Few are as familiar with the soul of the music industry as Dar Williams. The New York-based folk singer/songwriter has extensively performed her numerous albums and EPs, cultivating a plethora of industry friends, and a loyal fan base. She even wrote a few books about songwriting and is currently drafting another book inspired by a retreat she leads each summer. With all of these projects swirling around her, Williams is still pressing on the gas of her creativity.
With her new album, I’ll Meet You Here, set to drop on October 1, Williams sat down with American Songwriter to chat about the upcoming project and premiere the lead track, “You Give It All Away”(out July 28), below.
For the singer/songwriter, inspiration can come in one of two ways. One channel for inspiration is when she visits spaces where positivity distorts or challenges her thinking— like a museum. But that didn’t happen this time. “‘You Give It All Away’ was one of the ones that started on the couch,” Williams says. She just sat down on the couch and played out the thoughts in her head.
These particular thoughts stemmed from a conversation she had with one of her many industry friends. “I’d recently had a conversation with a friend who said, ‘Am I allowed to feel a little creatively hindered by the sense of music being so disposable, and the fact that we don’t get paid to do this? Like, am I at least allowed to feel a little less inspired?‘” Williams recalls.
“I totally understood what he was saying, because not only did the streaming economy really take away a lot of our income, there was also an expectation that songs are going to be beautiful noise,” she continues. “The music became just something that was coming in from the speakers.”
Williams then began to piece together this feeling of dissatisfaction that simmers underneath the surface of many creative processes. Highlighting the humor that accompanies this sentiment she says, “I did laugh out loud when I wrote the line You give it all away. You finally put something out into the world, and you’re so excited— it took so long to put it out there. And then the audience basically turns around and goes, ‘So, have you done anything lately?’ And you’re like, ‘I just gave birth to an album. Give me my maternity leave.’ So, that was also funny to me because of that kind of disposability.”
Today, the high demand for musical content can be comical, but it can also be exhausting. That’s why Williams conducts writing retreats and pens songs that she knows won’t ever make it on a Billboard chart. She creates because she loves to perform her stories.
This particular creation, “You Give It All Away,” resounds with delightful melodies floating atop high-energy instrumentals. Inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” the horns on the track are unmistakably triumphant. “I heard horns, from the beginning,” Williams says. “And so there are these exuberant horns, and I thought that would be the most fun and most ironic sound in the backbone of all of this wonderful Motown music. [It’s] used to sort of say that we’re in a place that’s very different from them. It seems funny to me, and fun.”
As far as her upcoming album goes, we can expect more of Williams’ clever lyrical arrangements. “A lot of the songs have to do with meeting things as they come to us like ‘You Give It All Away.’ This is the reality, and you can have a sense of humor about it, you can be supportive about it, you can still remind each other that art is really important. And also acknowledge that it’s a different world out there. The industry is different.”