Arts & Entertainment

Dar Williams hopes to brighten spirits at the New Hope Winery

Dar Williams (Photo: Amy Dickerson)

Dar Williams (Photo: Amy Dickerson)

They’re not concerts – they’re “connections” for musician/singer/songwriter Dar Williams.

She’ll be connecting with audiences at the New Hope Winery on Sunday, Dec. 22. She’s soon to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her first album, “The Honesty Room,” so a couple of tunes from that CD may make an appearance. She’ll also feature songs from her 2012 release “In the Time of Gods” and songs related to the holidays.

She’s looking forward to the shows, but even more to simply being among people enjoying music.

“You have the potential to create this relationship and you can feel it when it’s happening,” she said during our telephone conversation on Dec. 12.

Even after more than 20 years, she’s not tired of it.

“There are rarely days when it doesn’t feel right,” she said. “I love performing.”

For a brief time in the mid-2000s, it felt wrong, though. She said everyone on her tour then was in a collective bad mood. The record industry was in turmoil, “but we didn’t see it coming,” she said. “There were about 10 concerts where it felt like work. I thought if this keeps up, I’ll quit.”

Not long after, she played a small venue in Quebec. The audience was laughing, having a good time. The windows steamed up; it was snowing outside. She previously had been terrified of that kind of intimacy with a smaller audience.

“But all that potential that could happen with an audience is the thing that keeps me on the stage now,” she said.

Growing up in New York state, Dar planned on being a playwright. When she moved to Boston in the early 1990s, though, the scene was all about music. She took it all in while working as an opera company stage manager.

“There was a lot of alt rock and punk, folk, even classical music happening,” she said. “I followed the music and secretly had enough passion about it that when I surfaced I could hang with the crowd.”

Since then, she has performed around the world and released more than 11 CDs (and EPs). The latest (“Gods”) emerged from an exploration of power, folly, hubris, and civilization, she said.

Sometimes, when writing, she gets a hit of inspiration and works on something excitedly, but if it’s not working, she puts the pen down, she said. She tries to put herself in a place to be inspired, but she doesn’t sit down with a blank page every day. Sometimes, when she’s stuck, she looks to nature.

“I’ll open the curtains and see the mist on the mountain and that it’s a beautiful day,” she said. “I will feel connected and find something that helps me feel excited.”

And sometimes, she writes with friends, like Rob Hyman, co-founder of The Hooters. Dar and Rob have worked together on several of her albums. He co-wrote four songs on “Gods” and played various keyboards and accordion.

“Rob is so patient. When I feel like I’m tied up in a knot, he’ll quietly sit there and play what we’ve already done and add a new chord or new perspective,” she said. “He’s the perfect collaborative partner. He’s been my muse on more than one occasion.”

Rob loves working with her and he’s impressed with her talent.

“Songwriting can be painful and prolonged sometimes, but never with Dar. She’s a terrific guitarist with a lovely and expressive voice and has a keen and confident sense of melody. She also has a great instinct for what works and what doesn’t,” he said via e-mail. “But one of her biggest strengths is her way with words. Her lyrics are consistently interesting, unusual, intriguing, [and] challenging.”

When not collaborating, writing, or performing, Dar is home with her husband, son, and daughter. She’s stopping in New Hope one year to the day that she last played the Winery and she hopes people will find respite from all of the holiday hoopla.

She also hopes to bring light to the audience since it’s the weekend of the Winter solstice marking the end of the longest nights and shortest days of the year.

“This is a dark day that we can brighten up,” she said. “I hope people come out.”

Dar Williams
4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22
The New Hope Winery, 6123 Lower York Road, New Hope, PA 18938.
Tickets: $30-$40.
215-794-2331 or

About the author



Leave a Comment