Last year’s Culpeper Has Talent winner is earning national attention for her debut album.
An ethereal instrumental effort, the 10-track “Unwind,” by Yasmin Williams hit No. 15 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart last week, and it remains in the same spot this week. The chart recognizes new and developing artists who have strong online sales.
“That was crazy. It was just random, completely out of the blue. Then I was like, yeah, that’s cool,” said the acoustic finger-style guitarist. “Whoever charts on that is pretty important.”
Williams, of Woodbridge, won Culpeper Has Talent in November with her hypnotizing guitar melodies, specifically, an original song, GuitKa, a made-up word combining guitar and kalimba, a type of African thumb piano she plays. She wrote the song for the finals of the local talent competition to show off her different techniques, and it’s since become one of the most listened-to tracks on “Unwind,” available at iTunes, Amazon and most other online music sites.
A video of Williams playing “Guitka,” knocking, picking, sliding and strumming her guitar laying on her lap, her fingers never stopping, also earned the 22-year-old a recent interview on NPR: “Williams’s music transcends the standard idea of what a guitarist should do,” according to the June 30 segment.
“So yeah, Culpeper Has Talent kind of started it,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t have written that if I hadn’t been in the finals.”
Culpeper Has Talent founder Gordon Humphrey said Williams is the perfect example of how big dreams sometimes begin in the smallest of places. He said the annual competition, celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, continues to be a proving ground for talented performers like her.
“Talent shines no matter where it comes from – and our area has more than its share of amazing performers just waiting to make that leap to the next level,” Humphrey said.
Williams recorded her debut album during a three-day studio session in March prior to its release on May 4. Around the same time, she graduated from New York University with a degree in music theory and composition. The musician, who started playing for real about eight years ago after beating all the songs on Guitar Hero II, said “Unwind” showcases her style and the different techniques she uses.
“It shows how I’ve become more experimental in the past year and a half. ‘Restless Heart’ I wrote right before I started college and that’s the first time I branched out and used a violin bow,” she said.
On another track, Williams uses tap shoes to keep a beat and add more percussion.
“A lot of the earlier songs were just me playing the guitar, I wasn’t really doing anything extra, but I add more techniques along the way,” she said. “The goal for this album was for it to be a live album so I’m doing it everything at the same time in one take.”
Since graduating college, Williams has been doing gigs locally and wants to continue that and move onto a national stage.
“I’m trying to get a tour started soon, to further my career and become a professional,” she said.
Williams is earning a following with Chalked Up reviewer Amily Hereweard writing that she “brought a new sound to the acoustic fingerstyle guitar world, with her creative and unorthodox, modern style of playing techniques that combines notes, chords and percussive effects in a way that is stunningly fresh and musically satisfying – it’s no wonder she is sweeping the music world.”
Williams will open August 11 for folk band, Oliver the Crow, at The Falls Church Episcopal in Falls Church.
The first round of auditions for Culpeper Has Talent will be held August 17 and 18 at Buffalo Wild Wings.