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Jacque Williams, aka “Jacque J.J.”, is a singer and recording artist based in Torrington. His new single “America The Beautiful?” was recorded at Red Room Studios on Water Street and is available on all digital outlets.

The message of “America The Beautiful?” is inspired by the current political environment and the belief that art is a way to bring people and ideas together. Williams states, “The pandemic exposed raw emotion that still exists in our society. You want to use your art to reach people with a message, hopefully, something that will motivate, inspire, and entertain them. I just couldn’t sit back and not comment through the music on the social issues of the day that are impacting people.”

When asked to describe his sound, Williams says, “It’s called ‘Jacque Rock’ baby! You’ve got a little bit of funk, rap, jazz, punk-funk…all those influences are part of me. That’s the essence of who I am as a person.”

Williams cites James Brown, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Earth Wind & Fire, America, Bread, Poco, and Firefall as major influences.

“But as a young kid growing up, on Sundays my uncle would barbecue and put on serious jazz-like Cannonball Adderly, Quincy Jones, and Lester Holmes. Everyone would come by to eat, but I found myself wanting to hang out and listen to music,” Williams explains.

He adds, “I grew up in part of Ohio where a lot of people came over from Kentucky to find better jobs. They brought country music, which I also liked because it was almost kind of bluesy. Coal Miner’s Daughter was real, man!”

Originally from Hamilton, Ohio, Williams has been living in Torrington for over 25 years. He initially moved from Ohio to New York City to pursue a career in music and later moved to New Haven to connect with the creative community around Yale University. As a bartender at Toad’s Place, he got to meet the likes of Chuck D, Lenny Kravitz, and Joan Jett, and was encouraged by a friend to move to Torrington.

Jacque credits Lucinda Rowe and Mick Connolly at Red Room Sound Studios with helping him regain his chops for his new single.

“They understand what building an arts community is all about. And now that I’ve dipped my toe back into the water, I’m ready to go head first. Along with this single, we’re going to do an EP with a lot of the same themes of my single ‘America The Beautiful?” Williams says.

As to the logistics of how he’s recorded his new single while keeping a safe distance from other musicians during COVID, Williams says, “Digital recording is such a tool. In some cases, the musicians have never even met. It’s an amazing thing. It allows the world to become closer.”

And he’s inspired by how technology makes things easier for artists. “The only reason I’m doing this project is because of the way digital recording has evolved. We can cut out the overhead because we don’t have to put a physical CD together. There’s no way you can sell 2,500 CDs. I’ve gone under so many times trying to do that, and it’s a risk for record companies too. Digital recording and marketing have become so artist-friendly. Now instead of a feast or famine scenario, you can have a small business and do fairly well,” Williams says.

In terms of marketing his work, Williams says, “There are so many ways, that’s the problem. You gotta find out what works for you.

It’s also the biggest advantage. Just like any other business now, you carve out your market, find out what they like, engage them, give them what they want, create a demand, give them some more, duplicate that, and take it on the road. The name of the game has changed, and it’s to your advantage. If you can conceive it, you can achieve it.”

About adjusting to the pandemic, he says, “The music business always feels the brunt of an economic downturn because artists are always the first to feel it because we depend on people with disposable incomes to buy music. I returned to the studio because, with social media, this is a great time for artists to hone their songwriting skills and reach people when normally they wouldn’t be able to.”

Williams has enjoyed watching the arts scene in Torrington grow and is hopeful about its future. “Many artists are repurposing and renovating the old into something new. I think that’s cool and sets up a paradigm for artists to come to Torrington.”

Williams sees great potential and says, “We could turn unused spaces into sustainable living and community co-ops with food resources with nutrition courses. Those are the kinds of communities I see coming forth in the future. Once you can solve the problem of hunger, you can pretty much deal with everything else.”

Williams worked as an arts and culture commissioner to help revitalize Torrington even before the pandemic. “Right at the brunt of the great recession, the downtown was in real bad shape. Through our initiatives, we were able to bring some economic stimulus back. I’m a firm believer in what the arts can do. We just have to be willing to think outside the box in terms of how we can apply our arts infrastructure to bigger and better initiatives. For example, The Cog (Council of Governments) is starting to understand how the arts can play a big role in developing revenue streams for municipalities. And Governor Lamont wants the Northwest
Corner to be an attraction for business and tourism.”

Of course, the big challenge now will be exactly how to do that with inside events strictly limited or even prohibited. But Williams is choosing to look ahead.

“In the interim, we can make a lot of connections, we can build interest, we can hopefully do some planning and forecasting so that we’re positioning ourselves to hit the ground running when we do open back up. The day that we can announce that we’re bringing street fairs back to Torrington, that’ll be a big deal.”

In regards to diversity in Torrington, Williams believes it’s happening and says, “There’s culture in the Northwest Hills man! In terms of people of color, it’s not that they’re excluded, it’s just that they’re not there. Let’s see other perspectives on American life. We’re still working to form a perfect union, but we’re not there yet.”

In addition to being a performing musician, Williams is also a radio DJ on WAPJ. He says, “The reason it works is that everybody knows the mission, which is keeping the community involved. We’re volunteer-run and listener supported. We give as much praise to our sponsors as we can, we encourage people to engage by requests or through our talk shows. We invite community members to update us on their activities. We have a cool sports department which covers local and regional athletics. We have a state meteorologist who comes in from time to time to give seminars on weather patterns. It’s a great group of people who love music and understand that what they’re doing has a purpose. In two years, we’ll have been doing it for 25 years, which is a long time on a nonprofit basis.”

Above all, Williams believes in the power of art to better humanity. He says, “We only use 10% of our brains. I think art can help us use more just by merely letting ourselves imagine and think. I think it’s time as a species that we evolve, if not as a country. I think music is the cultural aspect that we have in common. We‘ve got a great legacy that’s built on something substantial. I think that’s something that should be celebrated.”

To find out more about Jacque Williams and his music, check him out on Facebook at and www.jacquewilliams.net
His new EP can be purchased on iTunes and 50 percent of sales will go to local charities.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” adds Williams.

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Mike Cobb is a musician and writer based in Norfolk and has published articles in The NYC Jazz Record, The NY Press, NJ Starz, The Red Hook Star Review, Shindig!, Ugly Things, Ruta 66, Mondo Sonoro, Elmore, The Indypendent, The Lakeville Journal, and more. http://mc-obb.com