Back on the highway and serving notice that she’s here to stay   

It can be tough to live up to family legacies—and Holly Williams carries one monster pedigree. Her grandfather was legendary Hank Williams. Her father, Hank Williams Jr., is also a country giant, and her half-brother, cow punkster Hank III, has broken his own barriers. Is the long shadow of such success intimidating?

“If anything, it’s been kind of a challenge,” she says. “There will always be people who say, ‘Of course you’re a singer. Yawn.’ With the first record, I got comments like, ‘She’s just another famous person’s daughter.’ So you just have to keep proving yourself over and over, letting people know you’re not just doing this because your dad and grandfather did it. I’m different. I’m not wearing a cowboy hat and going to country radio. People might compare me to

my grandfather, but no one can really

live up to that.”

As her new album’s title The Highway suggests, this Williams is keenly adept at plotting her own path, and is happy to stake her name on individual achievement. She’s recorded three albums, owns and operates a high-end Nashville clothing boutique called H. Audrey, maintains a food and lifestyle blog, theafternoonoff.com, and


oversees her own label, Georgiana Records. “I try to balance it all,” says Williams, 31. “But at the end of the day, my touring and my music life reign over everything.”

The new album—which Williams produced with Charlie Peacock—is a star-studded affair featuring contributions from Jackson Browne, Jakob Dylan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Dierks Bentley. “I’ve gotten to work with my heroes,” she beams. “We sent a song to Jackson Browne’s management, and I thought, ‘He’s never going to reply.’ And he wrote back saying, ‘I think she’s a great songwriter; I’m available Tuesday.’ To have someone like him say, ‘I support you’—that to me is what it’s all about.”

Although Williams’ songs came quickly—she wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks—the recording itself was often difficult. “I was trying to get it just right without having it sound too polished. It was a stressful few weeks,” she says. “But I like to call it ‘exciting stress.’ In the big picture, I’m glad to have control. I’m so much more involved on a day-to-day basis than I was with a major label because there isn’t that disconnect, and I love that.”

Williams’ career trajectory hasn’t been easy. In March 2006, following the release of her first album, 2004’s The Ones We Never Knew, she was involved in a near-fatal car crash that severely injured her arm, and forced her sister to undergo a series of 26 surgeries. “After the accident, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to play again,” she says. “But after a near-death experience like that, it makes you want to live every day to the fullest. It sounds cliché but it’s so true. So I took a break for a while, got married [to musician Chris Coleman], spent time at the store and reassessed. I thought I’d adapt to the family mode, but the highway came calling again. I can never get away from that live performance because I love telling stories through my music.”

Despite Williams’ previous success she feels her new record is helping her make a career statement. “It’s funny—I’ve had two albums, I’ve been touring forever, I’ve had critical acclaim, but yet I feel like this is my first album in a way,” she says. “I’m reintroducing myself and telling people that it’s real this time. I’m not going to take another four-year hiatus. In fact, I have part of the next record written already. I’m a traveling singer-songwriter, and the music will keep coming.”

Lee Zimmerman

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