Singer Dana Williams, best known for her 2014 Apple Christmas commercial and her popular YouTube channel, will take the stage Friday, July 8, at the Base in Alex’s Place at the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard. Ms. Williams is a rising musical talent with experience and insight gained through years of live performance and recording. As a prominent YouTuber, Ms. Williams ventures deep into the catalogs of artists from the 1940s to current Top 40 favorites, and she continually parlays her work as a songstress into opportunities outside the studio and stage. In addition to her work with Apple, Ms. Williams ranked in the top four performers on ABC’s reality singing competition “Rising Star” in 2014, and her song “Keep Me Waiting” was featured on the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film “Whiplash.”
Ms. Williams approaches her career and craft with a sincere dedication that is evident within the first few seconds of her songs. While this characteristic of industriousness is often overlooked in the millennial generation, it is precisely what makes her success so dynamic. Her music is expansive and poignant enough to inspire tears one moment and steadfast empowerment the next.
Now 26, Ms. Williams is an inspiring example for teenagers and adults alike. The daughter
of the late David Williams, famed rhythm guitarist for artists such as Michael Jackson and Madonna, Ms. Williams carries on her family’s rich tradition of musical expression and unwavering dedication to the arts of songwriting and performance. “I love playing the guitar, performing — it’s just the best, it’s my favorite thing,” she said.
Ms. Williams’ most recent EP, 2015’s “Let’s Fall” is a sophisticated effort exploring age-old themes such love and loss, yet it is clearly directed under the inquisitive eye of an artist still on the rise. Many have likened Ms. Williams to her childhood hero, Ella Fitzgerald, and while the comparison is fitting, Ms. Williams takes the essence of Fitzgerald’s sound and expertly escorts it into the 21st century. Tracks such as “Damage” and “Guardian Alien” signal a unique and powerful artist at work, as she layers harmonies with whimsical cymbal crashes and whispers of parlor piano. At every turn the listener can sense Ms. Williams’ reverence for the past working alongside her expertly tuned, contemporary voice.
Nowhere is the collaborative nature of her work displayed more prominently than on Ms. Williams’ YouTube channel. With over 30,000 subscribers, the artist’s channel features intimate recordings of cover tunes as well as original music videos. Ms. Williams’ most popular upload, a duet performance of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 hit “Dreams” with longtime friend Leighton Meester, garnered over 4 million views. “I like using YouTube because it makes the artist so accessible to fans,” Ms. Williams said. “I take people’s advice, and it’s nice to hear feedback.”
In September 2015, Ms. Williams recorded a duet of the Secret Sisters’ “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” on the Island with seasoned musician and songwriter Ben Taylor for her YouTube channel. Ms. Williams’ philosophy on collaboration is refreshingly simple. “It’s really really fun for me to be able to share what I do with someone else who does the same thing,” she said.
The daughter of a touring musician, Ms. Williams recalls moving as a child and growing up in different cities across the country. One of the many places Ms. Williams calls home is Vineyard Haven, where she attended the Tisbury School and gained an appreciation for the “tranquility and change of pace” that the Island offers. “I feel connected to many places, one being Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. Williams said. “I try to spend time there every year.”
The Base at Alex’s Place, designed in the style of a black box theater, offers an intimate listening environment consistent with Ms. Williams’ sound and demeanor on stage. Audience members can expect an up-close and personal show with Ms. Williams perched behind an acoustic guitar, expanding the narrative of her songs by way of friendly conversation between tunes. While her YouTube performances are certainly enough to captivate an audience in the millions, for Ms. Williams, the draw of live performance is undeniable. “The energy between a live audience and a performer is really special, and something a camera can’t replicate,” she said.
Dana Williams: Friday, July 8, at 8 pm at the Base in Alex’s Place at the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard, Oak Bluffs. Tickets are available for $12 at the door and online at brownpapertickets.com. Children under 10 are free with an RSVP to 508-696-7171, ext. 128.