The Nashville-based musician released his cover of grandfather Hank Williams’ hit “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” on Sept. 15 — and he admits he was initially hesitant to do so.
But, with what would’ve been his grandfather’s 100th birthday on Sept. 17, Sam adds that now “just felt like it was time for me to do one [of his songs] that I really felt connected to, and that's one I feel connected to the most.”
Hank Williams died in 1953, long before Sam would have had the chance to meet his famous grandfather. Naturally, there’s a lot Sam would like to say to his seemingly larger-than-life relative if he ever had the chance.
“I would like to go fishing with him, for one. He was from South Alabama in the 1900s. I'd like to see what he knows about fishing,” he says with a small laugh, before adding: “I'd like to tell him that I'm proud of him, and that it was sad to never get to know him, and that I named my son [Tennyson Hiram, 6] after him. He will always have a bloodline.”
Sam also envisions his grandfather giving him his stamp of approval.
“I'd like him to tell me that he’s proud of me. I think that’s the most natural thing to say. You seek that from your parents and the people you look up to,” Sam explains. “Coming from a family that I didn't get to meet and everybody seems to know or feel like they know, that approval would be so validating.”
Though Sam is making a name for himself in country music now, he wasn’t always so sure he’d pursue the family business. In fact, he thought he may go into politics or international relations, he says.
“As a child and a teenager, [the legacy] was something I totally rebelled against. I was never going to go into music. I wasn't an instrumentalist or somebody writing songs all the time. I just had a big fear of it,” he admits. “I was quite scared and insecure.”
Fate, however, can prove to be inescapable, and Sam finds that his musical career “just so happened this way.”
“Being the second openly gay male signed to a major label in history in Nashville is huge,” he says, explaining that while he doesn’t anchor his whole identity to his sexuality, he’s still aware of the mold he’s breaking.
“I never saw that being something that would happen to me. For a very, very long time, it just seemed out of reach. I'm too different from my family, and I'm not quite country enough," he muses. "But I've been proving myself wrong, and other people have been proving me wrong, and that's really awesome.”
Sam’s sophomore album is due out in 2024, and in the meantime, he’s set to play the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 16 and at the Country Music Hall Of Fame’s ‘Hank’s 100th’ celebration on Sept. 21 — all done in the spirit of honoring his grandfather’s legacy while still creating his own.
“Everybody in all of country music in Nashville can claim their 'Hank Williams influence' or claim they think they know what he would say, do, or feel," he says. "But the matter of fact is that the only male in Nashville that has that tie to Hank Williams is Sam Williams. I'm the one."
He continues: “The way that he changed country music and American music in general, and the way that my dad [Hank Williams Jr.] did, as well in his own way with the outlaw movement and incorporating southern rock and all these things into music — I hope to do the same thing, and I know that I will in my own way.”