You could call Dar Williams a murkysexual. Early on in her career, the folk/pop singer's sexual orientation was the subject of speculation. Lesbians embraced her as one of their own, but Williams was always vague on her partner preference. When she revealed her orientation, it was a reverse coming out party.
"It was a terrific moment," Williams said last week by phone from a tour stop in Ohio. "It was kind of an experiment that became a positive experience when I came out and said actually I'm getting married, I'm straight. And people said, 'Well, we committed to not being invested in which way you go. We're still invested in you.' So it was really nice."
Williams first got noticed by the folk community when she toured with Joan Baez in 1996; they played Charlotte's Spirit Square together. Subsequently, Baez covered three of Williams' songs and took her 'round the world.
Williams now has eight albums out, and her folkie muse has evolved in a more pop-rock flavored direction. She's comfortable with that description. "If I should call myself a folk artist, I felt I was potentially betraying my real roots, which are classical, pop, folk and sorts of combinations," Williams says. "I did what I wanted to do ... I'm close to pop, and I thought that's totally fair."
Her latest, My Better Self (Razor & Tie), addresses political and social concerns. Williams is an activist offstage as well. Her Echoes Initiative "raises money for specific regional groups at a time when there are so many national disasters and national calls for fund-raising that some of these neighborhood organizations feel a little overwhelmed and left behind."
The singer also organized a grassroots organization, Dar's Birthday Project. "It was really just too much chocolate cake," Williams says, laughing. "I was so rude when I said no more, if you want to do something, do something in your community. It was sort of a self-righteous, obnoxious thing to say, but then they did it, and they did it on their own terms and they did it very nicely."
Dar Williams plays McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square on Thursday, June 29, at 8 pm. Tickets are $20, $22.50 and $25, available at www.carolinatix.org.