M.A.D. Wednesday Interview Series: Tim Williams

brent johnson and bill bodkin continue the series about the hottest original band night in New Jersey …

I hail from: LONG story. Born in West Chester, Pa. Grew up in Monmouth Beach, N.J. Currently reside in the Philly suburbs.

The Year I Started Playing Was: Always had a guitar since I was a little kid. Maybe 10 years old. Didn’t get serious about it until after college, though.

My First Public Performance Was: 2006 at a bar I was bartending at in Ambler, Pa.

You Can Find My Music At (in stores or online): iTunes and Amazon. I have one EP out called We Begin and one single out called “My Fix It Up Life.”

My Sound Has Been Likened To: Matt Nathanson, the Goo Goo Dolls, the Counting Crows.

Awesome/Notable Acts I’ve Played With: Ryan Star, Jeffrey Gaines, Kevin Hearn (Barenaked Ladies), Adam Kowalczyk (Live), Diane Birch.

Tim Williams performing at The Casablanca Coffee in Nashville earlier this month

PB: How did you get involved with the M.A.D. series in Red Bank?

TW: I’m a 2000 Shore Regional graduate, and we had our high school reunion here last November. I loved the upstairs venue space and looked them up the following week. I have played solo shows back in the area from time to time because my brothers and some friends still live around here. But I had never played a full band show in the area. Chris and Anthony were great in giving us a slot, and we’re really looking forward to it.

Pop-Break: You once starred in RENT. How different is it to perform music as a theater actor compared to a rock musician? What’s more difficult?

Tim Williams: I got my “performing” start in theater and then made the transition into the original music world. I’ll always have a deep appreciation and love for live theater. But I prefer playing live, original music because it’s real. You get to be yourself and express yourself, truly in the moment, without playing a role. It’s genuine, and the meaning and feeling of a song can change each night. No feelings are contrived in music … acting can sometimes feel like a square peg in a circular hole if you don’t fully relate to a role or if you don’t like the material. But when it’s my music, it’s completely raw and real and I prefer it over theater.

PB: Did acting in a musical affect the way you write songs at all?

TW: Definitely. I’ve always been fascinated with the way a ballad in a rock musical can truly capture an emotion or feeling at a very specific part in the story. With that in mind, one of my favorite writing styles is trying to paint a picture of an epic moments in our lives. It usually works well with songs about lost love/breakups. Songs that tell a great, engrossing story that are universally relatable are what I try to write. Any good song should suck you in and move you on some level, the way a good musical can.

PB: I see you’ve played a lot at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. That’s such a fantastic venue. What are your other favorite places to play?

TW: I love Tin Angel in Philly. It’s a 115-capacity listening room with a great house system, awesome board operator and great staff. I also play a weekly gig a my “home base” bar, in Manayunk, Pa. It’s like the Hoboken of Philly. Young, bar town. The bar is Bourbon Blue. I play there every Sunday night and we are now in our third year. I often have other musicians sit in with me and it usually turns into the best Sunday night jam session in Philly. We usually play 9 p.m.-2 a.m. It’s a lot of fun and I’m really proud of what that night has become. It’s a night where my musician friends and I can try new material, try new elements like cajon, cello, fiddle, etc.

PB: Did you ever consider taking a stage name?

TW: [laughs] Yes. Tim Williams is a common name. There’s even another Tim Williams signed to Dovecote Records that I get confused with at times. I’ve considered Timmy, Timothy, Timm … but that’s not me. In February of this year, I began booking full band shows under the name “Tim Williams and The Delicate Few,” but I’m not sure if that’s going to stick. At the end of the day, I’m Tim Williams and any other stage name just doesn’t feel right. At least I’ve got timwilliams.com.

PB: You have a wonderful website — with a cool, comprehensive blog. Is it impossible now to be a musician without a hand in social media?

TW: I think my website is the best marketing tool I have. The days of hanging posters around town are over. I think it’s a very exciting time to be a working musician because the social media scene is constantly evolving. To stay competitive, you have to learn all the new mediums. Right now, you’re talking Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, ReverbNation, Ourstage, etc., etc., etc. Some people may get intimidated by all of the sites you need to monitor, but I think if you are smart about your marketing and use it to your advantage, these sites will do nothing but help you get your name out. Plus, it’s pretty cool that you can have one-on-one contact with your fans thru tweets and Facebook comments. I just wonder what the next thing will be in a few years. We’ll see.

PB: What is your advice to musicians who love music, feel they have talent but have no clue to become a serious musician, drawing actual fans?

TW: Play every gig you can and ta;l to everyone you can. It’s taken me five years of playing 200 shows a year (at bars, restaurants, back yards, weddings, venues, etc.) to have be able to say that I am a working musician … and I am only here because of the relationships I’ve made along the way. Go to open mics and talk to other musicians. Learn from the people around you. And don’t underestimate the upside of learning cover music. You can make a pretty penny and play live shows if you know enough cover tunes. It’s a great way to get your name out there in your town and start building that fan base. Start collecting emails and sending out monthly updates to get people excited about your music.

PB: I saw on your blog it seems you name your guitars. Is that true?

TW: [laughs] Yes. Well, kinda. I own six guitars and have only named two. My 2006 Martin DC16-RGTE Aura is named, well, “Marty.” Not terribly creative. My newest and favorite, 2010 Gibson J-45, is named “Josephine.” I figure I spend enough time with them they might as well have names.

PB: What else does 2011 hold in store for you?

TW: My tour is over. I usually do a solo summer acoustic tour. This summer, I played Milwaukee, Chicago and Nashville. The rest of the year will be focused on Philly shows and building my name locally. I play Tuesday-Sunday, selling CDs and collecting emails along the way. Slowly but surely building the fanbase.

PB: What was the first record you remember buying?

TW: Oh man … I remember buying Guns ‘N Roses’ Use Your Illusion I and II on tape. That’s probably the first. But the albums that really shook me up were Pearl Jam’s Ten, the Counting Crows’ August And Everything After and Matchbox 20’s Yourself Or Someone Like You.

PB: What’s your writing process? Do you randomly write when an idea hits? Or do you treat it like a job, where you sit down and write?

TW: I do both, depending on my mood and the song. It works better when it’s not forced. But often times, I’ll come up with a melody on guitar or piano and record it and come back to it at a later time. If I can’t crank out a song in 30 minutes, I put it away and come back to it. When it’s right, it comes outta no where.

PB: Can you compare the New Jersey and Philly original scenes? How have each helped you grow as an artists?

TW: I’m not too familiar with New Jersey’s original music scene. But Philly’s scene is fantastic. It’s a very supportive community that rarely feels like bands are competing against each other. The joke is there are 100 bands in Philly and we all have the same five members. Radio stations like Radio 104.5, 93.3 WMMR and 93.7 WSTW really support local artists.

PB: Can you talk about your involvement on the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition‘s Ty Pennington National Hardware Show.

TW: I work with a radio Talk show called MyFixitUpLife. I’m kind of like their Kevin Eubanks to their Jay Leno. They play my recordings as their bumper music in between segments and when they travel to do remote broadcasts at places like Chicago, Las Vegas, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, etc. I go along and play live during the show. It’s been great so far. We travel quite a bitm and I’ve played music for plenty of celebrities I otherwise never would have, including Ty Pennington and Ed Begley, Jr.

PB: What’s been your biggest career highlight?

TW: I came in second place out of 200-plus bands in March of this year in a Radio 104.5 contest to open for Weezer and Panic! At The Disco at Festival Pier Penn’s Landing in Philly. We didn’t win, but my band and I played two songs live on the air during Friday rush hour to thousands.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites