SHANNON LUSTER: When did you start writing songs? What thoughts come to you when you compose a song? What inspires you?

VICTORIA WILLIAMS: I started writing thoughts in grammar school..I kept them in a cigar box..huge thoughts..too big dunno how I was so bold…one on love, one entitled "life"…wish I still had that box..songs came about when I started playing guitar and hung out with this GW Korners gang..they all wrote songs so I figured I better do it too... anyhow I started to hang out with these pickers and stay up all nite playing till the sun came up and then go to the truck stop for breakfast..we started to get gigs playing at deer camps and tractor pulls in east Texas..

SL: Is there a defining moment when you decided to pursue becoming a musician? And if so, what was it?

VW: At one show the band went on a break and this man said he'd give me a hundred dollars if I would sing another song..which I did and the band let me keep that hundred and I bought a microphone with it. Years later I was working at the Pacific Design Center as a colorist of antique prints and I didn't have a car so had to leave a bit early to catch the bus out to the Palamino for Monday nite open mike…and I remember my boss saying "you are going to have to decide between music and this job"… I remember leaving the job knowing I would rather play music..

JOSHUA TREE ROBERT: Louisiana has many, many famous musicians. Who were your heroes when you were a kid?

VW: I liked Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, Hank Williams were some that stick out… that’s who they played on the dad’s radio…now my mother would listen to opera on Saturday and it would come out the open windows into the yard as we raked.

JTR: Songwriter, musician, singer, world traveler, we understand youre from Louisiana?

There were some great local musicians in Shreveport. I used to go hear this band, the Howdy Band. They would play at the Lakecliff Bar which was an old style dance hall out on Cross Lake. Before my time Hank Williams and Elvis Presley rocked it. I saw Gatemouth Brown, Hoyt Axton, Jessie Winchester, Doug Kershaw, Guy Clark, and Jerry Jeff Walker. Some of the best music I heard in my teens was a gospel TV show called HALLELUJAH TRAIN and there were gospel choirs from all around… the show was hosted be Rev. Brady Blade. Now both of his sons turned out to be great drummers! I was fortunate to have Brian Blade play on MUSINGS OF A CREEKDIPPER my 4th CD.

JTR: When did you and your family realize you had a great deal of musical interest?

VW: I was given piano lessons as a child and this is because I was always brother and sister had art classes. They are both very talented. My mother is an artist. My father played clarinet.

JTR: Our secret sources tell us, you like critters of all kinds: cats, dogs, and horses. Is this right?

VW: I do! I have always had a dog in my life. I have 2 dogs, 4 chickens, and a cat. I really have a love for elephants. Of course, I like donkeys and horses.

SL: What is your favorite song, artist, and composer?

VW: Today, it’s "Free as a Bird" by John Lennon.

SL: What song has influenced you the most? And why?

VW: I love the record "BLUE" by Joni’s so beautiful and personal yet shared with all. That may because I am in a blue mood… I also like Edith Piaf, Thelonius Monk, Karen Dalton... I really love Julie Miller. She is the dearest soul and her songs bring me to tears.

SL: I enjoyed hearing you play with your band, The Thriftstore Allstars, at Pappy and Harriets in Pioneertown, California. Would you like to share more about that? How often do you and your band play there?

I like playing there. That band (no longer called the Thriftstore Allstars--it has different members and Travis took the Thriftstore name) does not rehearse so its fresh…you never know what will happen at Pappy's.

JTR: We know you perform Gospel music because we saw you in Pioneertown. Where did you learn all about gospel music?

VW:I used to sing in a choir. Back when I first came out to California I ran into this gal Miss Mercy whose boy Lucky was Shuggie Otis' son …anyhow his grandpa was Johnny Otis who had that "crazy hand jive" song...anyhow he had Landmark Community Church that I went to and saw that a lot of folks were from Louisiana so I joined the choir. We rehearsed every Tuesday but on Sunday when the spirit started to move the music went with’s good to rehearse but when the spirit moves it’s going to go with it. One of the best experiences I had were those days. I was the only white girl there.. at one time, Tim Hardin started to come to rehearsals but he came in too drunk and was told to leave. I always wished they hadn't sent him home as he died the next year.

SL: Jazz plays an important part in your music and you worked with Brian Blade, probably the most important Jazz drummer today. How did you get into jazz?

VW: Well, I first got jazzed when I was in New York City in the late 70s or early 80s and happened into a club where Sun Ra was playing for a week and I made it down there every nite. I think I had the jazz inside of me when improvising as a child. I took piano lessons and felt more free making up and playing by ear than reading. I got into Reverend Brady Blade when he had his TV show the HALLELUJAH TRAIN on channel 6. Brady Blade played drums and his father played bass and sang. There were many choirs from all over singing on  that show. When I moved to L.A. I joined a choir in Watts with Johnny Otis was preaching... Etta James sang sometimes with us. It was many years later that Joni Mitchell was sitting in at McCabe’s one nite by herself and I said to her after, that she should do a record with just her and a drummer like Elvin Jones. Well, 6 month later I was in New York and she was playing and I went down to see her and she grabbed my arm and said I've met my Elvin and he's from your hometown! And it was Brian Blade and so we got together and played on MUSINGS OF A CREEKDIPPER and on break one day he played me this song he wrote about his grandmother called "Mama Rose" I think… anyhow I said he should record it and now all these years later he has done just that! What a talented man he is... and his brother and father too!

As far as jazz goes I was fortunate to have been asked to play the Jazz festival in Berlin the year it was the Round Midnight with Dexter Gordon and Herbie Hancock. I brought a cellist I used to play with, who was from Germany but lived in L.A.  I dont know what the people thought of me. I made up a song..and the lady that hired me to come there was happy with it.

JTR: Your musician friends from Pioneertown say you have opened for Merle Haggard and know the Sir Douglas Quintet.

VW: I did not open for Merle..but I have opened for John Prine… I do know Augie Meyers. I met him when I first drove out to California with Tom Ayers and we stopped at his house and went to the wrestling match in San Antonio with him… I also opened for Neil Young for the Harvest Moon Tour.. and Randy Newman, and Lou Reed.

JTR: Pappy Allen was your friend and one of your biggest fans. Can you talk about him for the people who never knew that scene?

VW: Pappy was probably the reason I moved to the desert. He was so sweet and I thought when I met him he personified the desert. He used to play at his club opening his arms wide the music stops and he sings, "WELCOME TO MY WORLD (the music starts) won’t you come on in…miracles they say do happen now and then"..
I went on tour of Europe with Pappy and Giant Sand. I played mandolin.

SL: Would you like to share your memories about "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"?

It was filmed in Oregon. I was made to change my character, Debbie, who was anti-violent, into a gun toting crazy…I was also asked to sing a song which wasn't in the script…it was a beautiful shoot with horse riding..

JTR: We understand you play the guitar, banjo and other instruments as well. Can you talk about the styles of music you play on those various instruments?

VW: Tres is a Cuban instrument. It is a melody instrument… If you hear the record Ry Cooder made with the Buena Vista Social Club you will hear it.

JTR: What kind of guitar and banjo do you play? And what type of amp do you favor?

VW: Fender tube amp. guitars.. Fender electric.. Martin and Yamaha acoustics, and a homade one… Gibson long necked banjo, uke given to me be JT Robert, and a Tres made in Spain.

JTR: You travel all over the world playing your music, as far as Australia and other faraway places and you have played with many famous artists. Where are some the favorite places you have performed?

VW: I like Spain and Italy the best. They sure know how to live. I wish this desert would install the siesta. It makes sense to close up during the hot day. They eat dinner at 10pm. Some shows I didn't go on till midnight… that’s ok cause you had a nap during the siesta!

JTR: And who are some of your favorite artists you’ve performed with?

VW: Neil Young, Vic Chestnut, Randy Newman, John Prine, Emmylou, Jayhawks, Afel, Toumani Diabate, Breathe Owl Breathe, Greg Cohen, Ralphie,
the Williams Bros, Willie Aron, Pappy, Damien Leister, Ryan Erstine, Ray Woods,Carol Crandall, Peter Case, Greg Leisz, Tim Ray, Van Dyke Parks, Brian Blade, Danny Frankel, Bingo, Don Heffington, Giant Sand, JC Hopkins, Doug Weiselman, Ralph Carney, Brian Kane, Calexico, Lou Reed, and Simone White, Steve Earle, Jane Siberry, M. Ward, Buddy and Julie Miller are my favorites... I know I have left out some beautiful folks..Mark Olson and Razz Russell for instance The Creekdippers we made 7 CDs together!

SL: What advice would you give aspiring musicians/songwriters?

VW: Write from the heart.

JTR: You always come up with different and fresh approaches drawing from many musical styles. Which styles influenced you?

VW: I like music from all over the world. I was fortunate a few years ago to play with this group of folks from Mali. We rehearsed in London and played the Barbican then flew to Lyon, France and played the old Amphitheatre built by the Romans. That show was unforgettable to me as there was a miracle that happened and the stones sang with my song! Then we flew to New York City and played at the Lincoln Center… but we were pretty tired by then.

SL: So what’s next for Victoria Williams?

VW: A nap. I have started recording again in L.A. God is good.





HAPPY COME HOME Part 1 documentary by DA Pennebaker

HAPPY COME HOME Part 2 documentary by DA Pennebaker

HAPPY COME HOME Part 3 documentary by DA Pennebaker

HAPPY COME HOME Part 4 documentary by DA Pennebaker

Victoria Williams: CRAZY MARY (Music Video)

Victoria Williams and Lou Reed: CRAZY MARY (from Sweet Relief Fund Concert)

Giant Sand & Victoria Williams: WONDER - (MusicVideo directed by Laura Levine)

Victoria Williams and Vic Chesnutt: GOD IS GOOD (Music Video)

Victoria Williams Live on Jay Leno: YOU ARE LOVED (Excerpt from TV show)

Pearl Jam performs CRAZY MARY (from live concert in Santiago, Chile)


We would like to thank Joshua Tree Robert for contributing to this interview