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{20 Questions} Bart Crow

Bart Crow is a Texas Music success story.  Through hard work, determination and some catchy songs, the scene has watched Crow grow from green newcomer to established headliner over the course of seven years.  This edition of 20 Questions finds him on the eve of the release of his first live album (Brewster Street Live) and just a couple weeks after the birth of his first child.  Delve into this edition of 20 Questions to find out more about one of the biggest hearted guys in the Texas scene, as he talks about what being a veteran means for his music career, how he’s turned family struggles into standout songs and the 3 golden rules of being in a band that he learned when he was starting out.

1.  You’ve had quite the exciting life in recent weeks, for those that don’t know can you fill everyone in on what’s new and exciting for Bart Crow?

Well, my wife and I welcomed our first child, a little boy, into the world a couple weeks ago.  His name is  Townes Blaine Crow, he weighed 7lb 13oz, and he’s healthy as an ox!  Oh, and we’re releasing our first live record next week!

2.  Speaking of that live record, most acts in this scene release a live album very early on in their career.   You’ve waited until you had a sizable catalog of songs to pick from to do so.  What made you want to do the live record now?

I just didn’t feel like we were ready. We’ve done some major  growing and learning over the past seven years, so I didn’t want to make a live record for the sake of making one. I wanted to make something that I am extremely proud of and that our friends  and fans will enjoy and be able to rock to.

3. Name association:

I’m gonna go straight off the dome with these! (laughs)

-Stoney LaRue- Amazing voice

-Casey Donahew- Business

-Micky Braun- Good tunes and necklaces. (laughs)

-Drew Kennedy- Amazing songwriter and really good bud.

-Cody Canada- Road paver…lead the charge to allow bands like us to do what we do

-Brandon Jenkins- Great songwriter

-Joey Green- Pure talent. Good friend. I owe him a lot. Really helped me get going when I started and had me on all his acoustic shows

-Bobby Duncan- Poetry

-Wade Bowen- Great songwriter and jewelry. (laughs)

-Steve Rice- Clown…a funny clown, not derogatory clown. (laughs)

-Rich O’Toole- Marijuana & jalapenos

-Randy Rogers- Barrier destroyer & great lyricsmith

-Mark McKinney- Trans-ams. (laughs)

-Cory Morrow- Time traveling!

4.  You are from Maypearl, TX, not exactly a booming metropolis.  Do you think that being from a small town helped kickstart your creativity from a young age?  And, now that you live in Austin, what do you miss most about the small town atmosphere?

Yea, no boomtown for sure! Growing up in a town with the population of around 1,000 really helped my creativity.  Living in the country I had a lot of alone time and my imagination was, and still is, beyond the stars…I’m always dreaming! I miss my family and friends most about the Pearl and I hate missing my nieces and nephew growing up…but I do love Austin!

5.  You served in the military and have a strong connection to those still serving.  In what ways, if any, did being a soldier prepare you for the music business?

Ah man, if it helped me any, it’s being able to mesh with folks from all walks of life.  And, it instilled in me extreme discipline.  Now, I don’t always act on the discipline, but it’s in there somewhere. (laughs)

6.  “Wear My Ring” is one of those songs that has taken on a life of its own.  When you wrote it did you know what you had?  How surprised have you been at the song’s longevity and notoriety?  What do you think made it click with fans?

I had absolutely no clue that it’d do so well for me, but I am grateful. It blows my mind that folks a.  like it in the first place and b. allow it to stick around. It’s a pretty cool thing. I’m still trying to figure out why it clicks, I wouldn’t mind capturing that formula!

7.  Stories behind your other songs:

-Driftin’ In the Wind- I read about a 15 year old boy who committed suicide and it bothered the hell out of me because he didn’t have the right to do that to his loved ones. Especially over a girl!  At age 15! It’s sad, but that’s what it’s about.

-Hollywood- A close friend of mine that’s an actor chased a girl to LA, rather than wait and allow his career to move him there. Of course, once he moved out there with her, the real her showed up and did him wrong in a heartbeat.  So, he had to cruise back to Oklahoma heartbroken. That’s my boy, so I felt really bad for him.

-All I Need- I wrote that the day I realized I had fallen in love with my wife Brooke.

-Broken- For the troops. I watched a program about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the severity of it…and the ridiculousness of the fact that there is not a lot of government aide for our boys and girls. So, this is written from a soldiers standpoint in the war, a job to do while missing his or her significant other and wondering how in the world they’ll ever be normal again.

-Run With the Devil- For my dad, sis, brother, his wife, and Brooke after we flew home from family week in Tucson.  That’s where my mother was going through treatment for alcoholism. It was the most emotionally draining experience of my life.

-Back Down- Paul, my guitar player, wrote this one. He played guitar in another band several years ago, and the person he replaced tried to sue the band and intimidate him into quitting. I heard him play it once about six yrs ago and knew I needed to record it.

-Rodeo Gypsy- About my old roommate, Hubbard…with a little of my uncle thrown in. Both were cowboys that rodeo’d for most of their lives.

-Heartworn Tragedy- I watched an episode of First 48…which my wife banned me from because I ws becoming intensely paranoid!  In this episode a group of 21 yearr old kids were hanging out at a pub…they walked out front said goodbye and one of them walked 50 feet into the alley to get his motorcycle where he was robbed and stabbed to death. One of the female friends that police interviewed explained how she was in love with him, but never had the courage to tell him. She said, “It’s such a tragedy of the heart.”  Well, I love, love the flick Heartworn Highways, so it stuck.

-Once a Day- I wrote it imagining how I’d feel if my golden retriever Wetta, who I got at 6 weeks passed away. She kept tossing a tennis ball in my lap, and I got to laughing at her persistence. She was 7 then. She passed 12-10-09 at the age of 10. They broke the mold with her.

-Saying Goodbye- Just a creative idea about guy meets girl at party, boy drives girl home, girl plays hard to get, boy follows to California anyway…then finally wakes up and says no more!

-Surrender- My battle with watching my mom suffer in her alcoholism. I was her rock, but she hid it from me and I felt like giving up.

-Shadow Dancer- When we first started dating, Brooke went with me to Corpus for a gig. Her and my brothers now wife, had a few too many margaritas and ended up swimming in the cold ocean.

8.  You had an infamous dustup with Josh Abbott.  When Abbott tackled his 20 Questions, he said y’all had buried the hatchet which is good.  Now…not that we condone violence, but if you could smack any person in the music business without consequence…who would it be and why?

I believe in spreading love and the 5th amendment too.  (laughs)

9.  What is your biggest musical guilty pleasure and what makes you dig it?

I just love listening to all sorts of music on my record player…especially the older stuff. It’s raw and reminds me that there was a time that music actually sold on quality of words and beats.

10.  I’ve known of several heavy metal guys who’ve had neck and back surgery from headbanging over many years.  Yet, you’re the only guy I know of in Texas/Red Dirt music who’s endured a similar ordeal.  You’ve undergone back surgery and dealt with excruciating pain while performing. How did you hurt your back originally?  Has it gotten better since the surgery?  What is your long-term prognosis?

I wish I had an answer here…that’s the million dollar question. That’s part of the problem, aside from attending Freaker’s Ball in 2002, 2003, and 2004…we cannot figure out how and why the discs ruptured.  But unfortunately they did.   I will say that  I had a pretty exciting and limitless no-boundary adolescence through my 20’s. Getting with a girl that is out of your league, will definitely make you gear down a couple notches!

11.  You’ve worked with producer Dexter Green who is most noted for his work with Collective Soul.  What made you decide to work with him?  What did he do to enhance your sound?

Dex and I wrote a few tunes together, including our first single from the live record “She’s The Only Reason”.   Anyway, after we first met, we got along so well that when it came time to make a record, it just seemed like the right thing to do! I think he just really makes it an enjoyable process, which allows us to dig in and get to work.

12.  Favorite touring memory of the following towns:

-Dallas- We used to play Adair’s Saloon all the time and when we lived in Dallas that was our hang. I spent many mornings watching the sun come up over the I-45/75 Bridge because I’d jam with the old timers that hung there and we’d just hang in the parking lot and play.  There’d be all kinds of stuff…haprs, banjos, dobros, guitars, coke bottles…damn that was a great experience!

-Austin- Playing Antone’s. Nothing great happened, but it’s just so rich with musical history, that I considered it a great privilege to share our music on that stage.

-Stephenville- My very first public gig was at the Agave, and having went to Tarleton, it was a big deal for me. Another one that stands out is Joey Green and I played at Bostocks one night.  As I was settling up, Joey got into a fight and Mark, the owner, and I were watching it on the security TV. When it was done, we watched it several times in slow-mo, that was fun!

-Houston- My buddy owns Pub Fiction and we hang there after our Houston gigs…and man, that’ll give some kind of headache! I don’t know  if it’s a favorite memory, but it’s damn sure a recurring event! (laughs)

-New Braunfels- Playing to the crowds coming off the river at River Road Icehouse. Just a cool vibe.

-Oklahoma City- Singing “Purple Rain” with No Justice at Wormy Dog, while standing on a monitor and ripping my shirt wide open…straight R Kelly style! (laughs)

-College Station- The town is just crazy…and that’s always good by me!

-San Angelo- Only place I’ve been to jail…for fighting unfortunately!  I promise I’m a nice guy!

-Fort Worth- Man, I’ve had some great times at Woody’s Tavern. I love Brian and the whole gang.  They were the first ones to let us play at their club in Ft Worth and that means a lot to me.

-Lubbock- It’s cool to play there because of the whole Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings spirit of Lubbock being their launching pad.  Plus, my grandfather lived in Lubbock for 20 plus years and I used to go spend summers with him out at Buffalo Springs Lake.   He was a musician for 60 some odd years… so when I’d stay with him he’d teach me chords and we’d play “Milk Cow Blues” about 10,000 times! So, to now cruise back out that way doing music, it’s a special thing!

-Huntsville- Haven’t played Huntsville too much.  However, we almost had to fight our way to the door in Onalaska many years ago. That was a strange time!

13.  Related to that question.  Y’all recorded the live record at Brewster Street Icehouse in Corpus Christi.  Why did you choose that venue to do the recording at?

Man, every time we go to Corpus it’s such a blast. We get great fresh seafood, catch a Hooks baseball game, even get to lead the stadium in “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” Also, I’ve to be really good pals with Mark Schaberg, one of the co-owners of Brewster and the way he got really fired up when I mentioned that I was thinking about it  made me realize it was meant to be. Not to mention the folks down there that come out to our shows go crazy nuts and have supported us for a really long time, so I figured, why not!

14.  Your band is one of the better ones in the scene.  Could you talk a bit about how you found each guy and what you dig most about their personality or playing?

Thanks…I agree!  Paul Russell is our lead guitarist and at the time I started playing music he was dating one of Brooke’s best friends.  So, I invited him out to jam at a couple acoustic shows and he’s never left.  That was over six years ago!

Matt Slagle has been on bass for over three years.  I found him slummin’ it in Austin and bribed him into playing. (laughs)  Actually, he’s one  f the most talented musicians I know.

David Fralin joined about two years ago on keys. He played in an 80’s cover band when we met called The Reagan Administration and they frickin’ rocked! So, I invited him out and I guess he liked us as much as we did him because he’s still around. Man, Dave’s as good as they make them…just a great dude and he loves to rock…a super entertainer.

Jay Warren’s our newest edition on drums. Jay auditioned last year and, if you’ve seen him already you know…he’s a monster!  So, it was easy to hire him. And, I like that he knows everything…wait, did I say I like that? (laughs)

15.  Each year you host the Music for Mika benefit that raises money for scholarships and charitable donations.  Could you describe the inspiration behind the event and why it is so close to your heart?

Yeah man…thanks for bringing that up.  Music For Mika a Project of Kids And Cars…that’s my baby there.  My cousin and his wife lost their 6 month old, as she was left in a car in July 2005. I thought we were going to lose Mikey, the dad, because he just couldn’t take having lost her, neither parent was doing good at all. A few months after Mika passed, I just figured we get together and jam a concert in her honor, with the only goal being to make Mikey and Michele smile for a day.

We’ve never charged a ticket price, it has always been donations only and to date we’ve been able to donate over $150,000 to Kids and Cars, given four $1000 scholarships to a Maypearl and Groesbeck high school seniors, and have donated to several other charities throughout the years. It’s a celebration of a life cut short and of love as big as the sky.  To raise child safety awareness in and around automobiles is something I take pride in doing.  The event will take place again this October in Maypearl, and there will be details on our website around August.

16.  You are a huge Beatles fan.  Aside from them, who do you consider your biggest musical influences and what have each of them contributed to your own music?

That’s hard to say man, because I sometimes think I am all alone in my diverse love for all music. I genuinely naturally really love good music, all kinds!  I have every Steve Earle, every Ryan Adams, every Jim Croce, of course every Beatles, vinyl they have out. Granted, a lot are re-issues, but I seriously listen to it all. In my heart, I feel the cardinal sin as a music fan is to shut your ears to something someone created.

Now, that’s not to say there’s not a lot of crap too…have you heard my stuff!  (laughs).  I don’t listen to crap, but I absolutely love all things good.  So, to answer your question, honestly, good music inspires me as much as love and life do.  I love writing songs and making music.

17.   What is the best advice you received from another musician when you were first getting started?  Who was it from and is it something you’ve been able to pass along to the guys who open up for you today?

The three golden rules I learned are:  1. Never turn down a gig. 2. Be on time! 3. Good ol’ boy ’em to death. Meaning, be genuine, don’t be an ass, be polite and kind…and learn to be genuinely appreciative that someone allowed you to come into their joint and play your music…always remember it’s a 2-way street.

Those were seriously, not making it up, the 3 golden rules I was told and I have lived by them…for the most part.  Greg Mathers, former lead singer of Loaded Guns, a great band that was a DFW metroplex 80’s/90’s dancehall cover band/house band type. Greg played music for 25 years and although he’s not in the Texas Music scene it’s only because it was nowhere near established then as it is now.  He knew how to run a tight ship and they were very, very good at what they did.

18.  Rapid fire:

-35E or 35W?— 35W

-Funniest musician on Twitter? Blake Shelton

-Floating in New Braunfels or Skiing in Steamboat? Tie!

-Best BBQ joint? Chiefs in South Austin

-Boots or Chucks? That’s a tough one…I’m about 50/50 on both, I wear one or the other just about every day.

19.  Dozens of your peers have answered this question and the results are always fascinating, especially the reasoning behind the choice.  Now it is your turn…what’s your favorite George Strait song and why?

“The Only Thing That I Have Left” from the Strait From The Heart record.  Because when I was a kid I spent hours daydreaming and putting on mock concerts to my sister and her friends…or just the mirror…and that was the record that was always spinning.  The words of the song were how I imagined it’d be playing music for a living. In my mind, singers were like Red Stovall, Clint Eastwood in Honky Tonk Man, but if you did what George sings about here, you’d be like him, on TV! The mind of a 10 year old, if you were on channel 13 on Austin City Limits on the weekend, you had made it!

I must say that’s a crazy tough question! You could’ve made it easier by asking what George tune I dislike, because in my house growing up, it was my pop’s motto that it was George Strait or die!

20.  You’ve been plugging away at music for quite a while now and have developed quite the grassroots following.  What do you feel are the benefits of growing your career organically as opposed to having a major label big PR blitz force you down people’s throats?

Busting my ass for everything that we have and have done… having zero handed to me has made me learn so much. I know where my heart and appreciation are for music, and what we are so blessed to do.

What kind of real work ethics can you have if you are handed everything? There are plenty of folks like that and you never hear/read anything positive about them, aside from sales.  But, one day sales will end and then what do you have?

Thank you for letting me play along, supporting my band and lots of other cool music.  God Bless y’all and God bless our troops!

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