(SOUNDBITE OF DAR WILLIAMS SONG, "TIME, BE MY FRIEND")
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Dorothy "Dar" Williams writes and sing songs that have been admired for years about navigating loss, love and heartbreak.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIME, BE MY FRIEND")
DAR WILLIAMS: (Singing) Time, be my friend, be my friend, though I have not been so kind to you.
SIMON: And now she's back with new and eloquent lyrical musings. Her new album is called "I'll Meet You Here." And Dar Williams joins us now from the Hudson Valley in New York. Thanks so much for being with us.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
SIMON: This is your first album in six years. And these songs take us so vividly through different journeys. Is there a theme?
WILLIAMS: It turns out there's a theme. I didn't know it when I was writing them or even when I recorded it. But they all have to do with people sort of meeting situations as they arrive and really trying to cope with them as they arrive, as opposed to bringing all of their heavy luggage along or all their expectations.
SIMON: What puts a song in your mind?
WILLIAMS: You know, a little thing will pop into my mind. And I think at this age, I've realized that it's just - you take that little thing seriously, and you follow it. So the song "Time, Be My Friend" - time, be my friend, be my friend (laughter). I thought, well, haven't I been a good friend to time? And I thought, no, I haven't been a good friend (laughter). And that's when I start what I call the file cabinet around all of the times that I have either been a good friend to time or have not, what I've asked time to do for me and how things have turned out when I've let that go and let time do its thing. So that's how songs start. A little phrase comes in. And then I get curious about it. And I explore it.
(SOUNDBITE OF DAR WILLIAMS SONG, "LITTLE TOWN")
SIMON: Let me ask you about a song called "Little Town." How did that come into your mind?
WILLIAMS: I was working on this book called "What I Found In A Thousand Towns." I was really noticing how towns were becoming more resilient. They were thriving. They were kind of digging into what made them unique. And I noticed that there were some mayors out there who embraced the new stuff coming into their towns. Specifically, there was a mayor in upstate New York that I heard talking on NPR, actually. And he was embracing a whole new immigrant community that they had welcomed sort of en masse. And he said, we are so lucky that you chose us.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE TOWN")
WILLIAMS: (Singing) Now the months come after months. And every Fourth of July, we have our children putting all the flags on the line up and down the Main Street - every country that we're from like the mayor always wanted.
SIMON: It seems especially timely song right now in many ways, doesn't it?
WILLIAMS: Yes. When I was writing the book, I kind of came up with this catchphrase for people where I said, you know, the opposite of division is not unity. It is collaboration. And I would see people nod and say, oh, well, we know how to collaborate. I mean, we're not unified. But the United States is extremely diverse in so - geographically and racially and even, you know, emotionally diverse. So when people would say, oh, we can collaborate, I saw this kind of relief like, oh, now we have points of access into how we can manage the change in ourselves and in our communities.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE TOWN")
WILLIAMS: (Singing) But my kids - they went off in all directions. And I know it's thanks to you they have returned. They have all this understanding, all this understanding. They have been the world around. And they came back to our little town.
SIMON: Let me ask you about a song. In fact, let's listen to a little of it, if we can - "Today And Every Day."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TODAY AND EVERY DAY")
WILLIAMS: (Singing) Hey, there, polar bear. It's quite a mess we found. Life is one heavy trip. Our paws are sinking in the ground. I see you out lumbering at the break of dawn.
SIMON: This is not a new concern for you, is it?
WILLIAMS: No (laughter). I took a class in 1987 where they talked about this thing called global warming. And we were like, no (laughter). But - so it's been a few decades now. And I think it's really important to not panic the way I did when I was, you know, whatever - 20 - and to have faith in the daily process. So yeah. And that's been something I've had to sort of accumulate over the last 30 years.
SIMON: There's a new version on this album of one of your best known songs. Joan Baez recorded it, as well. And that's the song "You're Aging Well."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE AGING WELL")
WILLIAMS: (Singing) Why is it that as we grow older and stronger, the road signs point us adrift and make us afraid?
SIMON: This song, in particular - what's it like recorded at different times in your own life?
WILLIAMS: I wrote the song when I was 25 when my 27-year-old boyfriend left me for a 20-year-old. And I saw the way one could look at that as sort of this inevitable thing, you know, like, that men choose the younger model. But I also sense that there was a new narrative on the horizon where, actually, we could embrace the aging process as something that gives us enormous gifts. And here I am 25 years later. And I recognize that that's true. But the other thing is that, when I recorded it, I couldn't stop thinking about Joan because Joan Baez didn't just record that song with me for - as one of her duets on her duet album "Ring Them Bells." She then said, you know what? I'm going to take you around Europe. And I'm going to take you around the United States.
There was one night we went to her room, the band and I. And we were all hanging out. And I found my shoes (laughter) that I left in her room outside my hotel room the next day that said - with a note that said, you need new shoes. Otherwise, you're perfect (laughter).
SIMON: Aw. Oh, my gosh. What a wonderful story. Aw.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE AGING WELL")
JOAN BAEZ AND DAR WILLIAMS: (Singing) I'm so glad that you finally made it here.
WILLIAMS: (Singing) You thought nobody cared, but I did. I could tell. And this is your year. And it always starts here. And...
BAEZ AND WILLIAMS: (Singing) Oh, you're aging well.
WILLIAMS: Joan - she's very graceful, very committed, very funny and does everything she can with all of those skills to help other people feel comfortable, you know, where they're at in - on their - on the road.
SIMON: And speaking of being on the road, you're about to go back on the road, I gather. How do you feel about that?
WILLIAMS: I feel great. The pandemic was the time to focus on why I do this. I think this is more than my job, you know? I finally realized, as I saw the alternative of being home, that this is in me to go out and perform and to meet people in different places, not just to perform but just to be out in the world and connect with people in their diverse ways all over the place.
SIMON: Dar Williams - her new album, "I'll Meet You Here," out now. Thanks so much for being with us.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Scott.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET THE WIND BLOW")
WILLIAMS: All the stories we could tell, my adventurous friend.
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