Christian Lynette Williams knows heartbreak and loss. The veteran Fort Worth singer-songwriter has had her promising musical career stalled by a series of tragedies that robbed her of valuable years. Now she’s looking to make up for lost time. On Friday, she’ll debut her first new music in more than seven years on gracekali.com. The single “I’m Sorry” is the first original song to be released under the name Grace Kali, her long-distance writing project with Pacific Coast fashion magnate David Reinstein.
The name Grace Kali –– a clever marriage of Grace Kelly, the elegant 1940s actress, and Kali, the Hindu goddess of death –– is fitting. Williams possesses the charm and je ne se quoi of the one-time Hollywood royal, and the call of Kali to destroy the ego and liberate the soul seems a perfect metaphor for Williams’ last few years. She has worked hard to find peace and overcome incredible pain and mourning.
Her tribulations began in 2001 with the death of her brother Chris. The founder and frontman of the California rock-and-soul outfit Backbone69 was killed in an auto accident in the Malibu hills. A few years later, her father, Jerry Lynn Williams –– himself a successful rock and blues musician who wrote songs for B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan –– died as well. Grief-stricken, she basically went into hiding.
“It was a really ugly, messy, heartbreaking situation, and it just broke me,” she said. “Pain changes people. It turns you inward.”
In 2012, Williams released a single she co-wrote with Malibu guitarist Donny Kulp (27 Miles). “Thank God for Love Songs” was also her first experience working with Reinstein, who recorded the track. The playful folk tune helped earn her a nomination for Best Female Vocalist in that year’s Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards. After years of turmoil and time spent focusing on raising her daughter, Williams is ready to put the bad times behind her and pick up where she left off a seeming lifetime ago. Writing music is a craft she’s been honing since her guitar-wielding father gave her a six-string acoustic at the age of 12. She has never backed away from writing, even throughout her hiatus. A cache of new material is awaiting fresh ears.
“It took me a long time to heal,” she said. “It’s time to move forward. I’ve been stagnant or dancing the wrong way for too long. You just want to be a better person, especially as a parent. If I’m not following my dream, what kind of an example am I setting for my kid?”
“I’m Sorry” is a fitting introduction for the newer direction that Grace Kali is pursuing. Recorded at Reinstein’s home studio in the scenic Pacific Palisades, the song has an airy, ocean-scented California aesthetic that infuses its way into the music. The track, a laid-back harmony-driven pop song, is carried by Reinstein’s engaging production that peeks out subtly now and again to call attention to Williams’ plush and velour-toned vocal lines. Amid the understated synth-waves and warm percussion, former Backbone69 guitarist Duane Betts cameos with tastefully overdriven chime. To widen their chances of song placement in TV and film, a second cut of “I’m Sorry,” which Williams calls the cinematic version, features stripped-down piano and strings and a more subdued vocal track. Edits are being done on an accompanying music video.
Writing the song was a cathartic experience for Williams, and she’s excited to get it out to people.
“There’s a part of me that just wants to help someone however I can,” she said. “To have my spirit and my energy touching people. I hope I can do that with my voice. I just want to get to people’s hearts, because it certainly comes from mine.”