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Sitting on a bucketful of songs

John HartMusician and electronics engineer Ralph Williams strums a guitar at his Nevada City home Wednesday.
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The term “Renaissance man” is an overused one these days, often describing those who can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Then a guy like Ralph Williams comes along.



Not only is Williams a singer, producer, guitarist, keyboardist, skier and outdoors enthusiast, the soft-spoken 39-year-old bachelor works as an electronics engineer and video equipment designer.




All those endeavors don’t come close to fully describing Williams, who, when he takes time to sit down, is as mellow a fellow as you’d ever meet.

His home off North Bloomfield Road is crammed with amplifiers, compact discs, guitars and recording equipment, which provide the basics for his fledgling musical career. He produces songs performed at the Sierra Center for Positive Living, a Religious Science church.

“It’s real exciting to see your name in the credits,” he said. Williams is in the process of writing songs for a CD and selling it to New Thought churches.

“Most of my skill lies in directing and producing music,” said Williams, who picked up the guitar as a child in upstate New York and sings at the Center for Positive Living on Sundays.

He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in electrical engineering before heading west, eventually settling in the Gold Country foothills.

“I love living here,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any place that would suit me as well. I’ve grown to love the small-town feel of this place.”

When he’s not chasing musical pursuits, Williams finds time to take to the slopes as a member of Nordic Skiers of Nevada County, where he enjoys backcountry skiing, cross country skiing and other chilly adventures.

“Nordic skiing is like a wilderness experience. You’re out there all alone,” he said.

Asked which he enjoys more, Williams is perplexed. “That’s a tough call. I like them both.”

Williams, who spun discs at local radio station KVMR years ago, says there’s a greater joy in producing records than just simply playing them for someone.

It was often lonely during his 4-7 a.m. slot, playing records by folk artists such as John McCutcheon and Richard Shindell, or crossover hitmaker Mary-Chapin Carpenter, he says.

These days, Williams has a bucketful of songs waiting for the right artists to sing and play. It’s a tough sell, especially when the market he’s in will probably never be as commercially successful as Top 40 acts or Billboard chart-toppers.

Then again, Williams has never been about numbers.

“I just feel like I’m chasing a dream.”

Each week, The Union profiles one of your friends or neighbors. It might be the supermarket checker, the beer truck driver, or the fellow down the street with the green thumb. If you have ideas on someone you would like to read about, just give the newsroom a call at 273-9561.


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