Singer-songwriter Dar Williams has observed a lot about small-town life over two decades of touring.

She wrote about what it takes for an urban center to thrive in her fourth book, "What I Found In a Thousand Towns: A Traveling Musician's Guide to Rebuilding America's Communities One Coffee Shop, Dog Run & Open-Mike Night at a Time," published in September.

Williams will bring her songs and ideas on town-building to Colorado Springs.

At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Williams will perform her soulful, folksy songs, many of them off her 2015 album, "Emerald," her 10th studio album, plus a few new tunes.

"I will be there with Julie Wolfe, a great piano player and singer. We've known each other for 20 years," Williams said. "I like to play stuff that people want to hear but also fish about for the B sides."

Williams will return to the FAC at 6 p.m. Wednesday to speak about her book as part of the Downtown Partnership's City Center Series.

"It does start the wheel about other things: how we tackle tough issues; how towns went from drug deals to overhauling the theater; how towns got on their feet and thrived. It's a 21st-century sense of pride."

Williams said the concert might include a short passage from her book, "Just because it's so present in my mind. It'll somehow be related to a song."

The concert plus speaking engagement formula is "starting to be the case: Music, then book. Combining this book with my music is a dream come true because the worlds are so different, have different audiences. But in my heart they are absolutely joined," she said.

Williams' folksy songs tell of everyday challenges. Some have been labeled "pop" or "pop folk," and she doesn't take issue with that.

"There was a time when we were trying to still figure out what the music of the people was. 'What is folk music?' I would say as far as my intention goes, I love melodies. I have gone out with bands, and I've had a few flashes on the radio," Williams said.

Those "flashes" include songs such as "The Beauty of Rain," "The Great Unknown," "When I Was a Boy," "As Cool As I Am," "It Happens Every Day" and the haunting "The One Who Knows."

She said she always has new songs percolating in her mind, but Williams puts forth only a few a year. And no album has been forthcoming since "Emerald."

"I have no new songs right now. The book took up a lot of focus," she said.

Williams, 50, majored in theater and religion at Wesleyan University, a background that has served her well as a songwriter and author. She recently completed a three-year teaching stint at Wesleyan and leads a yearly summer songwriting retreat, "Writing a Song That Matters," near her Chappaqua, N.Y., home.

"I came from a playwriting background. If I had any training in my liberal arts education, whether it was writing a paper or play, you were telling a story. I like that experience of an arc in a story," she said.

Williams has published three other books, "The Tofu Tollbooth: A Director of Great Natural and Organic Food Stores," co-authored with Elizabeth Zipern, and children's books "Amalee" and "Lights, Camera, Amalee."

A lot of her appearances these days center on "What I Found In a Thousand Towns."

"I am talking a lot about the book and seeing for everyone what plugs in. It's an ongoing conversation," she said.

Her tour typically stops in smaller halls and on university campuses - intimate settings purposefully chosen.

"I play everything - whatever is close to the downtown. That's why I wrote the book. Usually it's an art center or school or old theater," she said.

Those are the kinds of places that can revitalize a town, Williams said.

"In Colorado, the mountain towns have really worked to be four-season towns, keep the identity of their towns. It takes a lot of projects and festivals. Then they can tackle bigger questions like affordability and ongoing political things," she said. "They had that in their hearts, and then they did stuff that was interesting to them and that connected the dots somehow."

Her message is one of hope, that even the smallest ideas can blossom with buy-in from other people.

"You have an idea for something like a community garden, and you know the 20 people who can make it happen. The rototiller guy is different from the Girl Scout leader whose troop plants the first seeds, as opposed to the moderately wealthy guy who donates five shovels or the graphic designer who makes the sign," she told in a September 2017 article.

Williams pointed to Telluride and Beaver Creek as examples of towns that have worked to revitalize.

"Also, I love Fort Collins. It's like this beautiful town, and they keep it alive. Now they have this beer industry, and it finds its way into the streets. There's a lot of support for the arts, local businesses - just a love of where they are. People really love that city, and you can tell. And Denver has really connected a lot of the dots. There's a way to identify as a person for Denver at this point that keeps on growing."

Williams also mentioned Boulder and Pueblo as "towns that struggle to be who they are and not feel transient."

She might sing the praises of Colorado Springs after her visit. She hasn't been here in 10 years.

" ... But I have a friend with the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Institute. Any town with a women's film festival has to be on the right track," Williams said.

After the preliminary discussion on the ideas in her book, Williams said, the next question is: "How do we strengthen local economies, keep affordability in our towns?"

Perhaps answers will surface during her Wednesday visit with the Downtown Partnership.

Editor, Pikes Peak Newspapers

Michelle has been editor of the four Pikes Peak Newspapers (Pikes Peak Courier; Tri-Lakes Tribune; Cheyenne Edition; and Woodmen Edition) since June 2019. A Pennsylvania native and Penn State journalism graduate, she joined The Gazette's staff in 2015.

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