Flyer Profile: Doug & Telisha Williams

The first ever Fayetteville Roots Festival is coming up on Aug. 29, which means we’ve got less than four weeks to get familiar with as many of the 13 acts that will be a part of the inaugural event as possible. Unless, of course, you’re already familiar with them all. If that’s the case, props to you.

Over the next month, we’ll be doing our part to introduce you to a few of the musicians that will be in town next month via some brief Q&A’s.

The first group we got in touch with is Doug and Telisha Williams, a husband and wife duo from Virginia.

The Williams’ have been playing since high school, where they played in the marching band together. Since then, they’ve been criss-crossing the country in a small RV, playing dive bars and house concerts all over the United States. They’ve released two critically acclaimed records, including their latest release, 2009’s “Ghost of the Knoxville Girl” which spent 15 weeks on the Americana Music Association Top 40 Radio Charts.

We were able to track down Doug and Telisha, and they were nice enough to answer some questions for us.

Fayetteville Flyer: What have you been listening to lately?
Doug & Telisha Williams: Well, we’ve been on the road for several weeks now, and our CD player is broken in the RV, so we’ve been listening to a lot of Satellite Radio. On the road, we tend to listen to a lot of talk (news and such). Otherwise, we typically listen to “Willie’s place” which is mostly classic country. You know, the real stuff!

We were just at a festival on Vancouver Island, and heard some great stuff from Carrie Elkin and a kids’ band called The Kerplunks. It was a great time! We also listen to a lot of our friends. Some of them are even playing the Fayetteville Roots Festival with us – what a lineup!

FF: Have you ever been to Fayetteville? If so, or if not, what’s your impression of the place?
D&T: I don’t think we’ve ever been to Fayetteville. I know that we’ve never played in Arkansas, so this will be a first for us. We’ve passed through many times, so we’re looking forward to stopping in for a bit this time. We’ve heard a lot of great things about Fayetteville and we’re really glad to have an opportunity to check it out.

FF: Tell us a bit about your hometown in Virginia. It sounds like things have been rough for some folks lately.
D&T: Oh, Martinsville. Things are tough there at the moment, unfortunately. It’s a small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and for many years, it was a booming little manufacturing town. We were the “sweatshirt capitol of the world” back in the 80’s, and we’ve been a furniture manufacturing town for decades. As we all know, we don’t MAKE stuff here anymore, so now we’re just a town with an unemployment rate over 22%. It’s beautiful, though. Some artists are making an effort to bring back the town, and we’re hopeful to improve the music and arts’ scene in the area. We’ve got a cool little concert series happening there that we sort of help run, and that’s breathing some life into the downtown.

FF: How much from the stories in your songs come from real life experience?
D&T: Our first record, Rope Around My Heart, was basically a musical autobiography, but we’ve grown a little from writing songs about ourselves to writing about things that we observe. The experiences are still real and true, but they don’t have to have happened directly to us, if that makes any sense.

There is a song on the new record, Ghost of the Knoxville Girl, called 20.2 which was the unemployment rate in our hometown when we wrote the song. So, we’re definitely still writing about stuff we know and stuff we’ve experienced.

FF: How much time do you guys spend on the road? Is it tough?
D&T: We spend as much time on the road as we can (usually on the road about 170-180 days a year). We absolutely LOVE being on the road. It’s tough to make a living, and to pay the bills, but this is the life that we’ve chosen, and we wouldn’t change it for anything. Right now we’re on a 10 week run, and we’re about 5 weeks into it. We’re living in our little RV, just the two of us and our dog, Annabelle. We meet such great people on the road. I think we make more friends than fans, and that’s one of the benefits to this kind of life. We’ve met some crazy cool, insane mad characters on this run so far. Kinda like Kerouac, those are the ones for us.

FF: Tell us a bit about your songwriting process. Do you write individually? Together? How does it work?
D&T: We mostly write together, although Doug is sometimes blessed with a song that he “wakes up to.” We don’t limit the process. It’s not always the same, and we take the songs however they want to be taken. Sometimes it’ll go like this:

Telisha come up with a song theme or line.
Doug develops the lyrics around that theme or line.
Doug often establishes the “sound” of the song (chord progression, rockin’, country, swingy, etc.)
Telisha gets a melody going over the chords that Doug is playing, and maybe develops some harmony parts.

The song sort of goes back and forth like a ping-pong game, until it feels ready.

FF: What’s next for you guys?
D&T: Well, we’re always writing for the next record. We’re really THRILLED with how well “Ghost of the Knoxville Girl” has done. It’s really opened some doors for us. We’re also really digging the new stuff we’re writing now, and we just can’t wait to get it recorded. We’re going to finish this 10-week run, go home for a week or so (assuming our house hasn’t sold – we put it on the market when we left for this tour), and then we’re right back out again!

Click below to hear Graveyard Train, by Doug & Telisha Williams