Drew Williams' solo LP is a cathartic blend of rustic earnestness and psychedelic imagery. On “You Already Know” Williams nakedly sings “our greatest compromise / still won’t stop the show” with a Neil Young backbeat. Williams’ sparse arrangement feels as threadbare like a favorite sweater. It’s a quiet song at times, but it is held together with a defiant cry towards camaraderie, and a prayer for the uncertain future. The song ends with a descending electric guitar, urging us onward, despite the inevitability of our collective failure.
You can listen to “You Already Know” here.
SC: I read the first line as both a reflection on writing a song and as the beginning of a parting address. Can you tell me about the first line?
DW: Oftentimes it’s really tough to begin something. I think of the opening line as more about the struggle to express yourself in a meaningful way, in spite of all that’s going on (or not going on) in our lives.
SC: I love the first refrain “Our greatest compromise / still won’t stop the show / but you already know”. Can you tell me a little about it?
DW: This song, to me, is ultimately about what is understood whether it is discussed openly or not. And then there’s the potential disaster and humiliation from assuming too much. The refrain “Our greatest compromise...” serves as a poignant summary of the most personal unspoken agreement, perhaps between lovers, or maybe... collaborators, business partners, etc. I don’t know. You fill in the blank. Although you’re going to have make certain sacrifices, nevertheless, don't give up the thing that most defines you. Be your biggest, boldest, truest self no matter what. Trust yourself and trust others.
SC: What was your writing process like for “You Already Know”?
DW: First of all, this song was one of the easiest songs for me to write of all that I’ve written so far. It was completed in two very brief writing sessions, 80% completed in the first 15 minutes. I don’t get that lucky that often. I guess there was just enough readily-experienced turmoil and beauty in my own life at the time to bring the song out of me so directly. With most of the songs I’ve written a particular “feeling” permeates and manifests during a writing session, or jam session, and that “feeling” might lead to the formulation of few lines that ultimately provide the thematic platform for the song to unfold upon – if I wholeheartedly pursue it. From my perspective “You Already Know” is definitely a prime example of that process yielding convincing results in short order.
From a musical standpoint, as I was drafting these reflective lyrics I imagined and composed the musical accompaniment as a boozy 1960s country love-sick ballad kinda vibe. The chord progression I ended up with shows that sort of stylistic vestige, I think. But, perhaps thankfully, the music morphed into something else more raw and contemporary when it came time to perform and record the song.
SC: What is your writing practice like? Do you write every day? Or wait for inspiration?
DW: I’m generally not a disciplined writer. Sometimes I am. I go through spells. I regularly collect raw material from old people and old books, such as: quirky adages, similes, character names, anecdotes from classic and ancient literature, etc. However, that material rarely makes it way into my songs. Just like with exercise and general fitness; I’ll stick to a strict routine for a few days, maybe even a week or two, then I’m back to being an entitled slacker who only pursues the most compelling whims.
I actually write very frequently and consistently – just usually not with a structure or specific goal. I just scribble lines, couplets, or rambling philosophical prose. Songs usually arise for me after a lot of seemingly unrelated writing, and emotionally and/or intellectually-charged personal endeavors together have sort of crystallized into an almost instantaneous form of expression. Little to no contrivance. I don't necessarily wait for inspiration, but rather I condition myself to make the most of the moment of inspiration when it arrives. Ideas or concepts for songs are not the problem. Many people can conjure a premise for a song from one angle or another. The trick, for me, is to allow yourself the freedom and self-confidence to pursue that first hint of a song, whatever it is, with the purpose and devotion of a primeval hunter. Don’t let it get away. You can’t afford to let it get away. That particular animal-song probably won’t ever be right in front of you under these conditions again. Seize it. Make it yours.
SC: How does your community of songwriters inspire you?
DW: I currently reside in Grand Canyon National Park, and although the music scene is very small here, its great because everyone knows everyone that writes and plays music. It’s very different from the bigger cities I’ve lived in the past, like Boston, and more recently, Atlanta. The number of artists and songwriters seems endless in cities of that size – which is amazing. Although I’m now at the Grand Canyon I still kind of consider myself a part of the songwriter communities of the other places I’ve lived. I can’t help but be inspired when I encounter and become acquainted with other songsmiths, doing their thing; and who are so immersed in their work it’s seemingly impossible to tell where the song ends and they begin – or vice versa. It’s exciting as well as reaffirming to be reminded that this craft, and way of life, is a very legitimate “human” occupation that shouldn’t be dismissed as marginal and/or reckless. We’re in the business of growing souls and building legacies!
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