As I’ve written before, Centre County has its share of musicians who have skipped town to — simply — go for it. Olivia Jones just left for Nashville, Jason McIntyre has made leaving town a lifestyle and a slew of other local folks have done the same.
This isn’t to say you can’t make an impact with Centre County as your home base. The Marah brothers live in Milheim, Mark Ross has played with the likes of B.B. King, Pure Cane Sugar plays here there and everywhere and Eric Ian Farmer is making a living playing and singing his heart out up to four days a week. But, for those who have chosen to leave town for a bigger pond, the journey is a bit different.
“Right now and for the past seven to eight months, I’ve been working on my first solo album, ‘Sunset Park,’ ” said State College native Jack Williams, who recently moved to New York City to manifest his music career. “No features, no samples, all original work. ‘Sunset Park’ is done for the most part and will be released on most streaming services within the next few weeks. Other than that, I’m working on more music with Cecil Blutcher, who I’ve been working with for a year and a half.”
Williams is an all-original musical artist who has youth, brilliance and vision, and he’s taken that with him to New York. His approach to his craft is to go big, in whatever direction that may be. If a song is sad, it’s as sad as hell. If it rocks, it rocks hard. There’s no gray area, no middle ground, no pulling punches.
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“I like to make music that is dramatic sounding,” Williams said, “either sad or energetic but then take the music and add my voice to it. ... When I started producing I made dance music, so creating vocals is a whole new art to me. I try to find a way to create the most vivid images through music with my production and lyrics on top of it.”
Williams has an array of musical influences, and, as a testament to his art, they change over time, depending on what he is currently creating or pursuing.
“When it comes to production, I’d say in the past two to three years I’ve looked up to Travis Scott the most,” Williams said. “It’s hard for me to come across songs by anyone that sound better than anything off his album ‘Rodeo.’ On ‘Sunset Park,’ I definitely looked up to Johnny Cash, Drake, The Weeknd, Kings of Leon and Nav when it comes to melodies and overall vocals.”
Getting to New York came via a traditional path of higher education and quickly developed into a passion and a love for the epicenter of modern culture.
“I started playing drums from a really young age, so they are always my first love,” Williams said. “Eventually I started playing cello and playing with GarageBand. About two years ago I went to a program at NYU for music technology and during my time there, fell in love with the city. So eventually I made the move to Brooklyn and started work on what is now ‘Sunset Park.’ ”
Regardless of what he’s getting into, Williams opens his heart to his music.
“It’s nerve-wracking beforehand and for about five minutes when I start every time,” Williams said, “but once I get into my zone it’s one of the best feelings ever. Being able to share who I am on a level like that with complete strangers is a crazy thing but it’s one of the best things.”
Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.