Hannah Williams is a Bristol, UK-born and based singer/songwriter and soul artist, who can trace the origins of her own musical career to growing up in an extremely musical family; Williams’ father was a musician and minister at the local church, and her mother, recognizing that she had some talent, allowed Williams to join the church choir when she was 6. Unsurprisingly, like a a lot intensely musical homes, Williams learned how to read music before she could actually read words.
With the release of her 2012 full-length debut Hill of Feathers, Williams exploded into the both national and international scenes, thanks in part to the success of album single “Work It Out,” which received attention across the blogosphere and airplay on radio stations across the US, Australia and the European Union; in fact, at one point, “Work It Out” was the most downloaded song in Greece, and according to her label, Record Kicks Records, the video has — as of this point — received over 1.5 million plays on YouTube. Adding to a growing international profile, Williams has played sets at some of Europe’s biggest festivals including Shambala Festival, Valley Fest, Wilderness Festival, Cambridge Jazz Festival and Larmer Tree Festival,as well as some of Europe’s well-known clubs including Hamburg, Germany‘s Mojo; Manchester, UK’s Band on the Wall; Camden, UK‘s Jazz Cafe and others with the likes of Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Cat Power, and Charles Bradley.
Williams’ sophomore effort Late Nights and Heartbreak, which was produced by The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto, and marked both the first time Williams has worked with Catto, as well as the first recorded output with her backing band, the Bristol-based soul unit, The Affirmations, comprised of James Graham (organ, piano and Wurlitzer), Adam Holgate (guitar), Adam Newton (bass), Jai Widdowson-Jones (drums), Nicholas Malcolm (trumper), Liam Treasure (trombone), Victoria Klewin (baritone saxophone) and Hannah Nicholson (backing vocals). And as you may recall, the album, which featured singles like the fierce, Dusty Springfield-like torch song “Tame in the Water” and psychedelic soul rendition of “Dazed and Confused” that managed to draw from equally from the original version written by Jake Holmes, Led Zeppelin’s legendary cover and The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” as well as some of the most personal and heartfelt material I came across last year, was one of my favorite albums in 2016, decidedly taking the top spot on last year’s Best of List.
Recently, the Bristol-born and-based soul artist and her backing band have received greater international attention after renowned, smash hit producer NO I.D. convinced Jay-Z to use the hook of album title track “Late Nights and Heartbreak” for the superstar artist’s album title track “4:44,” making his track a personal statement of his infidelity in response to Beyonce’s Lemonade. Of course, as you hear on Williams’ “Late Night and Heartbreak,” the song focuses on infidelity but also on the narrator’s crippling and confounding inability to figure out their own desires, their fears of vulnerability and heartbreak and their deception both to themselves and their partner. But at the core of the song is something that the song’s narrator and the most people don’t want to readily admit — that it’s difficult to face yourself and your own life with the sort of unflinching honesty that you may have for others. And as a result of the song coming from a deeply personal and lived-in place, it packs an unexpected and devastating wallop, especially if you’ve been on either side of a troubled, deception-filled relationship.
Directed by Nick Donnelly, who has worked on videos for the Wu-Tang Clan, Martha Reeves and Akala and DJ Khaled, the recently released video for “Late Nights and Heartbreak” was filmed in Williams’ hometown and focuses on the sort of deeply troubled relationship at the heart of the song. As Williams explained to Complex, the video “depicts the realisation that sometimes the most burning love is for ones’ own passion, and when a human relationship gets in the way it will lead to heartbreak.”