Hilary Williams’ family legacy is legendary. The granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr. and daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., she grew up in a home surrounded by music. Now, the singer-songwriter is joining the family business with her debut album, My Lucky Scars.
After a long road to releasing the project, Williams sits down with Sounds Like Nashville and details the near fatal car accident that helped inspire My Lucky Scars. In 2006 while Williams’ manager was shopping around for label deals for her in California, she was involved in a horrific car accident with her sister, Holly. Both are lucky to be alive.
“Holly and I got into our car accident March 15, 2006,” Williams recalls while seated at a table at East Nashville coffee shop The Post East. “I glanced down for a second to change my iPod and there were bad ruts in the road and it shifted our car in the gravel and the road started to turn a little bit.”
The two sisters were on Highway 61 in Mississippi when the car did a 360 in the middle of the road. After the car flipped four times, it landed on its right side in a nearby field, she explains. While Hilary was hanging in the air, her sister was on the ground and the car was on top of her arm. Miraculously, Holly managed to walk away with just a broken arm, but Hilary’s injuries were life threatening. She broke her left collarbone, ribs, both hips and shattered her back, pelvis and tailbone as well as her right femur. After the crash, her colon ruptured and she died briefly. What happened next was the inspiration behind the first song on her album, “Angel Take My Hand.”
“I died briefly and went to heaven. A faceless angel came to take my hand and I saw my grandparents, Hank and Audrey. I saw Merle Kilgore, who was a dear family friend and my dad’s manager for many years. I saw him and Johnny Cash and June Carter,” Williams recalls with a smile. “There were other people there and they were sitting in a circle and singing and it was the most heavenly music. I saw a gold glistening mansion. It looked like gold and diamonds made up this palace and it was shining so bright.”
It’s this vision that Williams vividly captures in the song. She says she remembers her grandparents were young and had big smiles on their faces. Moments later she was back to Earth. “They turned around and walked off and I came right back to Earth. I felt like they were sending me back,” she says softly.
“Hilary shared the story of how she was writing a book at the time about her accident that changed her life,” Morgan recalls. “She had this incredible life-changing moment and had fought through so much with her recovery and was sharing what she remembered about the day the accident happened. She had these vivid memories she described and as she was telling those stories the idea for the lines: ‘Angel, take my hand lead me to the promised land’ came together.”
It’s these very lyrics that painted the perfect picture for the song’s chorus after Williams explained her glimpse of heaven to her co-writers. The song also touches upon her family’s musical legacy.
“She was really forthcoming about what it has been like to grow up in a family with such an incredible history and with such an amazing legacy and that influenced where we went with the verses. That sweet honesty about the blessing and burden of such a family name pointed us to the lines, ‘Part of my past I’ve never seen / I feel it tugging on my soul,'” Morgan adds. “She sounds so amazing on it and I’m grateful she was willing to share her vulnerability in her songwriting and art.”
Growing up in a musical family influenced Williams’ project. Her father, she says, “wants us to find our own paths and to do our thing but he’s really supportive.” Her mother is also musical, having majored in voice in college as well as plays piano. She sang backup on “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and on Holly’s past projects. Williams’ mother was her biggest cheerleader and a force of positivity throughout her road to recovery as she remembers her reciting Bible verses during her time in the hospital.
Williams’ recovery has been a long process of 30 surgeries and endless physical therapy. She has been in a wheelchair, walker, crutches and cane for the past two years and had to relearn how to walk three different times. As she explains each hurdle, she does so with a smile and an attitude that is incredibly optimistic. The singer says she simply played with the hand she was dealt and let these obstacles work their way into her new music.
“I’m definitely here for a reason,” she says. “Even when I couldn’t walk, I meditated and thought about getting back to my normal life and walking. I would have dreams at night that I was walking and back to normal life.”
On “Sign of Life,” Williams sings “pain is a sign of life.” It was actually her doctor who inspired the song, which she wrote from the hospital bed in her mother’s living room.
“When I was in the hospital I told my doctor, ‘I’m in so much pain’ and he said, ‘Pain is a sign of life,’ and that just really struck me,” she shares. “I didn’t feel like writing. I was on a lot of pain killers and out of it and my girlfriend was like, ‘You need to be writing, you need to be creative.’ Her roommate at the time was Blu Sanders, and he came over to the house and we wrote that song together.”
The collection of songs stems from Williams’ lengthy songwriting catalog. One track, “Let Somebody Save Me,” was written with John Paul White and Kris Bergsnes 15 years ago. She says it’s the most honest song on the album.
“I’m a very independent person and sometimes you just need to let go and give up control,” she admits. “I always loved that song and when I sing it out people would cry. It’s just a very moving, touching song.”
Williams co-wrote eight of the 12 tracks on My Lucky Scars and co-produced the project with Lincoln Parish of Cage the Elephant and John Would. Her new single, “Crazy,” was penned by Natalie Hemby and Parish. She says when Parish first played her the song it spoke to her so she decided to release it as her debut single.
“I love the melody and the words. It’s a universal song that everybody can relate to, the ups and downs of love,” she reasons. “It’s really catchy and people really love that song. That’s why I chose it.”
The song comes to life in its music video, shot in the desert outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Directed by Peter Zavadil, the video for “Crazy” follows a couple whose truck breaks down as their tumultuous relationship plays out within the song’s lyrics. “You and I were meant to drive each other crazy / When we’re not in love, we’re still in love / We only fight so we make up / Yeah, how we stay together is crazy,” Williams sings on the chorus.
In addition to promoting her new album, Williams continues with her road to recovery through Pilates and physical therapy each week to help with her walking. She’s been working out with plans to be physically fit for the grind of a tour, which she’s planning for this fall.
“I want to get back on the stage and get back to life, and I’m just so grateful I had so many people praying for me,” she admits. “I’ve always been a Christian and believed in God, my faith kept me going. Other people who are going through a hard time, I want to give them hope and faith, and tell them not to give up. Believe me, I had my bad days and my rough days. You just have to keep going.”