Kyle Williams balances life on the road with life at home
“They grow up so fast” is a phrase that many parents throw around as their children change in front of their eyes. As a husband and father of two young children—a 3-year-old son and 8-month-old daughter—who makes his living as a full-time musician who’s often on the road, Kyle Williams understands that phrase particularly well.
“Especially at this age, until they’re like 6, they change every day,” the singer-songwriter said. “Being gone for a day, or two, or three, or four, you come back and they’re taller or skinnier or they’re saying words better; there’s always something different. It sucks to feel that.”
Around the time his son was born, Williams sought the advice of fellow Nor Cal musician and father Joe Craven about living the life of a family man and traveling musician.
“He told me, ‘I never apologize to my kids about leaving and being gone. I’m showing them what you should do, and that’s pursue what makes you feel alive,’” Williams said. “I’m setting an example for them to follow their dreams.”
Williams’ dream has had him splitting time between playing his original tunes at bars, cafes and parties, and performing often more lucrative gigs doing long sets of covers at casinos. But his own music is the focus right now, and next week (June 3) he’s releasing his third album of originals, San Francisco, with a show at The Rendezvous.
San Francisco is a departure from his first two more traditional singer- songwriter releases—She Is (2012) and The Stage Fright EP (2013). While still rooted in his solo, folky approach, the 10-song album pushes a lot of Williams’ musical boundaries. His huge voice, along with his acoustic guitar and ukulele, provides the base, but the beautiful songs are impressively fleshed out with layers of instruments and orchestration, with synth, piano, electric guitars, drums and upright bass added. Williams attributes the new sound to producer Chris Keene, frontman of the of local indie-rock band Surrogate and owner/engineer of Cutters Cathedral recording studios where the album was recorded.
“He’d shoot me an email with early mixes, and the first one just blew me out of the water,” Williams said. “I removed myself from it, and I had to think, ‘If I heard this on the radio, what would I think of it?’ And I realized, I loved it. It’s just weird because I’m not used to that being me.”
The new album, Williams said, is a good a balance of who he once was as an artist and who he’s becoming. San Francisco will be played from start to finish at the album-release show, which will feature opening sets by singer/songwriter Hannah Jane Kile and Surrogate, whose members will also serve as Williams’ backing band.
Williams feels that he’s evolved a lot as a singer and a songwriter in the couple of years since releasing Stage Fright. Part of the maturity comes from dealing with some serious issues in his life. The title track is a song about losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease. The song “It’s OK” is about his wife facing postpartum depression after their son was born. There are songs about outgrowing his religious beliefs, waiting for his daughter to be born, plus a few love songs sprinkled in as well.
“These songs are more real and much more honest,” Williams said. “I’ve tried to be more vulnerable, not for the sake of being exposed, but for honest, open communication, which is what songwriting should be.”
As Williams looks to the future, he believes his new record has a chance to have widespread appeal and is focusing on getting it to as many ears as possible, including planning to tour the country. And as he begins scheduling his time on the road, he’s keeping his mind on his top priority: family.
“If my family doesn’t come with me, I’ll do a week or two, then come back; I won’t be gone for six months,” Williams said. “I couldn’t do it, personally, and I couldn’t do that to my kids.”