Tiffany Williams is a native of Eastern Kentucky; she is a coal miner's daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter and an exciting emerging voice who crafts achingly beautiful songs about what it means, in her experience, to be from the Appalachian Mountains.
"I love Appalachia as I love myself," she says, "with an intimate understanding of its shortcomings and virtues, with compassion and forgiveness, and with fierce hope. It’s home and always will be, but, for me, it took moving away to write about it."
When she "took off down the big road," she ended up in Nashville, where, for the last five years, she has honed her songwriting through commercial, co-writing, and solo pursuits.
Her debut album, When You Go, will be released January 18, 2019. The EP features five tracks, all of which were penned by the artist and are a meditation on life in the mountains—a place, as echoed in the title track, that "you can't leave […] when you go."
"Most of these songs were recorded at Appalshop, in Letcher County, where I'm from. I'm really happy it worked out that way," says the singer/songwriter.
The album was produced by Britton Patrick Morgan of Louisville and benefits from the fine musicianship of Ellie Miller, Taylor Shuck, and Dave Roe, who played bass on the road with Johnny Cash.
The melodic dissonance of her upbringing—the natural mountain beauty balanced by the difficulties of rural life—is a unifying theme of When You Go. Tiffany delivers heart-worn songs with a room-silencing, angelic alto that takes listeners on an authentic journey of longing, alienation, and undeniable beauty.
"These songs are about the fallout of love and loss, the need and hope for the balm of companionship against the mystery of existence, and loving and longing for a complicated life and place you know you have to leave," she says.
In addition to her keen abilities as a songwriter, Tiffany is an award-winning fiction writer (publishing under the moniker T.M. Williams). She is the recipient of the 2011 Jean Ritchie Fellowship for Appalachian Writing and the 2017 Denny C. Plattner Award for fiction. Her stories have been featured in Still: The Journal, Waxing & Waning, and Appalachian Heritage. While she is still writing songs, she is also currently at work on her first novel.
"I'm a lexophile—a lover of words. That's always been central to everything I've done—from teaching high school English and studying Appalachian speech and sociolinguistics in graduate school to writing songs and stories. Songwriting has a special place because I feel that's where I can truly operate at the confluence of all the things that are dear to me—words, story, and music."
Though she has made Nashville her home, Tiffany still holds on to the place that made her. "My family goes back several generations in Letcher County. My 5th-great grandfather is buried on the hill above the house I grew up in, and the creek that runs in front of that house bears his name. I don't get back there as much as I'd like, but I keep it with me, always."