The singer-songwriter talks about her debut album, My Lucky Scars; her famous family; and surviving a car accident that nearly took her life.
Following in the footsteps of her grandfather Hank Williams and her father, Hank Williams Jr., artist Hilary Williams carries on the family legacy with her debut album, My Lucky Scars.
Recently, we talked with Williams about the new record and her latest single, “Crazy.”
Cowboys & Indians: Congratulations on My Lucky Scars. When the album came out in 2018, what were you most excited about?
Hilary Williams: I was just excited because I’d been working on it for three years, and it was like having a child, finally releasing it and getting it out in the world. The response has been amazing. People are loving it. They really identify with a lot of the songs, and they just love the honesty about it.
C&I: Growing up in your famous family and the industry, were you prepared for the release of your own debut album?
Williams: I was ready. I’d made an EP I put out five years ago. I always loved to sing and write, and I had great people working with me. I was just ready to put it out there. Actually the day I got in my wreck, my attorney was in L.A. shopping me for record deals, so all my plans got derailed for a while, but I came back.
C&I: You had a near-fatal car accident in 2006, the aftermath of which required 23 surgeries and an epic struggle to learn to walk again and heal. What was it like translating those traumatic experiences into songs that offer pockets of hope and express gratitude in spite of all the pain and suffering?
Williams: It was very therapeutic for me because I would write from my hospital bed. I couldn’t sing for six months because the breathing tube damaged my vocal cords. Then I started taking voice lessons again and building my voice back up. It was so therapeutic and rewarding for me to finally record the songs and put them out in the world.
C&I: Was it difficult for you to dig into the topic?
Williams: A little bit. I had a lot of flashbacks and stuff, but it’s good to move through it and move forward.
C&I: What’s audience response been like when you perform those songs live?
Williams: Oh, people love them. Some people start crying. They’re very moved by them, or they’ll say they have a family member or friend who went through something similar. They just say it’s very inspirational for them.
C&I: What’s your songwriting approach like?
Williams: I write on the guitar, sometimes the piano. Sometimes the lyrics come first, or sometimes the melody. Sometimes [something will] hit me. I sing a lot to my voice memos in my phone when something strikes me if I’m driving down the road or something. I don’t know, it can be either one with me.
C&I: Your 2010 autobiography is called Sign of Life, and one of the most powerful lines on the record is “Pain is a sign of life.” Tell us about the meaning behind those words.
Williams: Oh, yes. When I was in the hospital, I told my doctor, “I’m in so much pain,” and he said, “Well, pain is a sign of life.” I was like, oh, my gosh, it’s so true, and it just totally resonated with me. I wrote that song from my hospital bed when I was recovering at my mom’s house with a friend of mine. So that’s how that came about.
C&I: Are there any other stories about how other songs came together?
Williams: Gosh, I’m trying to think. Not really. I was just telling my story to Ross Copperman and Heather Morgan and they just loved it. They’re like, “Why don’t we talk about that like the faceless angel coming to take you and taking you up to heaven?” So that’s where [“Sign of Life] song came from.
C&I: Is there a specific song that your fans have really taken to?
Williams: They love “Beautiful Things.” It’s No. 2 on my record. It’s about even when you’re going through really hard things in life, having faith and things are going to work out. People like that one a lot.
C&I: You have a new single out called “Crazy.” How does that track stand out from others in your music lineup?
Williams: That one, I wanted to talk about love. It’s just about relationships, the ups and downs and how it can be crazy, but you still love that person. It’s such a universal theme. People can relate to something like that. I just love the lyrics and the melody in that song.
C&I: What was the production process for “Crazy”?
Williams: I didn’t write that song, actually. Two of my favorite writers wrote that, Natalie Hemby and Lincoln Parish, but I really resonated with that song. I really liked it a lot. When I play it out, people love it, too.
C&I: Did your grandfather and father’s music history heavily influence the record’s sound?
Williams: Yeah, it did. It definitely had some influence. They write from the heart, and I like to write from the heart and honesty and realness. Definitely their sounds [had an influence], and then I love Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks. The records sound all settled, but [my approach was] just combining all those elements together and coming up with my own sound.
C&I: What’s something our readers might not know about you?
Williams: I just started taking acting lessons. I might get into acting. I’m really enjoying that. And I started taking golf lessons. I’m not a natural golfer, but that’s been super-fun. Also, I’m a huge fan of Cowboys & Indians magazine. My grandfather was obsessed with that magazine.
C&I: If you weren’t doing this, what else would you be doing?
Williams: I’d probably be an interior designer. I really love interior design. Or a fashion designer.
C&I: What can we expect next from you? A new album coming out soon?
Williams: Yeah, I’m writing for the new records and doing shows and working on all that.
For more information on Hilary Williams, visit her website. Photography: (Lead Image) Jim Wright.