Texas Like That, the brand-new disc from Zane Williams, represents a shift in geography for the native of the Lone Star State.
"This was the first album I ever made that was done completely in Texas," he says. "We started the last record in Nashville and finished it in Texas. I felt like it turned out so well that we decided to do the whole album there, using the same co-producer in Tom Faulkner, the same studio, and a lot of the same musicians." Recording closer to home definitely has its advantages. "That did make it easier for me to take my time with it and have it not be as rushed. This was more of a leisurely process."
At the same time, Williams says the album might sometimes sound a little more Nashville-based. "In some ways, I think this record is more mainstream than the last one -- because of the songs themselves. I think that makes it sound a little bit bigger and slicker, but slick in my book is still pretty rootsy, as far as the big picture goes," he admitted to Billboard.
Nowhere is that current sound more apparent than on the energetic cuts "Just Getting Started" and "Throwback." "Those songs definitely sound modern. I think they borrow more from what is going on in country today than some of the stuff I have done in the past. It was fun to do those songs, but do them my way. I like rapid-fire lyrics. I don't mind some of that stuff. But I have always preferred to keep the instrumentation rootsy -- to use field drums instead of electronic drums -- and I like dobro, fiddle and mandolin as much as possible."
One of the highlights of the album is the story song "Jayton and Jill," which Williams says was one of his more interesting writing attempts. "I do this thing on Mondays called 'Music Monday' where I post an acoustic performance on Facebook. Sometimes, I ask the fans for 10 random words, and I use all 10 of them in a song -- real quick. It's almost an improvisation kind of thing. That song started out that way. Jayton was one of the words, and so was Jill," he said, adding that not all the suggestions made the final cut. "When I was polishing it up for the record, I picked a few out because some of them were weird, like 'Ephesians,' 'Flamboyant' and 'Sarsaparilla,' which were in the original."
When writing a story song, does Williams know what's going to happen to his characters? "I think it happens both ways. Sometimes, I begin with the ending already in mind. With 'Jayton and Jill,' it wasn't that way. In trying to use all 10 of the words, I did that in the first couple verses, so I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do in the last verse. That's where I came up with the twist at the end. It just seemed like a cool place for me to take it. I didn't have that end in mind when I started. It just happened as I was writing the song."
The singer will hit the road to promote the new album -- not that the road life is anything new for Williams. To quote Robert Earl Keen's famous work, "the road goes on forever," with no slowdown in the tour schedule. "That's part of why it took us so long to make the album. We didn't take any time off from the road, so we pretty much squeezed it in on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Then, it was back out on the road. The rhythm of the road in Texas is that you play every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. That's what you do, and how we make a living. I love it," he says, adding that it seems to work very well. "I think it's a family friendly way to do it, because I'm not gone for two or three months at a time. I'm gone for a few days, and then I'm home for a few. We have a little bit of a routine, and the family knows what to expect. It's pretty nice to be honest. I'm open to whatever the future might hold," he said, "but I love playing the honky-tonks every week. It keeps the band tight, and keeps us sharp. We're putting our 10,000 hours in to become experts at all of this," he said with a laugh.