Randall Williams: How an Indie Musician Bootstrapped Tours on Veggie Fuel and why he Let it Go- Creative Strings Podcast Ep. 2

Creative Strings Podcasts
Creative Strings Podcast: Exploring Intersections Between Creativity, Music Education, String Playing, DIY Music Business, And Culture

In this episode with Randall Williams:

– How Randall built his career starting as a singer songwriter living and traveling in his DIY vegetable-fueled van, to a music merchandise selling machine with several revenue streams.
– How Randall accessed and monetized his unique skills to a niche market
– The biggest surprise- how Randall got everything he dreamed of and why he ultimately changed direction..
– “The biggest piece is having an accurate sense of how you’re perceived.”
– “I don’t think you should underestimate what it means to get someone in buying into your email list…”


Thanks to the Electric Violin Shop for being great at what they do and also for sponsoring our effort. We’d also like to thank the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the City of Columbus for their support.
Are you interested in building your music business? Contact me at chris@christianhowes.com to set up a free strategy call (this month only!)

Veggie Fueled Van

The conversion cost about three grand, and I did it alongside a team of mechanics in Denver, Go Green Early. The van is a 2006 Dodge Sprinter. Later-model Sprinters won’t let you convert to veggie because the engine computers register a malfunction if the exhaust isn’t pure diesel and they shut the van down. This conversion is a secondary (heated) fuel tank and a set of switches between them. It’s a WVO (Waste Veggie Oil) system, so I pump right from a grease dumpster into the veggie fuel tank, going through three filters, then there are four more before the fuel gets to the engine. As far as I can tell, I get about the same mileage on veggie as I do on diesel. Yes, it smells like french fries, and yes, it’s free. With a veggie oil system, you can’t leave the veggie oil in the engine when you shut down, so you need to start on diesel, then switch tanks, then you need to switch back over to diesel about five minutes before shutting down, to make sure all the veggie oil is out of the engine.

It’s very cool. I did once have an incident where I didn’t pre-filter the oil – it caused all five of my injectors and my high-pressure pump to fail, to the tune of five grand in repairs, and ten days in a rental car touring New Jersey. Despite that, I’m not deterred – figuring out how to get off of fossil fuels is worth the risk. And the conversion and injector replacement are covered by the fuel savings, anyway.

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Clips in this Episode:

“Praying for Land” from the album Praying for Land

“Ghost in the Machine” from the album Praying for Land

“Around, Around Around” from a live performance

“Let Beauty Awake” by Ralph Vaughan Williams – live performance


Randall Williams Folk Musician

Folk Festivals

In the episode Randall talks about routing his tours based on various folk music festivals. His main circuit was the Folk Alliance regional and national conferences. You can find out more at www.folkalliance.org

Randall also mentions these Folk Festivals

– Turtle Hill Folk Festival

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival

Strawberry Music Festival

Rocky Mountain Folk Festival

Sisters Folk Festival

Kate Wolf Music Festival

Newport Folk Festival


Bowed string player looking for tools to unleash your creativity? Visit our friends at the Electric Violin Shop. -your one-stop shop for electric instruments, amps, gear & accessories, and most of all, expertise. Use code CHOWES at checkout and take 5% off of your order.


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Creative Strings Podcast
Christian Howes presents the Creative Strings Podcast:
Exploring intersections between creativity, music education, string playing, DIY music business, and culture.

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Please take a moment to visit Electric Violin Shop, your one-stop shop for electric instruments, amps, gear, accessories, and most of all, expertise. Use code CHOWES at checkout and take 5% off of your order. Call 866-900-8400 to get your questions answered on “all things electric strings.”

While you are talking to EVS, be sure to ask them about the Yamaha Electric Violin (you can check out my video review here). I’ve been a Yamaha performing artist for over 20 years and am very proud to be a part of the Yamaha family.

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If you enjoyed my interview with Andrea Whitt, check out these related posts:

Full Interview with Jazz Violinist Regina Carter Creative Practice Strategies for Violin, Viola, and Cello Full Interview with Jazz Violinist Jason Anick

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“Creative Strings” initiatives with the founding of Camille Catherine, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the expansion and improvement of music education, with a focus on the development of curriculum and programs for classically trained string players and teachers to expand their skills as creative musicians.