There has been plenty of action lately at Waterville Opera House, and even more events are coming up in the weeks and months ahead. When it comes to concerts, this week’s column (and next week’s, as well) highlights a notable performance to the venerable venue by none other than Dar Williams. This talented singer/songwriter/author will be there on Sunday, Feb. 23. To that end, a phone interview was conducted from her home in New York City. Her ninth and most recent album, “Emerald,” includes some of her best material yet. Seeing I first interviewed her back in 1996, when she opened for Joan Baez at the WOH, it was good to reconnect with her once more.

Q: I was going to ask if you had performed at the Waterville Opera House before, but I just remembered that you opened for Joan Baez there on March 20th, 1996.
Williams: I thought I remembered being there before, but I wasn’t on top of the venue’s name (laughter). The tour bus pulled up and I got out.

Q: Your publicist, Patty (Romanoff), was kind enough to send over some MP3s of “Emerald” so I could prepare for this interview. When did that CD come out?
Williams: 2015.

Q: Are you working on something new?
Williams: Yeah (chuckle), I’ve been listening to roughs from an album I’ll have coming out hopefully mid-spring.

Q: Will the folks coming to the opera house get a chance to hear some of the new stuff?
Williams: Yes, because I have to try it out on somebody (laughter). This happens, you know: Sometimes I go into the studio with a couple of songs that I’ve never performed before, so this show will be my last chance to see how they sort of live in front of an audience before I make my final decisions. So, yes, they’ll hear some of those songs — they might even get a world premiere.

Q: Oh, cool! That’s always a good thing to have in the article. It’s funny, but both you and John Gorka are singer-songwriters whom I have interviewed when you two were just starting to tour up here in Maine. It’s been great reconnecting with you over the decades and witnessing the growth in what you do … what you two do, you do very well.
Williams: Thank you. You know, it’s funny but when you hear your voice in the headphones as you listen to your roughs and everything, it’s nice to hear that (laughter) — thanks, again. It’s great, it’s been a journey and it’s good to know that we were on it like that.


Q: When you come up to Waterville, will you have a band with you or will this be a solo show?
Williams: It’s going to be solo … I like performing solo and it’s funny: I do solo, duo, trio and quartet and they all have their thing; and I think, given that I’m going to be doing a few new songs that nobody knows yet, it’s better to come in solo — it’s kind of where my brain is right now. And I like the intimacy.

Q: And solo, you can change up the set list to go where the audience, and your muse, leads you.
Williams: Well, to tell you the truth, you can also change the set list with a band, but it’s not kind (laughter breaks out on both ends of the phone line)! Usually if you’re like some drunk R&B guy, you do that to your band, you don’t do it as a folk singer, but it’s been done.

Q: Just out of curiosity, do you get up to Maine often?
Williams: Yeah, I get up to Maine a lot. The closer you get to Cambridge, the more you see people who don’t laugh at a joke or at a funny lyric. They just kind of nod their heads like, “That was funny.” They kind of do live up to their cerebral reputation (chuckle). Still, they’re great listeners, but Maine is a little looser and you learn these things by going back. Oh, and I was up in Gardiner a couple of months ago at Johnson Hall, and then last year I was in Boothbay Harbor. … There’s always a new town in Maine that I’m playing in that I haven’t been to before, and that’s a good thing, too.

Q: How long have you been doing this singer-songwriter gig?
Williams: Twenty-seven years.

Q: Where does the time go? Sorry …
Williams: (Chuckle) No, I agree — I was just in the studio with people that I worked with 20 years ago and it was like a time machine: like no time had passed.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Williams: Ah, geesh, thanks for asking. I’m very pleased to be returning to the same theater that I played with Joan. I just saw her at the (Club) Passim’s 60th Anniversary and she and I stood side- by-side and sang “The Rainbow Connection” together — with other people — and I said, “I didn’t think I’d have a chance to sing with you again,” so that was kind of amazing. We hadn’t sung together in over 20 years, so that was emotional. You see, Joan pointed me in the right direction back in 1996 — she said all the right things, she showed me how to shop for the stage (laughter). She also helped me understand that it’s great to be on a stage and perform, but you have to find other things in your life so that there’s some substance behind the songs — and she was incredibly kind and supportive. And, so I’m guessing that I will feel some of those good ghosts when I come back to Waterville.

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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