Beyonce's country song '16 Carriages' on Cowboy Carter LP features NC artist Gavin Williams

Tamara Scott Image
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
NC artist Gavin Williams featured on Beyonce's new country song
Four years ago, Gavin Williams was seated at a piano creating the strong organ melody we hear on Beyoncé's new top country song, '16 Carriages'.

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- Beyonce once again broke the internet a couple of weeks ago when she announced new country music at the Super Bowl and since then has gone on to make history as the first Black woman to be No. 1 on the country billboards.

She released two new country songs "Texas Hold 'Em" and "16 Carriages" and there is a North Carolina artist featured on each song. We first sat down with Gavin Williams who is a producer and artist in Greensboro.

Four years ago, Gavin Williams was seated at a piano creating the strong organ melody we hear in Beyoncé's new top country song.

"I've done a lot of work, but this is Beyoncé," said Williams.

The opportunity came much like any other project.

"A guy by the name of Dave Hanley called me and sent me a couple of tracks to play to. He definitely wanted organ for "16 Carriages," which had no name at the time," he explained.

Today, the country song he wrote in 15 minutes and thought would be forgotten is topping charts and included in a larger conversation about black influence in country music.

"I think what Beyoncé is helping us do is to look back at both the music and the people who are at the heart and the roots of the music," said Williams, "and also the experiences they sang of in their music originally, and try to balance that against the market-driven perception of country music that the market wants us to have."

Dr. Timothy Holley at NCCU is no stranger to country music's roots.

He was proud to hear of another NC artist featured in Beyoncé's song, "Texas Hold 'Em", renowned banjo artist Rhiannon Giddens.

"She, of course, had a lot to say about the history of the banjo and her desire to reclaim African American history associated with it," Holley said.

Holley said Giddens and Williams' inclusion in the records shows Beyoncé's clear connection to her roots.

"Her ancestry is both Texan and Louisiana Creole. So, in '16 Carriages' and 'Texas Hold 'Em,' she is celebrating her reinvented heritage. What could be more American than that?" Holley said.

It's an American dream seen in recent history with Tracy Chapman, Darius Rucker, Jimmie Allen, and more.

"I've seen more highlighted African-American country artists than I've ever seen in my life, and I like country music. So, to see this is a big thing."

As for any anticipated pushback...

"You know, Beyoncé. A lot of folks are nervous about what we'll see from her next. Again, 'Texas Hold 'Em' and '16 Carriages' and 'Daddy Lessons', that's given us enough to be nervous about. But, if you study just enough American music, art, even architectural history, you know there's always been a nervous pushback," said Holley.

"Sometimes you need somebody to spearhead or do something uncanny or different that allows us to bring more light to it, and I'm glad she did it," said Williams.

Both of her songs are now streaming wherever you get your music, and her Act II Renaissance album is expected to drop on March 29.