A friend of mine from Nashville recently told me that “Music Row is in love with Wade Bowen.” I had to ask why. I mean, we love and support Wade’s music to the hilt down here in Texas but the fact that he was a hot commodity in Music City was a pleasant surprise.
The answer is that he is what the movers and shakers up there are forecasting to be the next big phase of country music. Passionate singer/songwriters who cut their teeth in honky-tonks and develop a strong, loyal fanbase before being inserted into the Nashville machinery.
The thinking being that in the changing music retail environment, it is better to have a grassroots base than one that is disposable. This was put to the ultimate test this week when my beloved Randy Rogers Band nearly bested the much hyped Katy Perry.
Katy Perry hosted the Teen Choice Awards, performed on several national television platforms and is on the cover of nearly every tabloid magazine and website due to her engagement to one-note British comedian Russell Brand.
What did the Randy Rogers Band do?
Woodshed a good album with a renowned producer, promote it via social media and their rabid fanbase, do a couple print and radio interviews and bam…they nearly outsold Katy Perry.
Because Katy Perry is disposable and the Randy Rogers Band is real.
Unfortunately, we keep encountering more Katy Perry’s in the music world and the Texas/Red Dirt community is not immune. The type of watered down copycats I’ve railed against in this space for over five years now have littered the marketplace with musical idiocracy. It is a broken record that is now to the point that it is almost laughable. But, as the story goes, you feed people crap, they like crap.
Challenging the status quo is hard for a reason. Getting people out of their comfort zone is difficult. This music used to do both those things and end up with fantastic results. Now, far too often this music aims to fit a certain mold instead of being true to whatever artist is producing the music. There are notable exceptions to this and in the increasingly crowded field of bands, they stand out in their willingness to take chances and not chase the monetary muse of those currently having success.
The true test will be in a couple years. There were many artists that outdrew Ray Wylie Hubbard back in the 70’s, but how many of them are still around? Texas Music is a survivor’s game and flashes in the pan come and go.
I’m interested to see how the support of Nashville’s machinery for the big fish in our small pond will translate over the long haul. Will the higher profile of Randy Rogers Band, Eli Young Band and Wade Bowen drag the music and artistry up to their level or are they just the cream that has risen to the crop amongst a field of pretenders and wannabes?
I hope it is the former, but with each passing week as I watch this music scene fade and change I’m having to slowly come to grips that it may be the latter. No music scene lasts forever and this one has certainly lasted longer than most others.
It will always be around in one form or another, but what will it look like in five years? Who will the top dogs be? I’m betting we haven’t even heard of them yet. They’re slaving away in some garage or dive bar right now. The spin they put on this music will be akin to what Cobain did to rock. And, their grassroots fanbase and backstory will make them music city darlings.
The best thing about Texas/Red Dirt music has always been the focus on the song. Whether that song was about a party or a breakup or a roadtrip or a grandpa…it has always been authentic. Yet, there have been artists over the past couple years that have stolen the formula playbooks used by the Katy Perry’s of the pop world and applied it to our scene.
That playbook calls for an artist to namecheck their location, add in some silly rhymes and pander to some lowest common denominator controversy. That controversy may be a girl kissing a girl or throwing in the case of the Texas guys it may be a line about getting high.
Basically, they develop a marketing plan and product before they have the songs. They are more worried about having in-ear monitors than a good album. They make sure they have on $500 jeans and have about 37 t-shirt designs at the merch booth before they have a record out.
The bands that follow this route fail to make a connection with fans. Sure, people may dance and whoop and holler, but the moment they get home, a song isn’t stuck in their head…and that’s a problem if you’re a band.
The RRB choir turned out to make a retail statement because they believe in the band and have for many years now. In contrast, the disposable heroes only have a connection for the 3 minutes their song lasts, if that. Artists like Randy and Wade will continue to be torchbearers for our scene and the 21st century music business because they are smart enough to be themselves and not a marketing plan. This allows them to focus on their musical craft and not what the next image move will be.
People respond to this, and Nashville is smart to realize that.
-I had this entire piece finished and before I could publish it, I saw that Bob Lefsetz mentioned a similar premise in his latest sales round up. Funny.
-Glad to see Miranda Lambert get all the CMA nominations. Her album is one of my favorite of the year, regardless of genre. Cool chick, great band of Texas musicians, and Phil Pritchett’s old road manager making sure she gets places on time. Good stuff.
-Super pumped that football, or as Tony Romo calls it fupball is back in swing. Once the weather cools off, it will be the best time of the year. That and the fact that my daughter is due to arrive in November!
-A friend recently suggested that I start a blog. But, I really don’t know what I’d write about. I mean, I do have other things I like to write about aside from music, but I’m stretched thin on time now. I consider Twitter my mini-blog. It is a complete stream of consciousness work of art…at times. Others, it’s just what I had for lunch.
-What’s up with the Checked-In feature on Facebook? That’s the most useless thing on there this side of Farmville.
-Saw a commercial for a show that KiSS is playing in Frisco with Daughtry and Pat Green. I love Pat and Kiss…but did a blind man book that show with a dartboard?
-We have recently expanded our Galleywinter Twitter team to include more peeps that just Tank and myself. Look for more coverage of events far and wide. Check out Galleywinter Live too! It’s all part of the transition to the next version of Galley.
-Totally digging that new CeeLo Green song, FU. Wish the hook was clean so more people could enjoy it. It rivets the soul.
-Cannot believe it is September and the Rangers are in first place. The last time that happened, I wasn’t aware of Cross Canadian Ragweed’s existence. Now that it has happened again, Ragweed is leaving us. The Rangers curse extended beyond the playing field!
-This month’s recommended film: 500 Days of Summer. Just now getting around to this flick. It was good. The kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun, the chick from Elf and Lyla Garrity star. A non-traditional love story told in a non-traditional way. Pretty cool.
-This month’s recommended album: In a month that has been flooded with great releases, I can’t recommend Randy Rogers Band-Burning the Day, Ryan Bingham-Junky Star and Cory Morrow-Brand New Me enough. But, I think we and other outlets have given them enough pub to where folks are aware of them. I’d like to recommend Rob Baird-Blue Eyed Angels. I first met Rob on a trip to Nashville where he was writing with some cool songwriters. I quickly found out he was from Texas and began to follow his career closely. With this new album, he’s crafted a fine record that is equal parts Chris Knight and Jackson Browne. It has a nice mix of musical styles and the lyrics powerfully move beyond Baird’s relative youth. This album makes a statement that Baird will be around for a while. To get a taste, I’d suggest checking out the track “Louise”.
-”Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”-Mark Twain