Yasmin Williams Crafts Otherworldly Acoustic Soundscapes on ‘Urban Driftwood’ | Acoustic Guitar – Acoustic Guitar

From the November/December 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By E.E. Bradman

Yasmin Williams’ singular palette—which includes percussive accents on her guitar’s body, “lap-tapping,” using a tap shoe to keep time, and incorporating instruments such as kora and kalimba in real ti…….

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From the November/December 2021 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By E.E. Bradman

Yasmin Williams’ singular palette—which includes percussive accents on her guitar’s body, “lap-tapping,” using a tap shoe to keep time, and incorporating instruments such as kora and kalimba in real time—is on full display on Urban Driftwood (Spinster), an update of her celebrated debut, 2018’s Unwind, and a showcase for her multiscale Skytop Grand Concert guitar.

“Some people need to sit down with an instructor and be forced to learn the fundamentals,” says Williams. “For other people, like me, exploration starts right at the beginning. Otherwise, why bother playing?”

The Northern Virginia native started on clarinet in third grade, and when she picked up guitar in middle school, little did Williams know how much she’d be influenced by the grooves she heard growing up, as well as the nonwestern approaches, especially Hindustani music, that she absorbed while attending New York University on the way to a 2017 degree in theory and composition. The results may recall the distinctive stylings of giants like Michael Hedges and Stanley Jordan, but the fact that Williams has come this far by pursuing a mostly internal agenda hints at exciting possibilities. (She confirms that there may be film scoring and a trio in her future.) Most of all, she’s comfortable with herself while being aware that she has lots of living to do. 

“When I get a new instrument or try a new technique, I don’t look up what other people have done, because I don’t want to be influenced in any way that’s not true to myself,” says the 25-year-old guitarist. “If I’m at a loss, I shelve it, live life, have more experiences, get better, and come back to it.”

Photo by Zach Pigg

The compositions on Urban Driftwood are soothing, especially in these harried times. Was that by design?

I wrote most of the songs last year, going through the emotions of everything that happened, politically, socially, and personally. I was hoping that once people hear it, they can do the same thing—use the record to reflect, meditate, or just listen to it and feel uplifted, too.

Were you thinking of a particular audience while you were writing material for the album?

Most of what I write is for me. If you’re true to yourself and there’s an audience that enjoys stuff that’s true to you, then there’s no real need to think about anything other than what you want to write.

How did you develop the confidence to listen to your inner voice?

My parents and my family have always been very supportive, so I didn’t put any limitations on myself in terms of developing my own voice. I’ve been free to have my voice, at least in my household, for my entire life.

What did you grow up listening to? 

R&B, hip-hop, soul, and smooth jazz. Go-go [a sub-genre of funk] was definitely big in our house: My dad is a go-go connoisseur; my parents were both in the scene, and I played guitar in a go-go band with my brother. Chuck Brown is a favorite.

How did that music influence your approach to acoustic guitar?

I think it …….

Source: https://acousticguitar.com/yasmin-williams-crafts-otherworldly-acoustic-soundscapes-on-urban-driftwood/

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