By DANA SCHIMMEL
When Holly Williams says she could have put on a cowboy hat, called up a record company and been on her way to making a living as a country musician, she’s not bragging.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based singer- songwriter is simply acknowledging that with her musical pedigree — she’s the daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and granddaughter of country-music icon Hank Williams — she probably could have taken a shortcut to success.
Instead, Williams started playing small clubs right out of high school and has been honing her formidable songwriting skills ever since. She independently released her third album, “The Highway,” on her own label, Georgiana Records, last month. It debuted at No. 146 and No. 18 on Billboard’s 200 albums and country albums charts, respectively.
“I’m assuming I could’ve called a record company and said, ‘Find me 10 hits,’” the 31-year-old said. “And there is nothing wrong with that, but that was not what was natural to me. I truly love playing my guitar and piano and writing stories.”
Williams wrote or co-wrote all the songs on her new album, which features Jackson Browne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jakob Dylan and Dierks Bentley.
The singer, who is on a tour that wraps July 28 in Lincoln, Neb., talked about her new project in an interview with The Associated Press.
Q. Your songs are often very introspective. Do they reflect your personality?
A. I’m the complete opposite of my lyrics. I think that I’m, you know, really outgoing. I love to throw fabulous dinner parties and drink a lot of wine and put on Jay-Z and dance on the table — not every night — but I definitely turn into something else when I am singing. And when family and friends heard (the new album), in the beginning they were kind of shocked by it. Like where is this coming from, these songs about love and loss and addiction and all the things that you go through as a person?
Q. Given your family history, do you have to fight being labeled a country singer?
A. Definitely. I still get identified like, ‘Oh, the country singer Holly Williams,’ and there’s nothing wrong with ‘country singer.’ ... Hank Williams had a famous quote that said, ‘I don’t know what you mean by country. I just write songs’ and that is what I live by. Some are so slow, some are fast, some are stories, but they’re just songs.
Q. Can you describe the creative process behind this album?
A. I just started writing songs out of the blue that I was not expecting. I did not go away to a cabin for a month to find my creativity. I was at home and I was literally washing the dishes one morning when ‘Drinkin” popped into my head. ... Then one day I sat down and wrote the whole song ‘Waiting on June’ probably in 15 minutes — (it’s) the one about my grandparents and it’s not bragging.
Q. What does your father think about the new album?
A. He is really proud of it. ... He’ll say things like, ‘Honey, I don’t know why you’re going to Europe for six months, I mean this economy, the music business is down.’ And I’m like, ‘Dad, I’m gonna work my butt off, I want to keep playing. I’m doing it for the music and the love.’ He’s 63 and, you know, is at his farm now and doesn’t have to rough it like I’m roughing it, but he’s super-supportive.
Q. I know from your blog, The Afternoon Off, that you like to cook. Is it true that you hunt for your meat?
A. We do get our own venison, yes. I grew up in that culture. ... You know these factory farms are obviously atrocious so I started deer hunting with my dad. He loves it. I make venison jerky and venison roast and venison hot dogs and venison chili and it’s a neat kind of barbaric feeling to get a hundred pounds of meat and have it for a whole family for a season. I feed everyone. I give them summer sausages, so I love it. I don’t like being in camo (camouflage) at 5 a.m. with my rifle in the miserable cold and bugs, but you know, it’s good food and I do eat meat and it’s a good way to get it.