Due out March 3rd; Hear first single “Half a Mile” today.
Chris Williams and Kid Reverie’s new album began with an inquisitive search for a simple sound. Having heard Steve Varney’s (Kid Reverie) open-back banjo accompanying fellow songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov on a YouTube video, Williams began tracking down something similar for his own personal collection. “That banjo sounded so amazing on one condenser mike, and I wanted to find one like it,” says Williams. After a long search, he landed on Varney’s website. Williams noticed that he offered lessons and decided to sign up for one or two. “I was so taken with his work and his instrument that I’d pay to talk to him,” Williams chuckles. Kid Reverie recalls, “Chris always came to our lessons with a solid idea. I routinely found myself saying something like, ‘This is great, now let’s make it a song.’”
The pair have just announced the upcoming album Something from Nothing—due out March 3rd, 2023. Born from their initial collaboration, the pair eventually c0-wrote the twelve songs that became Something from Nothing. C0-produced by Williams and Varney and mastered by Varney, the two played every instrument on the album—with the exception of Michael McKee who joins in on drums for five songs and Ayda Varney who plays cat toy sounds on a tune. “This process was very cathartic. It took a trying time for both of us and allowed us to open ourselves to a writing partnership that neither of us expected. I am grateful for this amazing musical experience and hope everyone enjoys these songs as much as we loved creating them!” Kid Reverie affirms that he’s “rarely had such deep collaboration with another songwriter. For so long it felt like we were just doing lessons. I think it took both of us quite a while to realize we were co-writing songs and making an album.”
Today, Chris Williams and Kid Reverie shared the first listen from Something from Nothing, the ebbing and flowing “Half a Mile.” Written a few tunes into Williams’ and Varney’s time writing songs together, “Half a Mile” was a marked point of exploration for the pair, entering a mix of time signatures and tempo changes. “Every writing session we had, I was blown away by Steve’s in-depth knowledge of theory, song structure and catalog of hundreds of songs and examples within each at his fingertips,” remembers Williams. “Very useful when reaching for ideas and inspiration.”
Joined on drums by the aforementioned McKee, Williams and Varney lay down a luscious bed of stringed instruments and on which the song’s story is told. “‘Half a Mile’ is about growing in different ways; about questioning generational teachings we all morph into by process of hand-me-down traditions,” says Williams, adding, “Finding we can have it multiple ways without abandoning anything entirely.” With a stack of beautiful background vocals and string arrangements, the song’s second chorus crashes into a loping ¾ time before stripping it all away and returning to the original feel for the final verse. “It’s hard to remember exactly who did what throughout each song, as we both wore so many hats,” Williams remembers. “As usual, our songwriting process was super gratifying.”
More About Something from Nothing:
Something from Nothing opens with spacious, atmospheric “Morning,” filled with pirouetting strings and keys that evoke melancholic loss and yearning for the promise of a new day. “My mom passed away during COVID,” recalls Williams, “and I was standing outside the hospital where she was a patient when this song began to form in my mind.” He pondered separation and loss—two themes woven through the arc of the album—and how they affected him and others during the pandemic, wondering where hope for the future might lie. “I imagined this perfect golden field, a place both physical and abstract. A retreat for loss and memories, hopes and determination. A space that our own energies could converge and swirl, absent each other,” he says. As Kid Reverie remembers about writing the song: “The title, the space and ease… It led me to produce it like a grand entrance.”
“Morning” segues effortlessly into “The Fog,” a dreamy waltz floating on piano, synths, and ringing guitar lines that echo the notes on the piano. The Beatles-esque soundscape pulls us into the beauties and mysteries of a fog-shrouded landscape. “Half a Mile” ingeniously combines lilting banjo rolls and an upbeat Flying Burrito Brothers country rock tempo with soaring symphonic strains and transcendent vocals, while the spare guitar strums that introduce “Himalayan Hills” undulate and wash into sparkling, crystalline vocals that evoke the spiritual grandeur of the landscape in the song’s title. As Williams observes, “imagine a photo of mountains as far as the eyes can see, covered with flowers in every hue the mind could conjure. A place so majestic one would find it impossible to carry burdens. Mountains so imposing, they demand respect and surrender.”
The gorgeous love song to the universe “Asleep” floats on lush strings, echoing vocals, and melodic piano chords, punctuated by the plaintive strains of banjo fingerpicking on the instrumental bridge, while the heart-catching “Dappled Grey”—“Don’t tell anyone this is my favorite,” Kid Reverie chuckles—ambles through the vagaries of love, flitting between the crooning poetic explorations of Simon and Garfunkel and the spiraling harmonies of the Beatles. As Williams says of the song, “It meanders gently from the start with swells and valleys, conveying a sense of uncertainty while matching the story line for line. That is the amazing thing about music; the emotion that it can evoke from a listener who had no plans on being dragged in.”
The album closes with the lullaby “Mercury,” the first song that Varney and Williams wrote together. “It is a very simple delving into the depths of love and imagination,” William says. “This was our first song,” Kid Reverie recalls. “It’s pretty nostalgic to listen back and think about how we were trying to figure each other out. It ended up being a cosmic lullaby. I remember referencing it in my car and my daughter asked to hear it again. Always a good sign.”
Chris Williams and Kid Reverie hope the songs on Something from Nothing inspire others in their art: “not to be afraid to take chances musically.” Their music illuminates the struggles of the human soul, lighting a path between the shadows and light that leads from despair, fear, and loss to hope, courage, and love.
Something from Nothing Tracklist:
Half A Mile
Warning Bell (feat. Kid Reverie)
More About Chris Williams:
Chris Williams’ ability to weave different sounds into a seamless whole comes naturally. He grew up near Greensboro, North Carolina, and his father, Allen Calhoun, was a bluegrass musician who played a little bit of everything. Williams was playing banjo by the time he was ten, and he and his father traveled constantly to bluegrass festivals where his father played. Williams grew to be a big fan of New Grass Revival and their innovative ways of stretching traditional bluegrass in new directions. In his 20s and 30s, he played with rock bands and heavy metal bands, honing his instrumental chops and even taking the drums. He moved into jazz under the influence of Steely Dan’s Aja. Though he got away from music for a few years, he started buying recording equipment and eventually set out to make an album. When his father died in 2007, he started writing and collecting songs he says grew out of a “confluence of personal stories and musical styles.” 2019’s The Farewell Tour, an album that wove bluegrass and folk and jazz together, was the result. A year later, Williams penned another set of songs for his 2020 release To Be Determined, an expansive journey into the Americana soundscape. Williams combines lyrical ingenuity with a gift for finding the just-right melodic vibes in which to wrap his words. As he says, “I am trying be true to myself and to articulate my truths in my music and lyrics. I listen carefully and deeply to the work of other artists and glean from them what I can that will help me express my own truths.”
More about Kid Reverie:
Kid Reverie is out of Boulder, CO, featuring the voice and writing of Steve Varney, guitarist/banjoist for Gregory Alan Isakov and former leader of the band, Glowing House. In September 2018, Varney officially introduced Kid Reverie with a rock record both tender and furious. As and artist with several aesthetic interests, Kid Reverie has ebbed and flowed throughout time with a full length self-titled LP, Kid Reverie and many singles releases that cover a broad spectrum of genres. Steve’s body of work speaks for itself; honest, brilliant songwriting and an ever-reaching thirst for all things musical.