Dar Williams
Photo: Ebru Yildiz / Courtesy of Conqueroo

Dar Williams’ “Today and Every Day” Strikes an Optimist’s Chord (premiere + interview)

Brimming with optimism, folkie Dar Williams’ “Today and Every Day”, poses the thought that we are capable of changing the world for the better.

Dar Williams is still chugging on as one of folk music’s prime “power stations”. Brimming with optimism, her latest single, “Today and Every Day”, poses the thought that we are all just that – and capable of changing the world for the better. As usual, Williams evades schmaltz; although it finds its positive streak, “Today and Every Day” is based around present-day realities, facing climate change head-on from its opening moments. Still, its music inspires from the moment one sprightly flourish throws the song’s curtains open.

“Today and Every Day” features on Williams’ upcoming album, I’ll Meet You Here, due out on 1 October via Renew. Her voice carries a positive intonation as she croons, “I know we’re gonna find a way / I know we’re gonna light the way / And I know we’re gonna make it, but we gotta say / We can save the world today and every day.” Refreshing instrumentation also helps share the inspiring message, from its constant, driving drums to its burgeoning, electric melodies. It’s bound to enrich and empower, as Williams’ songs often have throughout her impressive career.

Created by Antje Duvekot, the single’s music video features stop motion animation and ends with a perpetual hope, replacing “The End” with “A New Beginning”. Throughout, elements of community and coming together are embraced. People collaborate, having the complex, productive discussions necessary to step towards positive, unified change. Finding love across borders and working together to help the world, the single is as much of an uplifting toe-tapper as it is a real call-to-action.

It’s refreshing to hear a song like “Today and Everyday” that’s a pick-me-up reminding us that there’s hope. You say everyone’s a power station and that we can all do our part. Was that the driving influence behind the song—the optimism?

When I travel around, if you think about it, I only see the good news. Right now, I’m at the City Winery in Hudson Valley. It’s a repurposed mill that’s been turned into a venue and winery. It’s this beautiful mill with all of this old brickwork. They’ve taken this weird machinery and turned it into the core for a working winery and restaurant, and concert venue. I keep seeing people innovating and reinventing, you know. They’re honoring the past, embracing new ideas, and finding the best ideas for the future, and communicating them with each other.

I wrote this book where—even though it’s written nowhere in the book—it can be summarized as, “The opposite of division is not unity; it’s collaboration.”

You know, there was this hint of fascism in the air for the last four years and so on, and one says, “There’s no unity.” If you measure the world by its lack of unity, we’re always going to fall short. But, if you measure it in terms of collaboration, we’re actually high up there. That’s quite an American skillset, you know. We’re good at taking things and turning them into new things that work and finding ways to work with people we don’t necessarily like.

So, I look for the good news. It’s never hard to find, and there’s a lot of humor and kindness. So when I wrote, I throw stuff that I see at the wall. With “Today and Everyday”, I just looked out the window and thought, “Well, what’s important to me all the time?” It was this idea that every day, I want to do something that makes me feel like I’m part of the solution and that it’s meaningful for me to live that way. So, that became the beginning of this song. There’s this sense of futility that seems ridiculous. We have so many solutions ahead.

What encouraged the aesthetic design for the “Today and Every Day” music video?

Antje and I have known each other for a long time. We were talking one day, and she was very shy about saying, “If there’s a song you would like me to do an animation for, I would love to do it.” I replied, “That’s crazy that you just said that because there’s this new song that would really benefit from your touch and your gift.”

She got right on it with the polar bear. Just this single polar bear popping up, and it’s really lonely. This beautiful polar bear is here, and I’m thinking that “Today and Every Day” is just the perfect song for this kind of thing.

A lot of musicians know and love Antje. I knew immediately that she would really help the song and give it a kind of life. There’s something that’s for children and adults at work at the same time in what she does.

You compare the tracklist for I’ll Meet You Here to how your garden has grown.

Well, it’s a mess, and that’s the thing that’s interesting. I read through the songs for the album and have found how accurate the common thread of its title, I’ll Meet You Here, really is. It’s about how there’s a way that we can meet life as it comes at us and to not take it very personally and as a confirmation of things that we’ve done wrong, or bad habits that we’ve developed, or opportunities never developed. It’s where we can say, “Yeah, sometimes you just get a flat tire.”

Something that I’ve learned is that happiness doesn’t always feel happy. Learning things can really help you, but we learn by having a lot of different kinds of things happen to us, and it isn’t always joyful.

So, you know, I have this sort of Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead thing going on with my house. I was staying at a hotel and had some time before soundcheck recently, so I visited a store where there were all of these things that I could buy that would hide my flaws or mistakes or help me project a more successful version of myself. I had to remind myself that that’s not where my value system is, nor do I have to prove who I am to myself.

I know who I am and where I’ve come from – which, by all accounts, I’ve done a bunch of albums and shows now, and I’m still a folk singer, and I have a lot of great friends. So, I haven’t really been a dumpster fire. Still, you know, there was something saying, “We can spackle up and plaster over all of those things that you don’t really like. We can make all that stuff look better and make you look like a better version of yourself.”

I love this idea of having these songs called I’ll Meet You Here. Even with “Today and Every Day”, I don’t need to get a long way down by how we got here. I really liked that list that I have when I think about doing things that help us move forward with life.

What you said about happiness reminds me of Buddhist fundamentals.

It’s directly from Buddhism. Do you think you’ll be happy if you get what you want? If you juxtapose that with the idea of I’ll Meet You Here, it makes sense. You meet stuff as it comes without attaching judgment to it, as opposed to thinking, “Wow, we’ve really fucked ourselves now.”

It’s funny that I started getting back into Buddhism after I’d recorded the album. Then, I saw the album was basically calling out, saying, “Dar, please, please, please press the brakes on this temptation. You have to change your life.” So, I’m fortunate.