Acoustic Dance Music, or ADM for short, is whatever you want it to be. It can be those acoustic beats vibrating through your cerebrum or it could be as simple as a knee jerk to that groove that gets you moving. Though at its core, ADM is the lovechild of Keller Williams and his signature looping acoustic guitar, utilizing the full sound of both the acoustic purity of his guitar and the electronic complexity of his hardware.
“If you go back to the origins of dance music, I think it starts with a dude with a fiddle on a stump, in a barn, playing to all the people who have to get up the next day to farm,” said Williams. “To make a long story weirder, you put a funky beat behind it and sometimes, a bunch of different kind of beats, and that’s the beautiful thing about dance music.”
Williams, who has been blending the likes of bluegrass, jam rock and everything in between since 1991, has established himself as a one-man-band with his fundamental mastering of the looping station. Putting out an uncompromising 24 albums, Williams has given of himself to the jam band community in unparalleled ways. Most recently, Williams released the duo of “Sync” and “Raw” this past January, two stylistically unique albums that reach the same essence of Williams’ kindred nature and proficient guitar playing.
In what started as an idea of finding new ways to bring new music to his fans before touring with acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke, Williams conceived the idea of releasing two records on one day, which is unheard of in this age of music. “Albums are a thing of the past … my world is so underneath the mainstream radar,” said Williams. For Williams, “Raw” was more aimed at the solo acoustic aspect of his Kottke tour, stripping down to only his unfiltered guitar and vocals, while “Sync” pulled together an “A+ rhythm section” to create a fuller sound that pulled on all elements of Williams’ prolific music history.
As of late, Williams has found himself in the loop of focusing his energies on crafting a genuinely interesting repertoire rather than honing in on some deep stylistic pedagogy. This process involves sometimes going back to his roots and exploring the possibilities that can arise from learning from past successes and missteps. “Whenever I listen to the stuff from ‘94, I learn to not do it like that,” laughed Williams. “Listening to ideas can help to know what not to play or things not to do.”
“In the mid-90s, I was young and untainted by years and years of smoking, vaping, drinking and dropping; just so unjaded and excited with so much natural energy that was put into these recordings … I hadn’t really found my voice yet,” Williams added.
Outside of lyrical and songwriting quality, Williams has honed and revolutionized the way guitarists utilize a looping mechanism with the acoustic guitar, creating layers upon layers of sonic architecture. “It started way back in the 90s,” said Williams. “People weren’t paying attention to me and I wasn’t paying attention to them so I was like f*** it, let’s have some fun.”
This is when Williams started experimenting with looping technology associated with the digital delay while working restaurant gigs in the early 90s. “I’m talking a digital delay machine and you had to set the parameter, and there wasn’t any tap tempo. I had to set the parameter to play at 4.20 seconds and it looked cool to have the little 4.20 on the screen right there, and then you play between those parameters and if you play outside those parameters, the loop messes up,” explained Williams
Currently, Williams has managed to synthesize a way of synchronizing the looper with the soundboard and his acoustic guitar, courtesy of his guitar and sound technician, who goes by “The Wolf.” However, when asked about the secret behind his sound, Williams quipped, “I could share with you now but you know what would have to happen.”
Keller Williams will be playing at StageOne in Downtown Fairfield as part of the Sweetwater 420 Jamband Series on Saturday, Dec. 9.