Eastern Kentucky Native Tiffany Williams Releases New Album, All Those Days of Drinking Dust
A Nashville singer and songwriter from Eastern Kentucky, Tiffany Williams comes from a long line of coal miners. The title track to her new full-length album pays homage to that lineage. Williams is a former English teacher, had racked up a ton of graduate hours and was working towards a degree, but she was drawn to Music City and made the move to Nashville. She does work as an Appalachian/Southern dialect coach on film sets, including The Evening Hour, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She’s also an award-winning fiction writer which comes as no surprise as you listen to the intricate stories told in her songs. All Those Days of Drinking Dust is out today. Tiffany Williams was one of the first artists I played back in 2019 when The Local Brew Hour was brand new; we’ll get into more tracks from this new album next week on The Local Brew and she plays Finally Friday From Home August 26th at noon on WMOT.
AnaLee: The title track, All Those Days of Drinking Dust is a stunning presentation of the difficulties faced by coalminers and their families, the opening line is, “I am a coal miner’s daughter”. Tell us about your family and growing up in Eastern Kentucky.
Tiffany: Thanks so much, AnaLee! From the age of five, I lived in a remodeled coal camp house in McRoberts, Kentucky. It was built in 1912, I believe, the year Consolidated Coal came to the town. Both sides of my family have been in Eastern Kentucky or Southwest Virginia for around 200 years, and around holiday breaks I used to get jealous of people who would get to travel somewhere to have Thanksgiving or Christmas with family in another state. At that time, almost all of my extended family lived in either Letcher County or Pike County, Kentucky. Dad and other coal miners would come straight from the mines to ballgames or wherever. I remember once during college I was having dinner with a friend and a miner was sitting at the bar with his face still covered in dust. It was the first time I thought - I think other people from other places might think this is odd. But it was so common to see. It was like a badge of honor really, in my mind.
AnaLee: You have many different avenues in which you express your creativity, from singing and songwriting to writing fiction and using your degree in Appalachian speech and sociolinguistics to work on films as a dialects coach. How do all of these different forms of expression inform your songwriting, and do you have a favorite or a first love when it comes to how you create?
Tiffany: I know a lot of people who are so creative and talented just across the board—they write and they also have talent in visual, performing, or culinary arts. For me it feels a little different, just because everything I do comes back to words—all the things you listed. So it feels of a piece, I guess. I wrote fiction before I wrote songs, so pre-songwriting, my ideas would come for prose. The last few years, it's been mostly songwriting inspiration that I've gotten. I can usually tell if something would prefer to be prose or a lyric; sometimes it'll want to be both, which is nice. I think all I am and do informs my songwriting, but working with words in other ways allows me to be constantly meditating on language—and while I'm always attempting to grow and be well-rounded in my songwriting, I think I can say my songs are (usually) primarily word-driven. The great thing about songwriting is all the components that have to come together in order to make it work. You’re operating on so many different planes. All the elements of music--tempo, key, time, melody, phrasing, volume, timbre--inform the work along with the lyrics. So, I'd like to note that while also saying that I love writing prose, too. It's its own thing and really rewarding in a different way.
AnaLee: I’ve really loved the artwork that accompanies your releases back to your 2019 ep, When You Go. Tell us a little about the artist creating these images.
Tiffany: Kelley Wills (Brainflower Designs) has done basically all of my artwork (with the exception of the drawings on the single cover for "When I Come Back Around.") I come to her with a general notion, usually, and might have some comps for perspective or mood or content. I'll let her listen to the music she's drawing for. She brings a lot of her own ideas to the table, too, and is so talented. I'm always excited to see what she comes up with. One of my favorite things she's done for me is my logo; it has my name along with a map of Kentucky and Tennessee, my two homes. The headwaters of the Cumberland River are located in my home county in Kentucky, and the Cumberland is such an iconic and important feature here in Nashville, so I wanted her to draw the water from coming from Eastern Kentucky and down through Music City. So that concept along with the idea to have the state trees and flowers and birds and all that—that's all I gave her, and she made something really beautiful.
AnaLee: The song, “When I Come Back Around” features vocals from NY Times best-selling author Silas House. Ben Sollee contributes cello. Can you talk a little about making this album, the inspiration for the songs, your guests, your studio crew and where you recorded it?
Tiffany: It was during Covid, so that presented some challenges. The album was done for a long time before I released it, actually. I recorded at The Lexington Recording Company with Duane Lundy. We would track, and then Duane would give me lots of time to get my vocals right. Some players came to the studio, and some were recording remotely—Ben Sollee and Justin Craig worked in Louisville and New York, respectively. It was honestly a balm during a really tough time (understatement, I know). We were confused during 2020/2021, and recording those songs that were so personal and important to me allowed me to focus on something future oriented. It was a vote of confidence that there would be some semblance of normalcy one day and that people would still care about songs and records.
AnaLee: No stranger to guest artists, I remember how excited you were to get to sing with Darrel Scott on your rendition of his song, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”, which was included on a 2021 ep release. Talk a little about that experience.
Tiffany: That was such a full-circle moment for me. I used to listen to Patty Loveless' Mountain Soul a lot, and Harlan was my favorite song. It resonated with me so much as someone from that area whose family was in that line of work. So it's wild to think that I'm sitting there on my couch crying to that song on repeat, then flash forward a decade or so and the person who penned that masterpiece is harmonizing with my version of it. I cried again when I listened back to it the first time. It was during Covid and remote, but not much was lost for me. It was a beautiful experience, and I feel grateful to him for the song and for singing with me.
AnaLee: Do you have any shows around town or regionally and are you planning to tour behind this release?
Tiffany: None in Nashville at the moment, though I'm working on it. I have a few shows coming up in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. Especially excited about playing Mountain Stage in Charleston, WV on August 28th and then Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in September.
“All Those Days of Drinking Dust”
“When I Come Back Around”