Elisabeth Williamson is a singer, songwriter and long-time St. Augustine resident. As her website proudly proclaims, “If you took all the guitar strings Elisabeth Williamson has been through over the years, and set them end to end, they would reach from St. Augustine to San Francisco.”
Lis began playing guitar at age 14, and has been happily performing together with her husband Lon since 1975. Visitors and locals can frequently find her at live music locales throughout St. Augustine’s neighborhoods, playing in groups and duos like The Driftwoods, The Gatorbone Band, The Starlight Trio and The Madrigalz.
We sat down with Lis to talk about her music, songwriting passions and the thriving St. Augustine music scene.
How would you describe your music style?
My style of music has a lot of influences in folk. My father was a big folkie, a great ukulele player and singer. That was the beginning of my musical world — there was always music playing in our home. In my songwriting, various styles emerge. Swing is a favorite, along with old-time jazz, gypsy jazz and bluegrass.
My main focus is to always try and become a better player, singer and songwriter, and I work to achieve that through listening to and playing with my bandmates and other musicians out in the world.
What inspired and gave you the confidence to begin performing your own songs?
I did not write a song until I was 49 years old. I had always longed to be a songwriter. My husband, Lon, was a big inspiration and a great songwriter. After a few decades went by, it all finally clicked for me when I attended a wedding where there were concerts by songwriters from all over the place for three days.
I started writing on the way home from that trip, and wrote several songs in the next couple of weeks. Learning to perform my own songs was more challenging than I had imagined, but now it’s pure fun.
Tell us about the music and songwriting community in St. Augustine.
The music and songwriting community in St. Augustine is long-lived and thriving! For the most part, in my experience, it has always been a close-knit and supportive group, working to raise each other up as opposed to so many communities where the competition for gigs can be fierce and not so friendly.
I am inspired by the extremely talented younger generation of musicians in town and am confident that St. Augustine’s unique musical tribe will continue to flourish in a beautiful way into the future.
How does a vibrant music community help a city like St. Augustine flourish? What’s unique about this city’s art and music culture?
The music performed in St. Augustine is a magnet for visitors to the oldest city, and a source of pride and joy to the local population. They do a bang-up job of supporting artists and venues, especially considering how many of them there are.
St. Augustine has a magic all its own. I believe artists and musicians are drawn to its romantic nature and are inspired to create their own joyful art to add to the mix. There is great respect and affection amongst the artists and musicians and their audience in St. Augustine, and that cannot help but contribute deeply to the very atmosphere of the town. I am truly grateful to be a part of it.
Want to learn and hear more? Visit www.elisabethwilliamson.com for upcoming gigs and performances.
For more stories on the people making, creating and performing in St. Augustine, explore the full People of Culture spotlight series.