“We’re traveling in Willie Nelson’s old bus and it definitely feels like a caravan harkening back to the older eras,” says singer/songwriter and Ten out of Tenn participant Joy Williams. “It does feel like we’re a pack of bohemian artists just gathering together. I feel like we each have such unique musical styles and it’s really fun to blend them all together in a show form. I think people’s ears are going to be continuously tweaked as they continue to stay through the night. It’s been really fun because you leave practice every day with someone else’s song stuck in your head. I am excited about hitting the road and having other people experience what we’ve been practicing.”
On Friday, Sept. 18, Ten out of Tenn – as in 10 artists from Tennessee – will perform at Workplay. Joining Williams in the current lineup are Trent Dabbs, Madi Diaz, Sarah Siskind, Andrew Belle, K.S. Rhoads, Ashley Monroe, Kyle Andrews, Jedd Hughes and Mikky Ekko. Several of the participants have previously appeared as headliners at WorkPlay.
Though you won’t likely hear Williams and her fellow artists on Top 40 radio, you are likely to find them via satellite radio, Internet and iTunes. And despite ongoing negative press about the state of the music industry, Williams is enthusiastic about building her career through these musical avenues.
“It’s a great time to be a musician. Because [music] is so accessible and so available, it keeps musical conversations going all around the world. In a moment’s notice, anybody can just check out your music. I do think it can be a challenge financially as things continue to be spread out, but it’s a great thing because it checks our motives as musicians. Are we doing it because we want to get rich? No – we’re doing it because we love it and we can’t possibly imagine doing anything else. So in the process of it being accessible, it gives everybody a voice and a chance to make their own music - everybody is rolling up their sleeves as blue-collar musicians. This is a great era because great music is made when it’s not about ego and it’s not about money first,” Williams says.
An additional source of exposure for an independent artist like Williams is found in television and film placements. Series including Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs and One Tree Hill have brought music by independent artists into millions of households.
“Radio tends to have a formula for what works and what doesn’t,” Williams offers. “It’s great if you can get on radio, but you don’t have to be on radio to get your songs heard now – you’ve got online and TV and film [outlets]. I’ve been really thankful to have placements in the past six months to a year, including Grey’s Anatomy and several other shows. I think music supervisors for TV and film stay ahead of the curve, so their ears are to the ground a little more. It’s a great time to be an independent artist because there are people actively looking for a different sound. Not everybody wants to hear what’s in the Top 40, so it mixes it up – it gives the independent artist a chance to be heard.”
As a singer/songwriter, Williams is continually honing both skills and views her inclusion in Ten out of Tenn as an ideal way to accelerate her learning curve.
“I still feel I have a lot to learn in both categories. I was a full-time songwriter for the last couple of years with a company based out of L.A. I wrote rock, country, for Disney and for TV and film – it’s kept me busy. I’ve been performing for about a decade now and I’ve been songwriting for seven or eight years. I look at Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and other amazing artists and I think I have so much farther to go. But it’s a good thing because, hopefully, the songs will keep improving as I continue to grow and learn. Hanging out with the other [TOT] songwriters and musicians makes you better at your craft. It’s not competition, but it’s about being spurred on to be the best you can be,” she says.
Following the TOT fall tour, Williams will tour with her other musical project, The Civil Wars. A nine-year resident of Nashville, the Northern California native loves the South but is still developing her Southern slang.
“I still can’t say ‘Y’all’ or ‘Fixin’ — it doesn’t feel right yet,” she laughs.
The Ten out of Tenn fall tour arrives in Birmingham on Friday, Sept. 18, performing at WorkPlay. Tickets cost $12 and are available at (205) 380-4082 or www.workplay.com.