Featured Artists

Derek Williams

Jake Owen Band
United States
Role: Session guitarist
Full Bio:

Being born into poverty with no money for music lessons or equipment, having no family ties in the music industry to help me, and struggling with drug abuse haven’t stopped me from rising above my situation and making a career for myself in the most competitive music market in the world.   

I was born and raised in Nashville, TN. My parents were blue-collar folks that worked hard to provide for my 3 brothers and me. My mom played bass in a rock band in Nashville when I was a baby. I still remember them jamming in the basement in our Antioch home.

When I was 10, my parents were able to buy my first guitar for me - a mid 1980's Washburn with cracked earth graphics, dual active humbucker pickups, and a Floyd Rose whammy system. I was in heaven. At that point, we were way too poor to afford guitar lessons, but my mom scraped together enough money for one month of sessions. I took them as seriously as a beggar would guard meager scraps of bread. At my first lessons, I learned the 12-bar blues, basic chords and some finger exercises.

When I was on my own, I began to fiercely learn everything I could in our family record collection. The first song I learned was "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple. My first big influences were Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Nirvana and Bush. I loved riff rock, both old and new. I lived for music- I literally slept with my guitar. I learned album after album, note for note. I decided that the only thing that I wanted in life was to be a rockstar. Literally- in an aptitude and career survey I took in middle school, I'd tabulated my desired profession as “rockstar”.  My guidance counselor was disappointed.  

My teen years soon became complicated with serious problems at home. My parents and closest brother suffered from various mental health issues, and in combination with their drug abuse, and our serious state of poverty, I began to turn to drug abuse as well. I replaced music with drugs as my method of escape. I soon realized that as a drug dealer, I could earn more than my parents. For several years (ages14-18), I didn't play guitar much. I was in several heavy metal bands during that time, but for the most part, I was not growing as a musician. By that time, I had no idea HOW I was going to be a rockstar- I had nearly abandoned the dream.

When I graduated high school, I wasn't sure what to do with my life. I wanted to be a rockstar but it wasn't happening at all. So, I reluctantly did what everyone else was doing: college. My grades were too poor for a university, so I enrolled into Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, TN. I majored in Music Performance and began classical guitar lessons. When I had entered, I didn't read a note of music and had never learned finger style at all. By the second semester, I was awarded a scholarship not only for my grades, a 4.0, but for music as well. I had learned to read music and was on my way to mastering classical techniques in one semester. For the first time, I realized that my efforts really can pay off- It's not just about who you know or your economic status, it's also about HARD WORK.

Two years into college, I transferred to Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN where I was awarded enough scholarships to completely pay for tuition. For the first 2 years of college, I didn’t play for any bands at all. It was just me and my guitar- Hans Solo. But, at Austin Peay, I met a singer at a local church that I attended. He asked me to play guitar at the church to help lead worship. Soon, the band began to get booked at church camps and conferences under the singer's name: The Daniel Doss Band. As the lead guitarist, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to be able to play live once again and play with other people and not just as a soloist. I was also able to serve the Lord, which is the greatest calling.

What had started as a church band, was soon being scouted by EMI Records- one of the biggest record labels in the world. Daniel signed a deal and we began touring America- tour bus and everything!!! I was ecstatic. I had gone from nearly abandoning my dream to touring with a major-label artist overnight, right? As you may have heard, there are no overnight successes (apart from Honey Boo Boo Child). I like how Louis Pasteur put it, "Chance favors the prepared mind." I had indeed prepared, and the timing and preparation had collided.So as you could imagine, when I received my success I did what every successful person had done- I nestled into my success, took it easy, and let good things continue to rain onto me from above.

NO!!! When I achieved success, it was the impetus for me to WORK EVEN HARDER! I began to practice classical guitar for 4 to 5 hours a day. I began to learn albums and albums of pop and rock music. I learned more electric guitar techniques and scales than I had ever cared to know before. I knew that the hard work wasn't going to get me the next bigger gig- it was going to prepare me for when that chance came around. And come around it did.

When I was touring with the Daniel Doss Band, our management hired me to play for several other artists that they managed as well. In fact, I can point to those early relationships that led to every opportunity I've gotten since. See how crucial it is that you are prepared? If I hadn't have been prepared, it wouldn't have mattered who I knew at all.

At age 28 now, I've played guitar for 18 years, with over 40 artists and bands and with 18 major-label artists. I have played on national television shows all over the world and Stadium tours for millions of people. Even though I was born into poverty, had no connections in the industry, and had struggles with drug abuse, I was able to overcome my obstacles and pursue my dream. I am living my childhood dream- I am a rockstar.

Now, I want to encourage you that no matter where you are in your journey, to continue to follow your dream. I have a passion for teaching and mentoring, and I would love to work with you to help you arrive at the doorsteps of your dream. Click below for more information on starting sessions with me today. -Derek