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River Jam By the Bullets

by: Cody Starr

It seems I’ve made a tradition of going to River Jam in New Braunfels and immediately after, headed straight for Colorado with the family. I’m back and only now had the chance to reflect on what went down. Here’s my River Jam by the bullets.

  • Garrett Bryan and Buffalo Ruckus were a great way to kick off the weekend. We’ve given ample attention to both recently, go read about them.
  • We had a late night on Friday, hanging on the CrackersandCucumbers front porch passing the guitar around. Our buddy, John Dempsy churned it up. Post River Jam we learned that he’s putting music on the back burner for now, but I’m betting he’ll be back eventually. You can’t deny this:

  • The river didn’t have much to give us this year but we stayed wet in the Texas heat, sucking down drinks and bonding with friends before heading to River Road Icehouse.
  • Austin Meade showed how he’s coming into his own in this scene.
  • Jesse Dayton was as Fonzie cool as one can imagine. I was waiting for the biker contingent to arrive but it didn’t happen.


  • Jamie Lin Wilson beat the heat and did her show +1 with baby on board.


  • Zac Wilkerson closing out the night with that soulful voice was something to behold. The Mayor of Funville seems to approve.

  • Sunday continues to be my favorite day, lots of artists and lots of opportunities for special moments. Having Coby Wier, son of the great Rusty Wier, close out River Jam with “Don’t It Make You Want To Dance” was pretty darn cool.

  • After the official festivities ended we took the party down to the river, where Mark Allan Atwood, Mike Stanley, Coby Wier, and others joined us for late night river jamming.

  • I’m ready for next year. You should join us.

Quick Riffs

  • My family has been homeless for the past month. Our house in Lewisville sold in a couple of days and the original plan was to move to the Hill Country. It’s been a rollercoaster and plans have changed. We’ve purchased some lakefront property in Granbury, the land of Larry Hooper. We are going to build, and my wife is drafting the house plans as I write. In the meantime, we will be with family, just minutes down the road hoping not to wear out our welcome.
  • A couple of weeks back, I took my brother to a Galleywinter Listening Room event to see Walt Wilkins play in John Dempsy’s living room. A fantastic evening for sure. On the way home, the music and culture editor for The Dallas Observer cold called me on Facebook and asked if I wanted to write for them. I took the gig, but will still be doing my thing here because I love the people and the institution that is Galleywinter. I’ll mostly be covering shows and venues for The Observer with the occasional interview mixed in. They already asked if I wanted to cover a Jason Aldean show, I told them no.
  • I have no idea if the Cowboys or the Aggies are going to be any good this season. Last year excluded, A&M is really good at going 5-0, giving us false hope, then getting buzz-sawed by the big boys in the SEC. With a new head coach, it should be interesting, to say the least.


{20 Questions} Austin Meade

Austin Meade is one of the most exciting young artists coming out of Texas today.  He’s got a rock n’ roll sound with a poet’s lyrics.  It’s a nice mix of styles and dynamics that is making Meade one of the top young draws of “the scene”.  Mentored by Cody Canada and baptized in College Station, Meade’s bonafides are wide and deep…just like his music.  His hypothetical music festival just may be the most rad of all time.  Take a trip through his 20 Questions to get to know him better.

1.      What’s new and exciting in the world of Austin Meade?

Our record is done. I’m ready to get it out to the world and see where it goes. I’m working with 7013 Records (same guys that made Red Shahans’s last 2 records) and we should have a release date soon. I’m getting old apparently – in the early steps of looking to buy a home or a small plot of land. I also just got a new guitar from Plato. It’s a beauty. I’m pretty pumped about our new merch – improvement there has been a big goal of mine, and it keeps gas in the tank.

2.      Your band has gone through several iterations…tell us about this latest edition.

Late last year we turned a new chapter, which led me to our current bass player (Seth Foster) and lead guitarist (David Willie). Brandon Turner has been with me on the drum kit since 2015. When I first started, I felt like a baby bird that couldn’t fly yet. After 3 vans, a ton of shows, a few managers, and guidance from some folks that I really look up to, I am starting to navigate my way around a little better. We are already playing a bunch but hoping that the schedule really starts slamming hard with the next release. Out of state reach has been on my agenda for the last 2 years and we are starting to see some results there.

3.      Name association:
-Cody Canada – He’s a big brother to me. We met when I was like 19 or 20 and he was recording ‘Some Old, Some New, Maybe a Cover or Two’ down in Port A. I walked up to him during the intermission with a terrible sounding home demo that I had recorded in my bedroom (so bad). I was just getting into the music thing. 10 minutes later, Cody handed me his guitar in front of a full room of his devoted listeners and let me play a song. Then the next year at LJT, Brian Kinzie gave me a bunk on the bus, and told me to leave my van in Stephenville to ride with them to a show the next night. So I did it, and we have been friends since. Cody and his crew (Brian, Plato, Shannon, Spence & Waldo) have helped me into – and out of – dozens of situations.







(left, Meade joining Cody Canada onstage in Port A in 2013; right Meade and Canada onstage at Gruene Hall in 2018)

Willy Braun – I love how much he loves Tom Petty.

-Randy Rogers – He knows what he is doing in music and in business. I grew up going to see RRB at Washington County Fair and venues around central TX. I swear everyone knows the words to every song at RRB shows. Kyle Wieters is the man. They take care of people.

-Cody Jinks – Jinks told me “It’s all about who can stand here and take this shit the longest.” That has stuck with me. I think about that conversation a lot, especially on nights where we have driven 12 hours to play for 25 people.

Cody Johnson –What a voice, he is killing it right now!

-William Clark Green – Hard worker, and a huge heart. His band always kicks ass. Will takes the time to say hello and have a few beers. You can learn a lot about a guy in those late night conversations.

-Tyler Childers –I like that he does it his way. No shits given, just being yourself is cool.

-Shinyribs – Kevin has been so welcoming over the years. I have called him with business questions and other ideas, and he always calls back. People that call you back are few and far between these days.

Stoney LaRue– He was one of the first guys to actually watch our show and come up to tell me that he thinks the band is kickass. Those moments mean a lot to me. He likes to pull out guitars late at night and play until 4am. You can tell that he lives for the music.


4.      What’s the best advice you’ve received as a young musician?  What’s the worst?

Best advice – Keep your van clean. Change the oil. Check the tires. Make sure your gear works and you have what you need. Watch and listen – in your show and every day encounters. You never know who you are standing beside at a show. Don’t compare yourself to other people’s timelines – admittedly, this is a tough one at times. No one owes you a thing.

Worst – ‘It just takes money’ or ‘It just takes talent’? It may be more accurate to say that it takes a bunch of mistakes, making real friendships, and at least 5 sets of new tires. P.S. Take advice from McClure carefully. You never know when he is using extreme sarcasm. 

5.      You are a proud Aggie.  College Station has a very rich and proud songwriting tradition that runs from Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett to Dub Miller and Rogers Creager to Jamie Lin Wilson and Mike Ethan Messick.  What was your musical experience like when you were there? 

I was playing drums for a few bands and churches when I first moved to CS. I spent most of my weekends going to football games and shows at Hurricane Harry’s, until I finally got busy enough myself to play every weekend. We had a few cool musical experiences while living in CS – most of which were at Grand Stafford Theater, opening for guys like Uncle Lucius, Shinyribs, and the Departed. I recorded my first EP in CS, and then wrote all the tunes from Chief of the Sinners in a house off Pleasant Street.  My career didn’t really start sparking until I moved to Austin/NB. It is a great feeling now to go back and play at Hurricane Harry’s because I started in that town at open mics and Los Cucos Mexican joint on Tuesday nights.

6.      What is the movie you’ve seen the most times?  What’s your favorite line from it?

Nacho Libre – Anacondaaa squuueeezzzeee.

7.      Favorite touring memory of the following towns:

-Lubbock – Playing ninja in the Elegante Hotel parking lot with Crooks on their last run of shows. Following that (same night at 5am) we lost a ball joint and the tire fell off of my van. Life comes in waves.

-Fort Worth – If I had to pick one…we played with Uncle Lucius on their last FW show at Magnolia Motor Lounge. The show and crowd were incredible.

-Austin – Andrew Zimmern came to our last show at Stubb’s and they interviewed us for his new show, The Zimmern List. We got to eat BBQ and drink brewskis with Zimmern and he stayed for our show. Rock n roll!

Houston – Shooting the shit with Boland after playing in some massive strip mall looking venue.

New Braunfels – Give me 2 here. Gruene Hall with Cody last January. I hopped up to sing a few. Gruene Hall Americana Jam 2018 – It was a damn fine rock fest; ask Mattson or Tom Gillam.

-Corpus Christi – Change of pace…I saw 10 Years play at Brewster Street last year and they crushed it. I grew up going to rock shows with Dad. It is still one of my favorite things to do.

Stillwater – We played Tumbleweed with Parker in March. The venue sells beer bags instead of buckets. Aka 10 lb. ice bags with beer in them. 1,300 rowdy people with drunk nunchucks.

-Dallas – Granada Theater – last December we played with Shane Smith, the crowd was wild and that venue rocks. They treat us like family, thanks Tara! We just played there in June with Dirty River Boys, and I crowd surfed. Pics to prove it. I had to…how else do you prove yourself to DRB?

8.      What is your favorite cover song to play and why?

Fooled Again by Tom Petty – because it’s Tom Petty, the song kicks you in the chest, and I have not heard anyone else play it yet.

9.      Person that has been the most supportive of you chasing this crazy dream.

Dad. He is my best friend and has given me the freedom and encouragement to turn that “dream” into a real, attainable business.

10.  Stories behind the following songs:

-Chief of the Sinners: Dad is a pastor and I grew up submerged in the church. I departed from that when I got some freedom in college. After about 4 months of being away, I came back and felt like I was being punched in the gut by the sermon. I didn’t have any money to put in the offering, but I took one of the green offering envelopes and wrote that song in about 5 minutes while the offering plate was being passed around.

-On the Run: I’m a Breaking Bad fan. This is how I thought Jesse Pinkman may have felt when he pulled away from the last scene. I’ve felt that way when pulling away from some past relationships.

-Feeling Closer: My thoughts while writing – “Hey I’m in college now and I feel like an adult…Damn, my friends are all doing different things now and we rarely talk. I haven’t seen my folks in a few months…I hope they remember that I’m still here.”

Born With a Broken Heart: Co-write with Shane Boeker. I started this song when I was moving from College Station to Dripping Springs. I felt like my life was falling apart…graduated college but didn’t take a full-time job…I was in a tough spot, ultimately relying on the help of some others to keep a roof over my head. I thought college graduation was a straight line to success, a house, a boat, an atv, and your wildest dreams. Well it wasn’t.  I didn’t see it at the time, but my life was actually falling together, not apart. Clarity came with distance.

-Written in Stone: I have a fear of death sometimes. Not for my own, but fear of losing others. Written in Stone is my struggle with the fear of losing my father.

Let Me Be: Driving overnight for shows can wear on you at times. This was written on one of those nights where I was feeling it.

-Feet on the Floor: It was written to be dark and literal. Back in high school , one of my best friends lost a significant other to suicide. This was my reflection on that situation mixed in with some personal experiences.

Meant for More: Bay City, Texas. The Bay City Motel. Thanks to the venue that put us up in a motel with bugs in the bed. Also influenced by a quick run in with an old high school acquaintance that suddenly thought I was cool because I was on a stage.

11.  In your line of work you get to travel to many cool places.  What’s been your favorite place you’ve played outside of Texas?  What is your dream vacation destination?

New Berlin, Illinois with the Red Beard Brigade was refreshing. California (driving up and down SR 1 or “highway”) is an amazing ride. The mountains in NM and CO are always a good time.  A few years back I got to play on a cruise to Mexico with WCG, Brandon Steadman, Dalton, and a few others. That was rad. I still want to jump out of a plane in Hawaii or play a massive festival in Japan.

12.You play multiple instruments.  What all do you play? Which is your natural instrument?  Which is your favorite?
Drums, guitars, vocals. I started on drums. I like loud guitars but I also like running the show from behind the drums.

13.  Related to that, you’ve recently begun teaching young musicians at School of Rock in New Braunfels.  What’s that experience like?

I enjoy passing the torch – some students remind me of myself at a younger age. I think they have a huge leg up on the competition because SoR New Braunfels has a stacked line up of instructors. It has made me a better player just because I sit with a guitar or drum kit for a few more hours per week now.

14.  What’s the last good book you read?
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

15.  You have some really cool ink.  What’s your favorite piece that you have? Where did you get it?  Who was the artist?

I just got a new tattoo on Saturday (Aug 4). It’s a crazy looking optical illusion that sits behind my roses. My roses are still the favorites though because they represent my parents, grandparents and sister. Houston Baker has been tattooing me since 2014. I met him in Stephenville but now he is in San Angelo. His shop is called Dedicated Tattoo. He also did the artwork for the Chief Of The Sinners record.

16.  In the end, is the love we make equal to the love we take?

I’ve been lucky to be loved by some awesome folks. Be good to people. You never know who you might still work beside in 20 years.

17.  Rapid fire:
-Dogs or cats? Dogs.

-Favorite non-Aggie sports team? ‘Stros

-Favorite stretch of Texas highway? I-10 west of Kerrville.

-Coolest vinyl you own? George & Tammy

-Favorite vintage store? Goodwill in the tiny ranch towns or the thrift shops in New Mexico.

18.  If money was no object and you could put together your ultimate music festival, who would you book on it?

Ryan Adams. Iron Maiden. Megadeth. John Mayer. John Moreland. The Darkness. Rammstein. Fleetwood Mac. Sheryl Crow. Coldplay from 2002. Dead & Co. Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown.

19.  Favorite George Strait song and why?
Wrapped. Bruce Robison

20.  What do you feel makes your music stand out among your peers?

 We are pretty guitar heavy, our harmonies are really picking up in some spots, my voice gotten stronger over the last year or 2, and I think we have a lot of energy at the shows. I’m proud of the songs, especially the upcoming release. 

{Review} Kevin Galloway – The Change

When you possess one of the greatest, most unique and powerful voices in music it can be difficult to find your own sound and style.  Thankfully, Kevin Galloway discovered what his true style during his Uncle Lucius days.  With his debut solo record, The Change, Galloway has refined that sound, tamped down the jam-bandy aspects, honed in on the country, turned up the soul and cranked out a gem of an album that is one of the year’s best (at this juncture, the best) and a testament to the self-described Gulf Country Soul sound he was seeking.… Read the rest

{Review} Amanda Shires – To the Sunset


That’s the first word that comes to mind upon listening to Amanda Shire’s fantastic new record To the Sunset.  It’s a word that returns to your consciousness throughout this masterful collection of songs. Unbound from genre, burdened with expectation, fulfilled with artistry. … Read the rest

{20 Questions} Garrett Bryan

Garrett Bryan is one of the most exciting new artists to hit the scene in a while.  On the songwriting spectrum he veers closer to the Fullbright’s and Kennedy’s…and live he’s Sturgill-esque.  High, heavy praise for a new artist, but deserved. … Read the rest