Montana native Tessy Lou Williams’ passion for music and songwriting began early in her life. Her parents, Kenny and Claudia Williams, formed the core of a western musical legend in Montana – the band Montana Rose. One of her earliest memories was falling asleep in a guitar case backstage, dreaming and singing along to the country folk tunes of the band. By the time Tessy Lou reached the sixth grade in Willow Creek, Montana (population 150), she had learned to play the cello, piano, guitar, saxophone and clarinet. Despite her growing ability to play several musical instruments, her greatest passion at that time was writing. She would sit for hours at the family computer writing story after story, about the imaginary characters that filled her young head.
It was about this time that she began to pick up her mother’s Gibson guitar. More and more Tessy Lou began learning and playing songs. What her parents didn’t know was that the young writer had turned her passion for writing stories into writing songs. For years Tessy Lou wouldn’t let anyone hear her original songs. Except for her best friend, or maybe her sister or brother, the world did not hear these creations. Playing her songs in front of anyone terrified her. Then on Christmas break from her freshman year at college, her parents invited Tessy Lou to come along to a Christmas party where they would be playing. At the end of their first set, Tessy Lou’s mother asked her, as she had done many times before, if she would like to come up and play during their break. To everyone’s surprise, she said yes. But Tessy Lou didn’t play just any cover songs, she played her original songs. For the first time before an audience of friends, family and patrons, Tessy Lou let loose with what she had kept secret for so many years, a voice to match her songs. When Tessy Lou stepped off the stage, to the proud and loving embrace of her parents and the warm applause from the crowd, she knew from that moment on what she wanted to do with her life.
Tessy Lou left college and moved with her best friend and now frequent co-writer, Kandee Spaulding, to a little apartment in Belgrade, Montana, where they lived the songs they wrote. Tessy Lou began to play more and more at her parent’s shows, and began performing more at local venues on her own. One day she got a call from a friend and local musician Mike Singer, who invited her to join him and a fiddle-playing friend to play at a local indie record store. So was born Tessy Lou and the Shotgun Stars, a band that would eventually include her dad on doghouse bass, Bryan Paugh on fiddle and mandolin, and Mike Singer on banjo. A weekly gig at the Pony Bar, in Pony, Montana would solidify her performing skills and begin to showcase her talents as a singer and songwriter. A growing group of fans began to make the weekly trek every Sunday, to the end of the road, way up in the mountains, to this small Montana town to hear her play.
On the eve of her 20th birthday, her father took Tessy Lou on a musical pilgrimage, a road trip to Nashville, Memphis, and Austin, Texas. In Nashville, they visited her father’s old friends in the music business, toured the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium, and various studios and clubs. A visit with family friends, Mike Ward and Jimbeau Hinson, for some relaxation, collaboration, and career advice, produced an unexpected gift, a hit song (“Next Girlfriend”). Although Tessy Lou enjoyed Nashville, it did not strike her as a place she wanted to live. So they continued their journey to Texas. It was after this brief visit to the “Lone Star State” that she knew that Austin was “calling her name.” (It’s in the title song “Leaving Montana”.)
The laid back lifestyle, the small-town feel, the music scene, the friendliness of the people, all reminded her of home and, she knew she wanted to be in the “Live Music Capitol of the World.” She knew moving away from the home she loved, the life she knew in small town Montana, her family and friends wouldn’t be easy, but she also knew this was her chance to pursue the dream she believed was waiting for her. So she packed up her things and moved to Wimberley, just outside of Austin. She was joined by her friend and band member Bryan Paugh and, most importantly, her dad Kenny.
After six months of performing in and around Austin, Tessy Lou, Kenny and Bryan returned to Montana for the summer to visit family and friends, and to play a few nights for their fans at the Pony Bar. While they were in Montana, they were also hoping to round up some of their old friends to record a few of Tessy Lou’s songs. They only had a week before they had to get back to Austin, so when they walked into their friend Jason Wickens’ Blue Roan Studios, in Bozeman, Montana, they told him they hoped to get maybe five or six songs recorded in a week, an ambitious schedule for any artist. Working 10 to 12 hours a day for four days, they recorded fifteen. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Blue Roan’s Grammy Award winning engineer Doc Wiley. With the help of their old friends, including legendary singer/songwriter Mike Beck on B-bender, Rick Phillip on drums, Mike Singer on banjo, Bryan Paugh on fiddle and mandolin, Brook Langton on Pedal Steel, her father on up-right bass and Tessy Lou on acoustic guitar, all under the guiding hand of producer Tom Ayres, ten of Tessy Lou’s amazing original songs, along with “Next Girlfriend,” have now to come to life on her debut album, Leaving Montana.
After traveling and playing extensively
throughout Texas the last two years, Tessy Lou returned home to
Austin to record her second album, Somewhere In Texas. From the
traditional Country song "Fool's Moon" to the haunting lyrics of
"Losing Ground Again," Somewhere In Texas features Tessy Lou's
classic Country voice on several original songs along with a few
tunes by some of her favorite songwriters, including Sonny
Throckmorton and Kevin Welch. Backed by several renowned musicians
from Texas and Nashville, including Lloyd Maines and Cody Braun, as
well as her band, the Shotgun Stars, Tessy Lou's second album is
sure to delight Country music fans everywhere with her traditional
approach to modern Country music. Somewhere In Texas is scheduled to
be released on Warehouse Records in January of 2015.