Wild ponies are unafraid to cross boundaries, determined to carry on a heritage that’s been decades in the making. That independent streak also holds true for Doug and Telisha Williams, who take their band name WILD PONIES from the small-but-mighty animal that roams their native Virginia highlands.
The married duo’s music draws on old-time tradition while embracing the fierce spirit of the songwriters who inspire them – Hazel Dickens, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, to name a few. On tour, Doug swaps out acoustic and electric guitar, while Telisha plays upright bass. Wild Ponies’ dynamic live shows are assertive and engaging.
While the duo does cover heavy topics in their songwriting – grief, abuse, fatal decisions – they’re just as likely to chat up the crowd and throw in sparkling songs like “Things That Used to Shine.” And they don’t do sappy love songs, although their chemistry is evident on stage and off.
“We are really lucky. We’ve been playing music together for a long time,” says Doug Williams. “A lot of the people who play with us, they’re obviously leaving somebody at home whenever they go out on the road. It makes it a lot harder for them. It’s easier to get homesick that way. We work together, we live together, we play together — everything we do, we do together.”
”During a visit to MerleFest, a premier roots music festival held on a college campus in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, they intuitively realized that songwriting would be their calling.“We discovered Guy Clark and Gillian Welch at MerleFest,” he continues. “MerleFest is such a great bluegrass/Americana festival and all the people that were around that festival – we love their music and started discovering the writers there by going to see the players like Sam Bush.”Telisha adds, “You’re right about MerleFest being really inspirational, as far as songwriting, because the people who were in the Merlefest songwriting contest would stay in the same hotel where we stayed and we would always kick up a jam in one of the conference rooms or lobbies.”
Telisha adds. “Once we settled into the community, I feel like the writing became even more of a focus. It’s always been a focus. It’s always been what Doug and I hold at the top of what is the most important thing tous. And that’s that the writing is meaningful and matters.”
Their most recent album, Things That Used to Shine, was produced by Ray Kennedy, known for his work with Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith, among many others. The music made a strong showing on the national Americana airplay chart – one that relies on airplay from the album as a whole, rather than just a focus track. That set also marked the debut of the band’s evocative name. (Prior to that, they were simply billed as Doug & Telisha Williams.) As they toured, they realized they had cultivated a dedicated fan base among literary, liberal, blue-collar listeners. They also found an open-armed reception for “Love Is Not a Sin,” an impassioned single that emphasizes equality.
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