Hayley Williams — the next twang-friendly Taylor Swift?
It could have happened, says the frontvixen for pop-punkers Paramore, whose self-titled fourth album just debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart.
“I actually did a couple of things that I don’t know if a lot of people know about when I first moved to Nashville, an after-school, extracurricular sort of thing,” she says. “My mom and I left Mississippi sort of on the run, and she took a teaching job. And I was like, ‘Hey, I want to do something fun!’ So I started doing country demos for 50 bucks a pop.” She was 13 at the time.
Williams, who will debut songs from the 17-track “Paramore” CD at the Warfield this week, can’t remember the exact awkward titles of those songs she performed.
“But there were some pretty great ones,” she says. “I definitely remember being a little embarrassed. I didn’t show them to anyone. When I finally had friends, I was like, ‘Mom, don’t talk about the country demos. I want to make friends, not lose them!’”
The experience, however shameful, would prove crucial.
At 24, Williams has blossomed into a gorgeous, exotic-plumed swan who recently collaborated with MAC cosmetics on a makeup line. Back then, she was an ugly duckling who was bullied so much in class that her mother opted for home-schooling instead.
But trilling smoky country and western songs gave her confidence, and it introduced her to Nashville’s serious song-craftsmanship world.
“I found really quickly that I just liked being around people that did music, in any shape or form or fashion,” she says. “And I discovered how much I loved writing songs. I really didn’t write songs or music until I moved there.”
The kid got even gutsier after signing to a development deal at 14. Label execs saw the next Avril Lavigne, but she preferred to rock out as Paramore with her pals: bassist Jeremy Davis and brothers Josh and Zac Forro, on guitar and drums, then guitarist Taylor York, who joined in 2009.
She would need her strength.
In 2010, after the band’s angst-fueled breakthrough, “Brand New Eyes,” the Forros left, reportedly dubbing the group a “manufactured product of a major label.”
No hard feelings, says Williams, who battled through two bouts of writer’s block to co-create chugging new anthems such as “Proof,” “Grow Up” and “Ankle Biters,” a message to insecure young girls to believe in themselves.
“If Josh and Zac weren’t happy, it made Taylor and Jeremy and I realize that we are absolutely happy doing this,” Williams says, “so it’s super-cliche, but everything does happen for a reason. ”
Where: Warfield, 982 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $38.50 to $45
Contact: (888) 929-7849, www.axs.com