Dana Williams is the daughter of late guitarist David Williams, who worked with the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna and Whitney Houston. Her pedigree is exemplary, but Williams isn't content to ride the wave of family fame. Rather, she's taking the bull by the horns and creating some gorgeous, jazzy R&B that has seen her enjoy comparisons to Ella Fitzgerald. She plays the Hotel Cafe this week, so we had a chat.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you start singing, writing and performing, and when did you realize it could be a career?
I've been singing for as long as I can remember. My dad was a musician, so there were always guitars lying around. I didn't become serious about learning how to play the guitar until I was about 13, and I have been writing my own music ever since. Growing up in a musical family, I always imagined that I would pursue a career in music; I just didn't know to what capacity. Since I have always been so shy, I wasn't always drawn to performing, but now I feel like it is just another opportunity for me to express myself.
Describe your sound/style.
I have been told that my music is soul/folk. Growing up I listened to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald and Carole King. It's fun to combine the two styles, singing jazzy melodies over folklike progressions.
Your dad is obviously well-known in the business — how much of an influence has he been on you?
I was definitely inspired by his talent and his ability to reach people through music. I learned a lot from him over the years. I really admire how completely he immersed himself into his music, and I hope to do the same. He always pushed me to find my own voice and style as an artist. When he would give me guitar lessons, he'd teach me a riff and say, 'OK, now make it your own,' so I'd spend a lot of time reinterpreting songs and riffs in my own way.
What can we expect from this Hotel Cafe set?
I love Hotel Cafe's Second Stage, and how the room lends itself to an intimate show. I'm going to play an acoustic set and try out a few new tunes.
What's next from you in 2019?
I have been working on a lot of new music that I am really excited to share.
Dana Williams plays with Radney Foster and Shelley Segal at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, at Hotel Cafe.