By ERIN ROLL
For Montclair Local
Dar Williams is a familiar face to regulars at Outpost in the Burbs.
The New York-based singer-songwriter, currently touring to promote her latest studio album, “I’ll Meet You Here,” will be returning to Outpost in December.
Montclair is part of the fourth leg of the tour, which starts on the West Coast and works its way east. It is also the leg of the tour that has some really exciting venues, Williams said during a recent phone interview. “It’s been amazing,” she said. “It’s all the excitement of the album release.”
“I’ll Meet You Here” was released in October, on BMG’s Renew label.
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Williams has performed at Outpost four times in the past, most recently in 2017. It has always been an enjoyable experience, she said: “It’s a great gig, and it continues to be a great gig.”
She said that Outpost is special because it was one of the first coffeehouse-type venues to bring high-quality performers together with appreciative audiences. Since that time, she said, other such venues have risen to that same high standard, but Outpost remains one of the best.
Outpost in the Burbs began in 1987 as a Sunday night coffeehouse in the First Congregational Church’s library. Since then, Outpost has presented more than 500 concerts, and the artists on the bill have included Judy Collins, Richie Havens, Nick Lowe, Laura Cantrell, Kenny Loggins, James Maddock and Ian Hunter.
Outpost has also supported groups such as Habitat for Humanity, Toys for Tots, the Human Needs Food Pantry, Montclair Emergency Services for Hope (MESH) and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
Live music and theater were hit very hard during the pandemic, as lockdown restrictions forced theaters, concert halls and other live venues to close and concert tours to be canceled or rescheduled.
With their reopenings, Williams said a lot of energy coming from audiences may be from the music, but a lot of it may well be due to the joy of just being able to attend a concert in person again.
“We don’t know why live performance has … we don’t know why it has a certain magic,” she said.
So far, everyone — audience members and touring crew both — has been good about wearing masks and abiding by COVID-19 safety regulations, she said.
Meeting the audience halfway, making a connection with them through music, is part of Williams’ role as a songwriter. “When you write a song, you think, ‘Will people understand what I meant?’” she said. And it’s always fulfilling when the audience makes that connection. “It’s such a wonderful thing when they meet you,” she said.
For example, in “Berkeley,” Williams said that lyrics such as “pale eucalyptus and lavender light” resonate with the audience, and many will recognize “the famed bookstore where Howl went on trial” as the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.
She still sits down on the couch and plays a few chords as part of the songwriting process, she said.
A lot of that process involves following an idea and seeing where it will lead her. “I’m following [the song] on tiptoe, like a little spy,” she said. And then she catches up with it and tries to explore it further: “How is it interesting to me? Where does it go?” And there may be some moments of self-doubt before she has the “Ahah!” moment, she said.
When asked if any songs in particular resonate with her, Williams said that each of her songs is important, in its own way. “They feel important as I write them,” she said. “And as I sing them, I remember how important they were as I wrote them.”
Dar Williams will be at Outpost in the Burbs, First Congregational Church, 40 South Fullerton Ave., at 8 p.m. on Dec. 3. Doors open at 7:30. Tickets are available at outpost.ticketleap.com/dar-williams-2021. Patrons must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to be admitted. Face coverings are required at all times. Unvaccinated children of any age will not be permitted to attend.