Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

Written by: Frank Iacono

Tim Williams

Since releasing his debut independent EP entitled We Begin back on July 1, 2009, to a packed house downstairs at World Café Live in Philadelphia, Tim Williams has been busy building a loyal and enthusiastic fan base. Tim’s tireless desire and passion for performing keeps him on the live music circuit constantly — playing approximately 300 live shows annually.

Through the years, Tim has become a mainstay at Manayunk’s Bourbon Blue on Sunday Nights and has performed at renowned local venues such as World Café Live, Tin Angel, The Trocadero, Milkboy, Steel City, The Grape Room, Dawson St. Pub, The Note and Riverstage at Penn’s Landing. Tim regularly embarks on national acoustic tours, having played all over the United States and beyond. His travels have landed him as the musical guest at The Second City Mainstage in Chicago as well as The Bitter End and Rockwood Music Hall in New York City.

Tim has received solid regional radio play thanks to 93.7 WSTW’s Mark Rogers of Hometown Heroes, Wendy Rollins at Radio 104.5 FM Philadelphia and 93.3 WMMR’s Jaxon’s Local Shots the Podcast. In 2011, Tim was chosen as a finalist in Wawa’s Welcome America Contest thru Live Nation and he was voted into the Final Four thru Radio 104.5’s Local Band Search in both 2011 and 2012. On July 28, 2012, Tim and his band performed to 10,000 people at the Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party as direct support for JJAMZ and Of Monsters and Men.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing the singer, songwriter and guitarist to ask him a few questions about his childhood musical influences, his favorite performers, his passion for music, his career and his upcoming CD release of Blue Ribbon at World Café Live.

Q&A Session

TCS: Take us back to when you first started playing guitar and fell in love with the instrument? And, what was the first tune you learned to play?

Tim Williams: My first guitar was a Black Fender Squire Electric with a White Pick guard and a whammy bar. A very cool guitar for an 8-year-old! I remember learning “One” (an instrumental) by Metallica and “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” by Poison.

TCS: Did you decide early on that playing guitar in a band was going to be your life?

TW: I didn’t consider pursuing it as a career until after college when I was in my early 20s.

TCS: What was the first genre of music you loved?

TW: I grew up listening to Don Henley, Journey, Bruce Springsteen and etc. through my parents. The first tapes that I bought were Guns N’ Roses, Poison, Metallica and etc.

TCS: Who were some of your early musical influences? And, why?

TW: Pearl Jam TEN really woke me up musically. So did Counting Crows, Matchbox 20 and a lot of mid 90s alternative rock.

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

TCS: When was the first time you stepped onstage?

TW: It was during a 3rd Grade Talent Show at Uwchlan Hills Elementary School in Downingtown, PA. It was in the middle of the Gulf War and I sang "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood.

TCS: Why do you think the guitar became such an important part of your life? And, what motivates you to continue doing what you do?

TW: The guitar was always a means to an end for me as a singer. I’ve been taking piano lessons for the last year now to back-learn that instrument as well. I guess to properly answer your question; music is such a big part of everyone’s life that being able to play an instrument really connects you to that aspect of life… You can be a part of the soundtrack. It’s a form of expression but it’s also a form of nostalgia. Maybe even more so.

TCS: If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing instead?

TW: I initially set out to be an actor. I’ve done quite a bit of theater, TV and film. But if I were to get away from the arts all together… hmmm. I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid! Then I realized I’m afraid of heights. These days I find myself reading a lot of Physics / Science books. So, I think in another life I would’ve been a Quantum Physicist or Astronomer.

TCS: How did the current band lineup come together?

TW: Sachino “Cellonator” Tsinadze (cello) and Clay McElwee (lead guitar) were the original band members. I was bartending and gigging at Agave Grill in Amber, PA and we met there. Matt Galletti (drums) and I did a musical together at St. Joseph’s University. He was in the pit band and I was making a cameo as an alumni. Kat Bowman (keys) is my producer/friend Matt Santry’s keyboard player/teacher. Pete Ahern (bass) is a friend of a friend I met 5+ years ago and he’s in a killer full-time band called Kristen and the Noise… so I split bass time with him and Sean Smith whom I met on the local music scene through mutual friends. Dan O’Brien rounds out the band on guitar/mando/vocals and is a friend on the local music scene. I also play with Mr. Mike on Cajon (Latin percussion) on acoustic tours and Val Vuolo on fiddle.

TCS: Could you share with us your connection with Clay McElwee, who was recently featured in a previous edition of The Creative Spotlight?

TW: Clay McElwee has been a close friend, guitar teacher, band mate and mentor in many ways to me over the last half decade. He’s a guy that has taught me quite a bit about guitar (2 years’ worth of lessons) and we’ve shared the stage probably 100 times. We met by happenstance while I was bartending in Ambler as he would come through as his acoustic duo “Clay Pigeons”. I could tell how good he was and luckily got him on board with my band!

TCS: Do you have a favorite style of guitar? If so, please describe why it is your favorite and why it is so special to you?

TW: I love Acoustic, open tunings and dynamic, hard/fast strumming patterns – i.e. Glen Hansard, Matt Nathanson, etc. It’s emotive. It’s also highly relatable to me because most nights I’m out there solo with an acoustic guitar in my hand.

TCS: Describe the last time you wrote a song highlighting how it came about and describe how it turned out?

TW: I usually write the music first and hum the vocal melody. The song “Course Correct” (conveniently available on iTunes! Hint hint) came about this year on St. Patty’s day. I was playing a Country Club, and no one was listening. So, I hit record on my phone’s voice recorder and improved a song for 4 minutes. I sang gibberish and barely rhymed it – if anyone had been listening they would’ve thought I’d lost my mind. But, I went home that night and listened back with my guitar and notebook in hand. Because of that improv session, the backbone of that tune was written that night. It took another couple of weeks to iron out the structure/lyrics. That was the most unconventional way I’ve written. Usually I have an idea of a verse or chorus, I record it, and come back to it when I’m feeling it… but those usually don’t amount to full songs. I will say though that any song that I’ve recorded has come together in one sitting (most of it). There’s something to be said about feeling it in the moment and getting it down on paper (or recording it) when you’re feeling creative.

TCS: Can you share with us your song recording process?

TW: I work with producer Matt Santry out of Tin Ace City Studios. We start by recording scratch acoustic demos with just guitar and vocals to a click track to lock in a tempo. From there we record drums and bass together over at East Coast Recording Company with James Cravero. From here we layer Keys, Electric Guitar and etc. Lastly, I sing and add harmonies. We don’t record the record live because the parts aren’t written until we go into the studio. I’m primarily a solo musician so the orchestrations are collaboration between me, Matt and the musicians in the studio. That’s always a fun process discovering which direction we are taking the tunes. When it’s all said I done, I use Sterling Sound in NYC to Master.

TCS: What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever played or made a recording? And, how did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording (i.e., please describe where, what happened and how you handled it)?

TW: I play about 300 shows a year so there have been many strange gigs in the last few years. One of the most special was last October with the show I play music for, My Fix It Up Life (myfixituplife.com). We were invited to Joplin, MO to take part in rebuilding Cunningham Park for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s final 200th episode. Mr. Mike and I played a full gig on a working construction site to hundreds of volunteers, crew and cast members of the show. That experience led to the song "Joplin" on my latest CD, Blue Ribbon.

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

TCS: How does the size of the venue and/or audience affect your performance?

TW: Smaller venues like Tin Angel or Bourbon Blue are fun because you get direct interaction with individual audience members. I usually prefer these because it’s a more intimate, laid back, personal experience for both me and the audience. This summer we played to 6,000 people at the Piazza at Schmidt’s for Radio 104.5’s Summer Block Party and that was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. But I have to say, those 30 minutes was the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. Playing to that many people can NEVER get old. Everyone in the crowd puts out this great energy and you feed off of it on stage.

TCS: Do you have a big record collection? And, what bands are you listening to today on your iPod?

TW: I have a record collection handed down from my parents of about 100 records. On my iPod, these days, I’m listening to Butch Walker, Ryan Bingham, Drew Kennedy, Simplified (playing World Café with us Sept. 26th), Colin Hay, fun., Mat Kearney, The Script, Ryan Star & Needtobreathe.

TCS: What’s your favorite song? And, why?

TW: That’s tough. “Heart of the Matter” by Don Henley reminds me of my parents and is a song I remember hearing very early on… “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen reminds me of home back in Monmouth Beach, NJ… “Best Thing You Never Had” by Butch Walker is my favorite song to see performed live.

TCS: How do you market your songs, albums, merchandise, and appearances (i.e., website, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn or advertising such as print and online marketing (list all available web properties)?

TW: Everything gets routed through TimWilliams.com – it’s my marketing home. Facebook, Twitter and etc. it’s all linked up through there.

TCS: On your website, tell us what fans of you and your music can do or learn about Tim Williams?

TW: Head over to Timwilliams.com and sign up for my mailing list, visit the BIO page to read up about me, the MEDIA page to read this article along with videos, songs and lyrics… and "follow" me on Twitter @timgwilliams or "like" my on facebook.com/officialtimwilliams to stay up to date.

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

TCS: You’ve been a staple on the north east’s music scene for some time now, playing 300 live shows annually so who have you shared a stage with during you career?

TW: Of Monsters and Men, JJAMZ, Ryan Star, Jeffrey Gaines, Kevin Hearn of Barenaked Ladies), Diane Birch, Adam Kowalczyk (formerly of Live), Tim Blane, Bronze Radio Return, Jenn Bostic, Shovelhook, and many, many more great people. Some of these gigs have been thanks to Radio 104.5 and World Café Live.

TCS: Tell us about some of your recent TV and radio performances?

TW: I’ve been shown a lot of love from the TV show Eye Opener on PHL17! I’ll be back on Tuesday Sept. 25th to promote my World Café Live CD Release show. I’ve been seen on NBC’s the 10! Show in Philly with my band, the NBC 10pm News, and have performed in studio at Radio 104.5, 93.7 WSTW Hometown Heroes with Mark Rogers, and 1370 AM The Buzz with Mike Holliday. I travel the country with Mark and Theresa Clement of “My Fix It Up Life” as their house band… and because of that role I’ve been lucky enough to appear on Restaurant: Impossible on the Food Network and perform for 4 “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” builds.

TCS: How special is it going back to your alma mater St. Joseph’s University and singing the National Anthem before Men’s and Women’s Basketball Games?

TW: It’s surreal actually. It wasn’t too long ago when I was the red shirt wearing, painted face screaming freshmen in the stands cheering on Jameer Nelson. To be back singing is an honor I don’t take for granted. The Hawk Will Never Die!

TCS: So, how did you get involved with hosting open mic night on Thursday nights at Original Baxter’s Paoli on Rt. 30 at the corner of Rt. 252? And, describe for us what types of acts are featured?

TW: I had been playing Baxter’s on Thursday nights for about the last 3 years thanks to Red phone Entertainment, a local booking agency… it slowly started gaining a following of local musicians that would come out and sit in for a song or two. After a few months of this we decided that the natural progression was to make it an official open mic. We get piano players, song writers, guitar players… We’ve had a 4-year-old sing before and just last week we had our first stand-up comedian! It’s always a great time… and I encourage anybody who’d like to come out, regardless of age or ability, to do so.

TCS: How excited are you about the upcoming release of your second studio album and first full-length release, Blue Ribbon, due out on Wednesday, September 26, 2012?

TW: Very excited! I’m really proud of this record, Blue Ribbon, and I think it’s an honest example of where I am as a songwriter right now in 2012. I’m constantly learning and trying to better myself so it’s an improvement from 2009’s We Begin, which I love dearly but as it is with any art… you don’t want to be defined by one project. For 3 years, I have been defined by one album so I’m very excited to get more recorded material out there! I’m knee deep in piano these days, so the 3rd album may focus more on that… who knows. That’s the beauty of it. I believe that the album you make should be a direct reflection of your styles, abilities, and tastes of where you are at that moment. If you follow a country album up with a rock album, that’s cool. So long as you’re honest with yourself.

TCS: Back in July of 2009 you released your first EP We Begin at World Café Live and now you are returning to the same stage to release Blue Ribbon (produced by Matt Santry ) so tell us how this came about i.e., mention the appearance of Jenn Bostic too)?

TW: The talent buyer at World Café Live remembered my first CD Release from 2009 and was cool enough to book the band and I again for this show. I heard that we broke records for Food/Beverage sales at the first Release so I’m shooting for that again! Jenn Bostic is a dear friend from Nashville by way of MN and will be opening the show along with Simplified (from Charlotte – recently appeared on the Rock Boat and their latest CD Brighter Days was produced by a member of OAR). I think Jenn’s one of the best in business. No question. She’s a friend but I’m also a fan and anything I can do to help her build a bigger crowd in Philly I’m happy to. Come out to the show and you’ll see what she’s all about. Her song “Jealous of the Angels” has surpassed 690k views on YouTube.

TCS: What is the best way to contact you about attending the CD release night, booking an appearance, purchasing one of your CDs or learning about your upcoming events?

TW: My website TimWilliams.com has ALL of that info. There’s a ticket link for World Café, there’s iTunes and Amazon links for both of my CDs, my schedule is always up to date and you can email me directly through the site.

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

TCS: What is the best and worst part of being a musician?

The best part is that I’m living my dream. I’m working in a job that is pure and honest, I can curse (ha), and it’s cathartic and therapeutic. Music is a universal language. I’ve jammed with countless musicians and strangers and music brings everyone together, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or whatever. The worst part is that there is no long-term plan financially. You need to be very proactive about booking in advance, and you need the help of so many good people (booking agents, radio stations, bar owners, and fans). You can’t do this on your own and if you think you can you’re sure to fail.

TCS: What do you think our world would be like if music was never invented? And, why?

TW: Quiet. I think it would be very quiet.

TCS: What advice do you have for kids wanting to play guitar, form a band and get into the music business?

TW: Sing! AND play guitar. If you do both, you’ll never go hungry and you’ll always be able to find solo work in restaurants, bars, weddings and etc. Practice, practice, practice. Realize that you need to work very hard to succeed. And most importantly, define what success means to you. We can’t all be John Mayer or Tim McGraw or Lady Gaga. The reality of a working, professional musician is being open to every sort of gig and opportunity there is… weddings, cafes, and bars with 3 people listening… and TAKE those gigs and play them like you’re playing Madison Square Garden.

Song List on Blue Ribbon (2012)

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

1. Come What Will
2. Course Correct (Featuring Ernie Halter)
3. My Fix It Up Life
4. Falling Away
5. Retreat
6. Joplin
7. Back Again
8. Part of the Plan
9. Heart of the Matter (Live)
10. Blue Ribbon

Song List on We Begin (2009)

Tim Williams: Singer, Songwriter and Guitarist

1. Breeze
2. Separation
3. He Just Knows
4. Chained
5. Seem To Miss
6. Back Nine Course Correct (Featuring Ernie Halter)

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.