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Jul 26, 2016

Keller Williams embraces eclecticism

Greenville News

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The words “eclectic” and “prolific” describe musician Keller Williams, but even those terms seem a little inadequate.

After all, the singer and multi-instrumentalist has never narrowed down his sound to one or two styles, playing everything from reggae to progressive bluegrass to electronica, collaborating with countless other musicians, and he’s released two dozen albums over his two-decade career.

Williams has long said that he approaches the work as a music lover first, which is a factor in the highly eclectic music he performs.

“Just being allowed to play any type of music, I’m just so grateful to do that,” Williams said in a recent phone interview. “I could never really stick to one genre. It could be undiagnosed attention deficit disorder; it could be just taking advantage of the freedom that’s given to me to be able to do something like that.”

Williams, who performs on the Peace Center’s TD Stage on Aug. 4 as part of the Rock the River series, has played with a host of other artists, including String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, Grateful Dead drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, and bluegrass guitarist Larry Keel.

He’s worked closely with the Grateful Dead, to the point that his collaborations with the Dead “could be a genre unto itself.”

Because of his passion for so many musical styles, Williams has a tough time narrowing down the genres that have influenced him the most.

“The type of music I listen to and the type of music I play sometimes are just two totally different things,” he said. “Bluegrass has definitely been a huge influence in the sense of being a fan of the music. I’ve never considered myself a bluegrass player. It’s more like I’m a bluegrass fan who enjoys playing that on stage. Electronica music, like a down-tempo type of EDM (electronic dance music), that’s been a pretty heavy influence the last decade or so, as far as my solo show goes.”

With all of that musical experimentation, Williams also has adopted a few musical stage names or personas to accompany them. As a solo artist, he sometimes calls himself K-Dub, and there’s the Keller Williams KWahtro, the group that also includes Gibb Droll, Rodney Holmes and Danton Boller.

The work with KWahtro, focusing on “acoustic dance music” with a hint of acid jazz, is “the closest to the way I think musically.”

In keeping with his tradition of one-syllable album names, his upcoming KWahtro release, due out in October, will be called “Sync.”

Being able to work as an independent artist is important to Williams, and he doesn’t worry much about record sales or mainstream stardom because he knows that no artist can please every music fan.

And that approach gives him creative fulfillment and freedom to play the music he is passionate about.

There may be a bit of “self-indulgence” in that mindset, but in the end, Williams tries to make the most interesting music he can create.

“Of course, you always want people to like it, but you can’t really focus on that. And if you drop that thinking, then it opens up a huge creative freedom, for sure.”

YOU CAN GO

Who: Keller Williams
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 4
Where: Peace Center’s TD Stage
How much: $25-$50
For more: www.peacecenter.org