The grandson of Hank Williams and son of Hank Williams Jr. talks about his new single, “Gemini.”
Following the path of his grandfather Hank Williams and father Hank Williams Jr., 22-year-old singer-songwriter Sam Williams is nonetheless determined to make his own impressions. And his new single, “Gemini,” proves the point.
The indie country track creates a whirlwind of Wild West sounds powered by strong beats and bluntly honest lyrics about internal struggles.
Recently we caught up with Williams to talk about his new music.
Cowboys & Indians: You just released your new single, “Gemini.” What has the audience response been like so far?
Sam Williams: It’s honestly been a really good response. I was really excited when a guy named Jaren Johnston from the Cadillac Three, the band, found that song organically. He didn’t know who I was or anything like that, and just loved it and posted it on his Instagram. So I think that the part that’s made me the most excited about it is a lot of people who are really high up in music that don’t know that my dad has any other kids beside Hank III and Holly, that they don’t know who I am and they love the song. And then when they find out the family I come from, they get pretty interested. That’s been the most exciting part for me.
C&I: Tell us a little bit about the production process of the track.
Williams: I wrote “Gemini” with Jaida Dreyer about 18 months ago. I went in and cut it in June, in May, possibly. And I wasn’t really vibing with how it came out because I wanted it to just sound so different than what’s out in country right now. So we took the original demo I did and started building it and adding some live stuff to it, just doing some quirky stuff on it so it would stand on its own and sound different as soon as you pressed play. One of my favorite parts in the production is after the chorus, there’s an arpeggiation or arpeggio or something and it just makes it very different.
C&I: What was is like co-writing the track with Jaida Dreyer, who previously won Real Country? What did she bring to the table?
Williams: Jaida’s very honest and blunt, and I am, a lot of the time, too. It was the first time we’d written together. We were just getting to know each other and I think that our personality type is just to lay it on the table. So we just laid it on the table and said, “This is what we’re going to say.” We’re trying to do this balancing act of life and we don’t always get it right and we’re going to talk about it. She definitely brings an honesty and an edge and it works really well with me.
C&I: The title of the track is “Gemini,” so I was wondering: Are you actually a Gemini?
Williams: I’m absolutely a Gemini. Yeah.
C&I: What kind of Gemini stereotypes do you feel like you fit?
Williams: All of them. John F. Kennedy was a Gemini, Marilyn Monroe [was]; my dad is a Gemini. They’re very driven people and I’m very driven. The stereotypes, I mean, I put some of them in the song, like I can’t pick a side — as in, like which side, good or bad or right or wrong. And walking a line of where you kind of fall into both sides. A lot of the stereotypes, like I said in the beginning, like “those bastards are crazy but sharp as a knife.” They might make mistakes but always know what they want to do and what they’re setting out to do. I would say Geminis are big dreamers. I mean that’s what I am, so, yeah, all the stereotypes. …
Somebody from high school [who’s also a Gemini] sent me a message today and they’re like, “Wow, this song is so real for me.”
C&I: How does this track compare to your other stuff? You had a previous track called “Darkwater,” which is kind of bluesy and funky. And then there was “The Lost Grandchild’s Plea,” which was an ode to your grandfather, your musical history. How does this song fit into the bigger picture?
Williams: I really make all kinds of music, as far as sounds and direction, sometimes. It was a good stepping stone to say, “Hey, my music’s not going to sound run-of-the-mill and it’s not going to sound typical at all.” It was just important to put something out that’s at the beginning of my career, when you look back, that I wasn’t trying to do something that I wasn’t; that I wasn’t trying to be somebody that I’m not. I don’t have any other songs that are really very similar to “Gemini,” but I wanted to get something out that let people know that I’m capable of making whatever sound I want to make. It’s just got a little badass vibe to it that I wanted people to get to hear.
C&I: Are there specific genres and sounds that you want to experiment with next?
Williams: When I get to put out a project, it’s important to me that I’m going to be a male functioning in country music, talking about feelings, talking about emotion, because that’s not something that’s often accepted from either sex, honestly. I just want to separate myself and do my own thing. And as far as different sounds, I have a big collaboration coming out at the end of the year that I can’t talk about yet, but I’m up to making all kinds of stuff. I’m a really, really huge fan of Billie Eilish. I’m a huge fan of Post Malone. So who knows? I don’t know.
C&I: You’re the grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Williams Jr. What have you learned from them and their careers?
Williams: Some [advice] would be direct and some would be indirect and just learned, but for example, I made a post recently that was political on my Facebook and people really didn’t want to see that because it’s just a little bit controversial to talk about when you’re an entertainer. My dad probably feels very differently than how I did on what I posted, but something I’ve learned from him is that you have to be yourself. He tried to be his dad and make his dad’s music and just sing his songs for a long time. And he did good at it, but there came a time and place where he had to do what he was put here to do, and that was change the entire genre of country music. That was to take country music from Nashville and take it worldwide. He’s an icon internationally and that’s something I’ve learned from him, just to be myself because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
When you listen to my dad’s songs, some of my favorites in the late ’70s or ’80s, like “Blues Man,” “Dinosaur,” there’s just a real honesty to it. Some of it’s music just to make music, but there’s a real honesty to it and there’s an extreme honesty to my grandpa’s music. That’s something I always take into my writing rooms and I take into my sessions — think about what I really want to say to people.
C&I: Is there a song you’ve done that you’re most proud of?
Williams: I only have three songs released, so I think that both “The Lost Grandchild’s Plea” and “Darkwater” are extremely honest. I would say my big secret song that’s coming out in the wintertime, it’s that song, for sure.
C&I: What’s something that people might not know about you?
Williams: I grew up in a small town in West Tennessee. I went to public school. I was very academic as a kid, but I kind of stayed away from music for a very long time, until now when it’s just time to.
C&I: Last but not least, what can we expect next?
Williams: My next single is “Weatherman.” It’s my dad’s song that came out in ’81 and I’m actually recording it tomorrow and the next day. It’ll be out probably by the first two weeks of September. And then we will get working on a project for the end of the year.
For more information on Sam Williams, visit his website.
Photography: Andrew Thorpe