“We didn’t have to speak too much about what we were doing; we all love the same kind of music and they knew why I was drawn to them,” Williams says. “There were just so many obvious signs pointing the way to go.
“I really wanted to go into their world, particularly their album Strange Country, which was the one that really got me in, so we recorded with that band in the same studio. For me it was very much trying to chase that sound.”
The freezing chill of late December in Saskatoon, in the bend of the south Saskatchewan River, only inspired Williams more as he and Kacy and Clayton completed songwriting and threw themselves into the task of recording.
“We all stayed at Clayton’s house, so we travelled in [to the studio] in the morning, worked, and then we’d have dinner at a diner somewhere,” he said. “Saskatoon is a pretty intense city … it was an interesting cultural context.”
The three weeks that Williams spent in Saskatoon produced 11 songs for Plastic Bouquet, which runs to about 30 minutes and features first single I Wonder Why among other gems, including Kacy’s stunning vocals on Isn’t It.
“Clayton’s guitar playing is as much a part of this sound as Kacy’s voice, which is saying a lot – it’s this beautiful balance of two,” says Williams, whose own distinctive voice captured the attention of Bradley Cooper when he was casting for the film A Star Is Born.
Like Williams hearing Kacy and Clayton on the tour van radio, Cooper was driving through Beverly Hills when he first heard Williams on his car radio. Later that night, the actor and filmmaker went along to see Williams perform at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, leading to his part in A Star Is Born.
“I have a naive curiosity about the film world,” says Williams, who also appeared in True History of the Kelly Gang but puts music ahead of acting work. “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about [acting roles],” he says. “Time is a finite resource, and sometimes I’ll give up opportunities in music to do something in the acting world, but I don’t give it too much energy.”
He’s hopeful that the moment of inspiration which lead to Plastic Bouquet with Kacy and Clarence will mean future collaborations on stage, but up ahead he sees more solo work and the completion of his next album sometime late next year.
“I’ve just finished doing a film soundtrack for a great Kiwi film that’s coming out next year, and I’m halfway through writing my next album, so I’m not completely sitting around on my arse.”
Plastic Bouquet is out December 11 through New West Records/Caroline.
Martin Boulton is EG Editor at The Age and Shortlist Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald