The first installment of Beatle People Interviews features Dominic Williams, a 27-year old musician and writer originally from the UK and now living in Austin, TX. Inspired by the Beatles since before birth (!!), Dominic has an extensive catalog of Beatles covers and original music on his Soundcloud page. He also runs the site Beatles Through The Years (which currently features a fantastic photo diary of Paul McCartney’s recent Dallas concert).
[The Beatles] are just a force for the good, you know? They just had a positive message in their music and that resonates with us. —Dominic Williams
AWLT: How and when did you become a Beatles fan?
DW: According to my dad, It was when I was still a few months away from being born. My parents went on holiday to Portugal and they stayed in this self-catering place that was below a ‘Geordie Bar’ (basically that was a bar run by British Ex-Pats from Newcastle, a city in the north east of England and the natives are referred to as ‘Geordies’ in the UK). This bar played Beatles music day and night according to my father and it drove my parents mad. But I must have been loving it! Fast forward to when I was 8 and I saw them on TV on a Royal Variety Performance retrospective and from then on I was hooked and badgered my parents about them. I thought they were a new band!
AWLT: What inspired you to become a musician, and how long have you been playing?
Dominic Williams’ cover of The Beatles’ “Tell Me Why”
DW: It was those Beatles again. I think when I was about 9 or 10 I discovered my dad still had his guitar from when HE had been swept up into Beatlemania in 1963. He never continued on with music and I don’t think he ever learned how to play properly but he gave it to me and that’s when I discovered I played guitar left handed, like one of the Beatles! I swapped the strings round, it was a nylon string cheap 3/4 size acoustic that I eventually broke during one energetic strumming to “Long Tall Sally.” I think I was about 14 or 15 when I really stopped messing about and learned how to play properly. Been playing now for about 15/16 years.
AWLT: What instruments do you play? Do you have any favorite makers or models?
DW: I play guitar and bass and a tiny bit of the piano. When I say a tiny bit, I mean about 4 or 5 of the keys! I can only really play Beatles and Paul McCartney songs on Piano. I’m no Mozart or Liberace or anything. I also LIKE to think I can play drums but it’s really nothing beyond a basic beat. My favourite makes of guitars and bass are all the ones the Beatles touched. They really did use the best instruments out there—Hofner, Rickenbacker, Gretsch, Epiphone. They all make quality guitars, and when the best players use them then there really is no contest, is there? I currently am in love with my Epiphone Les Paul that I recently bought. It’s exactly the same colour as the Gibson Les Paul that Paul uses live. Of course his is a lot older and a lot more expensive.
AWLT: What is it about the Beatles/Beatles solo that makes you want to play their music? What’s exciting about it?
DW: I think that’s the age old question, isn’t it? Why are the Beatles so popular? Why did the girls and boys scream for them and STILL scream for them? My answer is they are just a force for the good, you know? They just had a positive message in their music and that resonates with us, doesn’t it? All the chords, the harmonies, the melodies, they all just blend to make something perfect and you want to replicate that when you play them.
AWLT: Have you ever been in a Beatles tribute band with other musicians? Did you play the part of a specific Beatle? If so, which one, and how did you prepare for the role?
DW: Yes I played with a couple of them. Since I was left handed I always fell into the role of Paul. It was funny to me as I would see other tribute bands with right handed Paul’s and think that if they went to the trouble of dressing up like them and acting like them that they could at least find a left handed bloke to play Paul! haha I prepared by studying Paul, imitating his speech patterns, his head bobbing, his foot tapping. Paul really is the hardest Beatle to portray because he’s doing SO much on stage. In interviews he’s the least active of the four but on stage he’s bouncing around and bopping.
AWLT: Is there a specific Beatle or Beatle/solo period that you gravitate to when choosing songs to record?
DW: That’s probably Paul again since I studied him the most. His songs seem to be the easiest to cover too a lot of the time since they’re so commercial. I do like to cover John & George’s songs too though!
Dominic Williams’ cover of Paul McCartney’s “Back Seat of My Car”
AWLT: What/who are your musical influences besides the Beatles?
DW: A lot of bands from the same era as the Beatles influence me. Bands like The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Cream. For a while I was into bands from the punk era of the late 70s too like the Jam and the Stranglers. Of course I love all the influences the Beatles had too like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Elvis. I also love players like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Weller, etc… I really am a classic rock person but I do tend to listen to blues players too and I love Motown.
Williams performing Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”
AWLT: Do you perform in public or have you in the past? If so, where and when?
DW: I don’t at the moment. The last time I performed in public was at my local pub in Wales about 5 years ago. My last gig in a Beatles tribute was a disastrous one on the Isle of Wight in 2009. I got my first Hofner bass nicked there too. Something else Paul and I have in common! I think you’d have to do some coaxing to get me back on stage now but I think I’d probably do it. I do love performing, contrary to what people might think.
AWLT: What is your process for writing original material?
DW: It usually begins with me messing around on the guitar and hitting a chord and I go “Oooh! That sounds interesting!” and I begin stringing it with a few more chords and then the words usually come. Bad ones at first and sometimes I stick with the bad ones because I can’t think of anything better! haha I sometimes write words separately and come up with tunes separately. I have a good few half baked ideas floating around.
“Vintage Girl,” original song by Dominic Williams
AWLT: How do you feel new musicians (i.e., not the Beatles or those part of the original Beatles story) help keep the Beatles alive so many decades after their breakup?
DW: I think so many people keep it alive by using many of the same chord progressions and harmonies in their music. I find though that when critics call pop bands like One Direction ‘Beatle-esque” they are just talking about the hype they have received and not the so-called ‘Music’ that they produce. Teenagers need someone to go crazy over. I hear a lot of the Beatles in artists such as Jake Bugg, The Arctic Monkeys, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran. It may not be obvious to some and perhaps even to those artists but it is in fact there. Whether they like it or not, the Beatles were and still are an important event in popular music.
AWLT: You also run a Beatles website (Beatles Through The Years).
DW: I started it a couple of years back with [my wife] Erica as a way to just keep an outlet for my love for the Beatles. They are such a part of my life that I couldn’t go without doing SOMETHING for them. I have also met a lot of fans on the internet that let me know that I wasn’t the only Beatle fan in the world. Sometimes in my childhood It felt like that. Kids at school would make fun. You know what I mean? (Yes. We definitely know what you mean! -ed.)
Are you an artist whose art has been influenced by the Beatles? If so, we want to hear your story!