In 1993, Dar Williams played a house party in Marietta, Georgia, with another woman, an out and proud lesbian who wore a tank top with a pink triangle. It was an intimate gathering and a lovely concert.
But when this woman Williams’ had just performed with asked if anyone could put them up for the night, the two were greeted with silence.
“She really identified as a lesbian, in terms of her hair—she had a rat tail—her jewelry. And when she asked if, by the way, is there a place to stay, no one offered. And this was a house concert,” Williams says over the phone while riding in a luxury van on her current tour.
The two were forced to stay in the woman’s truck for the night. And Williams, who is straight but who many believed to be lesbian or queer, decided that night she would remain ambiguous about her sexual orientation.
“I was shocked at that time. I had a privilege I didn’t know,” Williams says.
And through the years and albums including “The Honesty Room,” “The Christians and the Pagans,” and “End of the Summer,” people just assumed she was a lesbian.
Her songs such as “When I Was A Boy” from 1993’s “The Honesty Room” led to the assumption by many that Williams was at least bisexual. That experience in Marietta told her she would embrace the assumptions and be part of the ongoing questions of sexual orientation and gender identity many people ask of others.
“That was an early thing for me; in middle school it was question for me. For a little while i thought maybe … I think it was an early hot button issue for me even though I realized I was straight and not even bi,” she says.
“Gender and orientation issues have always been interestingly intertwined with me. And when nobody at that house party offered us space … I didn’t want to give anyone that comfort [of knowing I was straight].”
She did come out straight in 2002 when she got engaged to her now husband, Michael Robinson, and they have two children. She remembers announcing the engagement at a concert and a woman from the back shouted, “That’s OK!”
Now Williams is touring on her most recent album, “Emerald,” released earlier this month with the help of crowdsourcing. Featured on the album include such greats as Jill Sobule, Richard Thompson, The Milk Carton Kids and more. The album received a great review in Rolling Stone.
The name of the album comes from a song on the album with the same name. There’s a green, welcoming light that Williams says constantly surrounds her.
“There’s a beautiful green light that shines through all the places I’ve traveled. What’s nice about a stone like emerald or a jewel like it really they are durable but at same they time they are kind of defined by how the gem holds light inside it,” she says.
Williams returns to Atlanta on Friday, May 8, to play a show at Eddie’s Attic, one of her favorite venues.