This edition of 20 Questions finds Larry Joe Taylor on the eve of his 23rd annual festival. A festival that has been called the best outdoor event in the state by several publications and a music gathering that is known world-wide for its size, artistry and influence. In this edition of 20 Questions find out what it’s like to play a gig to 300 seasick gamblers, the best piece of advice Guy Clark has given to LJT and why Stoney LaRue is the craziest thing Larry Joe has found left behind on the Sunday afternoon after the festival.
1. A few years ago, we did the first edition of our 20 Questions series with Larry Joe Taylor. Since then, your festivals and music have gone on to even greater heights of notoriety. What has been the coolest thing you’ve been a part of in the last three years?
Well all the festivals have really taken off and that’s pretty cool but over the last three years I’ve had the chance to write with some of the guys I admire most like Keith Sykes, Richard Leigh and Chuck Pyle. Since I consider myself a songwriter first it’s pretty cool to get a call from some of the top songwriters in the world.
2. Producing the huge events that you put on is quite the undertaking and forces you to wear many hats. Walk us through a typical day for you at the Texas Music Festival.
There’s about six months of preparation that goes into it and my son Zack is the guy that runs it. My job at the festival is to hang out with other artists, sponsors and fans. I’ll usually grab 3 or 4 artists everyday and we will drive through the campground stopping to visit with everybody. I know…tough job! In the evenings I try to visit with our sponsors, and when the music stops onstage I’ll head for the campfires and play till…well you know! (laughs)
3. How have your festival and cruises helped your own music career?
Just having my name out there all the time helps. I have people all the time say “I’ve heard your name a lot but this is my first time to see you play”.
4. Name association:
–Rich O’Toole –Crickets
–Brandon Rhyder –Voice
–Pat Green –Old friend
–Dave Perez of Tejas Brothers –Happy
–Ray Wylie Hubbard – Funny
–Radney Foster –Songwriter with a capital S!
–Matt Martindale –Funny, but not as funny as he thinks he is.
–Guy Clark –Hero
–Josh Grider – New Mexico
–Max Stalling – Heather Stalling
-Willy Braun of Reckless Kelly – Road warrior
–Todd Snider –No comment
–Wade Bowen -Music man
5. Your festival does a great job of mixing the party with the music and not letting either overtake the other. How do you accomplish that?
You know, for me it’s all about the music… so that always comes first. But, wherever you have really good music, people will have a good time.
6. Rusty Wier’s magic permeated the spirit of the festival. It was uplifting to see his spirit live on last year with the unveiling of the permanent statue backstage. If someone was to put together a tribute album or concert in his memory…what song of his would you sing and why?
“Sunrise in Port A”. I took Rusty to Port A years ago and he fell in love with it. Said he wrote that one for me. I said “Rusty you’ve never got up in time to see the sunrise. How did you write that?” and he said “Bubba I just stayed up!”
7. Of all the new acts you’ve been able to introduce to audiences through your festivals and cruises…who are you most proud of?
Wow there’s so many. It has been fun to watch Josh Abbott over the last few years and of course Ragweed, Randy Rogers and Miranda Lambert jump to mind too.
8. You recently went on a songwriter’s retreat with several other artists. Do you find these to be beneficial? Or is your process more where you only write songs when inspiration strikes?
That was a ball and we got some good songs out of it. January has always been my songwriting month. I like to collect lines and titles all through the year and then set up writing appointments with whoever I want to write with in January. This year I got seven songs done.
9. Your business is completely family owned and operated. What are the pros and cons of working so closely with your loved ones?
The pro is you get to spend a lot of time with family…but the con is we are always talking about work!
10. What has been the one act that you’ve always wanted to play at the festival but have never been able to book for one reason or another?
Without question, Robert Earl Keen.
11. I’m sure you are approached by young bands all the time looking for advice. What is the best piece of advice you were given as a young musician?
Spend more time learning your trade and the rest will fall into place…got that from Guy Clark.
12. Folks in your line of work do a lot of traveling. What is your favorite stretch of highway and why?
The mile and a half of county road leading up to my house. When I turn onto it from a long road trip I know I’m home. When I turn onto it leaving my house for a long road trip I know I’m going to do what I love to do.
13. If they were to make a movie about your life…who would you want to portray you on the big screen?
14. Favorite memory from the following towns/clubs:
–Dallas – Playing live on KNON radio. The first station to play my stuff.
–Gruene Hall – Every time I play there is my new favorite memory.
-Executive Surf Club – We used to do a summer coastal tour in the early 90’s and the Surf Club was always the first stop.
–Port Aransas – It would take a while for me to tell you all my favorite memories of Port A. It’s magical…one of my favorite places in the world.
–White Elephant Saloon – Going to see Gary P Nunn back in the 80’s!
–Lubbock – Meeting Lloyd Maines for the first time.
–Galveston – The port of call for our cruise ever year is Galveston. I always feel good there cause I associate it with getting on the cruise ship.
–Houston- Playing at the Astros ballpark for Larry Dierker’s birthday.
–Puffabelly’s – Davin James is just about my favorite guy to songswap with so every time I go there is fun.
–Saxon Pub – I remember the old Saxon Pub on I-35 and my favorite memory there was seeing Stephen Fromholz and Bill & Bonnie Hearne in 1972. Opened my eyes to a whole different kind of music. The Saxon on Lamar is definitely my favorite place in Austin.
15. Without naming names, what is the funniest or worst gig you’ve ever been a part of?
This is a good story (laughs). We were playing on the Texas Treasure gambling boat that used to sail out of Port Aransas. We played one hour going out and one hour coming back in. It was pretty rough that night and after our first hour set I went to the craps table. I noticed that there weren’t too many people gambling and it just kept getting rougher.
When I returned to the lounge for our last set I saw almost every body on board laying down on the floor and in the chairs. Everybody was seasick and the smell was really bad too. So we had to play an hour for 300 seasick people. That was not a good audience especially after my first song called “Seasick”… (laughs)… I couldn’t resist!
16. What is the craziest thing you’ve seen left behind at Melody Mountain Ranch?
Stoney Larue last year…his bus left him.
17. Of all the songs you’ve written, which are you most proud of?
I know it can be a cliche answer, but the one I just wrote.
18. Rapid fire:
-Burrito or Taco? Taco
-Beans or No Beans? No beans!
-Cowboys or Rangers? Rangers
-John Wayne or Jeff Bridges? Jeff Bridges
-Waylon or Willie? Willie
19. Your music has often been compared to that of Jimmy Buffett. With that in mind, what is your favorite Buffett song?
My favorite Buffett song is one my buddy Keith Sykes wrote called “Coast of Marseilles”.
20. What is “Texas Music” to Larry Joe Taylor?
I think you can trace it back to Bob Wills, and David Allen Coe used Texas music in a song in the 70’s. It’s an independent attitude and the determination to not give in to the norm. I’m proud to say I’m associated with Texas music. If there’s a better more inclusive genre of music out there I don’t know about it.