BATH — Whether recording album tracks in a studio or performing in front of loyal fans with Joan Baez and the Indigo Girls, Dar Williams’ message has been the same. The singer-songwriter/author/speaker/educator has always written about personal experience and themes including religion, youth, gender issues, loss, humor and relationships.

Born Dorothy Snowden Williams in upstate New York, she has released nine studio albums, toured extensively with other big names in the folk music scene and is the author of four books, including last month’s release, “What I found in a Thousand Towns,  about rebuilding America’s communities one coffee shop, dog run and open mic night at a time.

Williams, 51, has always been a performer, but she got her start on stage as an actor, not musician, after graduating with a theater degree from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. While working as a stage manager in Boston, Williams began writing songs, recording demo tapes and taking voice lessons from a vocal coach who encouraged her to try performing at coffeehouses.

Though she has performed at places such Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, as well as venues big and small, it’s intimate shows like her upcoming concert on Oct. 26 at the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath that makes Williams happiest.

The Coastal Journal spoke with Williams recently about her career, songwriting during challenging political times, the changing music business and the unusual reason she loves Maine.

CJ: What do you like about coming to Maine?
DW: I got the offer to play (again) at the Chocolate Church, and who doesn’t want to play at a place called the Chocolate Church? It’s very enticing. The first and only time I’ve ever played there was 2006.

The reason I love Maine might be different than the reason other people love Maine. I just wrote this book that has to do with how people organize themselves in a way that has an incredible look and feel as a town or city. You can really feel like the people who live there want to live there, and they know that a lot of their life happens when they work with other people and do really cool stuff.

One of the first places I was observing and writing about to prepare for the book was Portland. It was one of the first places to push the buy local movement, to have local festivals that drew on its history, and (Portland) also did a lot of smart things to make sure it was looking out for all of its citizens.

The Common Ground Festival (in Unity) is a great example of how people really celebrate a local economy and celebrate who they are as Maine and no one else.

In Gardiner, everything they’re doing in the downtown is really smart. And I’ve seen this in Boothbay Harbor, and I’ve seen it in Unity and Skowhegan, Brownfield, and I see it in Bath and Belfast. It’s a very remarkable state for creating something I call positive proximity, which is the way people can live side-by-side while understanding that everybody’s different — and that it’s a good thing.

CJ: What was the writing process like for your new book? What did you see across America?
DW: I didn’t write any songs for the two years that I was working on the book. I discovered that it was not compatible. There was a lot of good things to weave together and put into the world as my evidence that towns and cities and states are on track to have hometown pride and a worldly welcome. It runs counter to the idea that we’re divided and hostile and playing a zero sum game of winners and losers.

Really successful towns are filled with people who understand one another’s strengths and weaknesses and therefore know how to collaborate. It was something I saw all along. The opposite of division isn’t unity. It’s collaboration. I would say that at this time in history, towns and cities are at an all-time high in terms of collaboration. They really understand that to be prosperous and thriving as local economies, they benefit from working together on projects that build the identity of their town and creating the media and the signs and the welcomes to one another.

CJ: You’ve said you don’t consider yourself a political activist but rather an engaged citizen. What do you think about our current political climate and how has politics informed your career?
DW: I’m right up there with saying that Trump is a very dangerous person. My reason for believing that is that if you think of a town or city like a person, and it wakes up in the morning and thinks it didn’t get everything done yesterday, and it said something embarrassing and needs to repair the damage that caused and get back on the to do list and move forward with who I am to live my life. Trump stands on the foot of your bed with a megaphone telling you to not bother to get up and look at your failures. And that is what has been so destructive to me.

It’s not about failure and success. It’s about the way we get up and believe that we’re doing the best we can, and getting out into the world and continuing to repair and build our identities is what it’s all about.

I wanted to write songs, and I wanted to perform them. I always knew that as a perform I had the opportunity to share the microphone, and so I’d do that with local environmental causes or arts outreach or renewable technologies that I could help by spreading the word.

In 2003, I got a phone call request to play for a local candidate, and I thought it was time. I had done a lot of benefits for schools and nature conservancies, and I knew that being a performer was about sharing the microphone, but then I started doing benefits for politicians that I believed in. I don’t hype up much on Facebook (or social media) about politics. I’m just an engaged citizen who observed other engaged citizens.

CJ: How important has Joan Baez been for your career?
DW: She stopped when she turned 75, and somebody told me she was going to stop when she was 60. So I guess I think I’m going to stop when I’m 60, which means I’ll stop when I’m 75. I feel really competitive with Joan.

She took me on the road with her for over a year, and she helped me create the foundation for my career in a way that I could never repay, and I don’t even think I can pay it forward. What she did for me, and the fact that she was such a sister throughout, and that she was so kind and funny and supportive gave my career the beginning and the strength that it had that is head and shoulders above any other thing that happened in my career. And a lot of lucky things have happened in my career.

But Joan Baez towers above many other artists for me.

CJ: What other musicians do you admire and are inspired by?
DW: Joan was part of a whole world of musicians that were supportive of each other and supportive of new artists coming up. Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin, Tom Paxton, Janis Ian and the list goes on and on. They all kept an eye out for me and my friends and helped me and influenced me artistically.

CJ: What music are you listening to now?
DW: I really like Heather Maloney, who is a wonderful artist. I always keep up with my friends in my scene like Jill Sobule and Susan Werner, and I’m still watching what my compatriots are doing. It’s a strong as ever.

My kids are watching a lot of rap videos, and I think it’s a very transformative time for rap and hip hop and all of the genres coming out of that. There are these extraordinary videos and songs that my son (Stephen, 14) shows me, like Childish Gambino’s “This is America.” My hat’s off to all of the commentary that’s making its way through the music of really successful rap artists right now. There’s a lot of heat there, and that’s what my kids are grabbing my sleeve and pulling me over to the computer to see. It’s a really big deal.

There’s so much good art being done.

CJ: How has your songwriting evolved since your career began?
DW: Absolutely nothing has changed. I’m lucky, because I was surrounded by folk singers and feminists and free thinkers and parents who believed in the creative process. Early on, they all said to write the song I want to wrong and then see if there’s an audience for it. But it’s the same tapping into writing something that is interesting and fun for me and getting past the gatekeepers who say the song is derivative or too long or too short or sounds like another song.

There are all these gatekeepers telling me not to write this song, but then there’s this whole world of people who’ve supported my artistic experience telling me to get past the gatekeepers and write the song. Nothing has changed since the very first time I started writing songs. But I hope I’m better.

We all have a part of the day where the window opens and in comes that poetry of our lives. The only difference for me is that if I don’t let that window open, I won’t have a career. So I actually do things to help that window open so that I can think poetically.

Things got busy really fast early on, but I had to keep on writing. I became a parent, and I became a parent again, and I had to keep on writing. I became a community member, but I was always writing songs, but never very fast. I was like a painter. I would write six songs a year — they were like paintings. And I would step back and go back, then paint a little, and step back again. There has always been something. You have to figure out how to make peace with what you haven’t done and make room for what you can do.

It’s no different today than it was 20 years ago.

CJ: How has the change in the music industry affected you and your career?
DW: It’s entirely different than when I started. I think we all had the shockwave around 2005 of watching half our income go out the door because we weren’t selling albums, and (the income) wasn’t replaced by streaming. I lost 50 percent of my income and 10 percent came back through streaming. But record labels weren’t able to have the kind of budgets and support and infrastructure that they had before. It affected all of us.

Record companies are notorious for telling their artists that there’s something wrong with them and that’s why things aren’t selling. There was a period of time where all the artists were looking at each other wondering what we did wrong and if we were all of a sudden awful. (We were asking) why doesn’t anybody want to buy our albums?

The whole ethos changed. There was an album I did that sold half of my previous album but in double the time, and the next one was half of that. And the record company was always there to say it just wasn’t as good and not owning up to the fact that the paradigm had changed.

You used to be able to be a musician and tour and make music and maybe endorse a lipstick or nail polish once in a while, but now there are 20 superstars judging (talent shows). It’s a whole new model, but there’s such a flood of performers out there.

When the artists all started looking at each other saying we didn’t change but the industry shifted, we found one another and said we’ll be there for each other, it was a good moment to understand what had happened.