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Interview: Sam williams opens up about his album ‘Glasshouse Children’ and collaborating with Dolly Parton

The singer-songwriter talks to us about his debut album.

Sam Williams
Credit: Snakefarm Records

Singer-songwriter Sam Williams, the grandson of Hank Williams, is forging his own path with the release of his excellent debut album ‘Glasshouse Children’.

After spending the last few years writing, recording and touring, Williams has developed a sound that’s uniquely his and he’s been captivating Country music fans with his incredible voice. Tomorrow (Friday 20th August), Williams will unleash ‘Glasshouse Children’ and it’s set to be one of the year’s finest records.

I caught up with Sam recently to talk about the making of ‘Glasshouse Children’, discuss collaborating with Dolly Parton on ‘Happy All The Time’ and to discuss the challenges of following in his grandfather’s footsteps…

Your album ‘Glasshouse Children’ comes out this week. Tell me a bit about putting this record together and getting to this stage…

I feel like a lot of the time more established artists set out to make a record and it’s a team effort, and you might go to a writing camp and knock out a lot of the songs. This has really come together over the last 2/3/4 years. Some of the songs I’ve written over three years ago, that I knew were special to me and I held on to. ‘Happy All The Time’, for example, it was one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written and the point that I finished writing that song, I was like, ‘OK, I need to write a lot more and gather some more songs that can back up one that is this important. The whole time, I wasn’t sure I was making an album. In the last six months to a year, it has just all really come together. I just signed a deal with Universal Nashville and now it’s just go time.

It must make it all feel a bit more real having a label like that behind you. Is it exciting to have that backing?

It’s absolutely exciting. I’ve become very accustomed to being an independent artist and not having enough money to get a piece for a shoot, or trying to negotiate a budget down for a video, so that part is weird and I don’t it’s really set in for me yet. Until I can see the full album up on Apple Music and listen to it, and it reach more of the masses, it’s just strange to me because I didn’t really see it coming. I’m very, very excited and they have a wonderful team. They’ve been amazing so far.

You mentioned ‘Happy All The Time’ earlier. You’ve got Dolly Parton on the track. That’s a pretty incredible collaboration. How did it come about?

It was absolutely insane Pip. It was my manager’s idea a few years ago. I was making my son breakfast one morning in January and she said, “we just have to get Dolly on ‘Happy'” and I was like, ‘there’s no way that can happen. Why would you call me right now at 9:30am and say that? You just ruined my day!’ (laughs) because I love Dolly so much. A lot of times in the music industry there’s crafted collaborations that are concerted, and they’re not that organic. (I thought it) would just be amazing but I couldn’t see it happening. We tried every professional avenue to get to her. I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. It ended up being that one of my close friends is really close with somebody that (Dolly’s) friends with. Long story short is I wrote her a two page letter. I wrote ‘Hi Miss Dolly’ in the top corner and wrote are just a very real letter about my life and getting into music and just how validating it would be to sing with someone like her. I view her as having the most impressive catalogue in Country music. It ended up being that she really loved the song, she loved the message of it and she loved my voice. It just aligns with the types of things that she puts her stamp on. It was rattling for me for her to put her stamp on me, but it was very, very validating and it helped me have the confidence to keep pushing and think these songs are definitely going to impact people. It’s just the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

That song hits me in two ways. There’s your perspective of those lyrics and then Dolly with all of her experience and the career that she’s had. It feels so authentic from both of you and I think the message of that song is so important and so powerful. It had me tearing up actually, when I was listening to it earlier. It just really, really got to me that one…

Oh thank you Pip!

Sam Williams - Glasshouse Children
Credit: Mercury Nashville

The song that I can’t get over on this album is ‘Hopeless Romanticism’. I’ve had it on loop…

Oh, really?! I love that!

I can hear so much emotion in your voice and so much pain. There’s just so much life and experience in that one. Can you tell me a little bit about that track and putting it together?

That track I actually wrote with a guy named Justin Parker from the UK, one time he was in Nashville. I had gone out to a bar the night before and met someone, and I was just finding myself falling in love all the time. So much that it was funny but not funny, like I was over it. I didn’t know what it was and that’s just what was on my heart the next day. It’s a hopeless romanticism, seeing a future with anybody that you run into. The lyrics say, ‘I know it ain’t right but it’s something about the way my little heart breaks in the middle of the night’. I think that’s just a loneliness and a longing, rooting to really love someone. It was really easy to write that song. It’s a little bit outside, sonically, the sound of the rest of the album. It’s a little bit more similar to bedroom pop, and some of the pop and R&B music that I listen to. I thought it was an amazing add on to the record.

You mentioned that Dolly is a fan of your voice. You have one of those voices that stops people in their tracks so it surprised me that you were initially reluctant to follow music as your path. I do understand the pressure of coming from a legacy but when did you realise that music was going to be your path?

I think that a lot of the time for children or grandchildren of someone so famous like John Lennon, Diana Ross or Hank Williams, it’s difficult to imagine yourself reaching the level of success or the level of impact that they’ve had. We live in such a culture of comparison already, even with people that we have absolutely no relation to. We just see their see their images and their videos, and you compare yourself, so obviously other people do with your family. It’s just a lot to live up to and I have a lot more taste than just in Country music.

For a long time, I just felt like I’m not gonna fit in and I could’nt see myself fitting into this scene. It was also just a growing up thing. I just wanted to have a normal life. In the back of my mind, I did want to. I wanted to do talent shows. I was going to move to Nashville when I was younger and get into music, and I did and ended up moving back to finish out having normal high school years. After I had my son when I was 19, I realised that I had to get into something and I had to figure out what I’m doing. When I started writing songs, everything just changed, and people were taken aback by my approach to songwriting and the things that I had to say. It was really confirming for me. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do but it was an immature natural thing to shy away from it for a little while.

This album is definitely you forging your own path and it has a lot more depth to it than a lot of what’s categorised as modern Country right now. There’s so much to unpack in your lyrics and I’m not hearing music like this from anyone else. This isn’t a throwaway collection of songs…

I love that. Yeah, that’s definitely something I set out to do because some of the albums that impact me the most, maybe within country Brandi Carlile for example and Tyler Childers is somebody that I love, I wanted it to be similar to music that impacts me and that I don’t just listen to get excited when I have something to do. I wanted it to be something that you feel within and makes you think about things that can possibly be uncomfortable, and just showcase a lot of vulnerability in the music.

Will you be heading to the UK to tour this record?

I would love to come do some festivals there. That would be amazing.

Fingers crossed for 2022. We’re letting people back in the country now so…

We will see. I’ve got my vaccine.

‘Glasshouse Children’ will be released on Friday 20th August 2021. Watch the video for ’10-4′ below:

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