Don Williams Talks Songwriting, New Album
Legendary country artist Don Williams sat down with longtime producer Garth Fundis and WSM’s Bill Cody to discuss his new album Reflections, which is out today. The album finds Williams performing new songs and covering old favorites by Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Jesse Winchester and Steve Wariner.
Here’s some choice nuggets from their conversation.
Don: To me, a great love song is just the same as any other song. I mean the lyric and the melody have to be married. They have to saying the same thing. There’s no such thing as a new thought, a new song, a new whatever. But if it’s in today’s terms, whenever that day is, something about that just really interests me. If it’s really well written and has a very good message, you can get by with a lot of things that aren’t super clear with a lot of songs — but with a love song it’s so personal it has to be very direct, because it’s so one-to-one.
Don: I’m a song person. I love good performances on great songs.
Don: Young people are in my audiences. That just blows me away. I guess their parents made them listen to me when they were growing up.
Bill: Guy Clark, Chris Stapleton and Morgan Hayes wrote “Talk is Cheap.” I think about this stage of your life and your career and the album called Reflections, and it’s kind of synonymous with the theme if this song, to me at least. They talk about the fact that time is wasting, you know talk is cheap, times’ wasting, we need to move on with our dreams instead of our memories. How did this song get to you, and what made you so fond of it?
Don: The majority of us spend too much time believing that we’re gonna be here forever. Just don’t think about it that much, you know? The way that song is put together is very clever. Just the way that it just goes together was super attractive to me and Garth both. We wanted to make a run at it on the other album, the album before this one, but there was a little bit of confusion so we waited till this one and said, “Well hey, let’s go.’
Garth: That’s right. It’s a great song I know Don loved it and when we started collecting songs again for this record, I put it back on the table, so to speak, just to give it some consideration and it was “Yeah, let’s do it.”
Bill: There’s a great love song on here called “I Won’t Give Up On You”, and it takes things like, that we’ve heard forever; for better or worse, sweet and bitter, fleeting and forever, all these lyrics came to me as I was listening to this song to describe the finite love and the infinite love that exists in this song, and obviously as a fella who has so many incredible love songs over the years this is a special moment. It’s got to be.
Don: Well, that was a real challenge for me. Every once in awhile run into a song that I just think that there’s no way I can perform this song. I felt that way about that song. It was so different that I was a little. . . I hesitated quite a bit about doing it but Garth said “Yeah you can do that. You can do that”.
Garth: And you did.
Bill: And now your going to get requests to sing it at everybody’s wedding. You realize that . . .
Don: Well you know I don’t have that much time though . . .
Bill: Cause its going to be a huge hit for all those special occasions . . .Anniversaries, weddings, anniversaries those type of things.
Bill: Do you listen to a song like that a lot, like several times though before you decide “okay, lets hold that one?”
Don: Depends. Some of them knock you down the first time around, and then, and then, there are others that what I say what I call “haunt you.” You know, I listen to them, and if it keeps comes coming back and I want to hear it again it keeps coming back I want to hear it again then I really take note.
Bill: Then there’s “Healing Hands.” I know your mother taught you how to play, right?
Bill: …growing up. But I don’t know a lot about your parents, or in this case it talks about this bond the grandparents have handed down that have given this person the character in this song strength to endure now that they have reached that point in their life.
Don: My motivation, apart from the fact that it’s a wonderful song, is how many people I know that had that relationship. I didn’t. I always wished that I had, but I didn’t. So that really motivated me too, the relationship with that I know a lot of people had with their grandparents that I felt like would really appreciate those lyrics.
Don: I’ve never cut a single. I don’t believe in it. Garth and I both feel the same way. Everything that we record, we give it all the attention and caress it and love it needs until we feel like we are complete with it. Every one of them gets the same treatment. Some of them takes longer and we have to work harder to pull it all together than others, but, we’ve never, we just don’t cut singles. We don’t say “that’s the single” up front. No.