Welcome everyone! I am so excited to start this “Tuesdays with…” interview series, I hope you enjoy!
Today, I will be talking with Emmett Williams. Emmett Williams is first and foremost, a story teller. The music, photography,and film: these are all just a vehicle/medium which he uses to tell his stories. He manages to explore and pursue each these mediums, flipping from one to another with ease.
Not only does Emmett enrich our lives with stories, he also uses his arts to do humanitarian work, as you can see with his documentary works. Emmett helps non-profit organizations and minorities find a voice. His documentaries range from stories of people with Multiple Sclerosis to a camp for kids with Tourette Syndrome to the Native American Indians. He doesn’t just tell his stories, he helps people find their voice to tell their stories.
I had the good fortune of catching up with Emmett before he started off on his 2011 tour in time with the release of his new record, They Understand Gravity.
ep: Could you please describe your creative process?
Curiously, this is the question I had the most difficult time answering. It’s not like I sit down and think “I’m going to write a song” or I go outside with the intention of taking a photo. I keep myself open to all these things happening at all times so I’m prepared when the inspiration hits me. Some days I’m bombarded with stories I want to tell…usually if I’m walking around a lot. And sometimes I’ll go days or weeks without feeling the urge to create anything.
ep: What is your favorite piece you created and why is this your favorite piece?
There is a photo I took while hiking in a forest in Korea. It was taken before I or anyone else thought of me as a photographer. I was simply walking around and was moved by this image and took the photo. I wasn’t thinking “this will look good on a wall” or “this will work great in whatever exhibition”. It was a pure and unintentional. After that, people started to like my work and I got a few shows and sold some things and in reaction to that, I’ve worked a little bit harder at making sure I get the right shots, and that’s worked out fine, but it’s not as natural or as comfortable as it was when there were no expectations, and I could stumble upon a situation and just take the photo without worrying about the outcome.
ep: What advice would you give to yourself 5 years ago?
Practice! I love performing and would happy to stay on tour and play 200 shows a year, but I can be very undisciplined when it comes to practicing. I should be a much better guitar and piano player than I am. I think I still put on a good show, but I wish I was better technically.
ep: Apart from creating/designing things, what do you like to do?
I’m happiest when I’m really busy, but when I do have down time, I try to spend it taking in the art of others…whether its seeing bands, going to movies, exhibitions etc. It’s more than just entertainment for me…it’s part of the process.
ep: How did you start? (music, poetry, photography, documentary, etc)
From the time I was a kid, I wanted to sing in a rock band, and I did that that in bands in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC but nothing was working out. But I knew that I wanted to play music more than anything, so I bought a guitar, learned a few chords, became a solo singer-songwriter and started going to open mics literally everyday. I was really driven and my first show was about 3 months later and then I went on tour 6 months later. I was terrible, but it was a great experience.
I didn’t grow up wanting to be a filmmaker, but I worked in television for a long time, starting as a writer, and learned about production that way. Eventually, I came upon some documentaries I wanted to make and then made them.
ep: What inspires you/where do you find your inspirations?
My goal is to tell stories, which probably seems obvious, but those stories can come from anywhere. It doesn’t have to be an obviously momentous occasion….like when I first started writing songs they were all angry political songs about people I’d felt had been wronged. Those topics still move me here and there, but I’m just as aware of seeing the poignancy in a small, quiet, unnoticed moment
ep: Your website shows you in multi-disciplinary fields, ranging from music, poetry, photography and film. How do you divide your time to each of those disciplines?
I try to balance them all at the same time. It doesn’t always work and its been suggested to me that I’d be more productive if I gave one of them up, but there are stories I need to tell and different ways to tell them. If there is a large project going on, like the release of a cd, then that gets pushed to the forefront, but I always have many things going on at the same time.
ep: What is your comfort food?
ep: Coffee or tea?
Tea. Coffee gives me the runs.
ep: Do you have a favorite quote and what is it? Why is it your favorite quote?
“Be who you are”. I’m not sure where I heard it first but that’s my favorite. It’s a reminder to trust yourself and keep outside influences in perspective. You know what you need and what you need to be.
ep: Thank you Emmett and good luck with your 2011 tour!