Interview: Ian Moore talks psychedelic rock, the magic after midnight and decades of touring

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Photography by Daniel Work. Imagery provided by Western Publicity. 

Presently, Ian Moore is touring the Northeast of the U.S. and sharing his music to promote the release of his new album Toronto. A month prior, Moore cruised through Austin, Texas in Aug. 2018 to celebrate his 50th birthday at the iconic Antone’s. Moore is originally from Austin and he’s got a lot of Texas soul within his music. His birthday celebration deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas lasted two nights. Eric Tessmer was the opening act each night. These two artists are both deeply talented at playing guitar, songwriting and vocals. At times, their music, energy and style felt electric and transcendental, which is one of the many reasons why they call it psychedelic rock. 

Before the ATX birthday shows that were filled to brim with many of Moore and Tessmer’s beloved fans, friends and family inside Antone’s: I interviewed Ian Moore over the phone. Another Rank & Revue (R&R) writer interviewed him years ago, but this time it was my turn to interview him. At random, my editor sent over a pitch to me from his publicist at Western Publicity to see if I wanted to conduct the interview. Once I read Moore’s bio, even though I had not heard of him before: I knew I wanted to book it. Clearly, the man has talent to venture on national tours with the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and Bob Dylan. 

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Photography: Nicolette Mallow

“Ian Moore, the Seattle-based, Austin, TX-born guitar player, singer and songwriter makes the proverbial renaissance man look lazy. Coming on the heels of Strange Days, his most successful record since his eponymous debut. Despite a never-ending cycle of touring, Moore offers a new record of bright, blazing rock-n-roll that combines his legendary guitar prowess with radio-friendly songs that showcase his elastic, soul-inflected vocals. As always, Ian has his eyes on the challenges faced by musicians of every stripe, having experienced the spectrum of artist successes and tribulations over a nearly 30-year career. “It’s a very different climate right now. When we hit a city, it doesn’t matter that I have 14 records, radio hits, etc. The only thing that matters is if we can really show up and leave the people feeling they saw something amazing. Its keeps me hungry, and I like the challenge,” says Moore… You might have been surprised to hear Moore’s songs popping up on major network shows on prime time television this past year; several selections were prominently being featured as performances on both American Idol and The Voice (“Satisfied” and “Blue Sky”). He also founded the artist’s healthcare alliance SMASH (Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare) and has joined the board of NARAS for the Pacific Northwest as governor and head of the advocacy committee. Moore’s story is often told and probably familiar to most critics; his initial record on Capricorn propelled him to national tours with the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and Bob Dylan, acting in the acclaimed indie feature “Sling Blade,” and having Ice Cube direct the video for his track “Harlem.” Moore deviated from his initial blues-oriented guitar sound on subsequent records, touching on graceful pop songs and the psychedelic as well as British pub rock and deep Americana. The Toronto record and its 6 tracks represents those influences in such a way that they have informed his songwriting, but is likely more recognizable as a strong collection of the kind of guitar rock his core fan base would respond to immediately”. 

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In advance to the interview, I was reading the information Ian Moore’s publicist sent me and researching other interviews of the past. I Google’d him to read about his older albums like Capricorn. Within the photos from then and now, I noticed that Moore had super long brunette hair in the 90’s and looked like a total rock star. Even though time has passed, he’s still strikingly handsome and very talented. I enjoyed listening to his musical style change from Capricorn to Toronto. I read a lot of lyrics. Watching his SXSW 2017 performance at Continental Club last spring in ATX: I could see Moore is in love with the guitar and the music. Texans are often known for being passionate and intense, especially the artists and athletes. 

As I read more and more, I realized that I was out of the loop, especially since I am an Austinite. Ian Moore has been around for three decades and I was shocked I’d never seen one of his shows. As a Texas girl and artista, I consider myself familiar with the local art scene. Obviously I was not up to track. Like many people, it seems the more I know, the less I know. There’s simply no way to keep track of all the great talent out there, and that’s sort of a beautiful thing: always discovering new artists and new music. I didn’t really know what angle to take the story. All of the music was new to me—I enjoyed many different songs from different albums—and I didn’t have much time to prepare for this last minute interview. Even though the story wouldn’t run on R&R until September. So, I figured since every other media outlet was going to be asking about Toronto and Antone’s—I decided to just get to know the artist, like any other stranger, and sort of assess what we called at SCAD, a character profile, a mini version of the artists career.

On the dot, all the way from Texas, I called Ian Moore on the number his publicist provided me with. Moore was sanding an old tour vehicle outdoors in Seattle. 

Nicolette Mallow: Growing up in Austin, did you always have a childhood fondness for music? I read you switched from guitar to violin. 

Ian Moore: Yes! One of the first times I kicked in the womb was at Vulcan Gas Company. Even though neither of my parents were musicians, they were both music enthusiasts. I started playing violin as a child and switched to guitar as a teenager. When I was 16 years old, unfortunately, I cut some tendons. Still makes me a little sad to think about because that ended my violin career… When I first started playing music in Austin, I had a real hard time starting a band. My peers were into other music. They were more into the punk rock culture, but I didn’t care much for it. I was more into soul music, blues and psychedelic rock – garage rock – 50’s music. Then I found a drummer from high school and we started making music. We were the first band to ever play at Black Cat Lounge. This was a biker bar and we brought in youth and kids from all walks of life to a new scene. It was cool because this was before Emo’s and there were limited music venue’s at this time. By ages 19-20, I started touring. But yeah, it’s my 50th Birthday and Austin is my hometown. My history is as deep as any musician there. Guitar lessons. Stages. Memories. Riding bikes to Antone’s on Guadalupe. I had to celebrate in Austin. 

NM: Your album Capricorn launched tours with Rolling Stones, ZZ Top & Bob Dylan. That’s really impressive! How long after the release of your first record did these tours come about. And do you recall the names of the tours?

IM: Capricorn. At the time, being a blues-influence guitar player was kind of unknown territory. There was no cool roots, rock scene. I had a difficult time finding people to put the record out. It was very hard to find a placement. The label who signed this deal had managed Otis Redding. Before that, one deal after another fell a part and took a while to find a place to put my record(s). After Capricorn was released, the radio success and decent tour numbers got past the agents. Once the agents caught notice, I began touring. I think, but am not certain, the tour name with Rolling Stones was The Blue Lounge Tour and I think with ZZ Top it was the Recycler Tour. But I’m not certain, it’s sort of a blur… My band was the biggest band of our generation in ATX for a good 10 years, 2000-3000 people a night at our shows. 

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Imagery from IanMoore.com. 

NM: In regard to your newly release album Toronto, I read the lyrics for the songs “Satellite” and “Rock n Roll”. Tell me about the bright side and the dangers of living your life in the magic of midnight.

IM: The magic of midnight and the brutal reality of harsh dawn; we are all eternal dreamers. We are prone to think the next place, town, song or etc.—we think it’s gonna be the next thing to connect us. We can continue to dream and be dreamers, but it’s intense and a lot of people cannot sustain it. A lot of people lose themselves. I’ve been doing KXP radio and I talked about pitfalls of touring and how to survive. Being focused on the music helps. You can tell where the motivation is. If you want to party—and you’re focused on the physical attention—you will wear yourself out. It’s crucial to focus on the music to sustain sanity. It’s very rewarding and spiritually fulfilling. Just gotta keep focused on the prize. Don’t lose yourself in the illusion of midnight, thinking that something greater is right around the corner… My music has been a continued manifestation of what I wanted to do. When I was young, learning how to play and sing, I did a lot of wandering. Leaving scenes and drifting into the ether, a wanderer with temporary companions. It’s been an interesting journey. Even though my most successful record (thus far) was my 1st album: I think I’ve gotten quite a bit better and become more interesting. I never chased the fame. However, I’ve become an underground artist.

NM: I read your quote about the challenge of keeping the crowd enticed and how the music culture has changed. How do you sustain such energy while touring, so that you can always give the crowd the experience they’re seeking?

IM: This is the hardest time to survive with music, it’s so challenging. But I have a deep passion for music. I do it all, simply because I love music. Music is most deeply motivated for me, the actual music, not the attention and the success, that is peripheral for me. No matter what, I always want to get better and write a better song and feel like if I could just concentrate harder, it will manifest… When I am all beat up and tired and miss my family: the music keeps me going. That’s the thing, I can be completely exhausted and always dig in to find that passion. 

NM: The transition to Seattle from ATX, over the decades, based upon your observations—what changed most within the local scene between the two cities? 

IM: A lot of what I do is between Austin and Seattle. I live in both towns. We had nothing here (in Washington) when I arrived awhile back. There’s been a lot more drastic changes in Seattle. Obviously, all cities are enduring major changes right now, any cool city with artists. They’re all being priced out. However, Austin is one of the best for artists, right now. At least in ATX you have some people working for you and trying to make it better. ATX is weathering the storm best.

NM: Do you have any favorite or newfound cities in Europe that you look forward to touring this year?

IM: Europe: I love Spain and Italy. Amsterdam. Denmark. London… I’d like to play in Portugal. It’s so cool playing in different places, but what’s cooler is playing well in the places you play.

To view upcoming tour dates, listen to music and read about Moore’s songwriting workshop in Canyon Lake, Texas: please visit his website at www.IanMoore.com

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Note: This article was originally published on Rank & Revue

Interview: James White talks 54 years at the Broken Spoke

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Broken Spoke marquis. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

With only five cases of beer to sell, James White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964. After he was released from the U.S. Army at the age of 25 – Mr. White decided to pursue the quest, his dream, of opening a honky tonk in Austin, Texas to feature live country music and a dance hall. In the beginning, Broken Spoke was a local roadhouse where beer cost .25 cents a bottle and customers could get ice and a soft drink for .30 cents to chase down their liquor. Back in those days, before the peak of craft cocktails, people could bring their own liquor bottles to the bar in Texas. Now in 2018, over 54 years later, Broken Spoke has become a worldwide famous dance hall with a full bar and restaurant. By the late 80’s the Broken Spoke started to gain more and more fame. Featured in Texas Highways magazine, The Food Network, The New York Times, CBS News, Texas Monthly, the Smithsonian and more; Broken Spoke is a historical landmark. The Spoke has showcased talent like Willie Nelson, George Strait, Garth Brooks, the Derailers, Dale Watson, Alvin Crow, Weldon Henson and the list keeps going for decades. Many artists, icons and celebrities from all over have entered the front doors including Dolly Parton, Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino. Hundreds of old and modern photographs catalog the years within Broken Spoke’s Hall of Fame.

The Broken Spoke is owned and operated by James and Annetta White (his wife). The two met at a dance hall in 1961 when she caught his eye and have been married 51 years. Annetta and her husband have worked together for decades to keep the Spoke running successfully. Amongst her many contributions to the Broken Spoke, I discovered that Annetta is the one responsible for the George Strait photographs covering the women’s bathroom, giving the ladies room some cowboy vibes. 

A lot of people ask me where I met my wife. Well, I met her at a honky tonk. There was an old dance hall in Oak Hill called the Sportsman Inn and I looked out on the dance floor and saw a pretty blonde lady dancing with a red dress on. It was a fast dance and she caught my attention. She caught me eye and I thought I’d ask that girl to dance. That’s where it all started right there.” – James White

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Photo collage of Broken Spoke photographs featuring Willie Nelson, James White, Dolly Parton, Clint Eastwood, Garth Brooks and Annetta White.

Walking into the Broken Spoke is like stepping back in time. Once you enter this classic Texas dance hall and see all of the antique photos from decades past, an intense feeling of nostalgia rushes over and fills the air. It looks exactly as it did when the doors opened in 1964. There is so much eye candy to choose from: a horse saddle, photographs, flags, neon lights, posters, woodwork and of course the dance hall. A replica of Willie Nelson’s guitar Trigger can be found at the Broken Spoke, too. As a Texas girl that’s driven by the Broken Spoke since the 1990’s and enjoyed libations as an adult, I was really excited to finally learn more about this dance hall and the reputable James White.

In May 2018, James White consented to an interview with me. I met him at the Broken Spoke on a weekday around lunch. He and I sat at table B2, which I came to found out is the same table where Willie Nelson and his wife Annie would frequent when they were regular visitors at the Spoke. I went to Lake Travis High School with Willie Nelson’s nephew, Trevor, so it was even more thrilling to be sitting in country western history.

Wearing a UT button-up shirt, a red baseball cap, gold watch and horseshoe ring made of diamonds, James White took me back to the beginning and covered as much history about the Broken Spoke as we could in one hour. Unlike most interviews, White naturally guided the majority of the dialogue exchange. I was simply a listener to keep the story on course, interjecting with questions along the way if things got off track. Before the interview began, White asked me if he could start at the beginning and then jump around in time wherever I wanted to. By listening, I could tell he had told this Texas story many times and it never gets old to tell, or to hear. [He insisted that I record the interview and I posted the audio online in a two-part segment via YouTube.]

James White: A lot of people, you know, they ask me, why did you go into this kind of business? All the way down to my childhood, my parents would take me to different dance halls in this area, and that’s where I got the love of country music in my veins… When I was in the Army, I didn’t know what I was gonna do when I got out of the Army. So I thought it would be kind of neat to open up a place of my own, similar to the places when I was growing up in Austin. It just became like a quest of mine the day I left the Army. And when I came out under the big ole oak tree out front (on South Lamar), I just kind of visualized a place like no other and when I got it built: I named it the Broken Spoke. The reason I thought up that name, I wanted something original. I wanted something country, I wanted something western. Texas style. In my mind, I had a list of different names in my head. When I got to thinking about Broken Spoke I was thinking about wagon wheels and they were kind of rolling around in my brain. And then I remembered this old Jimmy Stewart movie called “Broken Arrow” and I said hell, I’ll just find me a couple wagon wheels, I’ll knock a spoke out and I put one on each side of the door coming in and I named it the Broken Spoke. And I never looked back.

Volunteers made the Spoke by hand. A lot of heavy drinkers pitched in to build the Broken Spoke and one drunk man even fell off the roof. White had to open the doors a little early after running out of money, hence the modest five cases of beer. People even told White the business wouldn’t last six months, but he proved them wrong. It was about 20 years of hard work before the Broken Spoke became famous. Mr. White said it was many years of 16 hour days tending bar, seven days a week. The Broken Spoke is his life’s work and there is a ton of heart and soul poured into this building. 

Music, dance and cold drinks are the focus of this honky tonk, but there is also a strong sense of community and love. The Spoke has been described as “the country western version of Cheers” and it’s become part of Texas history within the arts. Many local Austinites or younger generations don’t know the intricate history of the Broken Spoke. I certainly didn’t and I’ve been here off-and-on since the 1990’s. So, after White’s introduction as to what inspired him to build and create the Broken Spoke. I asked him to tell me more about table B2: Willie Nelson’s table. Willie is one of the most notorious artists to perform at the Broken Spoke and it all starts back in the 1960’s. 

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A replica of Willie Nelson’s guitar “Trigger” and Table B2. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

JW: I first booked Willie Nelson in 1967. I booked Willie Nelson and The Record Men for $800. He had short hair, he was clean shaven and wore either a turtle neck, a vest or a sports coat. But he’s still the Willie Nelson you see today. His people love to see the one picture of Willie hanging on the wall, and he’s got a copy in his office too: the photo of he and I on stage at Broken Spoke when I first booked him back in the 60’s. He and I have always been friends. Willie has friends all over the world but he always remembers the Broken Spoke. He always comes back every chance he gets… Anyway, when Willie had a tax problem in 1990 and owed $16.5 million: my wife and I were sitting around and we got mad because we heard the IRS took all his pictures and they took all of his awards off the wall and put them up for auction. I didn’t think it was right to take his pictures, gold records, platinum records—and so we thought we’d take a collection and give it to Willie because they’d taken everything he owned. So I got a gallon pickle jar and put it on the bar and put a sign on it “Where there’s a Willie there’s a way”. Willie heard about it and called me up from Hawaii and thanked me. Meanwhile we had a fundraiser for Willie and I sent the money over to Hawaii by way of his daughter, Lana Nelson. His family said Willie talked about the fundraiser all day long and was very excited about it. He called me again and said “thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m gonna come home for Christmas, and I’m going to bring my band, I’m going to eat some chicken fried steak, drink a cold beer, and I wanna do a little picking (at the Broken Spoke) and I’ll bring some friends with me”. And that’s when a lot of local country artists who knew Willie wanted to get involved. Some nights you never forget. He never asked for money, I did it from the heart. And he thanked me from the heart and he came out and played all night. That was in 1990… So we raised some money and I gave him every letter I received from Associated Press, they ran the story all over the world. We started getting money from Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Birmingham jail and Indian reservations… I never got one bad letter about Willie. All of them were complimentary and even if the donation was $1, Willie autographed every check as a thank you.

After he told me about the fundraiser, James White proceeded to share a song he wrote with Gary P. Nunn called “Where there’s a Willie, there’s a way”. Their song can be heard sung a cappella by Mr. White in Part One of the interview around the 18:00 minute mark. It’s rather clever and has a Willie Nelson-esque melody to it.

Suddenly, as I intended to shift gears from Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton. Her music serendipitously came on the jukebox and you can Dolly’s voice in the background. A series of her songs played at that perfect moment like the classic “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You.” Echoing in the background, it was a most befitting and true country, western moment in Texas. Back in 1987, Dolly Parton came out to the Broken Spoke to film “Wild Texas Nights” and James White even got to utter a few lines in the filming. There is a charming photo of Dolly Parton on display at Broken Spoke that many people love to photograph.

Bouncing around in time, James White talked to me about the booking process, musicians, family and the architecture of the Broken Spoke. It’s an older building that has a lot of character and endearing oddities. However, White mentions that perhaps if he built it today there would’ve been some changes, like installing larger bathrooms. Nevertheless, there is something beautiful about keeping history locked in a time capsule. Especially in a city like Austin where it’s losing a lot of its originality with the modern times. Broken Spoke has withstood all the changes in Austin and still stands strong with many more memories of live music and dancing to come. 

Over the years, there is one character that all regulars know about and that would be Rowdy. He never leaves the Broken Spoke and has never performed on stage. He doesn’t speak either but Rowdy sits at one of the tables with his sunglasses, bandana, blue jeans and he’s quite the ladies man. Sometimes people like to dance with him, too. Wait, did I mention Rowdy is a dummy?

JW: Rowdy’s skull has a crack now because people keep dropping him on something, or some drunk wants to dance with him or move him around. His knuckles are broken off right here. One time I used to write a newsletter. I talk about Rowdy like he’s a real person, like a living thing. People ask me where I got him and I tell ’em I picked Rowdy up hitchhiking out on 620. So I gave him a ride to the Broken Spoke and now he don’t want to leave and is here at the bar 24/7. When I pulled up to stoplights back then people would look at him, and I’d never do nothing I’d just stare straight ahead, but I knew they was looking at him. Rowdy is a funny guy. When they stole my dad’s silver saddle—the only thing funny in the whole thing (was Rowdy). After it took 14 days to get the saddle back. The first cop on the scene crawled in the same window as the burglars did and he came in and he said, “I almost shot Rowdy!” And I said “I wish you would have because he’d look cool with some powder burns”. But yeah Rowdy just sat there and didn’t say nothing and let them steal the saddle. So anyway when Rowdy broke his knuckles off, we were going to glue them back on. I’m writing about it in this newsletter (for the Broken Spoke) like he’s a person. And I wrote “hell, Rowdy broke off a few of his fingers and they fell onto the floor and the waitress swept it up and thought it was a dill pickle and threw it in the dumpster. When I heard about it I had to send the waitress out to retrieve his fingers out of the dumpster so we could glue them back on”. Soon after this waitress’ sister in a different city said “What kind of place are you working where people are breaking fingers off and gluing them on?” She thought it was a real story. 

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Rowdy reading the newspaper at Broken Spoke. Photography by Nicolette Mallow.

At the end of our interview, I asked James White if out of all the press coverage and all the years of memories, did anything stand out most? It was a tough question to answer and he drifted in time a bit, but eventually it all came back full circle to Texas Highways.

JW: It’s a heart thing you feel good about. At the end of the day, I take more pictures now than I ever took in my life before now. Hell, no one wanted my picture in 1964 but now everyone does and I’ll make up for lost time. There were fun times in the 1960’s and everything was new. I just had so much fun here at the Spoke. But I think the one (press) thing we did with Texas Highways stood out the most. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. Now we’re on every roadside park in Texas at the rest stops. I mean you come in and there’s a picture of the Broken Spoke and the Cadillac outside. And then on the left there at the state Capitol, it’s right there you know. You got music, you got Texas and then you got the Broken Spoke. It’s a very good compliment to us. Since then we’ve been voted the Best Country Dance Hall in the nation, home of the best chicken fried steak in town, a lot of metropolitan awards. We’ve won a lot of awards. I’m in the Texas Hall of Fame and the Smithsonian. I’m in the Country Music Hall of Fame… I never expected it. All I really wanted was a honky tonk dance hall. So I got what I wanted, but then I got a lot more. Which is fine, it’s fun, a hell a lot more fun to have people brag about you than bitch about you. It’s always more fun to get compliments.

To hear more about Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, the beer drinkers that built the Broken Spoke for free and much more, please check out the interviews in full on YouTubehttps://www.brokenspokeaustintx.net

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Dale Watson sets the record straight

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Photography provided for the Press by DaleWatson.com.

Rumors flew around Austin like a wildfire in high winds the last few weeks about Dale Watson leaving ATX for Memphis. And Watson is adamant to set the record straight after a recent interview gone askew. When I read his quote on social media to clarify the truth: I was relieved to read that Dale Watson will still be in Austin, Texas and Memphis, traveling the country, and the world, touring and playing music with His Lone Stars. So, rest easy, Texas, we haven’t lost one of most beloved musicians.

Dale Watson is a very well-known name in Texas, Tennessee and various parts of the world. Born in Alabama and raised in Pasadena, Texas — Watson moved to Austin in the early 1990’s and has made it his home ever since. Personally I’ve known of his name and heard about his music long before I ever saw him perform seeing as I’ve lived in ATX off-and-on since the 90’s. My Latina mother (and Texan) once told me that she had a crush on him back in the day and enjoys dancing to his country music. Even the legendary Willie Nelson spoke highly of Dale Watson and stated “I’m one of Dale’s biggest fans”.

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Watson has performed all over the world and is currently touring in Europe. However, in the near future he will be spending a little more time in Memphis and a little less time in Texas. Two homes, two cities he loves and still focused on sharing his music with his treasured fans around the world.

“O.K. friends , let me set the record straight, if you don’t mind. I love Austin. Austin is my home. I love Texas and will ALWAYS live in Texas. That said, I bought a house in Memphis as an investment and in the process fell in love with the town. It reminds me of Austin of the 80’s, the good and the bad. I play over 300 shows a year, meaning Austin and on the road world wide. To afford to live in Austin, I literally have to tour. As one guy posted I’m old and should retire, but I love what I do and quite honestly can’t afford retirement either. What musician can? These things are facts I’m volunteering now but I recently granted an interview locally. They had seen an article about my moving Ameripolitan Awards to Memphis and buying a house there. The interview was heavily edited. This happens often but the things left out were important to me. Things like, my love of Austin. My roots are in Texas and the fact that, at some point I will have to sell my house in Austin and move to the outskirts, but I will always have a house in Texas. I will hang on to being an Austinite as long as I can. Monday’s at the Continental Club, a Friday or Saturday at the Broken Spoke, and Chicken $#!+ Bingo at C’Boys on Sunday’s. As for the media, they suck. If any media repeats this post, then print the whole thing, because you suck at editing and paraphrasing. So, after all is said and done, I hope I see ya at my regular gigs in Austin friends. I hope you come to my AirBnb and recording studio in Memphis. And I hope you all vote when it comes to your mayor and city council. Peace.”    – Dale Watson

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Secretly when I read the media coverage Watson is referring to, it seemed to me that pieces were missing to the interview. To play thousands of shows in Texas, you must really love the city of Austin and The Lone Star State, therefore it struck me as odd to read a short story that Dale Watson was just going to up and leave TX without going into more details. True, the city is growing overcrowded and is becoming more expensive as the love for the almighty dollar bulldozes the love for local artists. But, thankfully the rumors weren’t true and we can look forward to many more Dale Watson shows. Also, I’ve visited Memphis a few times and I can definitely see the appeal. Memphis gives Texas a run for its money in regards to BBQ, live music and the beauty of the hill country.

Over the past 20 years, Austin has become attached to Dale Watson and His Lone Stars. I am certain many Texans all over the state will also be relieved to hear Watson is here for the long haul, even if we must share him with the city of Memphis, too. Stay tuned to his website and social media to find local shows in your area to support local artists and keep the art scene alive and well in ATX!

Screen-Shot-2018-03-11-at-7.59.45-PM-2 For more information please visit www.dalewatson.com.

Dale Watson, keeper of the true country music flame, this Austin-based honky-tonker carries on in the tradition of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with his “Ameripolitan” brand of American roots music. Dubbed “the silver pompadoured, baritone beltin’, Lone Star beer drinkin’, honky-tonk hellraiser” by The Austin Chronicle, Watson sat in with Jimmy Kimmel’s house band as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) from SXSW 2015. He also emceed the first ever SXSW “Ameripolitan” showcase featuring the best of Honky-tonk, Outlaw Country, Rockabilly and Texas Swing music. Since the release of El Rancho Azul in 2013, Watson’s profile has risen considerably via appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS), Austin City Limits and The Sun Sessions(PBS) and as a guest on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. A veteran touring artist and consummate entertainer, he is on the road more than 300 days a year. He also put his money where his heart is and took over ownership of two struggling Texas honky-tonks, the Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin (home of Chicken $#!+ Bingo) and The Big T Roadhouse in St. Hedwigs (outside San Antonio).  If not on the road, he and His Lone Stars perform at one of them each Sunday. Dale has flown the flag for classic honky-tonk for over two decades. He’s christened his brand of American roots “Ameripolitan” to differentiate it from current crop of Nashville-based pop country. The Alabama-born, Texas-raised Watson may be the hardest working entertainer today and is rapidly approaching legendary status.  He is a country music maverick, a true outlaw who stands alongside Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Strait as one of the finest country singers and songwriters from the Lone Star State.”     http://www.dalewatson.com

Note: This story was originally published on Rank & Revue, SXSW 2018 issue

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Photography provided for the Press by DaleWatson.com.

ill-ēsha: Canadian musician, producer, songwriter and vocalist will perform at 2017 Euphoria Music Festival in ATX

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Recently I had the pleasure to interview ill-ēsha. Music producer, vocalist, songwriter composer, DJ, musician and more; ill-ēsha radiates artistic talent and the more I read her artist’s bio. It was very clear what a vast range of art forms within various industries that her skills could be applied to. On April 9, 2017—ill-ēsha will be performing at the 2017 Euphoria Music Festival at Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas. Euphoria Music Festival is showcasing over 70 artists this year and even though ill-ēsha has visited ATX many times for festivals like SXSW and feels at home in the capital of Texas. This will be her first show at Euphoria and Austinites are delighted. 

Formally known as Elysha Zaide and casually known as Elle, “Vancouver-born and Colorado-based music producer, artist and DJ ill-ēsha has crafted a long-standing soundscape of electronic bass music throughout her career, continuously evolving her musical stylings and bridging gaps between hip-hop, dubstep, R&B and future bass music. Ill-ēsha is recognized as an extremely rare and diverse, burgeoning artist in the EDM scene, as her live set showcases her incredible talent to sing, DJ, and simultaneously rock her keytar. She is one of few electronic artists to blossom throughout the progression of different musical trends while still focusing on her artistic vision and authenticity. Constantly evolving a dynamic stage show, ill-ēsha is a perfect example of electronic music’s transition towards live instrumentation and indie pop sensibility.”

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Nicolette Mallow: You have one of the most interesting music backgrounds out of all the composers I’ve interviewed. Your skills are so vast and you’re so musically gifted. A producer, DJ, vocalist, composer, songwriter and more. I loved reading your Bio… Did you always know you wanted to make music? Or did music and the arts choose you? 

ill-ēsha: I was always very drawn to many different forms of art. As much as I loved music. I was also into theater arts and that was a potential path for me. Even in high school when I was already DJ’ing, I also partook in a theater company and visual art. Performing arts was my artistic expression for a long time. But yes, I’ve had a tendency towards the arts since I was a kid. I was born into a  family with lots of artists. 

NM: I read you love classical, world jazz and cinematic music—and that you completed Royal Conservatory piano training. That program sounds so fancy and challenging. Is this where you began to learn music?

ill-ēsha: (she laughed) Well, it sounds fancier than it is. It’s just another method to learn music, like the Suziki method. Royal Conservatory is simply one of many systems similar to a competitive sport or grade levels. The more you learn and excel at each level you pass on to the next. My mother was passionate about piano and she always wanted to play. I began taking lessons at 4 years old. I continued to take piano classes until I was 12.

NM: You have a spectacular voice. I loved the demos, especially the animation video… How did all this begin? Can you tell me a little about Speech Level Singing?

ill-ēsha: Seth Riggs created Speech Level Singing (SLS) in the late 70’s. It was a school of thought to help train vocal muscles. Artists like Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin studied it. Since I am a self-taught vocalist after years and years of rigorous piano. In my 20’s I got into Speech Level Singing to learn how to control my breath better. SLS was sort of a style that purely worked out your vocal chords. It appealed to me because I am not jazz or an opera singer. I’m not an Ariana Grande or Celine Dion with a big, booming voice. I am a musician of all types, not just vocals. Once you have a voice: you go all directions developing it and SLS was a way of developing mine. 

NM: What did it feel like to place in the top 3 finalists for The John Lennon International Songwriting Contest?

ill-ēsha: That was a long time ago, but the coolest thing about that award is I was given a few hundred dollars and I used it to buy my first Serato. (A DJ program with turntables and a laptop.) Up until then everything was pure vinyl, so, thank you John Lennon Songwriting Contest for helping me buy my first Serato. But yeah, songwriting is something else that I do. My roots is songwriting. 

NM: What is the title of the lyrics you wrote and submitted for the contest?

ill-ēsha: “Broken Windows”. 

NM: Vancouver is your hometown and I hear it is beautiful. I hope to visit Canada next year. Now that you’re based in Colorado, do you feel like it reminds you of Canada in any way? I would imagine it’s easy to miss the seaport of Vancouver but the climate in CO perhaps reminds you of home?

ill-ēsha: It’s 50/50. I love the mountain life in Colorado. Before I moved here, I lived in San Francisco. Honestly I considered moving to Austin because I love it so much there, too, but I chose Colorado. 

NM: Speaking of Austin, how did you come to be involved with Euphoria Music Festival? And what can we expect to enjoy during your live set at the festival? 

ill-ēsha: ATX is one of those cities that’s been supporting me for a long time, all the way back to my tracks with Gravitas. Over time I’ve interacted with most of the promoters. I feel very lucky to have played at SXSW and so many other venues. Austin has become a home for me. Really I was torn between Denver and Austin. Ultimately, the weather in CO won me over. But I love Texas and I feel like its one of my strongest markets. It’s very cool to be involved with the music scene in Austin… Euphoria is one of the first festival types I’ve performed, and I will be sharing a lot of new content. Anyone who sees me, even old fans, will have something new to look forward to. Over the years I have evolved. Now that I make so much music in the last few years. What I’ve found is that I want to divide the sets I do and remain conscious of the environment. Live shows are compelling and people enjoy festivals. But for instance, nightclub people want the DJ energy. They want to dance and they want the drum and bass. The booth is tall and people can’t see me or my live set up, they just hear me and my music. However, festivals are more intimate with an open stage. There are more live elements, like my keytar. I’ve been taking a lot of time in the studio to write, collaborate and create new art to suit the time and place of each set. 

NM: Will you tell me about your transition from DJ to headlining performer and Producer? I liked your quote about wanting to participate in the music and not just the culture. 

ill-ēsha: I’m not much of a bystander. I enjoy art from being part of the process. I love film but I don’t actually sit around for long periods of time watching movies. I want to score and write for them. I wanted to be part of it. I started off with singing and DJ’ing. I wanted to control beats and make music. The deeper I got into it, the more deeply I realized I wanted to be part of production… About 10 years ago was sort of the turning point. All in all I’ve been in this industry for 20 years, since I was really young. The first ten years were very much passion projects and you could really tour and do live shows. I worked other jobs, too, and went to college. Touring and other jobs helped pay off student loans. Right around 2008 or 2009, I started feeling discontent. I was not feeling inspired. So I decided to go back to music as contractor and post-production for TV shows and editing. I regenerated and began making a new style of music. It was fun and different. It wasn’t simply drum and bass. At that point I just kind of discovered new people without the pressure. Re-inspired an online chat forum and people became receptive and started signing it. And that’s when I moved to SF and production became a full time priority… Ultimately my passion project and my true underlying goal is to give back and inspire young creative people. I was sort of an angsty teenager. Bummed out by life. Music saved me. Being a mentor, a guide and to give connections to the young artists and young creatives means a lot to me. 

NM: What was it like touring with Bassnectar? I adore his track “Butterfly” featuring Mimi Page and listen to it all the time. 

ill-ēsha: Touring with Bassnectar was pretty magical. I feel so lucky I got to experience that. It was only a few Southern tour dates and New Year’s Eve shows. I loved it though! Bassnectar is a big symbol of my music scene. Bassnectar created the west coast music sound within the DJ world. It was an honor to get to open for him. This is the guy who took it from A to Z.

NM: Last question, listening to your music on SoundCloud I heard a track called “Ghostwriter” with opening audio talking about computer hacking. Why did you choose to write about a computer hacker? 

ill-ēsha: In the 1990’s there was a children’s TV show called “Ghostwriter”. A lot of the samples in that track are from a single episode that I found to be cute. “Ghostwriter” was an educational kid’s show and that episode was about early internet. Teaching kids about hackers. At the time I was learning more about computers and I definitely enjoy digital nostalgia of different era’s because I’ve been through them all. As a child of cross generation analog and digital and I remember both… it’s always on my mind. 

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For more information about ill-ēsha:  please visit her website at www.ill-esha.com. To listen to samples of her music please visit ill-ēsha’s SoundCloud page at https://soundcloud.com/ill-esha

Příliš hlučná samota: Production crew raises funds for film about Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s novel “Too Loud A Solitude”

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“My education has been so unwitting I can’t quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that’s how I’ve stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thirty-five years. Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.” – Bohumil Hrabal

An imaginative production crew seeks to fundraise resources to launch a full-length feature film about Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s novel, Too Loud a Solitude.  Directed by Genevieve Anderson and starring Paul Giamatti as the voice of Hanta, Too Loud A Solitude (Příliš hlučná samota) is a feature adaptation of Bohumil Hrabal’s beloved book made with live action puppets, animated sequences and visual effects.

This globally famous novel is about a book crusher, Hanta. Watching the trailer of Too Loud A Solitude is like entering a magic portal to another dimension where Bohumil Hrabal’s book takes place in a world of puppetry.  An intimate, sneak peek to Hanta’s daily life and his private love affair with the books and their stories. A mirror reflection of Hrabal’s writing voice and how each book he created almost seems to be a personal letter written to each individual reader as opposed to the masses. As the camera soars in over the skyline of the town and we see gears grinding, scraps of papers tossed about and a city that seems to be very cold and quiet. Characters bundled up in many layers, speaking to each other without speaking as they go about daily life. The music is hypnotic and dreamy with its romantic yet haunting tune of a melancholy violin. 

Too Loud a Solitude is the story of a waste compactor, Hanta, who was charged with destroying his country’s great literature in his humble press, and who fell so in love with the beautiful ideas contained within the books that he began secretly rescuing them – hiding them whole inside the bales, taking them home in his briefcase, and lining the walls of his basement with them. It became one of the defining books in Czechoslovakia’s history for its unsentimental, humorous, painfully relevant portrayal of humankind’s resilience. The story of Hanta’s quest to save the world of books and literature from destruction is often cited as the most beloved of Hrabal’s books. Too Loud a Solitude has a global fan base and an active community of support has emerged for our feature film project. The book has been translated into 37 languages and sold over 70,000 copies of Michael Henry Heim’s English translation alone. Bohumil Hrabal wrote the novella as an unsentimental account of what happened to him during the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia during the 40’s and 50’s. Many of Hrabal’s books were banned by the Russian regime and other great books by many authors were physically destroyed, an act Hrabal characterizes in Too Loud a Solitude as ‘crimes against humanity’… Our team has been committed to bringing Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal’s beloved novella Too Loud a Solitude to the screen since 2004. With the assistance of The Rockefeller Media Arts Foundation (now the Tribeca Film Institute), Heather Henson and Handmade Puppet Dreams, and The Jim Henson Foundation, we completed a 17 minute sample of the film in 2007. The film has been playing nationally and internationally in the Handmade Puppet Dreams program, and in 2009 was awarded an UNIMA-USA citation of excellence. We are currently working on financing the feature project, first through a Kickstarter start-up funds campaign and then through partnership with other financing and production entities. Our intention is to enlist the support of the book’s global fan base and expand its already impressive audience. We’re down to two weeks left in our Kickstarter fundraising campaign and are continuing to do outreach work to drum up more support for our project. We seek to raise $35,000 to cover the costs of puppet design, armature creation, motion exploration, character development, costume design, and visual effects.”

For more information about the film, please visit www.tooloudasolitude.com.screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-16-58-pm “For thirty-five years now I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story…I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me.”screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-8-16-25-pm

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“I felt beautiful and holy for having the courage to hold on to my sanity after all I’d seen and had been through, body and soul, in too loud a solitude.”

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Crystal Mangano composed the score of documentary film “Asperger’s Are Us”

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Crystal Grooms Mangano is a composer that has created music for film and television, and her most recent project was for the documentary film “Asperger’s Are Us”. The film made its grande debut at SXSW 2016 in Austin, Texas. During this time: Netflix bought the global streaming rights to the documentary, “Asperger’s Are Us”.

To talk more about her musical background and composing the soundtrack for “Asperger’s Are Us”— Composer Crystal Grooms Mangano chatted on the phone with Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow. The phone interview took place shortly after the end of the The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals 30th anniversary held in March 2016.

SXSW 2016 ran a synopsis of the film containing the following: “For the members of the comedy troupe “Asperger’s Are Us,” it’s easier to associate with a faceless audience than with their own families. No matter who the crowd, best friends Noah, New Michael, Jack and Ethan have one simple mantra: ‘We would much rather the audience appreciate us as comedians than people who have overcome adversity’. In this coming-of-age heartfelt documentary, this band of brothers finds themselves at a crossroad. With real life pulling them apart, they decide to plan one ambitious farewell show before they all go their separate ways. People with Asperger’s don’t deal well with uncertainty, and this is the most uncertain time in their lives.”

Nicolette Mallow: I read your biography about your compositions for film and television, but will you tell me the overview about how your journey as a musical composer unfolded?

Crystal Grooms Mangano: I began playing piano in the 1st grade. Then I added on the flute, the electric bass and I participated in as many music groups as I could while I was in school. Back then I started composing piano pieces. And I loved playing piano reductions of film scores, which I know frustrated my piano teacher. Like the time I brought a piano piece from “Seven Years in Tibet”. In college, I studied music and film together at Montana State University because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue. Their dual degree program allowed me the freedom to learn both spectrum’s… I sort of created my own path by absorbing, learning and combining as much as I could from studying film and music. Practicing both at the same time. I met so many people in both departments. It gave me a great background into all aspects of filmmaking, editing, directing and music. Sort of like learning the ground base for what goes into making a film… When I got to LA, it was a big change and a bit of an adjustment. I was born in Casper, Wyoming and then moved to Montana. But I have grown to love Los Angeles. During the last four to five years is when I really started composing for film and television.

NM: Do you have a process when composing music for film and TV? Or does it alter depending on the project?

CGM: Yes, it depends on the project and the Director. A composer can come on at any point in the project. A composer can begin as early as the script, or as late as when the film is being edited at the end. I recently worked on a horror film and I read the script in advance and then submitted a demo to the Director while he was editing. And then once they were finished, I came back and created the complete score… During the making of “Asperger’s Are Us”—I came in close to the end when they were almost finished editing. I didn’t have much time to think about the music. Before writing anything down, I watched the film multiple times. Just because I really wanted to know as much about the story as I could, first. One of the first tracks I sent was “First Rehearsal” when the guys are looking for a place to rehearse. The scene shows their personalities and struggles; exterior influences. They so much want to focus on themselves and are having so much fun with it all. And I wanted to portray the spirit of their comedy troupe. They do it because they love it and their friendship becomes formed around this comedy troupe. But they don’t have a space so they keep getting kicked out of places and it’s not going smoothly. The score at times is a little off-kilter and a little unconventional as far as instrumentation. I wanted to show they’re having fun and that’s the point of what they’re doing.

NM: I listened to your tracks several times. The music is so playful, fun and it makes me want to go on a walk outside or take an adventure somewhere. There is something about the music that reminds me of youth and the playful mood of being young and free… Music is so powerful. When you’re creating music for a project, does it affect your mood? I would imagine the horror music was vastly different than this documentary.

CGM: Music is powerful and it does affect my mood. I really have to get into the same mindset as the music I am trying to write: anxious, happy, subdued. Whatever mood it may be, yes, it can be difficult because I really have to get into the film. “Asperger’s Are Us” was really light and cheerful as opposed to the darkness and eeriness of a horror film.

NM: I read that you run marathons… Does running help calm your mind and help you write?

CGM: Running clears my head. Running gives me space for my thoughts. First part of the run, I am thinking and stressing about projects. But once I get into the run, that space clears and I am able to enter a creative place. I come up with a lot of ideas and bring them into the studio after a run. The more you sit and work, the more you get where you don’t know if you’re having fresh ideas or not.

NM: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists entering the entertainment industry?

CGM: My advice would be that if you’re going to pursue something to remember why you want to do it. Always remember, never forget. For me, when I am getting upset or I am frustrated by the process of it all—whenever I feel burnt out or discouraged: I remember why I love this. I remember that it makes me happy and brings me joy. Keep that remembrance and the love of it all the focus if and when you get caught up in the politics of the industry. Don’t lose sight of why you want to be there. Always put that love and that positive energy into your work.

To read more about Crystal Grooms Mangano and her biography, please refer to her website at www.crystalmangano.com. Stay tuned for the film “Asperger’s Are Us” to appear on Netflix.

 Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in March 2016. 

SXSW interview with Director of ‘A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story’

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BECK. Imagery provided by Go-Valley Films.

Directed by Keith Maitland, “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” held its world premiere at The Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas during SXSW on Mar. 17, 2016. The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals is celebrating its 30th year. And this year Keith Maitland and his teammates debuted two films for the first time at SXSW 2016. “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” is a vibrant, intimate and engaging documentary covering 40 years and four decades of live music filmed for the beloved television show Austin City Limits (ACL). It’s a playful and raw story—an immaculate collection of great artists and their bands that took the stage at Austin City Limits. Director Keith Maitland shares the unique story of how ACL began with ‘janky’ sound equipment and soon morphed into the longest running music show in television history.

Artists that appear within the documentary include the following: Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Ray Vaughan, Beck, Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Guy, Jeff Bridges, Matthew McConaughey, Lyle Lovett, Sheryl Crow, Dolly Parton, Radiohead, B.B. King, Lighting Hopkins, The Avett Brothers, Talking Heads, Garth Brooks, Thao Nguyen and more. “Long-time producer of Austin City Limits, Terry Lickona, also transcends the TV show and gives audiences a front-row seat and backstage pass to the greatest performances of the longest running music show in television history.”

One prime reason “A Song For You” is described as the ‘ultimate backstage pass’ to Austin City Limits is because it entails endless video clippings from numerous performances filmed live at ACL alongside annotations of those who were there first-hand to experience the performances. The audience is granted the inside track regarding many ACL shows, off-stage and-onstage. Watching the artists and the production team work their magic. Feeling as if we were there, too. Hearing about the highs-and-lows of the non-stop adventure—’the flood of memories’—it’s an adrenaline rush to the heart and soul. Listening to the music, hearing the interviews and seeing it all unfold and come to life at once makes the documentary unforgettable.

Director Keith Maitland did an immaculate job of intertwining 40 years of history into 96 minutes. “A Song For You” opens with Dale Watson solely because he was the featured artist on the final episode filmed for Season 39 by Austin City Limits. Once Maitland sets the scene in present day, the Director takes us all the way back to the beginning when Willie Nelson played for ACL in 1974 and tells the story in a retrospective way. Obviously, music is the core of Austin City Limits: their universal love of music and their never-ending desire to showcase musical masters and the up-and-coming talent. The title of the film is also befitting because without the audience, Austin City Limits wouldn’t have thrived. The show needs the audience as much as we need the show. You won’t want this film to end it’s that exciting, but when it does. As the credits come to a close, there is a video of Ray Charles singing “Deep In The Heart of Texas”. Which is where it all began, deep in the hearts of Texans. Or at least those living in Texans even if born elsewhere… Many of the artists in the film are still living, others have died and passed on. But the story of Austin City Limits will live on forever.

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Imagery provided by Go-Valley Films.

Fortunately, this week the Director Keith Maitland met with Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, at The Driskill Hotel to talk about “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” and how this delightful documentary came to fruition. Maitland also touched briefly on his other film, “Tower” that screened at the SXSW 2016 festival, too. [“Tower” is about the sniper in August of 1966 who rode the elevator to the top and held people hostage from The University of Texas Tower for 96 minutes, and at the end of his tyranny he’d taken 16 lives and wounded over three dozen.]

Nicolette Mallow: What compelled you to make a film about Austin City Limits? Do you simply love the show and what it stands for? Or do you have a strong affiliation with the city of Austin, too? I noticed both of your films pertained to Austin, Texas.

Keith Maitland: I attended The University of Texas at Austin from 1994 to 1998. Then I lived in NYC for ten years. About ten years ago, I moved back to Austin. And yes, live music is something I’ve always loved … In the 1990’s, I saw a few ACL tapings. I even sneaked backstage a few times. Once I snuck onto Willie Nelson’s tour bus in 1998. I had a knack for sneaking backstage. And that’s really what I wanted this documentary to capture: the energy and excitement of a wide-eyed fan… How this project came about is that I used to work at KLRU. And then a few years ago, a PBS Executive in DC called me about Austin City Limits and their 40th anniversary.

NM: How were you able to pick and choose a specific list of videos from an endless supply of ACL performances?

KM: That was no easy task and there was simply no way to honor all of the artistic talent that has premiered on the show. Austin City Limits has showcased around 800 performers and their bands. That’s a rough estimate and not an exact number, but my point is that it was impossible to include everyone in 96 minutes. I asked the production crew for a list of their favorites, and that was hard for them as well. So rather than pick out favorites, together, we oriented the set list around pivotal moments of the show.

NM: I noticed the documentary focused a great deal on Beck, Willie Nelson, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. All very big artists that are loved by Austin and around the globe… Personally I loved the footage in your film of Beck’s performance at ACL. And I actually went to middle school and high school with Willie’s nephew, Trevor. Any reason you chose those three to focus on?

KM: Beck is one of my absolute favorite artists and his presence in the film portrays the musical energy of present day. It was so cool to book an interview with him and quite rare for us to get the chance. Beck is very exclusive about interviews. I think it had been about ten years since Beck had consented to an on-camera documentary interview. So that was a huge honor and I know the only reason we were able to book it is because of Beck’s love for Austin City Limits… In regards to the other two artists. There are two statues of musicians in downtown Austin: Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Their names were paramount to the story because they have each cast a shadow over the legacy of this town… Plus, Willie Nelson is the first artist to perform for the show and he’s from Austin. Also, the producers of ACL absolutely adore those two. And I can tell they had a very personal friendship with Stevie Ray Vaughan and that the absence of his presence still stings the ACL family.

NM: Did you enjoy interviewing the production crew, and specifically (the producer) Terry Lickona, from the ACL crew?

KM: Yes. I did. One of my favorite parts of the film is at the end when we are asking all the employees at ACL about what lead them to their job and what their role in the company is… Terry Lickona is just a great person in addition to being a fantastic producer. He is also a live music devourer. And he is always looking to the future and ‘what’s next’ which keeps the show fresh and exciting. He is a people’s people and is constantly out there absorbing the latest news pertaining to music. Terry’s loyalty to the show— and the loyalty of the entire ACL crew—it’s astounding. They’re an amazing team. And come on, it’s a pretty sweet gig to work.

NM: My last question is about your other film “Tower”. The other day I saw “A Song For You” at the Violet Crown and I adore it. But I’ve yet to see this one. My question is, many people have made movies or written stories about the 1966 sniper that murdered people from the UT Tower on the UT campus. What defines your story from all the rest and makes it so unique?

KM: Yes a lot of people have covered this story. What makes my take on it unique is that I don’t focus on the sniper. I focus on the witnesses, the heroes and the survivors of the story. The sniper is obviously mentioned and he’s part of the story. But he’s almost like the shark in the movie “Jaws” and how we don’t really see him until the end. We just hear the music and know what’s coming. “Tower” is a story of humanity at its best and worst. We get to see the people who put their lives at risk to save another. We also get to hear accounts from those who were frozen in fear, unable to help, and the shame they felt for being paralyzed with fear. But it’s very touching to hear the stories. A lot of people risked their lives to come to the rescue of those bloodied, bleeding and wounded… There is a little bit of us all in these characters and I wanted people to be able to relate to the story. Not the sniper.

For more information regarding “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” please visit the official website at www.asongforyoufilm.com. To learn more about Austin City Limits (ACL) and to search upcoming performances: please check out their web page at www.acl-live.com.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in March 2016. 

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Screenshot from the original publication on Examiner.com.

Composer Kerry Muzzey talks about writing the score for ‘The Seer’ at SXSW

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Kerry Muzzey. Photography by Simon Whiteside.

World-renowned modern and classical composer, Kerry Muzzey, wrote the musical score for “The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry”, a documentary directed by Laura Dunn and executive produced by Oscar winner Robert Redford and Oscar nominee Terrence Malick. “The Seer” held its world premiere on Mar. 12, 2016 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. Composer Kerry Muzzey and the crew of “The Seer” hit the red carpet several times to promote their newly released, award-winning documentary. The SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals is celebrating its 30th year. And this year “The Seer” was awarded the ‘Special Jury Recognition for Cinematography’ for SXSW 2016.

Music is a key element within the world of cinema and Kerry Muzzey knows how to set the scene, musically, with his innate gifts of sound and music. The score for “The Seer” is absolutely lovely and befitting to the story without dominating or overpowering the documentary. On Mar. 15, 2016, Kerry Muzzey consented to a phone interview with Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, to talk more about creating the score of “The Seer” and his musical background that lead him to Hollywood and SXSW.

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A little more about the synopsis of the film in preface to the interview: “The story of ‘The Seer’ revolves around the divergent stories of several residents of Henry County, Kentucky who each face difficult choices that will dramatically reshape their relationship with the land and their community… Henry County, Kentucky, like many rural landscapes across America, has become a place of quiet ideological struggle. In the span of a generation, virtues of simplicity, land stewardship, local economies and rootedness to place have been supplanted by a capital-intensive model of industrial agriculture characterized by machine labor, chemical fertilizers, soil erosion and debt—all of which have frayed the fabric of communities. Writing from a long wooden desk beneath a forty-paned window, Wendell Berry has watched this struggle unfold, becoming one the most passionate and eloquent voices in defense of agrarian life… Filmed across four seasons in the farming cycle, ‘The Seer’ blends observational scenes of farming life, interviews with farmers and community members with evocative, carefully framed shots of the surrounding landscape. Thus, in the spirit of Berry’s agrarian philosophy, Henry County itself will emerge as a character in the film – a place and a landscape that is deeply interdependent with the people that inhabit it.”

Nicolette Mallow: When did you begin playing music? Would you mind telling me a little bit about your artistic background?

Kerry Muzzey: When I was 10 years old I started learning on classical organ. By the age of 11, I began writing music. But really it goes back even further than that because when I was 6 or 7 years old, I recall going to see “Star Wars”. Sitting there in the theater as a kid, when the film started rolling and the music came out of the speakers: it gave me goose bumps. I’ll never forget the feeling, even now. The music blew me away and all I could think about the rest of the day was “Star Wars” and its musical score. I have extreme reverence for John Williams. And I believe many composers can say that John Williams’ music was and is a true inspiration. Right after that movie I went out and bought the soundtrack on vinyl and listened to it on those giant headphones from the 1970’s. The music sounded like classical but it was more specific and inspiring. It was very intense and evocative for a child because it was focused and in conjunction with the picture… As a child I wanted to be a composer, a spy and an airline pilot. I dreamt of becoming many professions just like any little kid would. Yet I always kept coming back to music. My mother raised me entirely on classical and she told me that when I was in her womb: she played classical music for me and held the headphones next to her belly for 30 minutes a day for nine months.

NM: It seems as if you were destined to be a composer.

KM: Yes, and even though I started writing at the age of 11. It wasn’t until I turned 16 that my mother’s friend moved away and gave us their piano. I remember getting that piano and my family could not pull me away from it… Just the sound of a piano allured me. Complex piano compositions resonated with me so deeply even then. Because when you are playing a physical instrument: you can feel the hammers and strings inside its giant wooden case. It resonates in your heart and your hands. You can literally feel the sound as you’re playing music. It’s very powerful. That is around the time I began writing solo piano stuff. Playing the orchestra I heard inside my head. At the time, technology for music was not yet available to create an orchestra inside of a computer. So, it was a little different back then.

NM: I listened to the score you composed for “The Seer” in its entirety, twice. You wrote such beautiful music that compelled my mind to travel through time and feel nostalgic. The song “Daughter” struck a chord with me, in a good way… Was the music meant to be evocative? What is the biggest difference between writing music for a narrative feature versus writing a score for a documentary film?

KM: That is an awesome question. Writing music for a documentary was a challenge that took me quite a few tries to overcome. A narrative film is a completely different process than composing music for a documentary. Writing music for a documentary has to be subtle. The music cannot overpower the picture and it has to stay out of the way of the picture. The score cannot be traditional. For instance, a narrative feature film has a soundtrack of very specifically engineered music. It is written to make the audience feel something at that moment, so when the hero saves the world or the couple finally gets their big kiss: you expect the soaring strings. When making music for a documentary, if you’re too on the nose, or if you’re trying to punch it up too much, it can become a distraction. The audience that attends documentaries and is loyal to documentaries is also a highly intelligent crew. And you cannot use music to try and manipulate the audience into feeling a certain way. The music is simply there to beautify and assist the story as it unfolds in its own natural state.

NM: If you had to pick one song from the soundtrack of “The Seer”, which track encapsulates the spirit of the film? I’m curious to know which song is the beating heart of your composition.

KM: Yes, I can pick one. I believe it’s the sixth track and it’s a song called “Forty Panes”. It’s also the Director’s favorite (Laura Dunn). It’s a song about Wendell Barry and it has piano and cellos in the melody. It was magical to write and it kind of came out of nowhere. I was so in love with it that I actually got my cellist to record it before I even played it for Laura. Which is kind of dangerous because I am paying the cellist for his time. But I loved this cue so much. The way it resonates with the picture and how it struck a perfect balance… It’s the crux of everything and it’s beautiful… I sent the piece out to the Director and I was stalking my email waiting for Laura’s response. Two hours passed by and I feared the worst. And then her email arrived with a response, “I keep watching it over and over—and I kept crying every time I felt the music—and I don’t know why.” Right then, I knew that I got it right… The Director of “The Seer” is not only a good person, but she’s extremely smart and talented. She’s amazing and cool and I wanted her to love the soundtrack. Talking to her the other day, we spoke of that piece in particular as it being the high point in the films soundtrack: simple and quiet, but against the picture it can’t be anything else but exactly that… This wasn’t my first project with Laura Dunn, either. About eight years ago, Laura made a film, “The Unforeseen” about over development in-and-around Austin. The core of it predicted the housing crash a year prior to the fact. At the time she had licensed a few pieces of mine to use. Years later we reconnected and in this case she wanted me to score the entire film. Obviously I said yes and it’s been an amazing project. Laura and her team are so great at what they do.

NM: Do you have any upcoming projects that we can look forward to?

KM: Yes, I do have future projects. Presently I cannot say much because it hasn’t been formally announced yet. What I can say is that I am writing a full-length ballet for a full orchestra. And it premieres in London next May of 2017. This job sort of came out of left field. It’s a very heavy lift for me, it’s a huge challenge, but I am so excited to work with this choreographer and their innovative team. I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.

For more information regarding Kerry Muzzey or the movie, “The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry”: please visit www.kerrymuzzey.com or www.theseerfilm.com.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in March 2016.