FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WATE) — She’s an entrepreneur, owns retail stores, and is busy flipping houses. She’s also a singer, songwriter, wife, and mother, and she happens to be Hank Williams Jr.’s daughter, granddaughter of Hank Sr.
We traveled to Franklin, Tennessee, for an exclusive interview with Holly Audrey Williams. She shared how she has learned to stay positive after the pandemic hit her business and the loss of her sister back in June.
Lori Tucker Q: “Even though your name is Holly Audrey Williams, life is not always perfect, you’ve got these bumps in the road and it’s how you react to those.”
Holly Williams A: “Right? I mean I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned in the last five years the saying ‘respond, don’t react’ and for me, that meant there was a lot going on in our personal life. We had two divorce filings in our marriage in a very intense marriage story. And then we had three children and we’re back and trying to figure it all out, but the thing that people see on Instagram is very different than sometimes what people see in person.
“I never wanted to make up total lies on Instagram, but I was. For instance, I was on the cover of a magazine in an awesome outfit, they got me looking perfect — and it’s just you never really know what’s going on with people and how they’re pivoting and what they’re dealing with.
“I remember a girl came up to me in Nordstrom last year and she’s like, ‘Oh you and your kids you have the perfect life,’ and I was bawling. … I was like this is going on, and I just like broke down in the shoe section by the high heels. But I think I’ve learned a lot from my own.
“From days when I may post something that looks like everything’s perfect and people don’t know what was happening an hour before. And I love that, ‘Be kind for you never know who’s fighting a hard battle,’ and that’s just to say whatever we’re all going through in life — we just never know what someone’s actually dealing with — whether that’s marriage, stress, financial, death in the family.
“I’ve really in the last year just learned so much about what you’re talking about , about how you react to things because there are going to be major hurdles thrown. My sister died in a car accident on June 13 and talk about totally unexpected. You know, breakfast the morning before and then they’re gone 36 hours later. And it’s so hard to even make sense. Even when we were at the funeral I keep thinking, is this real?”
Lori: “We’re so sorry to hear this.”
Holly: “Thank you.”
Lori: “Looking at pictures of her, she was so full of life.”
Holly: “So full of life. She has two little ones who are 3 and 5. And they’re doing really well considering, and I’ve learned so much from this process of just speaking of that, not shutting down.
“I mean, we have to keep living and, which is so hard, and her husband has hard days like we all do. But it’s been such a journey to experience that kind of tragedy for a 27-year-old and see her kids who say ‘is Santa bringing mommy back for Christmas? She’s coming back. Right?’ And you’re taught by therapists and everyone to be truthful with them with love and support and strength. And so yeah, that was, that’s the journey.”
Lori: “How has the pandemic affected business?”
Holly: “So that has been really rough. We opened last year. Four new stores, and three of them have closed. And so right now, we have three locally in Nashville, and one in Kentucky. I made a retail mistake and going a bit too far to open a store in California. “
Lori: “You went to Malibu.”
Holly: ” I went to Malibu. And I feel like you know, in life, win some lose some. I want to teach my girls to follow your dreams, follow your dreams, but I just took on too much at once. I had a 4 and 3 and 2-year-old, and we opened five stores that year. And it was a really intense lease. And I knew that.
“I’m like this is very expensive real estate, it’s everything is more. The build out, it’s just a really costly thing. In my head, we’re looking at numbers and (profit and loss statements). And thinking, OK well the store next to us is doing this much, the store is doing this much.
“But eventually, it just didn’t work. I was here and it was extreme cost and a lot of vendors that were here we couldn’t get there and all around. So we closed that after a couple months. And that one just taught me that when I want to do something that’s so impulsive to just take a step instead, and really research a little harder.”
Holly also talked about the musical side of her family: Her own talent, the legacy from her superstar dad, Hank Williams Jr., and the grandfather she never knew — the iconic Hank Williams Sr.
Holly: “(Hank Williams Sr.) died at 29, which is so unfathomable to me now because at 39, I feel like I have so many more songs I want to write and so much more I want to do with music, and I’m like, ‘How did he do all that before then and didn’t have social media to distract him?'”
“By the time I got old enough to really be passionate about caring, most of those people were gone. I was 12 and people were telling me stories, you know, you’re a kid and not paying attention. And growing up, my dad was so famous, Hank Junior.
“I didn’t really understand the fame of Senior. I thought he was the guy that wrote ‘Hey, Good Lookin’ and was kind of an old guy who wrote a few songs, and then, the first time that I went to England and did songwriter gigs and was on a train with the guitar for two months, I started realizing like what? He’s a pretty big deal. Like people were losing their mind.
“I got to meet Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder that year, and they both were just like, ‘Let me hear stories.’ And I was like, ‘This is cool.’
“I’ve learned here and there over the years he was so determined and yes, he struggled with addiction and yes, he struggled with alcoholism. But he was, first of all, a true musical genius.”
Women’s Fund of East Tennessee Virtual Luncheon
You can hear more from Holly Audrey Williams about her passion for helping other women, learn about her kids, marriage and more on her musical legacy and career at the ninth-annual Women’s Fund of East Tennessee Virtual Luncheon from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Oct. 15.
The program will be streamed on wate.com. Casey Pruitt and Susie Whitener are co-chairs of this year’s luncheon. Lori Tucker will emcee the event.
You’ll also see stories of women the organization has helped through its mission to help more women and girls see postsecondary education as a real option for them, whether its taking classes at a community college, getting a certificate from a technical school, or attending a four-year college, education opens doors.
Learn more about the organization and how you can help at www.womensfundetn.org.