Carla Williams is returning to the music scene for the first time in 10 years. But her path to get here is most definitely a road less traveled.
Williams started singing in church at the age of three, and music became a passion of hers very early on. Although it played a role in her life up through college, she put her singing aspirations on hold after graduation to work for her family business. Then she was introduced to a guy who would change her career forever.
Williams shared her music dreams with Grammy-nominated songwriter, Milton Brown; at the time, her biggest desire was to make an album. Brown made that dream a reality, and two weeks later, she found herself in Nashville making her first album.
“The funny thing about it is Milton had never even heard me sing before,” Williams recalled. “But he saw my love and my passion for it, things that I had done in my past and awards that I had won all through high school and college [for singing].”
Williams credits that first album she made, titled I’m Home, as the moment things really started for her music-wise. Soon after that, in 2009, she was signed to Mike Borchetta’s Lofton Creek Records.
“That was a huge deal for me,” she said. “[It was] something that was very unexpected, but it was quite an accomplishment in my life.”
Not too long after that, the CEO of Lofton Creek Records passed away, which led to the demise of the company. Yet it weirdly ended up working out in Williams’ favor. At the time, she had three kids and wanted to be home spending time with them. So she took a break from music but never gave up on it entirely. She still hosted and performed at charity events throughout the Mobile, AL area.
Two or three years ago, Williams finally decided to make the leap back into the music industry. Unsure of what avenue she wanted to take in the industry she started talking with her longtime manager, Mark Maynard, about different ideas and settled on the Christian market.
“Going to church, I look so forward to the music, more than the sermon, because that’s where worship comes through to me,” she said. “That’s where God speaks to me the most is through music and through those praise and worship times.”
10 years ago, she wrote a song on a flight back from LA. It turned out to be one of those rarities where the lyrics poured out of her non-stop until the song was finished.
“It was just kind of reflecting [on] everything that I had been living,” she said about the song she wrote that day, and recently released as a single. Of “Love to Gain” she says, “So many times, you can get caught up in everything that you’re doing, in society, the fancy places that you’re going, the big name people that you’re meeting and everything that you kind of get thrown into; you can kind of get lost in that and you can escape into that fantasy world… It was like on the plane that day, God just put me back in check like, ‘I am the reason you are here and I am the reason that you have been given this talent and the reason that you’ve accomplished what you’ve accomplished.’ It was a real spiritual moment for me on that flight.”
“As soon as I got off the plane, I called Steve Dorff, who had produced [my first] album, and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got some lyrics here’. He had never, ever been in the Christian music world; he’s done everything except that. So he said, ‘Okay, give me about 30 minutes’. And of course, 30 minutes later, he wrote the most beautiful melody, as he so flawlessly does’.”
But it wasn’t until she ran into Kirk Sullivan, from the Grammy nominated group 4HIM, that Williams knew exactly which song to go with as her first release as a Christian artist.
“I was in my teenage years when they were very popular,” Williams said of the impact that 4HIM had made on her life. “Anytime they were anywhere close [by], I was there. They influenced my life in so many ways that they could never even imagine. So it was always a joke growing up that one day I was going to sing with one of those guys, if not all of them. And sure enough, that’s what happened.”
Even though this is her first Christian release, honesty and emotion is the thread that’s tied her music together, whether it was classified as country or blues.
“In order for me to portray a song the way I want it to come across to an audience, whether it’s a live show, whether it’s on radio or whether it’s somebody that’s downloaded the song, I want them to feel my emotion behind it more than anything,” she said. “So every song that I’ve ever written, every song that I’ve ever recorded, has been about something that I have personally lived at some point in my life. That is what makes it so emotional, that is what makes me be able to bring that song across to the people that are listening to it in a way that I want them to hear it from me because it’s on a personal level for me. It’s not just me singing a song that someone else wrote or a song that I wrote that has no meeting personally to me. So if I sing it, I’ve lived it. That’s kind of been my motto from day one for the last 10 years of this whole career.”
Outside of music, Williams serves as President & COO at Innovative Medicine Partners, a company that accelerates the market introduction of new medical devices that deliver unparalleled solutions. While the clinical world is drastically different from the music industry, Williams has still found ways to connect her two worlds.
“It’s all about changing lives,” she said. “It’s about bettering people. Our company takes ideas and concepts from physicians and turns them into a completed reality. So we are about changing the world of medicine, but yet I feel the same about music. It’s easy for me to tie the two worlds together. I want to touch people on a clinical level and I want people to be touched by my music. It could be that very song that changes someone’s life or makes them think about something differently just like it could be a new medical device that saves someone’s life.
As for what’s up next for Williams’ music career, she does have a few things planned. Her next release is going to be a song by Natalie Hemby that falls in the blues/R&B genre, which she says has been “so much fun” for her to record because of the low tones of her voice. She also is moving forward with a tribute album to one of her biggest musical inspirations, Karen Carpenter. So while this might be the first time you’ve heard of her, it definitely won’t be the last.