Most artists would bristle at the term self-indulgent, but Keller Williams often invokes it in describing his own approach to music. To Williams, being self-indulgent means creating music that satisfies him; if he likes what he’s produced, he figures, then his audience is more likely to embrace it too. If he’s not happy with it, why would they be?
And so, when Williams describes his first-ever all-covers collection, the amusingly titled Thief, as “self-indulgent, like all of my albums,” that signifies not an inwardly pointed diss but a thumbs-up from one of the most tireless musical seekers around. Recorded with the Keels-husband and wife duo Larry and Jenny Keel-Thief is a sequel to the trio’s 2006 collaboration Grass, and to those of us on the receiving end, there’s nothing self-indulgent about it. If anything, it’s about as accessible and welcoming a record as Keller’s ever made.
“I’m a music lover first, a musician second and a songwriter third,” Williams says, “so a covers record is a natural progression for me. I love writing songs and I love performing my songs. But I go out and do about 120 shows a year, and I just can’t write enough to play new songs all the time. There are always different cover songs to learn though; just flipping around on the radio, next thing you know you’ve got a song stuck in your head. If you change it around and play it completely differently, it sounds like a whole new song.”