June 28, 2023 714 PM
MARFA — Singer-songwriter Jess Williamson, who splits her time between Los Angeles and Marfa, recently released new album Time Ain’t Accidental, featuring modern country tracks about the artist’s personal history, via Mexican Summer record label.
Williamson, who was raised in North Texas, is now taking Time Ain’t Accidental, on tour across the Southwest and beyond, and will be performing locally at the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love in Marfa this fall.
The Big Bend Sentinel recently caught up with Williamson to discuss her latest album release, songwriting process and time in Far West Texas.
BBS: Can you tell us a little bit about your new album Time Ain’t Accidental, and the times it chronicles in your life?
Jess Williamson: For me, the album feels like a road that goes in a circle in reverse, and then ends by taking off in a new direction entirely. The record was written between late 2019 and summer 2021. The first track and the last track bookend everything that happened in between. It starts and ends with two hopeful, flirty love songs. And in between it chronicles the winding road that it took to get there, through a lot of heartbreak, loneliness and introspection.
BBS: What is the ideal listening setting for the album?
JW: On a walk down Highway 2810 with headphones at sunset — that’s what I did many days last summer while I was approving the mixes and figuring out the album sequence. I loved listening to the record out there.
BBS: The country influences in the album are accompanied by a drum machine and overall airy, contemporary sound and reflective lyrics — can you speak to the general tone you hoped to achieve with the album?
JW: I wanted to do something new that also felt really “me.” I love classic country music, and I also love a lot of contemporary music as well. I split my time between Los Angeles and Marfa, and sonically my album feels like it has a foot in both places. There is banjo and sacred steel guitar, but also programmed drums that started with an app on my iPhone. The music bridges a few different worlds in a way that I relate to.
BBS: Your new album is deeply personal — do you think vulnerability leads to relatability in music? What do you hope listeners will take away from listening to Time Ain’t Accidental?
JW: I’m a huge music fan, and the songs that I relate to the most are ones that feel open and vulnerable and hit home with me in a certain way. I find that the best songwriting helps me think about my life with a new perspective — it makes me feel witnessed by the song, like the songwriter went through something similar, that they understand this thing I’m going through and can help me put words to it. It’s a way of connecting to the whole of the human experience. That’s really what music is for me, [both] listening to it and writing it.
For the bulk of the time I was writing this record I was going through a pretty difficult period in my life, and it gave me a lot of motivation and solace to imagine that one day these songs would be out in the world and people would hopefully connect with them and find some comfort in them. So to answer your question, that is my hope for listeners with the record, that they find something to relate to and that it brings some peace to them or a feeling of connection.
BBS: The album is also very lyric-forward, can you tell us a little bit about your songwriting process?
JW: My lyrics are the most important part of my songwriting. I am always thinking about lyrics and I keep a massive notes folder in my iPhone that I’m regularly updating with new ideas. Usually a melody will pop into my mind with a couple of words attached, I’ll start playing an instrument and singing along, I’ll reference that notes folder in my phone, and then the song starts to kind of write itself. A lot of times it feels like the song is coming from someplace outside of me, and my job is to catch it before it gets away.
BBS: How does the West Texas landscape, your experiences and life out here, make its way into your music?
JW: West Texas has infiltrated this record from top to bottom in overt and subtle ways. The title track, “Time Ain’t Accidental,” is very specifically about a day I spent here in Marfa and it references the Hotel Saint George pool, for one. There’s a lyric in my song “Stampede” about a stampede of cows, and it’s inspired by something a friend here said to me while we were sitting on his back porch near Fort Davis a few years ago. The last song, “Roads,” was largely inspired by an Eileen Myles novel sitting on my friend’s bookshelf here in Marfa. I should say I didn’t actually read the book — it was just the title, that word Inferno, sitting there staring at me, that inspired me to write a whole song. The list goes on and on, and I hope people familiar with Far West Texas will pick up on the references.
To listen to the album, purchase it on vinyl, or view Williamson’s music videos filmed in Far West Texas, visit jesswilliamson.ochre.store/release/369451-jess-williamson-time-aint-accidental