When it comes to finding her musical roots, Shannon Williamson doesn’t have to look far from home.
“It was always like the Von Trapp family without the whistles,” she jokes.
The youngest of three siblings, she notes, “We were always singing. I was literally raised in three-part harmonies.”
So it wasn’t much of a stretch when she reached out to local producer Jeremy Cays — her cousin — to help shepherd her first two albums.
A Sequim native through her high school days, the Bellingham resident says she has made countless trips back and forth to Cays’ Carlsborg studio this year to produce the eight-sing debut, “Songs of the Cross,” released on Easter, and the most recent nine-song effort, “Songs of the Bride,” released at Pentecost.
Williamson and friends host a CD release party for “Songs of the Bride” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Dungeness Community Church Chapel, 45 Eberle Lane. Both albums will be available for purchase.
“I want to talk about the writing behind the songs, (to play a song and) talk about the devotional content behind it, the story behind it,” Williamson says.
The event is part album release, part fundraiser for production costs for Williamson’s third album, titled “Songs of the Prophets” and released in late September.
She’s also started a GoFundMe effort (www.gofundme.com/SupportShannonsAlbumProject) to help raise the cost for that album, about $4,500.
A new comfort zone
The third album is the culmination of two dozen songs Williamson says she wrote but was hesitant to record. With musical roots in violin and piano, Williamson says she found her focus primarily in singing at an early age and using her voice for Christian ministry. She participated with children’s groups such as the Olympic Children’s Choir in her Sequim days before singing in high school (when she started songwriting), at Peninsula College and in various ministries after she moved to Bellingham in the mid-2000s.
Involved with some sort of ministry since she graduated with her Western Washington University degree in linguistics, Williamson says putting all of her songs together on a recording was not in her comfort zone.
“I was really daunted with the recording process. I’m kind of more spontaneous,” Williamson says.
“I finally got over myself. I want to steward the gifts (God) has given me.”
Williamson then connected with Cays for her first two albums for her first professional recording experience.
Cays said he recalled seeing Williamson in his previous studio about 16 years ago; she had already started writing music , and the two pondered recording some of her work.
“Every once in a while it would come up (over the years), but it just never happened,” Cays says.
“Last year she had this confirmation that God wanted her to do three albums in one year,” he says. “I never had any client do that in the history of my studio. I thought it was a pretty bold venture, but she’s got a strong faith.”
Williamson says, “Jeremy was the best possible person to work with. This was my very first (time) working with the professional side of my cousin. It’s good thing he totally gets my heart and my creativity vibe.
“He is so gifted at guiding an amateur. (The albums were) everything I imagined and more. I was so amazed at his skill level and professionalism.”
What impressed Cays in particular was his cousin’s words.
“The lyrics are so rich and full; typically, in Christian pop, you get simple message and a simple song,” Cays says. “Her songs are so deep you really have to think about what you’re (hearing). I had to figure out how can the music do justice to where she’s coming from, lyrically.”
She came in very confident. Singers typically struggle with a lack of confidence … but she was just on from the beginning.”
Cays says the family bond helped with the process.
“Knowing each other really helps you know what to expect from the other person know your strengths and your weaknesses (and) you don’t have to explain yourself,” he says.
“She just felt so strong that she wanted to work for me. There are a lot of studios in Bellingham (she could have used, so it’s) kind of humbling.”
Joining Williamson on her albums are names familiar to locals or to those with Cays’ work: Kate Powers on violin, Marlene Moore on cello, Mark Baldwin, Mitch Senti and Vanessa Smith on guitar, with Gaylee Ankerberg, Powers, Smith, Jeremy and Anna Cays providing background vocals. Cays praised in particular the Nashville-based Baldwin for his classical guitar work on the albums.
Williamson, who works as executive director at Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) in Bellingham, says “Songs of the Bride” has a focused theme of the what it means to be the Bride of Christ: “It’s about awakening to the value that God puts on the sincerity and wholeheartedness in our worship and devotion to Christ,” she writes. “These songs also flesh out what the inward journey of growth with God as the Bride of Christ is like.”
Hear samples and buy Williamson’s first two albums at store.cdbaby.com/cd/shannonwilliamson, or at itunes and amazon.com. Learn more about Williamson at hotrockministries.com.