Before becoming a hit songstress and newly Soul Music Hall of Famer for Best Female Artist, Alyson Williams once felt she had to hide her love for music from her school peers. “I realized at an early age the music that I was surrounded by and the music that I loved was different than the music that all my other friends were into,” the “Just Call My Name” singer recalls to So Booking Cool. Whether it was classical music, gospel, showtunes, especially jazz, music was always there for Williams.
Her father, Bobby Booker, was a longtime bandleader/trumpeter; her mother had a background in singing, dancing, and acting; and she congregated with her sister who was ten years older. “I knew I wanted to sing, but I was shy to sing because I thought what I liked was corny. You know what I’m saying? When all your friends are into the Jackson 5 and here you over here hugging up on Ella Fitzgerald. What is that? But it’s what it was. And I felt that I would be teased, and I was. I was a victim of bullying–not just for music–but just for being different in general.”
Regardless, Williams was undeterred. The few images of African American entertainers like Fitzgerald, Diahann Carroll, Pearl Bailey, Lola Falana, Lena Horne and Sammy Davis Jr. showed Williams it was possible to accomplish her dreams of being a triple threat. She practiced (her parents had placed her in dance lessons) and studied at the Dance Theatre of Harlem (among other dance companies) and earned a dance scholarship to Marymount Manhattan College where she also majored in Communications. Studying the craft was arguably a no-brainer for Williams. But she realized it was not about honing her talent alone. She had to further her drive.
“You gotta be a go-getter on your own,” the “Summer Nights in Harlem” vocalist says. “You can’t wait for somebody to discover you. You can’t wait for somebody to bring something to you. You can’t be afraid to ask questions or put yourself out there. So I became that kind of person. ‘I’m going to figure it out and make a phone call; figure something out or go and say ‘Hi, my name is Alyson Williams and I’d like to know this…’ And that’s how it progressed, for me.”
Watch Part 1 of the interview to learn more about Williams including her stint as a backup singer for some of music’s biggest artists; her other influences and inspirations; her perspective of the Do’s and Don’ts for artists; turning to one’s faith in the pandemic and how she has been managing through it all; her radio show Love Notes with Alyson Williams in the Chill Zone, which now celebrates five years, and more! For more information visit Williams on Instagram. Check out her new single “Summer Nights in Harlem” below!