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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Keller Williams 'Odd' as ever

Williams returns to The Blue Note on his album tour.

Spencer Pearson/Graphic Designer

Jan. 26, 2010

Musician Keller Williams has made a career out of breaking the rules of genre music and trying to keep himself entertained.

From playing covers in restaurants at 16 to releasing 14 albums, Williams is never bored.

Keller's most recent release, Odd, is appropriately named.

"As far as the title goes, the whole package is odd," Williams said. "The jumping of genres, the lyrical content is odd, as well as the artwork. I always try to sum up my entire records with one syllable."

Although most songs tell of situations Williams encountered in his daily life, such as trying to rid his home of pesky mice in "Warning," he is no stranger to creative songwriting, as seen in "Elephorse," which is a science fiction-themed song about "a cross between an elephant and a horse," Williams said.

In addition to Odd, Williams has two other albums waiting to be released.

"There's a kids' record that we're currently looking for a home for," Williams said. "There's also a bluegrass record (Thief) that I did with Larry and Jenny Keel."

Consisting entirely of cover songs, Thief is a follow-up to Grass, a collaboration between Williams and the Keels, bluegrass musicians.

Although the album was released Aug. 12, tracks from Odd were sequentially released on Keller Williams' "Once a Week Freek," a weekly song release program on Williams' Web site, in the order as they were intended to be heard. They were released alongside "all kinds of different live stuff, a few outtakes and some different stuff from the studio," Williams said.

Williams said deciding to release Odd track by track was an experiment in technology.

"It was kind of me finally getting into technology and how music is being purchased or at least my music," Williams said. "It took a long time to get to the point of letting go of the album so to speak, and the romantic view of these 13 or however many songs played in that order every time it's heard. That just doesn't happen anymore."

Despite the music scene's technology-driven culture having a huge impact on the distribution of music and music in general, Williams said he thinks the success of a song is all about the individual piece.

"The catchiness to it, the ability to make people sing along, and want to hear it, really, is what it's about," Williams said.

When he's not recording kids' records or touring, Williams is establishing his presence in radio with "Keller's Cellar," a weekly nationally broadcasted show. Starting out as a compilation of things Williams was listening to, he called it "a way to document stuff I was into before these CDs got stepped on, lost, cracked or broken." The program turned into an "hour-long narrated mixtape" that invaded the airwaves of 38 stations across the nation every week, including Columbia's KBIA/91.3 FM.

"It's a very expensive hobby,” Williams said. “It's free to everyone except me. It's very fun to do and listen to."

In response to the recent tragic events in Haiti, Williams and more than 200 other artists are participating in Paste Magazine's "Songs for Haiti" campaign, an effort to raise money to go toward relief work with Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund.

"It's just a heavy thing, and music in some little way can help," Williams said. "Anything I could possibly do to help I'm definitely going to do."

Returning to Columbia after nearly a year, Williams will be playing Jan. 28 at The Blue Note. Williams said he's excited to come back not only because of The Blue Note's "old, good kind of haunting vibe," but also for "the great people."

"That's what keeps me coming back," Williams said.

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