Country’s Sam Williams Carries The Family Torch With Vibrant New Music
You won’t find discernible traces of Sam Williams’s famous bloodline on his debut album ― and that’s a good thing.
Much of the buzz surrounding “Glasshouse Children,” which was released Friday, emphasized the fact that Williams is the son of country star Hank Williams Jr. and the grandson of Hank Williams, an icon of the genre. Such comparisons, while well-intentioned, are a disservice, as the 24-year-old is a prolific talent in his own right whose poignant songs reflect “love, family and life in general.”
“It would be detrimental if I was to base my foundation as an artist on my family members,” Williams told HuffPost. “That’s stuff that’s already been done. The best way I could honor their legacy is by writing and singing from the heart, in a way that’s unique to me. That’s all I really can do.”
Though Williams is new to the mainstream, he’s already built a loyal following in Nashville. In fact, he recorded most of “Glasshouse Children” in 2019 and planned to release it independently last year before signing with Universal Music Group (UMG) Nashville this spring.
Catch Sam Williams’s April performance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” below.
The 10-track collection is bolstered by guest appearances from two era-defining country stars, Dolly Parton and Keith Urban. “Kids,” a standout track, features Urban on electric guitar, while Parton’s vocals augment the wistful ballad “Happy All the Time.”
Interestingly, Williams said he’d never met Parton when he wrote the song more than two years ago but nonetheless was determined to “manifest” a collaboration with her at the suggestion of his manager, Missi Gallimore.
“I’ve always been a humongous Dolly fan … in fashion, in looks, in multimedia dominance,” said the singer-songwriter, who also cites Lori McKenna and Kacey Musgraves as influences. “Before all of those things, she’s one of the most impactful songwriters in country. So I wrote her a very sincere, two-page letter about my life, my songwriting process, how I looked up to her and how validating it would be.”
“She just loved the message of the lyrics,” he continued. “It was very organic, and that was very affirming for me. Just the magnificence of someone of her stature embracing an unknown, left-of-center artist really changed my life.”
Other highlights of “Glasshouse Children” include the simmering title track and “The World: Alone,” which is dedicated to Williams’s sister, Katherine Williams-Dunning, who died in a car accident last year. “I was gonna show you the world, there’s so much for us to see,” he sings on the track. “It was supposed to be you and me, but we got this disharmony/And now I gotta go it alone.”
“I think when people go through something that tragic and traumatic, they want to do everything they can to make it better, or they shut down completely and can’t do anything,” Williams said. “I’ve been in both of those modes … my life was completely thrown off in every single way, and I’m still very much recovering from it.”
“The song had a strange clairvoyance to it after she passed away,” he continued. “It felt like I’d written it for her, so it only felt right to put it out on what would have been her 28th birthday and just be like, ‘You know, Sis, I’m going to keep going. And I love you.’”
Williams celebrated the release of “Glasshouse Children” with an Aug. 14 performance at the Grand Ole Opry. He also plans on supporting the album with a national tour once it’s safe to do so.
Ultimately, he’d like listeners to come away from the album with a renewed sense of the “power in vulnerability.”
“I think it was really easy for me to not be conscious of what people might expect or want from me,” he said. “It’s more likely for something that’s really important to my heart to impact someone else. I don’t have to run away from things I’ve been through, I can address them head-on. And there’s healing in that.”
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