festivals, four weekends in a row, that’s what we have right now. There is a possibility that one day there will be a tour, but as of right now we are just kind of playing it slow and playing it easy. I’m definitely excited about these festivals though. It’s kind of… I’ve always wanted to do the band projects, and a long long time ago there wasn’t really anything in the budget for it, you know? I just wasn’t able to afford it, the money wasn’t there, and it just wasn’t feasible to do it, and then all of a sudden, it just started to work as a solo act. And now I can afford it, and I’m really excited about it. It’s not going to be anything different, it’s not going to be a new sound, I’m not venturing out to look for something completely new, it’s going to be a lot of the similar songs, and it’s just going to be new life breathed into those familiar songs. It’s still going to be me, people are still going to see a Keller Williams show, it’s just going to have that new life breathed into it.

Kane: Alright, you said you were excited about the upcoming festivals. I personally am a Summer Camp fan being from Central Illinois. You’ve been a staple there in recent years, why that particular festival?

Keller: Simply because I get invited. There’s so many festivals that want to change it up so much and have acts every now and then, but I think it’s really great to be able to play a festival and go back there every year and see how it progresses and see the same folks. You know, it’s them that invite me, and I’m really grateful that they do.

Kane: One of the main comments I hear back from people around here is that they like being able to count on moe., Umphrey’s McGee, and Keller being guaranteed acts every year at Summer Camp.

Keller: Right, right, that’s cool. Sam Bush, you know, they call him the “King of the Telluride,” he’s played there so many years in a row, and Telluride Bluegrass Festival is another festival where you count on people like Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Pete Rowan, and it’s really cool to know that no matter who is playing you know you’re going to see something you’re familiar with.

Kane: Absolutely. So you’ve played as a guest with String Cheese Incident, and you’ve played Keller Williams Incident shows, what made you choose Keith Moseley for bass for this project?

Keller: Well Keith is first and foremost just a solid, genuinely righteous friend, and we’ve been friends a long long time. I think his bass playing is super in the pocket, always there and never really flashy. With my playing style, there’s a whole lot going on with my playing style, there’s a lot of notes, and as far as his playing style goes he’s really in the pocket and he’s always where he needs to be, and I appreciate his playing like that. Plus, we’re good friends, and I think that’s important too, to be able to really connect on a personal level before you can really go on and make any more music.

Kane: On that same note, how did you choose Jeff Sipes and Gibb Droll to round out the band?

Keller: Well Jeff’s playing I heard for the first time probably in the late 80’s, when he was with Aquarium Rescue Unit. I was really blown away by that live record that came out, and I would travel and go see them whenever I could, whether it be on a college campus, or up in D.C., wherever I could I would always go and see that band. They had unbelievable chemistry between those dudes, with Col. Bruce, Oteil Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, Matt Mundy on Guitar, and of course Jeff, and it was just completely unbeleivable shows they would put on. Then I would follow him through the numerous bands he was in throughout the years, like Susan Tedeschi, and as of late he’s been playing with Trey, and going out with Trey’s band. So, it’s been really fun to see him play different types of music with different types of people, all with the same very pinpoint accuracy drumming.

Gibb Droll, I remember, was probably around that same time period, late 80’s and early 90’s, and he was doing his a lot of his Gibb Droll Band and going around the country with that. It’s very high-energy blues rock kind of thing he was doing. I opened some shows for him, and we became friends along time ago, with our paths crossing here and there. I’ve always loved playing with him, and the past couple years we’ve gotten back in touch and played together on stage a couple times, and it’s been great, we’ve been having fun with it and I’m looking forward to more.

Kane: So one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about your shows is covers, how unique they are and how you use them as seques and to get the crowd going. How does that work with the full band?

Keller: I don’t know, we haven’t played any shows yet, so I’m looking forward to transposing the whole solo show into a band situation. It’s something I think about all the time, how I could arrange all these songs with a full band, and it’s something that come pretty easily, so we’ll see how it goes.

Kane: Ok, lets’ talk about the new album Dream for a minute. One thing I noticed is that you re-recorded “Kiwi and the Apricot,” how come?

Keller: Mmm hmm, well, I just did that in reverse order. Normally it’s the studio version and then you release a live version, I just released the live version first. There’s a few songs like that, like “Keep It Simple,” that was only on the live album previously. Then there’s songs like “Gatecrashers Suck,” which I don’t think there will ever be a studio version of, it’ll just be a live thing. But “Kiwi and the Apricot” is a song I’ve always been very proud of and I’ve always wanted to do a studio version of that, and this opportunity presented itself to play with Charlie [Hunter], and I thought this was one of those songs that Charlie could really dig his teeth into, and he did.

Kane: So you recorded “Cadillac” with Bob Weir, and you’re now touring with him. How was it recording with him, being such a big Grateful Dead fan?

Keller: It was a very surreal experience, for sure. The first time we played together I think was in 2001 at Red Rocks, and just being at Red Rocks without even playing there’s a certain adrenaline that happens, and then you’re on stage and the adrenaline goes up, and then you’re on stage with Bob Weir next to you and it’s this super, amazing, dreamlike experience. Then over the course of the years we played together more often and it started to become more natural. So that’s a very beautiful thing. Then I find myself actually at Bob Weir’s house and it goes right back to that first inital time that we played together at Red Rocks and it flips right around and it turns into this dreamlike experience again, like it wasn’t really happening. But, after a couple hours we settled in, and he’s just a wonderful, wonderful person to allow me to come out to his house and record in his home studio. That’s just amazing for him to let me do that, and I’m extremely grateful. The song came out really good, I’m really proud of it, and just having Bob Weir sing my lyrics, is a true honor, and I’m really happy with it.

Kane: So I’ve noticed a lot of your albums focus on certain genres like bluegrass with Keller and the Keels, a dance remix album off of Laugh, Dream has a very new vibe from older material. Where else do you see yourself going?

Keller: Well, I think the next record I’m going to put out is going to be a retrospect album. Since I actually have 11 albums I’ve put out I’m going to put one song from each album, as well as one that’s completely new. So that would be the 12th release, and it would be 12 songs, spanning over 12 years. So can you guess what the name will be?

Kane: Ha, going with the one-word title theme, Twelve maybe?

Keller: That’s correct. So that will be the next thing, and there’s other concepts I’ve been tossing around, but I think I’m going to attack that before I move on to the next thing.

Kane: So will these be new recordings or the original recordings from each album?

Keller: I think it’s going to be a compilation from the actual albums, just a retrospect from twelve years. You know, there’s very few record stores still around, and in my personal taste I like to dive into old recordings and actually listen to the back catalogue. But, also, if you’re not familiar with an artist and you’re going through all these titles and you see something like “Greatest Hits”, sometimes it’s a good place to start. But since I’ve never actually had any hits, you can’t really call it a greatest hits album, so we’re calling it a retrospect (laughs).

Kane: Again with Dream, the concept is working with all the artists you’ve always dreamed of playing with. Anyone missing? Anyone you would have included if you had a chance to add additional material?

Keller: Umm, good question. You know, I pretty much put all my thought process into what I was doing at the time, you know, there’s always an amazing idea to actually play with you know, Jerry Garcia, which would obviously never happen… There’s tons of people I would love to work with, but I pretty much focused on the people that agreed to do it, I was never really longing to bring anyone else into the mix. My focus was just on those that had agreed to do it.

Kane: Alright, question for a friend here, going back a little bit, what was the inspiration on “Boob Job”?

Keller: Umm, that is a David Wilcox song. That is on a record called East Asheville Hardware, by David Wilcox, and that is a fantastic record. It’s an album of a lot of covers, and songs that never really made it on a album of David Wilcox’s, and it was a very different album for him. A lot of his albums kind of venture into a contemporary/folk/singer/songwriter genre, and this album is still that but live, and very fun and the songs are funny, and I can’t say enough about that album. East, Asheville, Hardware, by David Wilcox. I highly recommend to everyone to buy several copies and give them to people who have never heard of David Wilcox before. Once again that’s East Asheville Hardware by David Wilcox… Check it out today!… And that’s a really good question for him, is what the inspiration was. I guess if you listen to the words, you know, “treat it like a manmade thing, NO,” you know, it’s odd, it’s strange.

Kane: Alright, well, winding it down we’ll try an easy one. I’m headed to a baseball game right now, who’s your pick, Chicago Cubs or Pittsburgh Pirates?

Keller: Who’s my pick? What city is it in, it’s in Chicago?

Kane: Yes, Chicago.

Keller: I would go with the home team.

Kane: OK, well, thank you very much for your time, we’re running short so I’ll let you go, have a good afternoon.

Keller: Alright, thank you, have a good day.


You can check out Keller’s current tour schedule, info on his new album Dream, and more at

Comments on this entry are closed.

  1. John

    Well done Kane… You really hit the nail on the head with this interview… I hope to see you at Blottopia this year cause i feel like you could do some promotional magic for that fest…

  2. Thank bud, hopefully I can blow off work this year, but that’ll mean I probably won’t be at 10KLF sadly…

  3. Great Interview. All the questions were stuff i was thinking, especially the “Boob Job” one. I’m excited to check out David Wilcox. If you get a chance checkout its a sweet small fest in southern Wisconsin.