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Interview with: Jett Williams
By Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )
CSO European Contributing Journalist

February, 2004

CH: Jett Williams is the daughter of Hank Williams, one of the most famous Country Music artist in the world. Jett were you ever bit by the same song writing bug that bit your father?

J: Absolutely, My dad, Hank Williams was not only the greatest singer in Country Music, he also happened to be the greatest songwriter. He has written such standard hits, in fact I call them America's country music and America's folk music. These songs are not just known to the U.S., but to the whole world and especially to the German folks. My daddy did a USO tour and went to Germany, which was quite a long way to travel for a boy from Alabama. I myself, need to concentrate more on writing. I have spent more time building up my career in live performances than I did concentrating on writing. You know I have put out numerous albums and I have written numerous songs. I have written songs and I have recorded them. They are on my CD's. I enjoy doing it, I love it. There is nothing like music.

CH: How would you describe the music you are playing to somebody that does not know you?

J: Truly traditional Country Music as it was in the original country sound. The fact that I am the daughter of Hank Williams means that if I go to Germany and I do not sing Jambalaya, or monster hits like that, then I might as well pack my bags and get out. I was raised on Country music and to me traditional country music is not dead. It is still alive. I enjoy the simple clean sound of traditional country music.

CH: How is your current CD doing?

J: We just released "You're On My Lonely Mind" and I had a single cut out there "A Soft Place To Fall" and the reviews have been fantastic. I was real proud to see how big this song was on the radio play lists. That particular song came from a movie called "The Horse Whisperer". It was cut before the movie, but I did a different arrangement of the song and the re-released it and it is doing well.

CH: How did you find the title for your CD and what inspired you for this title?

J: My half brother Hank Williams Jr. did a duet with my dad called "Tear In My Beer". When I was playing "Tear In My Beer", instead of playing it to the up tempo, for some reason I started playing it real slow as in a ballad and I thought this sounds good. So when I played it back I noticed that every other line in the song "Tear In My Beer" is :Your On My Lonely Mind", so when I rearranged the song -- I do more of rearranging of songs than I do of actually writing. I put the cut on there and named it "You Are On My Lonely Mind".

CH: How much do you think a song influences the public mind?

J: In order for a song to be a hit song it has to mean something. It has a lot of influence because before it can become a hit or even get attention you have to listen to the words and it has to have meaning to you. If it doesn't you just hear it, and it goes in one ear and out thru the other ear. Therefore, a song can have influence on people. You may, for example see people listen to a certain song and they get up and dance or try to romance. A song may be important in courting someone. Music is very powerful and has a lot of influence.

CH: How has the internet affected your popularity and your CD sales? Has it hurt you?

 J: The internet is good and bad. Good is the fact that you can be an artist anywhere and people can get information about yourself easily. For example, when people read this interview, they may visit my website to find more information. It can educate people and give them knowledge. Where it hurts is the fact that on the internet you can access music and songs and people will download without paying, which hurts the artist and the songwriters, because this is how they make a living. Therefore making an illegal of the music reduces the sales figures. It also hurts the artist because he is not getting credit for this sale and that might mean that he/she is missing those numbers in becoming a hit artist. You might hear comments like country music is not selling, because the number of illegal copies are missing from the sales figures and that hurts the whole industry.

CH: What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights, accomplishments and achievements that you are proud of?

J: I am most proud of the moment when I made the first walk on the Grand Ole Opry and was introduced as the daughter of Hank Williams. It was great to hear my own name. Jett Williams and then to take that walk out there and stand in the "sacred circle" as I call it, where so many country music greats have stood and showed their talent and to be honored and to be a part of the Grand Ole Opry. Every time you walk out there is special, but that first time is like floating. Also, the first time I actually sang professionally stays in my memory, because I did not know exactly how the public would take me, because of who and what I am. As I walked on to the stage for the very first time, they gave me a standing ovation before I even sang a note. But, as my husband said, it was even more important that I got a standing ovation after I sang. That was in 1989. Charley McCoy was present also and he came up on stage and played his harmonica behind me, which was quite a statement. I am proud to say that I am going to be in Germany in March with him and this will be the first since that day, that we will be on a show together. I have the greatest admiration for him and I know he is also looking forward to coming to Germany.

CH: What do you think about today's country music compared to its roots and where do you see it going in the future?

J: I am known as a militant traditional country music artist. I sing traditional country music. My problem with today's country music is not that the talent is not there, but the songs are not being written. They are not letting the artist have their own style. Under the traditional umbrella when you

heard somebody you knew who was singing , be it Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn or Johnny Cash. Today you don"t hear a difference anymore.

CH: If I ask you to name me two number one songs from last year, that would be hard to do?

J: I still believe that the talent is there, but the trend of the industry is to do only music which promises to make a lot of money, therefore it all sounds similar. Because once a song has proved successful, everyone jumps in and follows the dollar. So many new artist are presented to the public that they do not even have time to absorb them. The other difference is that in traditional country music you have to be able to play and sing. Today you better look real good. Today's country music is not audio, it is visual and that goes for men and women alike. Personally, I do not want to sound like everybody else, you need to be different. When my dad came to Nashville he wanted to sound like Roy Acuff, but he soon learned that he had to find his own style. Today if you come to town and do not sound like a Toby Keith or Garth Brooks or whomever, then you better watch it. But for me any kind of music starts out with style and everybody that starts singing listens to this or that style and takes a bit from everything and creates their own style. That is what makes for example, an Alan Jackson or George Strait different. When I was performing in Germany one thing that felt absolutely fantastic to me was that when I sang one of my dad's songs those people in the audience could sing right along with me, they knew the words. I had the Drifting Cowboys Band with me and two of the band members, the late Jerry Rivers who played fiddle and Don Helm on steele. Not only did the audience know the music, they knew the lyrics and everything else to it, and if you did not play it like they heard it on the record, they would let you know. I had about 27 shows there in one tour and had a great time.

CH: I think AFN had a lot to do with that because you could listen to it anywhere in Europe and that is how Europeans got hooked on American Music to begin with.

J: I couldn't agree more. They not only brought the music to you but they also brought the artist there so the German folks could see what they were hearing. It is one thing to hear somebody on the radio but it is another to actually get to see that person. That is one thing about being Jett Williams I am having my fans, but I am also having my dad's fans. Therefore I have a lot of people come, like in Germany that say "I was born after your dad died, but my Mum and Dad loved your dad and they loved that music."

CH: Those are giant shoes you have to fill. Is that a double-edged sword?

J: It is, but I am not filling the shoes, I am just following the footsteps. As far as the double-edged sword goes, that was more in the beginning, when people asked themselves whether I would just trade on the name, what I looked like, or what I sounded like, will she be around for just a year or so? Well, this is my 14th year. So being the daughter of someone famous, whether it be Hank Williams or Patsy Cline or Johnny Cash that will get you a door opened, and it may allow you to walk through that door, but you better have something other than that to stand on and be able to sing in order to continue to perform and be heard. After 14 years in the country music I can say I am still here and performing all over the world. That says something!

CH: May I ask you how you feel about Hank Williams Jr.?

J; We get along in business. As far as personal or family relationships are concerned we are not at that stage. I am close to some of his children. The thing about Hank Jr. and me having Hank Williams as a father means that we are kind of from the first family of country music. We have met

and talked and both of us have agreed that we put our dad above any differences that we may have had. In fact both of us want his memory and his music to be remembered and last forever. We have to agree and disagree on everything since we own the estate. One thing that we both dearly agree on is that we both want what is best for his memory, his music and his fans.

CH: So you definitely honor your father?

J: Yes, absolutely and Hank Jr. does ,too.

CH: Jett, I know you got to know many famous artist. Are there any funny stories you experienced?

J: Yes, I got a phone call from George Jones and his wife Nancy and they wanted to take my husband and me out to dinner, because George Jones is a big Hank Williams fan and he wanted to meet me. So we set a place to go for dinner. When we got to the parking lot of the restaurant, my husband got his camera and I said "No, honey, leit until after dinner. If things are going well , we will ask for a picture." He said "Yes, you are right" So I started walking up the parking lot and this man jumps out of the car and starts taking my picture and when he put the camera down I saw it was George Jones. So we've got pictures of George Jones taking pictures of us. After dinner we stepped out and my husband handed George a cigar and George looks at me and says "Jett, may I have your autograph"? I just about died for George Jones asking me for an autograph. It was a great dinner.

CH: Many music fans today get their information about an artist from the internet. Do you have your own website and exactly what information can one find on it?

J: I have a website, the address is www.jettwilliams.com On my home page you can get the standard information, like my biography and things like that. We are trying to keep the news updated so it is current as are the photographs. Especially when I am going to Germany and Denmark. I am planning on coming back and having a special icon clickset-up, so that people here in the U.S. for example, can go there and see some of Germany. Hopefully I will get to do a little sightseeing as well and write a little bit and talk about audiences and the shows that we did. I also have a guest book that I as people to sign . I am already getting people from Denmark and other places signing and saying "Hi, I am coming to your show." This aspect of the internet is real

exciting. It can put you right in someone's hands with that information and you can communicate with the artist. There is so many sites, but I believe we are linked to Hank Jr's Pages, to my dad's page and to a company called Country Vintage. Country music has some very good information sites.

CH: In Germany most fans dress up in cowboy/cowgirl style for country music concerts. Is that the same here in the U.S. and around the world, and what do you think about it?

J: It is the same in most parts of the world. If you go to another country and sing American Country Music and the audience does dress up in that style then that is a compliment. They are showing respect. You want to go out there and Two-step. You want to go out there and have a cowboy hat on. When I go on stage I dress myself up with cowboy hat, boots, etc. Because that is the music I am singing. So when people do that I take it as a compliment. Here in the U.S., depending on the cities that you are in it is not like that. When I was in Japan for example, and gave a concert for about 35,000 people, I had not seen so many cowboy hats in my whole life, I loved it! When I for instance go to the Hofbrau Haus or the Octoberfest in Germany I would want to put on a German outfit. I want to be part of that historical event so I would try and find something that the locals are wearing at that time during the celebration.

CH: What do you remember best from your previous visit to Germany?

J: I think it is a wonderful country. I have been there several times and have thoroughly enjoyed it. One aspect which reminds me a lot of the U.S. that it is fairly dramatic between the southern part of Germany, the Bavarian area and the northern area. Not only the food, but the way people talk. I am looking forward to going back there, perform there and hopefully have the chance to do some sightseeing as well. It is one thing to go and do a show, which I love and to sign autographs, but to also go and appreciate the country and all the beauty that Germany has, that's an added bonus. I remember, for example the Black Forest-- I didn't know what to expect, it is not black and that is hard to explain to somebody in the U.S., but then you go there and realize it is so dense that when you walk in there that the sunlight does not penetrate. It is great to get to see things that you had only read about up to that point. I am looking forward to all the traveling this year. In July I will go to Sweden and Don will hopefully be with me.

CH: If somebody likes to book you for Europe, who do they need to contact?

J: Either myself via my website, under www.jettwilliams.com or via e-mail: mailto:jett@jettwilliams.com or call (US)615 655-5549, ask for Keith Adkinson or send me a letter to Jett Williams P.O.Box 177 Hartsville,Tn. 37074 USA Another good thing about going overseas for concerts is that you meet people and exchange cards. I not only love to perform on stage, but when time permits after the show I love to take all the hand shakes and hugs I can get. It is wonderful to make new fans and friends and to be able to go back on a yearly basis. A lot of the shows that I do are repeat performances because I feel the audience likes what we do.

CH: I know you have an autobiography on the market. You are very young to have an autobiography published already, what can readers find there?

J: Well what usually happens with biographies is that you have to die first. I am not dead yet, so this is just the first part to my biography. The thing is that if I made the story of Jett Williams up, it would not be that good. So when people use to hear the story they would say "Jett, you need to write a book" well, my husband and I wrote a book and it got great reviews. Here in the U.S. we have something that is called the National Library of Congress, which is in the federal government. They keep all the copyrights for literature and music. They have a panel and each year they select the top 100 books of the year and they put them into Braille and Audio and they are distributed to every library in the U.S. for the visual and hearing impaired. The year that my book came out they picked it as one of the top 100. I am real proud of the fact that we are getting ready to release the book and the CD here in the US as a package.

CH: Besides coming to Europe in March 2004, what are your plans for the remainder of the year?

J: When I am back from my European tour in the spring, I have a lot of tours here in the U.S. After that I will go back to Europe for shows in England, and in July I will do one in Sweden. This year I will do a lot more European activities than I have in a while. I am happy to see that after September 11 people are starting to travel more, including the artist. We will always look over our shoulder of course, but the state of just sitting around like you were frozen is gone. The world is getting smaller everyday. What country music is about is not being an American or a German, it is just about people being people. Your heart breaks just as my heart breaks and both of us cry when we are sad. It does not have anything to do with different languages. When people come to a country music show, a Jett Williams show it is all about "we are just people and want to have a good time." We want to listen to good music and forget about all of our problems, maybe for just an hour. Do not worry about those bills, do not worry about the baby crying, put on the hats and the boots and have a good time.

CH: Is there anything special that you would like to tell your fans at the end of the interview?

J: I would like to tell the country music fans, especially the German and European country music fans, "I want to personally thank you all for your love for traditional country music and your support by following country music, by reading the magazines, by buying the records and going to the shows. I hope that country music artist have brought you all a little bit of happiness"

CH: Thank you Jett and see you soon in Germany.

 

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