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Shauni Williams
An angelic voice, melody and lyrics have given her debut radio single wings. But it is was her personal journey of struggle and triumph that brought her to higher ground.

Our lives are the sum of our experiences and our beliefs and few excel at channeling them through their music as well as Christian singer-songwriter and pianist Shauni Williams. Her story is rich with family experiences, traveling from church to church in a van with her two older sisters, a younger brother, her parents, and a dog named Bounty as the Ron Greenlaw Family Gospel Music Ministry. Her story also contains its share of tragedy and loss. Through these experiences, Shauni continued to hone her vocals skills and songwriting, kept strong by her faith and love of music. In a surprise turn a few years ago, Shauni was given the opportunity to collaborate with talented producer and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Turgon. With Bruce's guidance, in conjunction with her own dedication and hard work, Shauni has garnered numerous music awards. Most recently, she's watched her debut single 'We Walk Together' climb the national and international charts, becoming her first Christian crossover radio hit. Reporter Brandon Scott recently caught up with Shauni to learn more about this extraordinary artist and her exciting plans for the future.

BRANDON: When did you first discover your love of music?
SHAUNI: My love of music began at the age of five, when attending a Christian concert. Soon after, my parents purchased an old, white upright piano. I began playing by ear and composing before my first piano lesson. After a year of lessons, my father began a family gospel singing group. For the next ten years, I performed with my family, singing, playing and writing music. At eight years old, my grandmother passed away at the end of one of our concerts. The Lord saw fit to give me the special gift of piano that allowed us to continue as a group for another eight years after that. That is how it all began!

BRANDON: Your song 'We Walk Together' has been a big hit on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
SHAUNI: It is almost a surreal experience...one I will never forget. I couldn't help but be excited and think I wanted a lot more of that!

BRANDON: Was there a particular life experience that inspired you to write 'We Walk Together'?
SHAUNI: Absolutely. Most of my songs come from personal experience, but ‘We Walk Together’ was very unique in that it came to me while walking on a river trail. I made the analogy of walking on the trail and walking with God through one of the most difficult times in my life: Divorce. There are lyrics in the song that say ‘I didn't think I could stand when truth of life came crashing in. But you held on more firmly still. Now I have hope Your Word will heal me.’ These lyrics were deeply felt when I wrote them.

BRANDON: Would you say that the mood of your other songs is in the same vein as 'We Walk Together'??
SHAUNI: ‘We Walk Together’ is somewhat unique because it is a Christian crossover...the lyrics are not overtly Christian and so the song can really transfer to a variety of settings. However, the inspirational mood is similar to my other musical works. Within my catalogue, one can hear a wide range of tempos, keys and messages- some more oriented to praise and worship and some storytelling- but all revealing a personal relationship with God to some degree, as it relates to the larger Gospel story.

BRANDON: How would you characterize yourself as an artist? (ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving...)
SHAUNI: Music is fun! Absolutely I would characterize myself as a fun-loving musician. There is nothing more exciting to me than the creation, production and performance of music. There is nothing I am more passionate about doing. It comes naturally and is simply a part of who I am. I have been accused of ‘showboating’ by a church or two (laugh) and have been told I play too many notes for certain settings, but really I am just expressing the music as I feel it. Still, I take it seriously too, because there is a whole business side to getting the music out there. I very much like many aspects to that side, as well. It is a good thing because we independent artists need to wear a lot of hats. The serious side of me strives to improve my vocals and performance with every release, so that takes some analysis, changing things up and lots of practice. But in music, practice is play for me and I am humbled every time I think about how blessed I am to be living this dream.

 

BRANDON: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
SHAUNI: My entire family is very musical. My daughter Erica just graced us with a stunning acapella solo performance at her own wedding reception last May, singing her arrangement of ‘The Power of Love’. Her father, Grant Williams, sang and co-wrote some of the songs on our ‘Wake to Grace’ album. As I mentioned, I grew up in a singing family. First there is my mother, who is especially gifted with a beautiful, classical voice. My father is the best trumpet player I have ever heard and also has a powerful singing voice. All my siblings sing. Sherilyn and Sharla play the piano and my brother Ronny plays trumpet, like my Dad. My son Ryan has a wonderfully rich voice and is teaching himself guitar. But these days, Ryan is more into computer keys (lol).

BRANDON: What do you find most rewarding about being a musician? What do you find most challenging?
SHAUNI: The most rewarding experience for me is the process of beginning with a word or phrase, growing the idea to a song, recording and producing the song to create a moment, and then completing the process with a tangible product that can be listened to and shared. When people say they listen to a song over and over again or they can't get it out of the heads...when my music moves someone to experience God in their heart and soul, I feel like the song is ordained. When the praises go to Him and not me...that is the way it is supposed to be. The most challenging aspect for me is finding the resources to record. Everything is out of my own pocket and sometimes I get impatient because I write songs faster than I can afford to record. There is a positive to this however, as it forces me to be really choosy and selective about putting out the best I can. I just don't want the best sitting on paper. There are many songs in cue now...just waiting.

BRANDON: Who are your role models in music?
SHAUNI: Greats like Whitney Houston are one of a kind. I loved her grace and power and the way she felt her music. In the Christian world, Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant come to mind as early inspirations, both vocally and as composers. Later on, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Casting Crowns and Natalie Grant set the standard. My parents are my foundational role models as they got me started on this path. Now I think my biggest influence on the recording side is Bruce Turgon, who has co-produced all my releases.

BRANDON: What advice would you give to young, aspiring musicians out there who are unsure and need guidance?
SHAUNI: I would encourage young, aspiring musicians to have fun with their music and hone their own unique musical expression. Practice and be prepared so that when an opportunity presents itself, you will be able and ready to shine. Need guidance? Get connected to some of the major music sites, like ReverbNation, soundcloud and the indie music channel. Read, research, and learn. The learning never stops. Connect with other musicians and people from the music industry. Begin to build a fan base and encourage comments on the major social network sites (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.). Solicit feedback by entering contests and getting music reviews to help gage your progress and marketability. Most of all, never give up.

BRANDON: What's next for Shauni Williams? Is there a follow-up single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
SHAUNI: Thanks to The Akademia Music Awards, ‘We Walk Together’ is hitting the airways! I am so grateful! And yes, you can look forward to my new 2014 release: it is another Christian pop crossover. When struggles push you longer and harder than you thought possible, this dynamic and vocally powerful new song will move you to rest in God in the midst of your greatest challenge. I am so excited about recording this song because I just know it will be well received, speak to hearts and bless many. Sign up for my VIP list at http://shauniwilliams.com/ to be notified when my 2014 release because available. All glory to God!

BRANDON: I look forward to hearing your new single! Thanks for your sharing your story with me. I wish you continued success and good luck!

http://www.shauniwilliams.com

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