In his the title track to his ninth record available June 4, Zane Williams gives a how to lesson on how to become an Overnight Success. 13 years in, he knows a thing or two about the music industry and all its gilded ways.
“Everybody calls you an overnight success. Hey, and all it really took was twenty years of blood, sweat and tears.”
Finally after nine years of songwriting in Nashville, Williams has found his niche in Texas music. He plays country music. He is relevant and engaging. He tells stories that people want to hear, that they can relate to and can make them either wipe their eyes or slap their knee.
Catch him Thursday,May 23 at the Blue Light and experience his familiar brand of country music.
New Slang: Tell me a little about your new album Overnight Success.
Zane Williams: It’s my eighth, so that’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek title. It’s my fourth that I actually still sell that I proud of, the first four basically suck so I don’t sell those anymore. I have been doing music for a living now for about 13 years – I quit my day job 13 years ago. In a nutshell I was in Nashville for eight years and I made a living for seven years doing solo coffee-house acts and for two years I was a staff writer for a publishing company that gave me a salary to write songs. Then we moved back to Texas in ’08. I basically just reached a point in Nashville where I was kind of a square peg in a round hole trying to fit into the Mainstream Nashville scene You know, I felt more mainstream than the Folk and the Americana world, so I was sort of in search of a genre and when I moved back here to Texas I really found that the whole Texas Country genre was a real good fit for me. You know, mainstream music was a big band and party on Friday night – not just a bunch of folkies sittin’ around a campfire but it doesn’t have to be that mainstream “flavor of the day” on mainstream country radio.
NS: Like you said you’ve been doing the whole music scene for 13 years now? and kind of lived the life you sing about in Overnight Success. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen, good or bad in the music scene?
ZW: Well, I think just overall the music industry as a whole has kind of shrunk and seems to continue to shrink, at least in terms of the amount of money there is to go around so that has changed the industry side of things. But musically I don’t know, it’s the same old story. Country music is going more in a pop and rock direction and rap and stuff. You know, there have been some acts that were able to achieve mainstream success and still have a rootsy sound, but they’re kind of few and far between. My favorites were the Dixie Chicks, and then their whole career went down in flames practically overnight because of that whole political comment so I’m still bummed about that. I like Zac Brown pretty well and I like Kacey Musgraves, hopefully she does really well. To me it doesn’t even have to be traditional country, it should just be real and honest and have some substance to it, that’s all. But I do feel like the traditional instruments of country music – the steel guitar, the fiddle, the mandolin – that stuff matches well with songs that tell stories, and songs that celebrate family and the working man and the simple life and stuff. I feel like there’s a place for that kind of music in our world and done well and done right. I don’t think you have to be pop to be relevant. So that’s kind of my goal was to find a way to be relevant and be mainstream and be popular, but still have songs that have substance. That’s my goal.
NS: You are really good at telling stories and to me, that’s what country music is all about. I can’t get enough of “Pablo and Maria” that I’ve heard you sing with Kylie Rae Harris. I know y’all have played together for a while but she just had a baby, are y’all going to keep playing together?
ZW: I sing with here whenever I can get her. She’s starting to get back into it and kind of find the new rhythm, or whatever that is of being a new mom. But you know, I get her whenever I can. We did something just a couple of weeks ago in Nashville together and I know she’s got her own record coming out before long so I probably won’t get as much. Last fall she sang every show with us. It’ll probably be more of a special occasion type thing now.
NS: Let’s talk about the show you’re on, Troubadour, TX. I talked to Josh Grider a while back when y’all were filming and playing at the Blue Light, that was a fun night. I want to hear your take on the show.
ZW: Well I’m one of the few that was also on Season One. It’s changed a lot since Season One but I think all the changes have been positive. I think they’re in some ways in the same boat I’m in which is they’re new to the Texas scene, and they’re trying to build their brand and get their name out there. I think the group of people who run it and film it and everything are great, you couldn’t find nicer people, and I think they’ve got a good vision and good financial backing, so I think they’re here to stay. Hopefully they’ll just continue to build the show and make it better and better every season. I think they definitely have some cool stuff on there in terms of not just the every day interview and performance, but the more in-depth documentary type stuff.
NS: Have y’all had a good response for it?
ZW: Yeah, it’s building. It’s getting to the point now where pretty much everywhere I go, a different town I’ve never been to or whatever, there will be two or three people come up and be like “oh yeah man, I’m so excited to hear you, I’ve been watching on Troubadour, TX, and I like your music.” So, that’s good. I got recognized on the street by somebody in Nashville last week and then a couple of days later I was in Houston in Walgreens and somebody recognized me. But we’re still no Duck Dynasty, we don’t show up and there’s 2000 people in a line down the street waiting to get autographs or anything like that. I think it’s growing, it’s starting to get a little bit of traction. Hopefully as my career grows, the show will grow and kind of feed off of each other.
NS: So what would you consider the ultimate success for Zane Williams? When could you hang up your hat and say, “OK, I’ve done it all now.”
ZW: Well, I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way until I’m dead. I don’t have a strong need to necessarily be famous or whatever, I just mainly want to make a living and I want to keep my music fun to where I always want to do it. When I first came back to Texas I went to this place called Love and War in Plano and they were giving an award to Rusty Weir, like a lifetime achievement award and he was pretty ill already at that time and I just remember they wheeled him up to the stage in his wheelchair and he had a guitar in his hand and he was just getting into it and playing and everyone was singing along to every word “[singing] Don’t it make you want to dance…” and it was like a packed house and an enthusiastic crowd singing along and I was thinking, man, that’s what I want to do is be that guy in a wheelchair being wheeled to the stage and still having fun with it up until the end.
NS: If you were stuck on a deserted island with one CD, what would it be?
ZW: I’m gonna say something weird, I’m gonna say Chris Rice, Deep Enough to Dream.
NS: If you were banned from TX, how would you spend your last day?
ZW: I know you’re probably thinking Texas landmarks and restaurants and stuff and I’m thinking family and stuff.
NS: You can take your family with you!
ZW: Ok, if we take family out of the picture, I think I’d love to just do a concert at Love and War in Plano, kind of my home base, and get the Frio Country Platter and drink some, I don’t know Shiner I guess!
NS: Do you have any superstitions, on or off stage?
ZW: No, I kind of feel like whatever’s gonna happen is gonna happen.
NS: What’s the most shocking music on your iPod?
ZW: I’ve got some Ace of Base [singing] “I saw the sign..” I’m sure nobody remembers who those people are. I do love Eminem, I like Katy Perry. I love all kinds of music I just love country music the best.