A lifelong New Englander, folk singer and songwriter Dar Williams has surprisingly quite a lot of nice things to say about Florida and Tampa Bay in particular.
She finds the people smart, fun and full of energy and respects anyone who co-exists so matter-of-factly with snakes and alligators. She concludes that if she ever visits the Keys — which get a mention in one of her songs — she might never leave.
Williams, 43, returns to St. Petersburg this weekend for the fourth annual Folkfest benefiting Creative Clay, a group that provides art classes to people with disabilities. She and her keyboardist, Byrn Roberts, perform Sunday along with festival co-headliners the Indigo Girls on Friday and the Heavy Pets on Saturday.
Williams' concert coincides with the Oct. 12 release of her eighth studio album, Many Great Companions, a two-disc set of her greatest hits and re-recorded favorites with Mary Chapin Carpenter and other ''friends." She's been practicing her songs, so feel free to shout a request.
From her home north of New York City, Williams spoke about getting involved in politics and going green.
So what is it about St. Pete and Tampa that you like?
I always find it to be a crowd I enjoy, and I've never been wrong. I often see people show up at concerts wearing the colors of what I assume to be a sunset on the Gulf of Mexico. That's a really lovely thing to see. Florida has a reputation of being a place where you retire and not have to deal with stuff, it's a little wilder than one thinks.
What causes are near and dear to you these days?
I'm doing a lot of fundraisers for my Congressman John Hall (a Democrat from New York) and, hopefully, that's not too controversial. I think he's a moderate (laughs) but the tea party doesn't. I knew him as a musician and I knew him as a person who went to bat for other musicians. I would support him on either side of the aisle.
Are you leery of politics?
I think there's so much to do with the environment and renewable energy. These are personal friends and people I believe in 110 percent. At some point I just had to step forward and say this is who I am.
Do you consider yourself political otherwise?
Well, Cornel West said something great. He said, "I believe in movements, and then I judge politicians according to their relationships to the movements that I believe in." So I tend to go with movements. Renewable energy and education, whoever's supporting those things … gets my vote. I guess that at the end of the day that involves politicians.
Do you live a green lifestyle?
Yes, we do. We have solar panels. And we have to go to the historical review board to get them okayed because there's not a historical precedence. Eighty percent of our property is vegetables. I would say my garden is more central to my life than my politics, but there is a lot of flow between the two. It makes dinner really easy.