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.

Salvador Dalí gallery at ART on 5th reaches its closing week

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“Mad Tea Party” by Salvador Dalí. Photography provided by ART on 5th gallery.

Prints by Salvador Dalí will be on display for only a few more days at ART on 5th in Austin, Texas. Also known as Ao5, evident within this art gallery are colorful butterflies, portraits, eroticism, symbolism and storytelling, as well as the notorious melting clocks that Salvador Dalí is well known for. All original copies, The Salvador Dalí art exhibition entails many printmaking pieces, too. Printmaking is a significant and unique form of art that launched in the 1400’s. And the last day to see this timeless exhibit of prints is Saturday, March 12, 2016.

Born in Spain the year of 1904, Salvador Dalí is an artist of the 20th century whom was talented in many art forms that included the following: painting, illustrations, sculpture, fashion, photography, writing, architecture and film. Known greatly for his work revolving around surrealism, Dalí’s artwork is captivating and haunting, unforgettable; a kaleidoscope of colors. A master of his craft, he tantalized, hypnotized and sometimes horrified the world with his powerful, one-of-a-kind artwork. After an extensive career of great publicity and artistic beauty: Salvador Dalí died of heart failure at the age of 84. Thankfully, the memory of his artistic legacy is immortal and will live on forever.

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ART on 5th released a final promotion to inform locals in Austin, Texas that this is the last week to see the exhibition, “ART on 5th will be hosting a stunning exhibition of over 50 authenticated Salvador Dalí prints until March 12, 2016. The work spans three decades of the artist’s career, from the 1950’s – 1970’s, and includes a sampling of images from 6 different series by this artist. Owned by a private art collector in the northeast, this gallery is part of a larger collection of Dalí prints. Dalí worked in series and we have images from a wide variety of his series, including “Memories of Surrealism”, “Les Diners de Gala”, “Biblia Sacra”, “The Twelve Apostles”, “The Divine Comedy” and many others. One particularly interesting series is the 1973 “Les Caprices de Goya”, which Salvador Dalí created by printing over—adding color and new image details to the original series “Los Caprichos”, by 18th century Spanish artist Francisco Goya. As a result, each of these pieces bear the signature of both artists. There is a helpful description of “Les Caprices de Goya” online. Another interesting fact to note about the work: many of the pieces from the “Divine Comedy” series are deconstructions, which means they are sort of artists proofs that may have been used to test plates or colors before doing the entire edition. For instance, we have one on display called “Dante Purified” which only has the pink and the blue inks from the image are printed. It is an incomplete version of the image as it was released in the final publication of the edition.”

Located on 3005 South Lamar, admission to the gallery at ART on 5th is free of cost. For more information regarding ART on 5th and their hours of operation, please call 512-481-1111 or visit their website at www.arton5th.com

To explore more about this artist, please visit Artsy’s Salvador Dalí page which provides visitors with Dalí’s bio, over 1300 of his works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date Dalí exhibition listings. A current exhibition is featured at The Royal Academy of Arts in London from 7 October 2017 — 3 January 2018. 

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

Joan Lunden empowers others by sharing her stories of survival and life purpose

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Joan Lunden at Prevention Magazine’s 3rd annual R3 Summit at ACL Live at The Moody Theater on January 16, 2016. Photo Credit: Jack Plunkett.

Joan Lunden delivered a vivacious and heartfelt keynote speech for Prevention Magazine’s third annual R3 Summit held at ACL Live at The Moody Theater within the Warehouse District of Austin, Texas on January 16, 2016. As she stood on the main stage under bright lights and gold curtains: Lunden’s words filled the room like fresh oxygen, purifying the air. Her message and its delivery focused on the vitality of self-care and self-love. Why all women need to discover their life purpose and how to follow our dreams. Lunden also emphasized the utmost importance of sustaining a positive attitude whenever life is feeling dark, dreary or defeating. Her message encouraged all women to take care of their health as if it were a second job in order to avoid a collapse or a burn out.

Ultimately, Lunden speaks out to pass on her life story in order to educate and empower all womankind. Joan Lunden speaks out in hopes of seeing the light within every woman shine bigger and brighter than ever before. To see the stars in every woman take flight. And to help other cancer survivors make it through the hardest of times. Many moments throughout the keynote speech, she addressed all the women in the audience as ‘us’ and ‘we’, unifying women of all age, nationality and ethnicity.

A survivor of breast cancer, Joan Lunden is also an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, health & wellness advocate, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur and mom of seven children. Listening to Lunden’s life stories of survival, television, journalism, family, men, health, sex, life and death—listening to how she succeeded despite any or all challenges or tragedies—was a deeply inspiring message to hear. Prior to Lunden’s keynote, The Master of Ceremonies for R3 Summit, Dr. Jennifer Ashton (a Board-certified Ob-Gyn, author and co-host of the award-winning talk show The Doctors) introduced her colleague to the audience as “The Queen of Good Morning America” and it’s a most befitting, honorary title.

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To much delight, after the keynote address Joan Lunden sat down for a brief interview with local A&E Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, to briefly discuss motherhood and her own inner-light.

Nicolette Mallow: Motherhood was a big focus throughout your presentation. And while I do value, honor and respect family traditions. Do you have any advice for women (of any age) that are unable to bear children? Or do you have any words of encouragement for women that choose to not have children in a society where motherhood almost seems to be expected of us?

Joan Lunden: When I first became a mother, I bore three beautiful children the natural way. Later on in time when I wanted to have more children in my 50’s, it was not as easy to get pregnant. I began using fertility methods like in vitro. Eventually it became too complicated. One day my husband lovingly reminded me that it’s not a competition. And I quit in vitro. At that point we sought out a surrogate mother. Our surrogate mother has become like family to us. I now have two sets of twins in addition to my other three kids. And it’s wonderful. I love all seven of my children equally. So, no woman should think just because their body cannot facilitate childbirth that there is anything inadequate with them… On the other hand, I have many female friends that do not have children and are successful and happy individuals. Motherhood does not define a woman even if it can be an all-encompassing trait of what it means to be a woman.

NM: Your career is so impressive and I know you have even more to offer the world in the years to come. However, when was the time in your career that you knew you’d made it?… Your life is so magical on so many levels that it reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor’s line in the Hollywood film based on Tennessee William’s play Suddenly Last Summer. The line when she speaks of ‘the sunshine days’. The days everything was in perfect sync and harmony… When was it that you knew in your heart that it was only going upward in your career from then on?

JL: (she smiled) During my 30’s when I began co-hosting Good Morning America with Charlie Gibson. That was when I knew. He and I used to describe the feeling as “the best seat from which to view the world”. It was an amazing time of my life with such happiness that I will always cherish… Suddenly I was going to The White House, interviewing politicians, rock stars, celebrities and all sorts of prominent figures. I was traveling worldwide covering global news… The happiness we felt on the show is something I will always treasure. Charlie Gibson and I made a strong team and we co-existed together. Which really caught everyone’s attention: seeing a man and woman work together so wonderfully on national television. Having said this, I am sort of a Master of Reinvention, and so I look forward to new journeys and new thrills as I began new media campaigns.

For more information pertaining to Joan Lunden’s life story of survival and success. Or to find health, beauty and lifestyle tips, please visit her website Joan Lunden: Creating a healthy lifestyle for a better tomorrow at www.joanlunden.com.

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

Bob Roth talks Transcendental Meditation and dharma at Prevention’s R3 Summit

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Bob Roth presenting at Prevention Magazine’s 3rd annual R3 Summit at ACL Live at The Moody Theater in Austin, Texas. Photo Credit: Jack Plunkett.

Transcendental Meditation teacher Bob Roth spoke on the opening night of Prevention Magazine’s R3 Summit at ACL Live at The Moody Theater in Austin, Texas on January 15, 2016. Self-transcending meditation was the focus of his speech. Bob Roth explained how this unique and timeless form of meditation could transform people’s lives for the better. Living in a such a stressful world where everything around us is moving at a hurried and constant pace, it can be immensely difficult, if not beyond overwhelming, for us to take complete care of ourselves: body, mind and soul. Through the course of his interactive presentation, Roth guided listeners through the scientific process as to how transcendental meditation and its sound mantra practice can help strengthen the brain and relieve trauma, stress or stagnant energy that’s locked in our minds. This form of meditation even lowers high blood pressure, reduces chronic pain and depletes excess amounts of Cortisol levels, a hormone that is directly related to stress. He described the end result like being in a state of dharma.

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Sharing stories of healing and delivering an insightful overview of his life’s work. A career that began in 1968 around the age of 18, when Bob Roth started to change his diet and even studied Prevention Magazine. Roth emphasized and explained the immense empowerment and peace-of-mind that comes from transcendental meditation (TM). He expressed the ‘constellation of positive changes’ and scientifically described the peacefulness that comes from integrating TM® into the routine of our daily lives.

Bob Roth is one of the most experienced and sought-after meditation teachers in America. Over the past 40 years, Bob has taught Transcendental Meditation to many thousands of people and authored an authoritative book on the subject, fittingly entitled, Transcendental Meditation, which has been translated into 20 languages. Bob currently serves as the Executive Director of The David Lynch Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity which has brought meditation to over 500,000 inner-city youth in underserved schools in 35 countries, to veterans and their families who suffer from post-traumatic stress, and women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.”

Fortunately, Mr. Roth also had a moment to speak with an A&E Austin Examiner, Nicolette Mallow, regarding this ancient form of meditation.

Nicolette Mallow: During your presentation, you mentioned that you’re deeply focused on helping children, homeless shelters and veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And I do believe that people find immense peace and calm through transcendental meditation. The end results are obviously beneficial and worthwhile. But it can be hard for those who’ve endured such trauma to sit still in the silence and close their eyes. How do those beginning TM® overcome the struggle to find the patience and stillness to meditate with such internal angst? How do people overcome their turmoil and meditate in peace?

Bob Roth: That’s a beautiful question… Transcendental meditation doesn’t enter darkness and it’s a very forgiving practice that is practically effortless. Closing our eyes and looking into the dark can be scary. TM® is not scary nor is it a grueling process that sets off triggers or trauma. It’s a very charming, peaceful form of meditation. It does not evoke darkness on any level, and it feels like being in a state of dharma. Therefore people want to repeat it because it brings out positive feelings: a complete state of peacefulness.

NM: Does it take a lot of time to learn and is it hard to integrate into daily routine?

BR: It does not take much time to learn and it’s an easily acquired skill. This is why we have TM® teachers to help others begin the sound mantra meditations over the course of four days so it’s imprinted into memory… Frankly no one has the time. But what’s the alternative? Stress destroys life and it’s toxic. If we make the time twice a day to meditate, the results are remarkable and deliver an inner-calmness, ease, peace and state of happiness. Every aspect of our health and mental wellness improves after meditation. Transcendental meditation protects and regenerates the body. It’s very cleansing and the feeling of awakening and resilience is very purifying.

For more information regarding Transcendental Meditation and where to locate a TM® teacher in your area: please visit their website at http://www.tm.org. Lastly, if you are a veteran or know a loved one that served and is in need of cost-free healing: The David Lynch Foundation also has a division, Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW), that serves veterans in need of healing. Donations to sponsor a veteran can also be submitted on their website.

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

Prevention Magazine will host its 3rd annual award-winning R3 Summit in Austin

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R3 Summit event logo by Prevention Magazine.

R3 Summit is an award winning one-and-a-half daylong experiential event hosted by Prevention Magazine that provides women with the tools to take action when it comes to their health and happiness. Taking place at ACL Live at The Moody Theater on January 15-16, 2016; the term ‘R3’ represents the three focuses and the overall mission of this extraordinary event: Revive, Refresh, and Reinvent. Only two blocks away from the trails, bridges and waterfront of Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake), the venue is adjacent to the W Hotel within the heart of downtown in the 2nd Street District. Austin is a befitting city to host a sponsored event like this due to the locals and their love for fitness, wellness and beauty. The water also possesses a sense of tranquility, utopia and peacefulness.

Presently, tickets for Prevention’s R3 Summit are available for purchase online. Guests have the option of selecting a one-day or two-day pass and prices do vary. Limited VIP Tickets are also available and a gift bag valued at over $300 is included with a VIP purchase, as well as priority seating. Students can also find tickets on sale at a discount to accommodate the college budget.

The Celebratory Reception on the night of Friday, January 15th will feature live music and tapas from an inventive, multi-course dinner menu curated by Top Chef Masters alum, Chef Monica Pope. Bob Roth will also be speaking about how to harness your inner power to reach your full potential. “Bob Roth is one of the most experienced and sought-after meditation teachers in America. Over the past 40 years, Bob has taught Transcendental Meditation to many thousands of people and authored an authoritative book on the subject, fittingly entitled, Transcendental Meditation, which has been translated into 20 languages. Bob currently serves as the Executive Director of the David Lynch Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity which has brought meditation to over 500,000 inner-city youth in underserved schools in 35 countries, to veterans and their families who suffer from post-traumatic stress, and women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.”

The program of events hosted by R3 will also entail fitness and body sculpting classes, tastings and cooking demonstrations by top chefs, one-on-one beauty consultations, and wellness workshops. Additionally, all guests will be served a delicious breakfast, lunch and other tasty snacks on Saturday, January 16th. Attendees can also participate in free yoga all day. And all attendees will receive a custom-designed Prevention R3 reusable gift bag. Furthermore, main stage panel discussions will last from 9:30 A.M. to 4:45 P.M. on Saturday, January 16th.

There are numerous speakers included on the program and the full list can be found online. Doctors, physiologists, nutritionists, chefs, motivational speakers and artists of various sorts will be present at the event. A few of the confirmed speakers for the third annual R3 Summit include the following:

  • Joan Lunden – Keynote Speaker, award-winning journalist, bestselling author, health and wellness advocate, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur, and a mom of seven children.
  • Dr. Travis Stork – Emmy®‐nominated host of the award-winning talk show, The Doctors, and a board-certified emergency medicine physician.
  • Lizzie Velasquez – motivational speaker, author and activist, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story.
  • Chad Sarno – VP of Plant-Based Wellness for Rouxbe Online Culinary School.
  • Monica Pope – James Beard nominated Houston Chef and Restauranteur, Top Chef Masters.
  • Mary Joan Cunningham – health and wellness activist, creator of #ThrivewithMS and motivational speaker on ‘How to Rise Above Any Diagnosis’.

To purchase tickets online or obtain additional information pertaining to the schedule, speakers, sponsors and event times: please visit the official website at http://www.preventionr3summit.com.

“Prevention is the nation’s leading healthy lifestyle brand, with a U.S. magazine audience of 7.5 million readers, 34 million readers outside the U.S. and a top digital destination that has 6.5 million unique visitors each month, 15 million page views per month, and 4.3 million newsletter subscribers.”

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in October 2015. 

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Elvis Costello’s memoir: Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

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Autograph by Elvis Costello.

Elvis Costello was the featured guest for an interview with Evan Smith at Book People in Austin, Texas on October 20, 2015. Recently, Costello wrote a memoir titled Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. This exclusive interview was part of his book tour. Entering the room with a light-colored hat, dark suit and vest, black-framed glasses, one gold ring on each hand and slick, black leather shoes: Elvis Costello descended the stairwell from the third floor to discuss the book and his life lived in music thus far. The entire second floor of Book People was filled with attendees and so many people were present that quite a few were listening in the back without a view of Elvis Costello; only able to hear voices echoing over the microphones. Fortunately I was able to grab a front row seat and sit on the floor.

Music is clearly the anthem of his life and the focus of his career. He’s been part of the industry over 40 years. The book is a collection of memoirs entailing his entire life, with a emphasis on his career. During the interview Elvis Costello answered numerous questions and mentioned various musical stories regarding Paul McCartney, The Beatles, T Bone Burnett, Tony Byrne, Jimmie Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix. Reluctantly, he even rehashed the old SNL incident back in December 1977 that got him banned from the show for nearly 12 years. Additionally, he spoke of his favorite gigs played in Austin and the time they performed at the Armadillo Festival in 1978.

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To much delight, Costello was also very open and willing to share the more personal stories of his past about family, his love and lust for women, or the curse of memory. Costello mentioned that memory, and the fear of losing memory, were two strong factors that compelled him to write the book. He discussed the long process of writing his autobiography and how the process was simplified with the patient support of his wife through her assistance to help organize old memories. Many of his relatives, he said, suffered dementia and Costello didn’t want any memories stolen away in the event that time or health altered his mind. Unafraid to go behind-the-scenes and express life offstage, it was interesting to listen to him speak about how he’s changed over several decades from when he began his musical career as a young man in his 20’s until now in his 60’s. I wanted my stories to be told by me, in accuracy. I didn’t want them retold in a way that didn’t hold true to my life,” he stated to Evan Smith.

In regards to Elvis Costello’s past, the topic of family and his memories of childhood were predominant, reoccurring themes throughout the interview. Many old photographs of times past were presented on a large screen, even a heartfelt video of his father performing live on television and dancing on stage whilst singing “If I Had A Hammer”. Elvis Costellospoke fondly about both his parents and there was great love and adoration in his voice when he shared old memories and his love for family. Nonetheless, there was a huge emphasis on his father, Ross McManus, a well-known musician and trumpet player. In fact, Costello made a point to inform the audience that October 20th, that very day, was indeed his father’s birthday. A particularly poignant memory of childhood included Costello telling the audience how he peeked around the back of the TV as a small boy to see if he might find his father behind the machine, only to realize that his dad was on stage in a studio. I found those sorts of memories to be the most endearing because only a child could think someone or something could transform into a miniature size and fit inside a TV. Costello’s honesty and his ability to tell old memories as if he were reliving it that very moment humanized his life story and made the interview all the more refreshing to hear.

Growing up in a house of music, all my life I’d heard the name ‘Elvis Costello’ and I knew he was a musician, singer-songwriter and record producer from England. I knew he’d been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I knew he’d been to Austin many times to perform. The city of Austin has always loved hosting Elvis Costello shows and over the past 20 years: I’d seen his name printed all over line-ups in the press. But to be quite frank, I really had no idea how in-depth his career was or how influential he was until this interview and until I began reading his memoir. Not only did I walk away that night learning and absorbing new insights about a famous musician born in Europe. That evening I became an Elvis Costello enthusiast. Just listening to the stories during the interview had me intrigued, eager to finish the rest of his book I’d only obtained one day prior to the event. However, the moment when he surprised us with live music and began to play “Everyday I Write the Book” and I heard those lyrics for the first time only a few feet away from Elvis Costello in the flesh and blood: I felt a strong connection to the music. I wanted to hear more. My heart was so deeply moved by the words in his lyrics that it almost made me want to cry, in a good way. Since then I’ve started to read many of his lyrics and it’s clear to me now why he’s become a global success for 40 years. Elvis Costello is an artist whom posses a distinct voice and an edge. An artist that followed his heart and writes from the heart. A one-of-a-kind artist with innate gifts of articulation, imagination and passion. Gifts that cannot be taught nor bought.

Furthermore, Costello read a few chapters from his newly released memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. Ending the evening on a high note, that’s when he played a bit of live music for the audience. We even got a little history lesson about his guitar in-between songs. A short video of his performance that I recorded from my seat can be found here on YouTube: Elvis Costello playing music at Book People.

Elvis Costello’s memoir was released in October 2015. The nearly 700 page story hasn’t been on the bookshelves that long but it’s already receiving quite a bit of positive feedback and attention from the media. Posted verbatim on his official website, “Born Declan Patrick MacManus, Elvis Costello was raised in London and Liverpool, grandson of a trumpet player on the White Star Line and son of a jazz musician who became a successful radio dance-band vocalist. Costello went into the family business and before he was twenty-four took the popular music world by storm. Costello continues to add to one of the most intriguing and extensive songbooks of our day. His performances have taken him from strumming a cardboard guitar in his parents’ front room to fronting a rock and roll band on our television screens and performing in the world’s greatest concert halls in a wild variety of company. Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink describes how Costello’s career has endured for almost four decades through a combination of dumb luck and animal cunning, even managing the occasional absurd episode of pop stardom. This memoir, written entirely by Costello, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best-known songs and the hits of tomorrow. It features many stories and observations about his renowned cowriters and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations of the less appealing side of fame.”

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink can be purchased online or at your local bookstore. For more information regarding Elvis Costello, his book tour, list of albums or other miscellany: please visit the website at www.elviscostello.com.

“Don’t tell me you don’t know what love is. When you’re old enough to know better. When you find strange hands in your sweater. When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote. I’m a man with a mission in two or three editions. And I’m giving you a longing look. Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book. Chapter One we didn’t really get along. Chapter Two I think I fell in love with you. You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three. But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four, Five and Six. The way you walk. The way you talk, and try to kiss me, and laugh. In four or five paragraphs. All your compliments and your cutting remarks. Are captured here in my quotation marks. Don’t tell me you don’t know the difference. Between a lover and a fighter. With my pen and my electric typewriter. Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal. I’d still own the film rights and be working on the sequel… Everyday I write the book.” – Elvis Costello

Note: This story is originally published on Rank & Revue in July 2015.

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Tears of Diamonds & A Heart of Silver: The Legendary Bill Carter and The Blame

nicolette mallow

Bill Carter. Photography by Pat Kondelis.

Walking into The High Road to see Bill Carter play music, I knew I would recognize him on stage but I was ambivalent whether or not he would recognize me in return. For six years at a distance, periodically on Wednesday nights I’ve seen and heard Bill Carter perform with other artists in the annex at Z Tejas on West 6th street in Austin, Texas. Everyone always loves the nights they perform at the Z, even the staff. Sometimes you cannot even get a seat because it’s so full. From a distance I noticed Mr. Carter always wore glasses, a hat of some sort, and I detected that he possessed a lot of tattoos on his hands and forearms with heavy-looking, silver and metallic jewelry adorning his wrists, fingers and neck. He looked like a rock star, and I always thought he must’ve been a cool cat to talk to. Come to think on it, I never actually had a direct conversation with Mr. Carter, or the band, even if polite hellos and friendly smiles were exchanged. Until today.

Stepping back in time a moment, there was one particular night at the Z when I was sitting at the edge of the bar, people watching. Musicians were on stage, silently setting up shop with their guitars, amps and other miscellany. Pretending to listen to my headphones and iPod so no one would bother me, when in actuality no music was playing at all. I heard a group of older men complimenting the musicians. Pointing out who Bill Carter was amongst the group, I also heard the men say that Johnny Depp once joined Carter on stage to play music at The Continental Club, which I found most interesting and exciting.

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 Finally, after six years of watching from the crowd, I set forth to interview Mr. Carter, and he was kind enough to oblige after the show at The High Road on March 14, 2015. Walking into the room for an early daytime show, behind the stage were giant glass windows that opened up to a swimming pool and a lovely view of downtown Austin. The sky was so blue and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Palm trees blowing in the wind. I was sitting and listening to Bill Carter’s first song – “Richest Man” – which almost made me cry, in a good way, and I had to fight the urge to show intense emotions of sadness and bittersweet nostalgia at the table before it’s even dusk. Something about the lyrics and the mood of this track reminded me of my favorite song by Bob Dylan titled “Boots of Spanish Leather”.

“If teardrops were diamonds from the African mines. If heartaches were silver.

My whole life would shine. And I’d be the richest man.

I’d be the richest man. In the world.” – Bill Carter

Right at that moment, I looked up the lyrics of Bill Carter’s song. I was reading the words as he was singing them at The High Road, something I had never done before at the Z. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had yet to do my research on his background – or even read his website – which I had intended to do later on in the day. Regardless, as I was reading his website off my iPhone and other various articles about him on the web while he music echoed in my heart and ears. Suddenly I realized just how gifted and innovative Bill Carter is within the world of songwriting and music. Suddenly I felt stupid for never having personally introduced myself to him before to show respect, artist to artist. Until then, I was unaware that I was in the presence of a legend, a keystone to the songwriting and music industry the past few decades. Even if I had known I was in the present of a talented musician.

According to his website, Bill Carter and The Blame has been a pillar of the Austin music scene for nearly three decades, helping shape the city’s rich musical history along with songwriting partner Ruth Ellsworth. Over 200 artists have found gold in the songwriting genius of this Texas Troubadour, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Palmer,The Counting Crows, Storyville, Omar and The Howlers, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Ruth Brown, John Anderson, and Waylon Jennings. Bill Carter and The Blame’s evolving lineup has hosted some of the world’s greatest musicians, including guitarists Charlie Sexton and Denny Freeman (Bob Dylan Band), Chris Layton (SRV Double Trouble), Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer), Mike Thompson (The Eagles), Johnny Depp, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer and many others. Carter is also a founding member of the famed Hollywood band “P” with Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers, Johnny Depp, and Sal Jenco. They released the eponymous album ‘P’ in 1995 on Capitol Records, featuring Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Flea, and Ruth Ellsworth.”

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Bill Carter and Johnny Depp on The Late Show with David Letterman.

As the show at The High Road came to an end, I was almost too timid to walk up to the stage to introduce myself and kindly ask for an interview once he broke down his equipment on stage. Though I am glad I mustered up the courage to make a proper introduction and ultimately write a story about this great artist. Secretly I was also relieved that he recognized me from Z Tejas, which made the introduction less intimidating.

Nicolette Mallow: From the perspective of a songwriter and musician performing in the official SXSW showcase, do you enjoy the festival and how have you seen it change over time?

Bill Carter: Yes. I think it’s great and I think it’s come full circle from how it all began. SXSW has evolved so much over the years. I’ve been in Austin since 1976 and when the first festival took place in 1987: it was predominantly local musicians and it was very small in comparison to what it’s become today, a million times bigger than the start. As time went by, more and more big names came into town, which was nice because it built the festival into something much more powerful. As time went by, however, it seemed to become more about mainstreams artists and less about the local music scene. Now it seems to be an infusion of both, and I am certainly happy to see more local artists performing this year. My wife (and songwriting partner, Ruth Ellsworth) and I first got involved with SXSW through our mutual love for songwriting. She and I have written hundreds of songs together. Honestly I identify most with being a songwriter and I prefer to be recognized as a songwriter more so than I like to be described as a musician or performer.

NM: Regarding the upcoming SXSW show at The Continental Club, which other musicians will be performing with you?

BC: Accompanying me that night will include artists like Will Sexton, Dony Wynn and Charlie Sexton.

NM: Is the Continental Club your favorite venue in Austin to perform at?

BC: (He smiles.) Yes. It is my favorite venue. Many of the venues I grew to love are now long gone. The original Antone’s on West 5th was another place I loved to play music but then it was relocated and it wasn’t the same. They are going to reopen a new Antone’s downtown and I am anxious to see what it is like and if it will have the same vibes as the original location.

My next question was more a question of curiosity. Even though I worried it might seem counterproductive to ask Carter about another artist in the few minutes I had to interview him. I couldn’t help but wonder about the Johnny Depp rumor. I formed a silly, girlish crush on Johnny Depp decades ago after the film “Cry Baby” came out in the 90’s when I was a kid and was saddened when suddenly every girl in the world had a crush on him, too.

NM: I remember hearing at Z Tejas that Johnny Depp once accompanied you on stage at The Continental Club for a musical performance. Is this true?

BC: Yes. I’ve been playing music with Johnny for decades. I’m the godfather of his children and he’s a great friend of mine. We once formed a band in the spur of the moment in the 1990’s called “P”. We were the headlining band for the Austin Music Awards for SXSW. Johnny was in Texas, nearby Austin, filming “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and he came into town for the gig. The band included Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers, Johnny Depp, Sal Jenco and I.

NM: You’ve won many awards and have obtained many prestigious recognitions, your career is remarkably full. I’m very impressed by all I’ve read and heard. Therefore I am curious, what aspect of your artistry and your career are the most rewarding and fulfilling?

There was a brief pause before he answered.

BC: Well, my wife and I have written so many songs together. Many of those songs we wrote have later on been covered by artists I respect and admire. Stevie Ray Vaughan covered our song “Crossfire” and Robert Palmer covered “Why Get Up”. To be acknowledged, appreciated and respected by great artists like these whom I esteem, value and respect has been the most rewarding and fulfilling aspect of my career. There was also one night on David Letterman I particularly enjoyed. Johnny Depp and I played “Anything Made Of Paper” together, which is a song my wife and I wrote. It’s about the West Memphis Three case. A case that involved three teenage boys who were accused of murder and placed in jail for life before they even hit adulthood. It’s a powerful story, check it out.

NM: Austin has changed so much in the 20 years I’ve lived here, off and on. Since you’ve been here so much longer than I, and have seen a lot more growth. Do you think you and your wife will stay in Austin with all the vast changes in the city?

BC: That’s a good question. The growth in Austin has been difficult for me over the decades. The venues changed. The music scene changed. The people changed. It used to be a funky, intermingled town that was quiet and serene with a booming music scene. It was cheap and easy to get around. It was so beautiful then. Around the late 80’s, maybe 1988 or 1989, that city died out and something else began to evolve. I’m sure you’ve seen the changes since the 1990’s. Even people who’ve only been here five years can see changes. Now there are 30 story buildings and it’s crowded, expensive and it’s just not the city that I came to know decades ago. I don’t know…I only come in town for shows. I am from Seattle and sometimes I think I would like to keep a place here, and have one there. But I really don’t know.

NM: My last question is a bit random, but is there a reason you’re only wearing two rings on the same fingers of each hand?

BC: (He laughed) Only because I didn’t feel like wearing the others. I own a lot of rings, cuffs and metalwork that I like to wear. It depends on the day or the mood I am in what I will wear. But there is one ring that I almost always wear, aside from my wedding ring. (He says as he extends his right hand). Johnny Depp gave me this ring when the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” was being filmed. It was the first ring made for the movie, and he told me that he wanted a new one made for him with a gold bandana and a pair of eyes made of rubies. So I got this one and I wear it everyday.

Be sure to catch Bill Carter at his upcoming SXSW performance at The Continental Club on South Congress from 11:00 PM to 11:40 PM on March 21, 2015. The official SXSW artist statement for Bill Carter entails the following: Legendary songwriter and Austin Music Hall of Fame inductee Bill Carter has been a pillar of the Austin music community for over three decades. His songs have been covered by over 200 artists from Waylon Jennings to Robert Palmer. Winner of an Austin Music Award for “Best Song of the Decade” and BMI’s Million-airs Award for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s only #1 hit “Crossfire” Carter and his world class band, The Blame, serve up a wicked stew of slyly crafted Americana. Look for a new album slated for release in 2015.”

For more information regarding Bill Carter, future shows and bookings – please visit his website at www.billcarterandtheblame.com.

Note: This story is originally published on Rank & Revue in July 2015.

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The Driskill Hotel hosts holiday traditions in Texas for more than a century

nicolette mallow

Floral arrangements in December at The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas.

On the first of December at six in the evening, The Driskill Hotel initiated their annual holiday celebrations beginning with the lighting of the tree and a double quartet of singers from Austin Opera. Positioned in the center of the marble floors and steep columns within the main lobby closest to the grand stairwell, a decorated tree is illuminated and glowing the entire month of December. The holiday tree is so substantial in size that the gold star on top nearly touches the stained glass dome of the ceiling.

Throughout the month of December, for nearly 130 years since it was built in 1886, The Driskill Hotel hosts annual time-honored traditions to celebrate the holiday season. Notably, The Driskill is the oldest operating hotel in Austin, Texas and the architecture is Romanesque in design. When you enter the hotel it’s like going back in time, or finding a magical hiding place in town, because there is something other worldly about the energy of the building. Yet you know you’re in Texas by all the lone stars, leather, cowhides and southern hospitality. Even horse carriages still wait outside to take guests and locals for a stroll through downtown. An artistic infusion of different time periods; there is no other structure in Austin quite like it. Blocks away from the Texas State Capitol, The Driskill is a Historic Landmark and its European structure carries a prominent, unique presence amongst modern day architecture in the downtown vicinity. This refined hotel is aesthetically beautiful and elegant, inside and out. However, every December as the holiday season arrives: The Driskill shines brighter than ever with its festive, colorful decorum and sparkling tealights. Even before entering the hotel, dozens of homemade gingerbread men can be seen dangling happily in the windows of 1886 Cafe & Bakery. The gingerbread men are fairly large in size, decorated with smiles of white icing, red candied buttons, green checkered stockings and eyes that seem to be made of chocolate.

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 In addition to the lovely holiday decorum on display the month of December, The Driskill will also feature holiday events on selected days and nights: seasonal music from a live string quartet, Afternoon Tea, an Afternoon with Santa, and Christmas Day in The Driskill Grill. Prices per event do vary. The Driskill Bar upstairs, which was recently named the best cocktail bar by The Austin Chronicle, hosts live music as well. Guests can escape the cold and warm up with snacks and a libation, or an apple cider, within the lounge area whilst enjoying the lyrics and melodies of various singers and songwriters. Don’t forget to try the mejdool dates wrapped in bacon!

Furthermore, on December 13th at 2:00 PM, Cookies for Caring is another holiday-related, charity event at The Driskill. “In collaboration with the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring, The Driskill is hosting a holiday cookie swap. Guests can create their own holiday cookie collection and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring charity drive.” Cookie tins cost $25 per person and will be waiting for guests upon arrival to the event.

Seasonally decorated gourmet cookies can also be purchased at 1886 Cafe & Bakery, a premier restaurant within the hotel named after the year The Driskill came to life. “The Driskill Hotel opened on December 20, 1886 to great fanfare and applause from Austin’s 20,000 residents. Since that time, the ‘grande dame’ of Texas hotels has remained a magnificent gathering place for locals, Texans and others to celebrate the holidays and other special moments of their lives in Colonel Jesse Driskill’s splendid Romanesque masterpiece. We invite you to recapture a nostalgic memory from a holiday season long past and to create new memories for your family and friends during our holiday celebrations.”

The Driskill Hotel holds 189 guest rooms and suites. Guests may also admire The Maximilian Room, the Governor’s Boardroom, the Mezzanine and the Victorian Room. For more information about holiday events, hotel reservations, catering or The Driskill Bar and Grill: please visit their website at www.driskillhotel.com or call 512-439-1234.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in December 2015. 

1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats are mascots of the night in ATX

nicolette mallow

Amethyst Bridge Bat pendant by Franzetti Jewelers.

Overlooking Lady Bird Lake within Austin, Texas (ATX); Congress Bridge is a home for      1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. For decades bats have established themselves as one of the local and beloved mascots in ATX. And it was discovered in the 1980’s that these Mexican free-tailed bats eat millions of pounds of insects a night, including agricultural pests, ultimately providing many benefits to the city, its residents and the ecosystem.   Plus our bats are terribly endearing to the eyes and it’s kind of nice to know these nocturnal creatures are embarking on hunting flights in masses to run their little errands of the night as a great deal of the city is sound asleep.  

These bats have now become a major tourist attraction from the months of March to November. From afar they are safe and harmless with no interest in humans. But do not touch or handle one, and certainly do not trap or hunt them. The bats are only to be admired and adored from a safe distance by land or water. Visitors may even want to bring a red light past dusk. Mexican free-tailed bats are small enough to fit in your hand, but large enough to easily be seen flying aloft in the sky in mass quantities. These bats fly differently than any bird, and sometimes it looks like they are flying in circles, so pay attention to their wings and shape to know when you’re in the presence of a bat.

Despite their nocturnal nature and dark coloring, bats aren’t always quiet or stealthy. Especially when they are leaving Congress bridge in millions. Sometimes they make a lot of cute and squeaky noises as they wake up and soar away from the bridge. The bats fly similarly to big butterflies and yet their wingspan looks nothing alike and they are less graceful. Fuzzy and soft with fur that is dark brown, large ears for its size and wings similar to Marvel Comics Batman logosthese migratory bats are born with “built-in GPS and night vision”.

Reflections of water cascading from Lady Bird Lake and the bright lights of downtownmany vivid photographs can be found online to see these bats hover, play and glide through the night sky in Austin. Every night during bat season, as time passes from sunset, to dusk, to twilight: people gather around Lady Bird Lake to see the atmosphere become consumed with gusts of bats pouring out of Congress Bridge. Departing in millions after sunset beneath Congress Bridge before the bats return back around dawn. Some people like to hang out on the bridge, but a boat is another fun option.

Fortunately there are many local boat tours and city-wide destinations to discover and experience the best viewings of these beauties. Capital Cruises Internationally Famous Bat Watching Tour is a good choice and I have attended once, even thought I am a local Austinite of 20+ years. The tour only cost $10 and they take out a infrared light that glows colors of reds into the sky. Making it quite easy for the human eye to capture the live visuals of millions of bats pouring out together in droves. For locals and visitors alike, it’s a remarkable sight to see! Sitting on an electronic boat, watching the bats can be rather hypnotizing and exhilarating to watch. As if the bats are putting on a show for us all, without any of the cruelty of a standard zoo or a traveling animal circus. However I do recommend choosing the covered boat as these bats are just waking from a deep sleep.

According to Bat Conservation International, “When engineers reconstructed the Congress Avenue Bridge in 1980 they had no idea that new crevices beneath the bridge would make an ideal bat roost. Although bats had lived there for years, it was headline news when they suddenly began moving in by the thousands. Reacting in fear and ignorance, many people petitioned to have the bat colony eradicated. About that time, Merlin Tuttle brought BCI to Austin and told the city the surprising truth: that bats are gentle and incredibly sophisticated animals; that bat-watchers have nothing to fear if they don’t try to handle bats; and that on the nightly flights out from under the bridge, the Austin bats eat from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, including agricultural pests. As the city came to appreciate its bats, the population under the Congress Avenue Bridge grew to be the largest urban bat colony in North America. With up to 1.5 million bats spiraling into the summer skies, Austin now has one of the most unusual and fascinating tourist attractions anywhere.”

In 2007, the city of Austin changed the name of the reservoir running beneath Ann W. Richards Congress Bridge from Town Lake to Lady Bird Lake. The name change was a controversy in-and-of itself as the Former First Lady of the United States, nicknamed Lady Bird Johnson, was against the idea of naming this lake after her and wished for it to remain as is. However, when she passed away the city opted to change the reservoirs name in honor of all the hard work, dedication and endless support that Claudia Alta Taylor “Lady Bird” Johnson bestowed upon the state of Texas. Particularly her involvement with the Town Lake Beautification Project in Austin: the state capital of The Lone Star State.

Thankfully these special and unique Mexican bats living on Lady Bird Lake beneath Congress Bridge are forever protected by the city, solely because of individuals like Lady Bird Johnson and Merlin Tuttle. However, Austin’s love for bats exceeds far beyond Congress Bridge. Bat-related art and merchandise can be found all over the city at many local gift shops. Franzetti Jewelers is a perfect example of a local company that has taken a mascot of the city and turned it into beautiful jewelry. Designing necklaces, rings and pendants; Franzetti Jewelers offers silver and gold, bat-inspired jewelry with stones of garnet, blue topaz, citrine, peridot, onyx, amethyst, smoky quartz and white quartz.

For more information regarding the Mexican free-tail bats of Austin and the best times to find them this summer and fall under Congress Bridge, please consult www.batcon.org.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in July 2015.

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Examiner.com shut down its website

nicolette mallow, examiner.com

Nicolette Mallow’s Writer’s Bio from Examiner.com.

Examiner.com has closed their media platform after several years. I worked for Examiner as a contract writer from July 2015 to July 2016, and my area of assignment was to cover Arts & Entertainment. Since Examiner.com’s website no longer exists and has faded into the dark abyss of the internet, all of my stories are gone. That is the bad news. However, the good news is that since I own the rights to all my stories and interviews: I will be reposting each story here on my website, one-by-one. Hooray! To begin, I wanted to trail back to the beginning. And this first post is an accumulation of screen shots from the original website of my Writer’s Bio that contained a list of my publications. I will begin reposting the stories from last year to present day, the order in which they were written as posted on Examiner.com.

I will miss writing for Examiner.com and was very saddened that it came to an abrupt end, but I look forward to a new literary adventure and many more wonderful stories.

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