Everyone processes emotional trauma differently. In Hans Williams’ case, he picked up his guitar and began to write. Hans, a sophomore hailing from Norwich, Vermont, spent his first few months at Tulane learning how to live in the aftermath of a tragedy. His latest song, “Body On My Shoulders,” touches on his experience as a first responder to a heartbreaking event that ended the life of one of his classmates. When I spoke with Hans, I wondered when he knew he would be ready to write a song about what happened, his feelings that are inextricably linked to it, and then inevitably release it to the public. His response was simple, “I started writing the song for emotional release, and quickly realized sharing it to the world would be a part of that.” “Body On My Shoulders,” released on August 21st of 2020, was in the works for a while, but “it took me till mid summer to find the right words that would show respect to everyone affected by the tragedy but also share my experience accurately.”
There was one particular part of the song that I wanted him to delve into, and when I asked him what he meant when he sang the lyrics,“But if you hold my head up / Carry this weight with me we’ll find some solace”, he more than delivered. Hans explained to me that his intent was to reference the way “emotions can be hard to bear by oneself”, yet feel distinctly lighter when someone enters your life ready to help you carry a weight that you once dealt with alone. I think everyone can relate to this feeling in their own way; it is a universal experience, finding a partner for a moment in time that can release you from the chaos inside of your own head.
Although “Body On My Shoulders” is Hans’ most recent drop, it is not the summation of who he is as a creative. He released his first song, “Guardian,” in 2018. With a little help from Spotify’s algorithm, Hans began to pave his path in the indie folk genre. For a small town artist, he has found a way to make some money through internet streaming, but I wanted to know if he sees this as a plausible career path. It’s easy to assume that he wouldn’t, since schools like Tulane are typically associated with academic endeavors. Fortunately, we live in a city that promotes artistry, something Hans noted was a driving force behind his choice to attend our university. Don’t let that fool you, though, he’s still taking his classes seriously- just in a less traditional route. To keep a balance, he chose to enroll in summer classes, so that for the time being, he can prioritize his music.
The stats don’t lie. This year alone, almost 400,000 people listened to his songs on Spotify, amounting to 1.5 million streams. For someone who released just one song this year, those numbers are beyond impressive. Hans had a message to get across, and I think it’s safe to say he delivered. He hasn’t let it go to his head though- the numbers seem to be a motivator to make music for his audience rather than just himself. When I questioned the direction he sees himself taking into the new year, his answer was predictably humbling:
“I think I’m gonna let myself explore and be free for a bit.”