Martin Sexton, Keller Williams

A native of Syracuse, N.Y., and the tenth of 12 children, Martin Sexton grew up in the ’80s. Uninterested in the music of the day, he fueled his dreams with the timeless sounds of classic rock ’n’ roll. As he discovered the dusty old vinyl left in the basement by one his big brothers, his musical fire was lit. Sexton eventually migrated to Boston, where he began to build a following singing on the streets of Harvard Square, gradually working his way through the scene. His 1992 collection of self-produced demo recordings, In the Journey, was recorded on an old 8-track in a friend’s attic. He managed to sell 20,000 copies out of his guitar case.

From 1996 to 2002 Sexton released Black Sheep, The American, Wonder Bar and Live Wide Open. The activity and worldwide touring behind these records laid the foundation for the career he enjoys today with an uncommonly loyal fan base; he sells out venues from New York’s Nokia Theatre to L.A.’s House of Blues, and tours regularly across Canada and Europe.

Happily and fiercely independent, Martin Sexton launched his own label, KTR, in 2002. Since then he has infiltrated many musical worlds, performing at concerts ranging from pop (collaborating with John Mayer) to the Jam scene to classic rock (collaborating with Peter Frampton); from the Newport Folk Fest to Bonnaroo to New Orleans Jazz Fest to a performance at Carnegie Hall.

Regardless of his reputation as a musician’s musician, Sexton can’t keep Hollywood away. His songs can be heard in many feature films and television including NBC’s Scrubs, Parenthood and Showtime’s hit series Brotherhood.

Stage, film and television aside, when Sexton isn’t touring he often mixes entertainment with his sense of social responsibility, performing at benefits for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang camp, the Children’s Tumor Foundation, Japan earthquake/tsunami relief (The John Lennon Tribute), and Hurricane Irene relief efforts in Vermont, to name some.

In 2007 Sexton began his most successful years to date with the release of his studio offering Seeds. The album debuted at #6 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, and the Los Angeles Times said, “Call him a soul shouter, a road poet, a folkie or a rocker and you wouldn’t be wrong.”

The live CD/DVD set Solo, which includes a DVD of his performance at Denver’s Mile High Festival, followed in 2008.

In 2010 the album Sugarcoating found this one-of-a-kind-troubadour doing what he does best: locating larger truths. After hearing it, NBC anchor Brian Williams sought Martin out to sit down for an interview backstage at New York’s Beacon Theatre. It’s now featured on MSNBC’s BriTunes.

The accolades continue. Billboard called Sexton’s version of “Working Class Hero” for the Lennon tribute/benefit in 2010 “chill-inspiring.” Released this November as part of The 30th Annual John Lennon Tribute album, the track is available on iTunes.

The New York Times noted that this artist “jumps beyond standard fare on the strength of his voice, a blue-eyed soul man’s supple instrument,” adding, “his unpretentious heartiness helps him focus on every soul singer’s goal: to amplify the sound of the ordinary heart.”

Billboard called Sexton “The real thing, people, a star with potential to permanently affect the musical landscape and keep us entertained for years to come.”

Keller Williams released his first album in 1994, FREEK, and has since given each of his albums a
who have followed his career will know this. Each title serves as a concise summation of the
concept guiding each project. GRASS, for example, is a bluegrass recording cut with the husbandwife
duo The Keels. STAGE is a live album, and DREAM is the realization of Keller’s wish to
collaborate with some of his musical heroes. THIEF is a set of unexpected cover songs, KIDS
offers Keller’s first children’s record, PICK presents Keller’s collaboration with royal bluegrass
family The Travelin’ McCoury’s, and RAW is a solo acoustic album. Each album showcases
Keller’s comprehensive and diverse musical endeavors and functions to provide another piece of
the jigsaw puzzle that is Keller Williams. Keller’s collaborative and solo albums reflect his pursuit to
create music that sounds like nothing else. Unbeholden to conventionalism, he seamlessly crosses
genre boundaries. The end product is astounding and novel music that encompasses rock, jazz,
funk and bluegrass, and always keeps the audience on their feet.
Since he first appeared on the scene in the early ’90s, Williams has defined the term independent
artist. And his recordings tell only half the story. Keller built his reputation initially on his engaging
live performances, no two of which are ever alike. For most of his career he has performed solo.
His stage shows are rooted around Keller singing his compositions and choice cover songs, while
accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. With the use of today’s technology, Keller creates
samples on the fly in front of the audience, a technique called live phrase sampling or looping, with
nothing pre-recorded. The end result often leans toward a hybrid of alternative folk and groovy
electronica, a genre Keller jokingly calls “acoustic dance music” or ADM.”
That approach, Williams explains, was derived from “hours of playing solo with just a guitar and a
microphone, and then wanting to go down different avenues musically. I couldn’t afford humans
and didn’t want to step into the cheesy world of automated sequencers where you hit a button and
the whole band starts to play, then you’ve got to solo along or sing on top of it. I wanted something
more organic yet with a dance groove that I could create myself.”
Williams’ solo live shows—and his ability to improvise to his determinedly quirky tunes despite the
absence of an actual band—quickly became the stuff of legend, and his audience grew
exponentially when word spread about this exciting, unpredictable performer. Once he began
releasing recordings, starting with 1994’s FREEK, Williams was embraced by an even wider
community of music fans, particularly the jam band crowd. While his live gigs have largely been
solo affairs, Williams has nearly always used his albums as a forum for collaborations with fellow
musicians. An alliance with The String Cheese Incident on 1999’s BREATHE marked Williams’ first
release on the band’s label SCI Fidelity Records, DREAM, Keller’s 2007 release, found him in the
company of such iconic musicians as the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, banjo master Béla Fleck, bass
great Victor Wooten, American musician/poet Michael Franti and many others.
“That album took, from start to release time,” says Williams, “about three years. The object was to
get people that I admire musically to play my stuff, so when I’m old I can crank this album in my
pimped-out golf cart and have something that I’m really proud of. I was going for the historical
effect for my own personal listening pleasure.
“Each record,” he continues, “is a little snapshot of history. I like to think of it as a period piece for
an artist. Each record is a little bit different but all of them have some kind of common thread,
which is my musical ability as far as I can take it. I enjoy making records. In some people’s eyes,
they’re a dying breed, but I’m very passionate about it. They document where my head is at that
time in my career and where I am in my songwriting.”
Williams’ story begins in Fredericksburg, Virginia, just south of Washington, D.C. There he was
exposed to a wide variety of music at an early age, starting with country and bluegrass and
working his way up through hip-hop and go-go, a brand of funk particular to that part of the country.
Once he began playing guitar, Williams’ sphere expanded to what he calls “the post-pseudoskateboarder
punk-rock rebellious type of thing, Black Flag and Sex Pistols and Ramones, Dead
Kennedys, things like that. That slid into the more melodic college rock, like the Cure and the Cult,
the Smiths, R.E.M.’s first five or six records.”
Then came the Grateful Dead, a seminal influence on Williams’ own music. “I studied and learned
their music and went to the shows,” he says, adding that the impact of Jerry Garcia on his attitude
toward music remains incalculable. Another major influence was Michael Hedges, the late virtuoso
acoustic guitarist. “He was really excelling in a whole different world from what I knew,” says
After relocating to Colorado, further exposure to bluegrass music and progressive acoustic artists
such as Béla Fleck and the Flecktones also had a major impression on Williams. As he began to
develop his own distinctive compositional and performing style, Williams incorporated all of the
lessons he’d learned from the long list of artists who’d found their way into his world, then filtered
their music through his own experiences until something wholly unique emerged. The list of artists
whose music he has covered either in concert or on his recordings constitutes a mind-blowing
spread: songs originally performed by everyone from Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osbourne to Ani
DiFranco and old-school rappers the Sugar Hill Gang!
When he first started out, Williams played in regional bands but also performed as a solo artist,
“me sitting on a stool playing covers, like a happy hour situation,” he says. “I’d get dinner and
maybe tips. There were bands in high school and in college. But it turned out I could get the same
money playing solo that I was getting with the band. Around that time I was also doing temporary
jobs and I was making the same amount playing music as I was scraping mortar out of the cracks
of cinder block walls for eight hours in the summertime at minimum wage. So it seemed like the
obvious choice was to play music. I started to work and over the years I incorporated more
technology. The looping thing started to happen and tickets were sold and people came to shows,
so there wasn’t any reason to fix something that wasn’t broken.”
What Williams calls “the looping thing” is actually a big part of what has made him such a
compelling live performer. “Basically, I have these machines that are essentially delay units,” he
explains. “What I do is step on a button and sing or play something. Then I step on the same
button in time and it repeats what I just played or sang. Once that initial loop is created, I can layer
on a bass line or a drum line and then have this layer that I just created in front of an audience that
I could sing over and solo over. Nothing is pre-recorded. Everything is created onstage in front of
the audience.”
If it sounds complicated, it is: but the basic thrust is that the technology has allowed Williams to go
out on tour week after week, year after year, and play music by himself—without limiting his sound
to what we most often associate with the solo singer-songwriter: a guy strumming a guitar and
singing. With his arsenal of tech toys, Williams can expand his reach onstage by, in essence,
jamming with himself.
As years have gone by and Keller has continued to evolve he has created more and more unique
projects and collaborations with fellow musicians. In 2007 Keller formed a band of his own, Keller
Williams with Moseley, Droll and Sipe which featured Keller on rhythm guitar and vocals, Jeff Sipe
on drums, Keith Moseley on bass and Gibb Droll on lead guitar. After touring throughout 2007 -
2008, they subsequently released a double live record with a companion DVD. In true Keller
Williams fashion, it’s called LIVE.
The summer of 2010 found Keller sharing a bus with two of his biggest heroes, former Grateful
Dead drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, as a member of their powerhouse assemblage
the Rhythm Devils. “That was a very surreal experience,” Williams says. “We rehearsed for a few
days and then we were on a bus with 12 people, two of them being the original drummers from the
Grateful Dead.” On that tour, Williams was put in the enviable position of singing many songs from
the Grateful Dead catalog for audiences that loved every minute of it. Inspired by this experience
and his admiration for the Grateful Dead, Keller added two Grateful Dead projects to his repertoire:
Grateful Grass and Grateful Gospel. With an ever-revolving cast of jam, bluegrass, and gospel
musicians, Grateful Grass and Grateful Gospel have become fan favorites and festival staples.
Keller’s Grateful Grass tunes can be heard on two live digital releases, REX and DOS. Keller’s
guests on these recordings include: Jeff Austin (Jeff Austin Band), Keith Moseley (String Cheese
Incident), Michael Kang (String Cheese Incident), Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green), The Keels and
many more. Following the Grateful Dead theme, Keller also released KEYS, a digital only release
on which Keller is at the piano singing a collection of Dead tunes. All three of these releases
donate proceeds to the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation.
Williams has also toured as part of a string trio with fellow Virginians, singer/guitarist Larry Keel
and his wife, singer/bassist Jenny Keel, dubbed Keller and the Keels. You can find them hitting
key stops on the bluegrass festival circuit playing songs from their two releases GRASS and
If it seems as if this is a man who never stops, that would be about right. Keller released the
amusingly titled THIEF—his all-covers project with the Keels—early in 2010, and KIDS, his
sixteenth album, in the fall of that same year. A father of two himself, Williams was, of course,
inspired by his own offspring but, he says, some of the songs were written before his children were
born. “When Not For Kids Only by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman came out, I knew that there
was hope for me with kids music,” he says. “I was really attached to that record.” The songwriting
for KIDS, Keller says, “was not necessarily singing to the kids. A lot of it was me singing from the
perspective of the kids. That was my plan, to get on their wavelength, on their level, and be one of
them, so it’s kind of like one of their friends singing to them.”
In 2011, BASS found the multi-instrumentalist only playing bass guitar. BASS was also the first
album to be recorded with Keller’s live reggae-funk band Kdubalicious, which in addition to Keller
on bass and vocals, features Jay Starling on keyboards and Mark D on drums. On the other end of
the spectrum – but just as tasty – is Keller’s 2012 release PICK. This collaboration featuring Keller
Williams with The Travelin’ McCourys is a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of
its parts—although the parts are rather massive on their own, to be sure. “Performing with The
Travelin’ McCourys is one of my favorite things to do in the world,” Keller explains. “This project
has struck a special chord with me [pun intended]. It is very addictive.”
Indeed, Keller always enjoys working with a band. For 2013 he stepped out with a new muse, a 6-
piece funk band dubbed More Than A Little. Williams drew from the Richmond, VA R&B/gospel
scene including a pair of show stealing female singers. FUNK – a sexy live recording that pays
deep homage to the genre’s roots, Keller style – hit the streets in November 2013 and More Than
A Little made its way around the country becoming a festival staple all their own.
Early 2015 found Keller back in the studio working on his 20th release, VAPE. While mainly a solo
endeavor, it does feature a few special guests such as Sampson Grisman, John Kadlecik and a
track with the Travelin’ McCourys. In Keller’s own words “Imagine taking these songs and blowing
high pressured life through them in a low pressured atmosphere. Out comes highly concentrated
music that can be heated up and inhaled through your ears...Vape”.
In 2016, Keller assembled yet another band, Keller Williams’ KWahtro. KWahtro, featuring Gibb
Droll, Danton Boller and Rodney Holmes, toured the country throughout the winter and fall of 2016.
The first KWahtro album, SYNC will be released in January of 2017. According to Keller, SYNC
began as acoustic dance music but with the help of Droll, Boller and Holmes and special guests
Mike Dillon and The Accidentals, the album “morphed into a type of acoustic acid jazz that draws
on imagery in both the lyrics and the music.”
As if one album release wasn’t enough for 2017, Keller’s first all solo acoustic album, RAW, will
also be released in January of 2017. Keller started working on RAW in 2011, but got sidetracked
by a number of other projects that began to take form. It was when Keller’s 2017 winter tour, Shut
the Folk Up and Listen with Leo Kottke started to take form, that he jumped back into it and
completed the album. For Keller this album and tour represent his roots; all solo acoustic guitar
and vocals, no looping, pedals or bands.
Two albums at once, why not! Something different. That, we can assume, is how it will always be with Keller Williams.

$32.00 - $35.00


Limited seating will be available for this show. They are General Admission seats that will be first come, first served.

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