Getting Funky with Keller Williams

By Beacon Staff

Musician Keller Williams is a busy guy, with a national tour underway and a new album to promote. But he likes to see the fun in all the chaos of a life on the road, and part of that fun is being able to play in a place like Whitefish.

Williams is slated to perform at the Great Northern Bar on Nov. 21. It’s his second trip to the Fish in as many years, with a previous performance in Depot Park last summer as part of a concert series to benefit the Great Northern Veterans Peace Park project.

A native of Virginia, Williams spends a considerable chunk of his tour time in the Rocky Mountain region. It’s a wild and fun place, he said, which makes it a great fit for his music.

Playing in Whitefish was a positive experience, he said, one he hopes to replicate.

“I remember playing up there last summer; I remember the vibe being super high-energy and everyone was really excited and that’s always a positive thing to return to,” he said.

The Nov. 21 show will be a solo performance from Williams, who lately has taken to playing shows with his six-piece funk band More Than a Little. The band – consisting of Williams on vocals and guitar, EJ Shaw on bass, Gerard Johnson playing keyboards and Toby Fairchild on drums, and backup vocals from Tonya Lazenby Jackson and Sugah Davis – also appears on Williams’ latest album, “Funk,” released Nov. 12.

The album contains tracks recorded at two live shows Williams and his band played at a couple of gigs in Virginia. The album is aptly titled, considering the general funkiness of all the songs, but it’s also a peek into what Williams is all about as an artist.

A live album leaves room for more expression from him and his band, and makes room for and celebrates the improvisations that Williams is known for. Being able to improvise with other people is often an arduous task, he said, but for this group, it was almost automatic.

“They’re all very open-minded; a few of them are really deep into the gospel scene in Richmond,” Williams said. “That carries over quite well in an improvisation.”

“Funk” is also full of energy, and it’s easy to tell Williams is excited about the music. It’s been his sole profession since about 1990, he said, but he played his first gig in 1986.

Since then, he has blossomed into a musical force of nature, often referred to as a one-man jam band given his propensity to use a looping pedal to make his solo shows a sonic treat for the audience.

Funk is only one of the genres in which Williams dabbles; he’s also proficient with bluegrass, folk, alternative rock, reggae, dance and jazz. He also treads a fine line between acoustic and electronica in his shows.

Keller Williams | Contributed photo

Having so many types of musical influences is part of what makes his music fun, Williams said. He likes to listen to as much new and diverse music from other artists as he can, and find inspiration in it.

“There’s a huge wide range of ideas I get from listening to music and it just kind of creeps its way into the set,” Williams said.

And though he has been playing with More Than a Little and other musicians at his shows, Williams said his comfort lies in the solo shows like the upcoming Whitefish performance.

“I like to say that’s my day job, that’s what I’m most comfortable at doing,” he said. “I’m definitely keeping a firm foothold in solo acoustic music.”

Knowing that he gets to play his favorite type of show in a place that has already proven itself friendly is a bonus in his job, and Williams said he’s looking forward to taking the stage at the Great Northern and jamming with the crowd.

“I’m definitely excited to come back,” he said.

Tickets for the Nov. 21 show are $18 in advance, or $20 at the door, and attendees must be at least 21 years old. For more information on Keller Williams, visit www.kellerwilliams.com.

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