What: Hank3: Shelton Hank Williams III.
When: 9:30 p.m. today.
Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.
Admission: Sold out.
Venue website: www.rhythm-brews.com.
Related links: current.timesfreepress.com.
It ain't easy being three.
Despite drawing heavily from his love of punk and heavy metal, Shelton Hank Williams III -- stage alias Hank3 -- has had to work for years to distinguish himself from his father and grandfather's country legacy.
Williams' earliest forays into music were far afield from the family business as he took up sticks as a drummer in Nashville punk bands.
It was an approach he was happy with, and although he said he planned to take up country music eventually, unexpectedly becoming a father sped up the transition.
"I wanted to rock out first as much as I could and grow old with my country fans," Williams said during a phone interview. "I had a judge tell me, 'Playing music ain't a real job, boy.' I went out there and showed him that, 'Yeah, playing music is a real job.'
"I had to get into country to be able to get back into rock 'n' roll, basically."
As part of taking on a more serious tack, Williams joined his father, Hank Williams Jr., on Nashville-based Curb Records. It was, to say the least, a tumultuous relationship.
Williams said he always disagreed with the label's attempts to rein in his behavior and creative rambling that yielded a harder-edged country sound fans referred to by terms such as hellbilly and cowpunk.
For almost 20 years, Williams refused to sell his own records at his shows, instead filling his merch tables with T-shirts emblazoned with anti-Curb slogans.
Last year, however, his contract ended, and instead of throwing a blowout in celebration of his newfound freedom, Williams began writing.
Six months of work later, he had written, recorded, mixed and mastered four albums -- "Ghost to a Ghost," "Gutter Town," "Attention Deficit Domination" and "3 Bar Ranch -- Cattle Callin" -- all featuring completely different musical approaches, from ambient psychedelia to hard-edged country. He released them simultaneously on Sept. 6.
Why not spread out the releases?
"That's what everybody else does," Williams said. "Name me one person who has ever released four records across four different genres [at once].
"That's my mark in musical history."
Tonight, Williams will take the stage at Rhythm & Brews as the kickoff to his first tour of 2012. The 31/2-hour show, which sold out earlier this week, will feature material drawn from all four albums.
For years, Williams assumed he would retire from the road when he turned 50. Even with his 40th birthday coming up later this year, however, Williams said he is invigorated by his newfound freedom and is playing longer and louder than ever.
"If I'm 40 or 60, I have to live a little bit like I'm 17 every day," he explained. "That's part of being in my world. Being forever young with music is one of my approaches to it."