Acoustic guitar virtuoso/loop pedal master Keller Williams is heading back to Telluride and this time it's with his funk outfit More Than A Little. The group is set to perform at Club Red in the Telluride Conference Center for New Year's Eve 2015 - an event they are dubbing #ToFunkYouRide. We caught up with Keller for a brief interview on what to expect for the show, his favorite Telluride memories, and his biggest musical influences.
T.com - You are definitely no stranger to Telluride. How does it feel coming back to the box canyon?
Keller - I love that town! Well it's a great feeling no matter what time of the year it is. I would always go there in the summer for the bluegrass festival and it wasn't until a lot later until I got to go in the wintertime. It's always exciting because it's an island in the mountains. You don't really go there on the way somewhere. It's definitely a destination. Telluride has a special energy and I have a certain past there that conjures fantastic memories.
T.com - Do you have a most memorable moment from playing music in Telluride over all the years?
This is one of ours - Keller covering Taylor Swift's Trouble with the Travelin' McCourys in Telluride's free Gondola!
Keller - Well my 1st time there was in 1995. I think it snowed that year at the bluegrass festival. It had a mixture of everything you know - just this blinding sun that would burn you, then cold rain that turned into sleet that I'm pretty sure turned into snow. It was either 95 or 96. I didn't really even know who was on the bill. I mean I knew the main stage was like Peter Rowan, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, and Jerry Douglas. I knew all those guys would be there and that was enough for me. But I didn't realize until I got there that Michael Hedges was playing. At the time and even now he has been a huge hero of mine. That was the 1st time I'd ever seen Ani DiFranco perform. It was her with like short blond hair with purple ends and a drummer. It was really really cool! I remember I went into a several year Ani DiFranco phase after that.
T.com - You've collaborated w so many musicians throughout your career. Are there any that stick out to you?
Keller- Well...I love playing with Bob Weir. That's always really exciting for me. The very 1st time we ever played together was at Red Rocks which in and of itself... stepping out on that stage... there is a certain adrenaline that goes with that. But then to be playing a couple songs with Bob Weir takes it over the top. That's the one sit in stand out that really pops you know? There's been so many that it's hard to pinpoint. I'm so grateful!
T.com- You play so many genre's of music - bluegrass, folk, rock, reggae - and now funk with More Than A Little. How did that come about?
Keller - The More Than A Little Gig that's coming to Telluride came about w/ the idea of always wanting soulful backup singers in some kind of configuration. I've been friends with the drummer for many years and he has been in a few other projects that I've put together in the local Fredericksburg, Virginia area. Most of the band members are from that area. I did a gig in Fredricksburg one evening with a project I was playing bass on. We finished early and it was R & B night at this bar that my friend Toby was playing. So I went to see him and he forced me to get on stage and sit in. It was really great you know...we were just winging it and at some point went into Drive my Car by the Beatles. But it turns out that a lot of the folks in More Than A Little are from the gospel world and there is so much soul and improv that goes on there so it was a great fit. It wasn't until a year and a half after that 1st meeting that I was able to put something together. And it came together just as an idea for 5 shows through the holidays. We rehearsed it really good for a couple of months and it turned out to be so much fun that we put out a record of some of the good tracks from these 5 shows. We ended up touring that record. Now a days we don't play together as much because of so many other project and visions I have to tend to. But when it does happen it is really an event for us on stage. We all love playing together and we don't do it enough so when we do it is really special. I'm really looking forward to New Years Eve.
T.com - What can people expect for the New Year's Eve Show?
Keller - It's a soulful funk you know? It's a deep funk. There's a lot of songs we play that instead of the melody horn line or the melody instrumental line we actually sing that line. So there's a lot of soulful harmony. We play a lot of songs you may recognize but we do it in a different way. The high altitude changes your oxygen level which changes your thinking patterns. That usually makes the show more interesting. You've got a couple of flat landers coming up to the high country so in the past that has made things really interesting.
T.com - What are you listening to right now?
Keller - There's a new band I am listening to called El Vy featuring Matt Barringer from a band called The National. It's a pretty recent conglomeration of an indie alt rock type of thing that's gone in this interesting direction. I really dig it. Breast Fist is another one. Both of those bands have some really interesting music for sure.
T.com - Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Keller - Michael Hedges is 1st and foremost when it comes to solo acoustic work. That's where it all began for me. I got turned on to him about a year after I got turned onto the Grateful Dead. It's the Jerry/Bob Weir combo. The Jerry guitar licks with the Bob Weir rhythm track underneath. Victor Wooten is another one. He's an amazing bass player who I really have studied many times...in Telluride actually. At the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Elk's Park workshops during the late 90's. He is up there on my list of musical hero's
T.com - You gonna get up on the mountain to go skiing when you are in town?
Keller - Oh definitely. Hopefully there will be freshies but even if there is not I'll be making wide turns on the left side. You can find me on the left side.
T.com - Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Keller! We look forward to hearing you rock out at Club Red for New Years Eve 2015!
Keller- Absolutely! Thanks for chatting with me!