Matthew Knights Williams
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Matthew Knights Williams

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New Name, Attitude for Matthew Knights Williams

For the Herald-Journal

Published: Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 1:15 p.m.
Matthew Knights Williams has had his share of life-altering experiences during the past few years.

The Cowpens-based singer-songwriter dealt with the death of a longtime friend in 2003, learned the identity of his biological father four years later and fathered his own child in between.

“My perspective on life has changed completely over the past few years,” said Williams, who recently took his biological father’s surname. “It started with some psychiatric help, and then the child coming really changed me. And then learning about my father was completely profound. It turned my life around 180 degrees.”

Williams — described in writer Peter Cooper’s 1997 book, “Hub City Music Makers,” as “the Patron Sinner of Spartanburg Rock and Roll” — was a self-admitted “wild child” whose potential for musical success was often damaged by his lack of self-discipline.

It’s impossible to listen to his new album, “Cottonwood,” and not be struck by the deeply personal nature of its nine songs, which contain lyrics dealing with death, pain, struggle and redemption.

“When my friend John Threlkeld died, I started thinking about him, Spartanburg and all the crazy stuff he and I had done and been through,” said Williams, 45.

“So, it was real introspective, and some of the songs are sort of imagining me and him meeting again at the great eternity we’re all going to meet — the final end.”

Musically, the album is chock full of exquisite folk-pop and bare-bones rock ’n’ roll that draws from influences ranging from Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty to the Replacements and the Accelerators. Still, Williams’ powerful lyrics are what make “Cottonwood” shine as a local singer-songwriter masterpiece.

“I figure if I can be personal and go deep with my songs, someone can relate to it,” Williams said. “I don’t try to write songs for appeal or any kind of value other than how it makes me feel.

“There are two types of writing. There’s commercial writing, and there’s art writing. I’m squarely into art writing. I don’t care anything about commercial songwriting. I just write to clear the decks and clean out the cobwebs in my mind.”

Williams grew up on his biological father’s farm in Marion, knowing Lance Williams as nothing more than “a great old dude who was like a granddaddy to me.”

“Finding out he was my father was really profound because everything came back to me,” said Williams, whose father died in 1982 at the age of 81. “I remembered all the things he did for me when I was a kid. He took me to the cattle auction, bought me my first single-shot rifle when I was 16 and just taught me everything about working and being a man.”

Williams began writing songs and making music in the 1980s, playing in such seminal Spartanburg bands as Fluffy and the Ex-Presidents after a stint as the drummer in the Rage of Europe, a regionally successful post-punk band that also included David Ezell and Jim Orr.

“Playing (in the Rage of Europe) probably had the biggest influence on me as far as being a songwriter and musician because those guys were such subtle, great masters — just fantastic,” Williams said.

These days, Williams carries himself in a mild-mannered way that offers virtually no trace of his reckless past.

“I’m no longer an angry young man,” Williams said. “I’ve got a beautiful wife and a beautiful baby, and my life is just wonderful.

I’m finally happy. I’ve got a nice farm out here, and I’m back home with all my friends.” - Spartanburg Herald Journal


Matthew Knights Williams, "Cottonwood" 2008
Matthew Knights, self-titled 2005
Ex-Presidents, 1995
Fluffy, 1993



MATTHEW KNIGHTS WILLIAMS is a family man and artist living and working in Cowpens, SC. In his book “Hub City Music Makers”, music writer Peter Cooper describes Matthew as “an enormously talented and undeniably magnetic performer”.
After surviving a turbulent adolescence and young adulthood spent navigating the pitfalls of destructive excess, Matthew has arrived at a place of grateful acceptance where his musical works reflect his experience, talents, and the hard won maturity of his soul and character.