A Chat with Dar Williams: Writing a Song That Matters

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‘Tis the season for summer songwriting retreats! My regular readers know I’m a long-time attendee of SummerSongs, but well-known touring songwriters such as Steve Earle and Richard Thompson have started leading their own camps for songwriters over the past few years, and for the third year in a row one of my favorites, the talented Dar Williams, will lead her own week-long retreat, Writing a Song that Matters, in Garrison, New York. You can join her and her talented staff (including one of my favorite duos, Rick and Michele Gedney of Open Book!) on two dates this summer: July 13-17 and July 27-31.

The New Yorker calls Dar’s tunes “finely-crafted short stories,” and she has toured widely for over 20 years while also releasing eight studio albums. She has taught at the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival’s Song School and Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch. But what made Williams decide to make leap to leading her own retreat for songwriters? And how does she keep her songwriting muse happy and healthy?

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Songwriting Scene: Atlanta

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One of the fun things about Songwriting Scene is that I get to “meet” songwriters from around the country and around the world — and find out about what the local songwriting “scenes” are like (to share with you, of course!). Kara Claudy is an Atlanta-based singer-songwriter with some really sweet, heartfelt tunes, who is coming out with her debut EP on May 5. She was kind enough to reach out and offer to tell all about the songwriting scene in the ATL — so naturally I took her up on it! Here’s what she had to say:

Q: How would you describe Atlanta’s songwriting scene? What is the vibe like? The musical styles? The people?

Kara: I would compare Atlanta’s songwriting scene to its food scene: extremely diverse, surprisingly accessible, and absolutely underrated. It’s diverse in the sense that all sorts of genres are represented by many types of people from different walks of life—people are writing folk, blues, country, bluegrass, jam-band, pop, rock, rap, R&B, electronic, experimental…you name it and someone in Atlanta is doing it. In my view, folk, country, and rock come to the forefront of the scene, but it just depends on the circle you’re running in. Of course, people hear Atlanta and they think rap, but so many more genres are active than just the hip hop scene.

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