John Jarrard Foundation Songwriter Festival
Where: Brenau University Front Lawn
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
In the early years of his life, Kim Williams took many turns in deciding what career path to take.
From his earliest dreams of being an astronaut to his ambitions in psychology, Williams never dreamed writing songs would take him where he wanted to go.
Williams is a country songwriter who has written for several artists such as Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and Randy Travis. He is one of several who will perform at the 12th annual John Jarrard Foundation Songwriter Festival on the Brenau University front lawn Saturday.
The Times talks to Williams about his journey and how he accidentally ended up as a songwriter.
Question: What made you want to become a songwriter?
Answer: I grew up in a large family. Just about everybody played something. My daddy played three or four instruments. I probably started playing at 9 or 10 years old.
But actually, my first love was I wanted to be an astronaut. So I kind of hung on to that, but I had this birth defect that left me with a (bad) leg. It hit me later, when I got old enough to realize it, I’d never be an astronaut because you’ve got to be pretty much perfect physically.
In 1974, I was in a burn accident. I got severely burned. I was in and out of hospitals for 10 years. One of those years, I was in Nashville undergoing reconstructive surgery and I took a class in songwriting at what then was the University of Tennessee Nashville branch.
I was fascinated, but I still was working on a degree in psychology, so I came back to the University of Tennessee.
I sat down and it just kind of went off like a light bulb, “I don’t really want to be a psychologist. I want to be a songwriter.”
Q: What is it like working with the artists you have worked with?
A: Most of the artists I work with, I started (with) on the ground floor. The others came later, so they were just kind of green horns. So it wasn’t intimidating.
I was writing with Garth (Brooks), I was writing with Joe Diffie, I was writing with Trisha Yearwood, I was writing with all of these people. And all of a sudden, they start dropping these older guys who were not selling and signing the guys around me.
Joe Diffie had already done 200 demos for me, and I was writing with him. And all of a sudden, he’s got a deal. My first No. 1 was with Joe Diffie.
Q: What is your favorite part about performing?
A: I’d say my favorite part is what we’ll do there in Gainesville. We’ll get on the stage and we’ll banter back and forth. We’ll give each other a hard time and aggravate each other, and kind of roast each other on stage.
If you’ve never seen Doug Johnson, him and I are as close as brothers and we give each other all kinds of crap. And that’s what it’s about. It’s not about being great singers or nothing, it’s about having fun.
Q: What selections will you perform?
A: With Doug, one of us will do “Three Wooden Crosses,” and Kent (Blazy) will be there, so he’ll do “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).”
I’ve got them all down. I’ve got them in my chord book.
I had some static with other writers about that. They said, “Don’t you know your own songs?” And I looked at them and said, “If you know all your own damn songs, you’re not writing them.”
As the show goes on, I’ll just try to pick whatever. So that’s kind of the way it goes. You never really know. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do.
Q: What kind of experience do you hope to create for your audience?
A: I hope they take away John Jarrard was a great guy. The benefit is really worth coming to see.
I hope they take away the stories that we’ll tell about the songs.
I’m usually pretty interested in what the other writers are going to say because it’s always fascinating. They’re crazy.
So I think you’ll have fun. You’ll just hear a lot of stories. We’ll all play off of each other.