A Sylva-based gospel singer recently released a new album.
Lessie Williams’ “God Changed Me in Time” came out at the start of the year, and the singer has been out promoting the release ever since. Her last performance was April 3 at Whistle Stop Cafe in Dillsboro.
Singing has been a part of Williams’ life since she was a child.
“I guess I really started singing when I was probably 10 or 11 years old,” she said. “I used to just like to sing around home. I came from a family that always sang. If we were out in the garden, the tobacco field or just doing chores around the house, we’d be singing. It’s just a part of me. Later on at the age of 14, that’s when the lord came into my life. After that I began to sing gospel music, and I’ve been in gospel music ever since then.”
The desire to sing gospel music led to Williams’ first public performances. Her aunt started a choir at church and soon she was leading songs in front of the congregation.
“That’s where my start was – at church. As a child, I was certainly nervous singing in front of people. But as I grew naturally and spiritually, it wasn’t so much a nervous thing for me as much as it was something I enjoyed doing. I do it from the heart, and it became a part of me.”
Being a singer is something Williams said she always wanted to be. Before she started singing in the church she’d considered being a pop or soul singer. Though she still listens to and appreciates those styles, Williams said it’s gospel music that’s dear to her heart.
“When I was in school, they’d always ask ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’” she said. “I always said I wanted to be a singer. At the time I was listening to Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke – those are people I admire. I was definitely thinking of doing something pop, rock or blues influenced. But the lord changed my life and changed my direction as far as music was concerned. I appreciate all music, and I can glean something from anything I listen to. But gospel’s not something I just listen to, it’s something I do. It comes from the heart.”
After performing in public for several years, Williams went into the recording studio in 1984 to produce her first album, “Jesus is Mine.” She has continued producing albums, including 1992’s “I Made it Over,” 2003’s “Jesus is My Everything” and this year’s album.
“Being in the studio is a challenge, she said. “You want to make sure everything’s right. Every one is a learning experience. The next time you go to record you hope it is better. Most of the songs, the lord inspired me to write. Only one or two of them I didn’t pen myself.
“It can be a challenge,” she said. “Sometimes the people you’re working with – backup singers, things like that – they don’t like the choice of songs. They like a different style of music or something like that. When it’s ministry, though, that’s a different thing. And that’s what my music is – it’s ministry. I know this is the song that I need, and they may not think like that. My children helped me on this last one. They worked with me, and it flowed with me beautifully. My son Kenny wrote a song called ‘Tribute to Mom’ a long time ago. The first time I heard him sing it, I started crying. I still do every time I hear it. This last album, I said he ought to put it on there. He did a fine job on it.”
Williams said that, despite the challenges of recording, she is proud of all of her CDs .
“It feels like a great accomplishment getting an album done,” she said. “You look back at the miles you travelled together with the band and the singers. Once you get that album on wax, edit it and get it to where you want it mastered and playable for radio and that kind of thing – it’s a process and it’s not easy. You have to use a lot of people and you’re depending on people to do their part. It’s not easy. But when it comes out, it’s something you can be proud of. I feel that it’s a blessing. It’s not just entertainment, it’s ministry. I say I am shooting for the hearts of people. Hopefully there’s a message in a song that can help someone change their life. That’s my ultimate goal for a project. It’s nice too that people listen to it and hear things you can’t. I sit there and listen to the songs and think, ‘I should have done something different.’ But they’re listening to the song and might not be paying attention to the technical aspects of it.”
Williams is currently supporting the release of “God Changed Me in Time” with several live concert dates. She will be doing a tour of the eastern part of North Carolina in May, with a small tour of the northeast set for September.
This will not be her first time touring. Along with live dates in the past, Williams has been a guest on gospel radio and television shows throughout the Southeast.
“I love performing live,” she said. “I was thankful that we had the opportunity to minister in song at the Whistle Stop Cafe last Friday. I thank God for the turnout that was there and the new audience able to tap into. It was great for my music to be heard by that new audience.
“Performing has it’s challenges, though. When I do a concert, I try to do a little something from each of the albums, because I feel that there’s something for everybody on each one. There’s country gospel tunes, some southern gospel, some laid-back traditional and black gospel. I mix it up. When they ask me to come to the White House, I want to have something for them. I want to have something for the white man, Cherokee man or the person in the ghetto. There’s something in these CDs for everyone.”
For more information about Williams, call 586-0750 or e-mail email@example.com.