With her just-released “Promised Land” — her first new album in three years and ninth overall — singer-songwriter Dar Williams is celebrating 15 years of recording, a span she calls “a psychedelic blink of the eye.”
“I can feel it all at once, but it also feels like it’s been a while, which is good,” says Williams, 41, who lives in upstate New York with her husband and 4-year-old son. “I think songs carry so many messages from the subconscious, and I’ve always felt there’s someone inside me who’s smarter than I am in daily life, and I have to give her her due — which comes through the songs.
“So there’s kind of like a relief you feel when your secret is out. It’s nice to know there’s something out there that says, ‘This is who I am,’ even if it’s fractured into this mirror ball of a thousand different identities of the songs.”
Williams approached “Promised Land” much the same way, “walking and going through museums and big, empty spaces” while she was working on the songs.
The album also includes a couple of interesting covers — Fountains of Wayne’s “Troubled Times” and “Midnight Radio” from the musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” whose composer, Stephen Trask, was a classmate of Williams’ at Wesleyan University.
“It’s a really important shout-out to the freaks, and to the way people listen to music to save their lives,” notes Williams, who also has authored a pair of children’s books. “When we were in college, Stephen sat us down to listen to music that way ... and I feel like it affected my sensibility about music.
“The first time I heard (‘Midnight Radio’), of course I cried. And I kept thinking, ‘I wish I could really sing this song.’ So I did — with his blessing. He said ‘Go for it!’ “
Dar Williams and Shawn Mullins perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 17) at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $36. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.
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