Karl S Williams: BIGSOUND Bound, With Blood To Give

Over the past 18 months much-loved rootsy junkyard troubadour Karl S Williams has been somewhat of a transient musical journeyman, dividing his time between Melbourne and his original base on the Gold Coast. He even spent a bit of time in Tasmania at the start of the year. I ask him first up where he’s currently located, and what he’s been up to so far this year.

“I’m back here (on the Gold Coast) at the moment, and have been for the past three or four months, which has been nice. So far this year has involved a lot of planning really. I started working with a new manager towards the end of last year. We set about applying for some grants, and there’s a bit of work involved in making those applications. But we managed to get a touring grant, which has resulted in the tour we’re about to embark on.”

This upcoming run of gigs will encompass 15 dates across various festivals and headlining shows, and I ask Karl if there’s any particular shows he’s looking forward to playing in particular. “I’m definitely excited to be playing the Caloundra Music Festival. It’s got a pretty cool line up, and I hear good things. And I get to play the Northcote Social (in Melbourne) again. I did a residency there last year so it’ll be good to be back. And I’ve got a bunch of shows in Sydney, where I haven’t played in two years. I guess I’m looking forward to all of the shows in one way or another! As a headlining tour it will be the biggest one I’ve ever done. And I’m bringing the band along as well. I’m currently set up as a four piece, but for this tour we’ll be playing as a trio, in the interest of keeping it a little bit simpler. It’ll be nice to have that extra guitar in there.”

And then there’s the alluring spectre of Brisbane’s BIGSOUND looming on the horizon. Having already been part of this music industry opus in previous years, I ask Karl how beneficial the experience has been for him in terms of raising his profile and growing his networks.

“This year I’ll be playing a few showcase gigs across the event, one with the band and one solo. First and foremost it’s a really good time. I definitely get inspired by being there. A bunch of musicians, and venue people that you run into travelling around and playing shows are all in Brisbane for a week – it’s crazy! BIGSOUND has been really beneficial for me in previous years. In my first year I picked up a booking agent and a publisher came out of it the second time I played the event.”

I’m independent at the moment, so this year it’ll be great to maybe talk to some record labels about putting out the next album when it’s ready – fingers crossed”

On the recorded music front Karl has been keeping a relatively low profile of late. But he’s just unleashed a branding spanking new single, entitled ‘Blood To Give’. It’s a cracking number, with some added grit under the fingernails musically speaking, while still unmistakably being a product of the man himself.

I ask Karl if the new track came about as a process of organic artistic evolution, or if there was something more immediate and reactive in his musical world-space to elicit this subtle shift.

“The song has had a few lifetimes. It started a lot more traditional – the main guitar riff I thought of as being like a Pop Staples (classic American gospel and r&b musician) type of thing, with really heavy tremolo. I’d been thinking to bring a bit more skankiness to things..get a bit more electrified and junkyard .For me it feels, in a lot of ways, closer to how things come out organically when I’m playing. Because I’m not really a very polished player, I don’t really do crispy clean, perfect blues, it’s gotta be a bit messy. And the producer I worked with, Matt Redlich, kinda just got that vibe straight away, without us really even speaking about it very much. There were also a couple of musical touchpoints, stuff I’ve been listening to..Alabama Shakes, the Doctor John album that Dan Auerbach did.”

Talk then turns to when the long anticipated follow up to his much loved debut record, ‘Heartwood’ may be seeing the light of day, and how it’s shaping up stylistically.

“It’ll definitely be eclectic. They’re not all garagey-blues tracks, there’ll also be some down tempo, countrified sounds. It’d be great if I can translate some of the ‘dirtier’ vibe from this current track onto the new stuff, and tie it all together when we come to make the album. My loose goal is, if not to finish something by the end of this year, then to at least get half an album’s worth of material down. It’s probably going to be spread out over a few sessions. Ideally I’d love to put something out early next year, although that may be a little bit audacious at this point. But certainly I’d like to release it sometime next year.”

Be sure to catch Karl when he plays in our neck of the woods during September as part of his blockbuster East Coast tour. And check out the review of his killer new single, Blood To Give, also in this issue.

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After hitting BIGSOUND, Karl S Williams performs at Soundlounge on 15 September.

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