Weekender

Local music scene alum releases debut album

Roy Williams got his musical start in State College, where he played various venues.
Roy Williams got his musical start in State College, where he played various venues. Photo provided

The full length album — in today’s music industry — is slowly becoming a relic.

There’s so much demand for new music, and there are so many more ways for consumers to locate and buy new music that the sometimes long and exhaustive process of creating an 11-song album stops making financial sense. Listeners have a seemingly endless supply of places to purchase music, stream music for free or pay for a subscription. Sources like iTunes, Spotify and even YouTube have in many ways made buying full-length albums obsolete, redefining the financial purpose of recording and releasing a full-length album.

With all that being said, State College music scene alum and one-time Penn Stater Roy Williams decided to fulfill one of his lifelong goals of recording and releasing just that: a full length, 11-song rock album called “Last Man Standing.”

“This is it. This is the project I’ve been waiting for literally my entire life. Once I got this project rolling I thought, ‘This is the one,’ ” Williams said.

The album is a synthesis of Williams’ musical influences dating back to when he was a kid. He grew up in a house of musicians that was steeped in the popular music that was at the core of the 1960s popular music scene.

“My whole family plays,” Williams said. “I really can’t remember not knowing the guitar and piano, the basics. It’s been forever. My dad’s a piano player. I grew up listening to my dad play the Beatles and The Band and Bob Dylan.”

Williams’ epic early influences are evident on “Heartbreaker,” the opening track of the album. The opening drum fill is reminiscent of a Van Morrison song, the vocals come in like J.J. Cale and the progression slips into something out of Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline,” complete with honky-tonk piano breaks.

The first single Williams released is “Carolina,” which continues with the synthesis of influences, simultaneously sounding like The Band and even late ’90s jam-band sensation Stir Fried, culminating in a musical call and answer between an organ and a piano that sounds like a bolder Hudson and slicker Richard Manuel going back and forth.

“It’s rock ’n’ roll that makes you feel good, like The Band, Harry Nielson, the Beatles, Randy Newman and Leon Russell,” Williams said. “That’s the music I love, so I wanted to tap into the feeling of playing that kind of music.”

Williams was a fixture in the State College scene in the mid 2000s while attending Penn State, playing venues all around town.

“I got my start playing in State College,” Williams said. “It was the beginning of my music career. I used to play the Hookah Lounge, The Dark Horse, The Tavern, Zeno’s.”

His traveling has taken him to New York City, where he often plays seven nights a week in a variety of formats, depending on who gets the gig and the style of music needed. Williams is virtuosic on guitar, but can hop onto piano, mandolin or any number of other instruments.

There’s a function to it all, because he has created a musical career for himself that also has him flying to other areas of the country for a gig, but, in the end, Williams is tapped into the morphic resonance of the reality defining experience of playing music.

“When it’s really happening, there’s that flow,” Williams said. “There’s no sense of time, or thinking. ... All that matters is that exact moment right then. It takes you to a place that’s the most human place. It’s what we have to offer the world, really. It’s a separate universe.”

Williams intends to perform in State College sometime in the near future, but at this point he is focusing on the marketing for “Last Man Standing,” and is picking and choosing how often he plays songs from the album.

“I want to release a song and then within a week or two do a highly promoted show in New York City to follow it up,” Williams said. “I’d love to get to State College again, and would love to play down that way.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail .com.

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