Beyond the Song by Jantina Baksteen
For this edition of Beyond the Song, I got in contact with Kevin Williamson of Williamson Branch, a successful Bluegrass family band from Nashville, Tennessee. We hope you enjoy their story.
Jantina Baksteen: There might be that some readers of SGNScoops who have never heard of Williamson Branch. Could you introduce your family to SGNScoops?
Kevin Williamson: We are a third generation musical family from Nashville. Our roots are in Bluegrass and Bluegrass gospel music. Though our sound is derived from ancient tones, we believe it is very fresh and exciting. We pride ourselves on our showmanship. That said, we try to point our listeners to the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. If you were to come to see us live, hopefully you would experience moments when you sing, laugh, cry, and praise the Lord.
JB: When did your journey as a singing family start?
KW: I joined my dad’s band at 15 years old. He and I spent many years performing together. When Debbie and I married in the early 90’s we struck out with our own group. After our oldest daughter, Melody, came along in 1998, we knew we needed to get off the road. So, I began performing for children in the Nashville area. As each of our daughters came along and began singing and playing, they would join me on my shows for song or two. They soon became an integral part of the show. By 2014, we knew we had the ingredients and the calling for a family band. So, we named our group Williamson Branch, and hit the road.
JB: As a great Bluegrass group, you have your own band. What instrument do each of you play?
KW: I (Kevin), play guitar, Debbie plays mandolin, Melody plays fiddle, Kadence plays U-Bass, Caroline plays cajon and mandolin, and our friend Anthony Howell, plays banjo and lead guitar.
JB: What makes the blending of family music so special?
KW: There’s a closeness among family members that is truly special. It stems from shared life experiences. In many cases the timbre of the voices is very similar. Also, families enunciate their words similarly, so they phrase their songs very closely. It’s also about being able to look at each other on stage and know what the other is going to do next.
JB: Your latest song you recorded is “Walking In The Spirit.” Please share with us about that song. What does it mean to you to walk in His Spirit?
KW: We heard Judy Marshall sing this song one night and really loved it. It was written by her mama, Angeline Marshall. The Marshall family is a legendary bluegrass gospel group that I saw many times in the 70’s and 80’s. They had anointed harmonies. Even though they hadn’t recorded together since the 80’s, they consented to come together to record with us on this beautiful song. As believers, we have a power available to us that is far beyond ourselves. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit and he did. Now the Spirit dwells in each of us and he functions as the Councilor, Healer, Authority over the demonic, and much more. He grants us joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. But we need to be willing to follow him and listen to his small, still voice. We all need to remember to walk in the Spirit daily.
JB: You and all of the artists are going through a hard time, and now have found ways to share your music through Facebook live sessions. How has this helped you in your growth as group?
KW: Our touring was shut down in mid-March of 2020. When we saw that folks were scared and uncertain over the virus, we took to our Facebook page to encourage our fanbase. It was pretty simple, every day for about 15 or 20 minutes, we would sing an old hymn, read God’s Word, and take prayer requests. By early April, we could tell that this was really resonating with folks because we were getting millions of views on our videos. When we started our daily live videos we had around 47,000 followers. Now, have over 411,000. As a result we are ministering one on one through Messenger to many people every day. We eventually had to scale back the daily videos. Now we go live on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. God has also blessed us. Our followers have supported us with the donations and by buying our merchandise.
JB: As a family group, you know one another through and through. Are there still stories to share when your on the road?
KW: There are always more stories to tell – even though it sometimes feels like we have nothing more to say to each other. Sometimes a sign for a town on the interstate will remind us of something that happened or a landmark will spur a story. Once the stories are told, everything settles back to quiet time watching the world go by our windshield.
JB: Do you have a fun road story to share?
KW: I guess more than specific stories, we remember people and smiles. We remember people who have been moved by the music and gospel message. We also remember going to amazing places like the Cayman Islands, Niagara Falls, Susquehanna River, endless corn fields in the Midwest, and lighthouses in Maine.
JB: Do you have a testimony to share ?
KW: The Holy Spirit will often have us doing things that feel awkward but then turn out to be really special. Many times at restaurants Debbie will say, “We need to sing for our waitress.” My immediate thought is usually, “Really? It’s crowded in here and everyone will be looking at us like we’re weird!” But then we sing an a capella version of Amazing Grace or some old hymn. When we finish, we’ll look around and all the waitresses are standing there with tears streaming, and folks from the other tables will have stopped their conversations to listen. Everyone is so blessed and all it takes is listening to the Spirit, and overcoming our own inhibitions.
JB: What keeps you all busy when you’re not on the road together?
KW: Mostly, the day to day of running the group and the household. Kadence and Caroline are still homeschooling. There’s always laundry and dishes, and vehicle maintenance. Add to that booking, shipping, responding to messages, designing flyers, website, dj follow up, rehearsals, songwriting, recording, and our videos. Beyond that, we love to throw the frisbee, read, watch movies, we’re not big into cards but we do like board games.
JB: Reading through your webpage, you have won a lot of awards and nominations. Is there still a goal to reach?
KW: We were very blessed last year to bring home the Valley Star Family Vocal group award from our time performing in Texas. Melody also won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Momentum Vocalist award. Our next goal is to play the Grand Ole Opry, and to promote our new project titled, Heritage and Hope – A Two Volume Gospel Collection. In the midst of all of those things, we can never forget that our true purpose is to usher in the presence of the living God wherever we go.
JB: Please share the story of Kevin Kidd?
KW: Kevin Kidd is my children’s performer alter-ego. I created him so that I could walk out my calling while staying close to home when the girls were little. He still performs occasionally bringing big laughs and many smiles to kids. Kevin teaches character-building and Biblical values through fun songs. And he brings a healthy dose of silliness via songs like, “The Underwear Song,” and, “The Stinky Feet Song.”
JB: What is ahead for The Williamson Branch?
KW: As I mentioned, we are set to release Heritage and Hope this spring. We had a beautiful project filled with new gospel songs ready to record. But, when we saw how much folks were blessed by us singing some of the old hymns, we decided to record several of those favorites. Now we’re releasing a 23 song project. The first volume, Heritage, is filled with familiar songs, while the second, Hope, consists of that new material we had prepared.
The best way to reach Williamson Branch for information or bookings is:
We hope you enjoy Williamson Branch singing “Walking In The Spirit:”
Williamson Branch, thanks so much for sharing your ministry with SGNScoops. May God continue to shine his blessing on your ministry and your personal lives.
By Jantina Baksteen