Category Archives: Texas

Goin’ Out With a Bang

As my last semester of college comes to a conclusion, I feel like there is no better way to reflect on my year than to talk about the music that got me through it all. Country music has always been a part of my life, but I don’t think I had appreciated it the way I am able to now after taking this course. This course has encouraged me to go outside of my country comfort zone and has brought so many new artists and songs into my life that I am so grateful to know now. A few particular activities that I participated in this year would not have been as enjoyable without my knew appreciation for country music, and I will forever remember how awesome they made the end of my college career.

1. The Italian Johnny Cash

Last semester, while studying abroad in Italy, my friends and I took a weekend trip to Venice. No trip to Venice is complete without an overpriced, classic tour of the river city on a gondola with good wine and great entertainment. The gondola man was quick to notice that we were Americans, but naturally after having a few glasses of wine we sassily corrected him that we were Texans*. A huge smile immediately appeared on the man’s face, and was then followed by the best Italian rendition of “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. With the little english I had heard him speak before, I was shocked at how well he could sing every lyric to the classic tune. I was so impressed by his singing, I requested more and more Johnny Cash songs, and to our surprise, he sang (and perfected) every single one of them. This is one of my favorite memories from studying abroad in Europe, because it made me realize how much of a global impact country music has had on everyone, and how music can be enjoyed and shared by so many different cultures. Hearing Johnny Cash in a foreign place gave me the best sense of nostalgia and made me proud to be a fan of country music.

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2. The Grammy Winning Rodeo Performance 

As I try to do every year, I attended the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo this year with a big group of my friends. I’m usually very particular about which performer I like to go see, but since I was invited by a friend, I didn’t even think twice about who we were going to see that night; I was just happy to be able to go! I had heard my friends talking about “Chris”, but sadly I had no idea who that was and I didn’t pay much attention to why he was important. When we got to the arena, we got our hotdogs and beer, sat in our seats and enjoyed the rodeo. After the last bull rider, the audience prepared for the performer, “Chris”. Throughout his concert the crowd was wild; the people around me sang along to every song, I danced around with my friends, and took some fun pictures… but I still had no idea who this guy was. We had a fantastic night, everything about the performance was amazing. A couple of nights later my friends and I were watching the Grammy’s on television, and to my surprise, “Chris” was up there claiming his first award. It finally registered that I had seen Chris Stapleton front row at the rodeo just a few nights before. I felt so dumb but at the same time felt so proud and excited that I got to see the Grammy winner just a couple of nights ago. The night at the rodeo was just a great reminder to me about how humble country music can be; regardless of who the performer was, he put on a fantastic show and gave us all a hell of a night.

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3. Gone But Never Forgotten

The one event I was looking forward to the most for my “country music to-do list” was to see Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson perform in New Braunfels in the middle of April with my dad. Growing up, Merle Haggard had always been my parent’s favorite country singer. As a little girl, we saw him several times at the rodeo, played his albums every Christmas and New Years at the ranch, and impersonated him any chance we could get. I even nicknamed our bearded neighbor “Merle” because I was genuinely convinced that it was him. When I read that Merle and Willie were going on a reunion tour and were coincidentally going to be near Austin on the same night as our Dad’s weekend, I knew I had to get us tickets. Unfortunately, the historic country legend passed away just about a week before the concert. The entire country community was saddened, as he was truly one of the greatest country artists of all times. Even though Willie vowed to still perform the following weekend in honor of his late outlaw partner, we decided not to go because we knew it would not be the same. My dad wanted to keep his favorite memory of younger Merle performing, which I understood. Merle Haggard was a staple of my childhood and will always remind me of my family, which is why country music has become so important to me over the course of this semester.



Filed under Blog Post 5, Classic Country, Cowboy, Dancing, Houston Rodeo, Live Music, Reflection, Texas

My Texas (feat. Pat Green)- Josh Abbott Band

The song “My Texas” by Josh Abbott Band feat Pat Green is a song that I have really attached to since I’ve been in college. I have really attached to it because the song mentions a lot of unique things in Texas that anyone living here or tourist should try to enjoy while here. The neat thing about this song is that there a good amount of places in central Texas that aren’t too far from us here at UT.

Out of the 25 or so things they mention about doing in there “Texas”, at least 75% of the things can accomplished while being at UT with them not being too far away from Austin. Just about an hour west of Austin, you can accomplish three of the things in this song that are all within an hour of each other. Right off the bat, the song starts with “If you haven’t climbed up to Enchanted Rock, /Drank a cold Shiner down in Luckenbach,” and then a little bit later, “Eaten Cooper’s down in Llano.” All three of these things can be accomplished in one day. Enchanted Rock is about one hour and a half from Austin and is about equal distance from both Llano and Luckenbach. And sometimes, you might be able to catch a country musician playing in Luckenbach.

Also not too far from Austin down in San Antonio, you will find the River Walk. As the song says, “Taken your baby to the River Walk, /Then you ain’t met my Texas yet.” So if you’re San Antonio, go experience the River Walk and why don’t you go there after going to a concert of the likes of Cory Morrow, Pat Green, or Roger Creager and sing along with and you will be able to cross multiple things off your list. Those artists frequent the Hill Country area, so it’s not hard to find a concert of one them.

Now if you’re someone like myself, who makes the trip up to Dallas every second weekend of October for OU Weekend, then there’s another place you cross off on your way up there or on the way back to Austin. “Haven’t had a kolache when you go through West…” West is a small town north of Waco right off of I-35 and they are Czechoslovakian town, and the Czechs are who created the kolache and they have a great place to get them called “Czech Stop” where you can get them.

Luckily I have been able to cross a few off of my list from this song. Being from Houston, I’ve been to the Houston Rodeo; I’ve seen a hill country sunset, which is something you can also accomplish while at UT; and I’ve sang Everclear at a Creager show.

What have you done on this list?


Filed under Blog Post 4, Texas

Unexpected Influences

Note: This is an example of Blog Post 5.

Country music has been a huge influence on me as a person ever since I can remember. Everyone knows that I am passionate about the genre and constantly listen to it throughout each day. The genre has instilled beliefs and values into me that make me the man I am today, and I am thankful for that. I will even go as far as to say I would be a much different person if I had never adopted listening to country music. Although I have been around country music all my life, I still have a lot to learn from it. When I signed up for this class I expected to learn a lot about the genre, but wasn’t sure specifically what it would be.

PATThe first activity I completed this semester was to go see a live country show. I have been to so many country concerts in my life, and didn’t think this one would be any different. The only thing I did differently at this concert was to be aware of how this environment influenced me at that particular moment. The concert I chose to attend was a Pat Green concert here in Austin at the Fiesta Gardens. The concert was smaller than a usual Pat Green concert, because he was playing for a student organization to help them raise money for charity. The concert was as anyone would expect. People dressed in jeans and cowboy hats, and of course beer and fried food were being sold. What this concert taught me was how important a good venue is for a concert. The Fiesta Gardens is an open-air venue surrounded by a large lawn, setting the perfect tone for country music. The barn like feel gets you excited to hear country music, and the food and drinks that are available also set a good tone. When picking concerts to go to I now research the venue beforehand to see if looks fitting, I would recommend doing this.

COUPLANDThe second activity I completed was to go two stepping at a dancehall. I went to The Old Coupland Dancehall in Coupland, Texas. I went just last week, and there was a small country cover band playing. It is safe to say I have two left feet, and openly despise dancing. Despite that, I was forced onto the dance floor at the beginning of the night for what felt to be the longest three songs of my life. What this experience taught me was that you do not have to be listening to a big name singer to enjoy a dancehall. This cover band was a local Austin cover band that no one knows; yet I still had a great time. Now I am confident that I can go into a small dancehall on a random night when a local band is playing. After all I could have just as much fun doing that as I do seeing a famous artist.

Last Sunday I ended my semester activities by watching the Academy of Country Music Awards. The event was held in Las Vegas this year and hosted by Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley. When I watched the awards I noticed how many people it takes to make an album or send a star on tour. During the acceptance speeches the artists often spoke of many names that I did not recognize that helped them earn the award. All the fans hear about is the stars, not about the producer who is working long hours to make sure the album is perfect. We also don’t hear about band managers or the guys that are working behind the scenes at a concert. These people are just as important and need more recognition.

All in all I have learned more about country music this semester than I would have ever imagined. It is something I enjoy learning about, and am eager to learn more. I have now realized I have so much more to learn, its just a matter of opening my eyes and looking at the music and its surrounding in more depth. I am excited to continue my journey of learning about country music, and cant wait to see what else the genre has to offer me.


Filed under Austin, Awards, Blog Post 5, Dancing, Texas

He may be family, but I’m still saying He’s Talented

Cody Sparks Band Album Cover

Cody Sparks Band Album Cover

Anytime I went to my Aunt Kathy’s house in small town panhandle Perryton, Texas , one of the things I would look forward to is seeing my cousins play music. I thought it was the coolest thing they were musically talent… because I am defintely not!
Cody Sparks Band

Cody Sparks Band

Long story short, my cousin, Cody Sparks decided to make music his life. Recently, his band, the Cody Sparks Band, which includes his younger brother, Seth Sparks, has taken off right here in the music capital of the world. In the month of March alone, they played all week during SXSW, put out an album on itunes titled “Sinners and the Saved,” and are playing every chance they get.

 After being in this class, I became more intrigued in his career. Therefore, I had the privilege of sitting down with my cousin and getting to understand his personal story and what it really took to devote his life to his passion, country music.
(Above is a track from their album titled Oklahoma Fool)
What got you interested in music? 

Music for me was something I liked since childhood, but never knew it would be such a huge part of my life. When I was a Freshman in college I saw a guy playing acoustic guitar at a venue in Colorado and immediately became fascinated.  I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas and thankfully got it.  Little did I know that seeing that show would completely turn my life around in such a different way. 

When did you know that you wanted to make music your life?
 For the longest time I never actually thought that I could make music such a big part of my life.  Before music I was coaching High School football and basketball and very much into that.  I just suddenly realized that I might be good enough to try this music thing out.  Lucky for me, so far so good.  Like I always say, I can always go back and coach when I’m older.  Im not always going to be so young and “cool.”
Why country music? 

I think being born and raised in a small Texas town most definitely set me up for country music.  There wasn’t really a lot of other genres that I was really into. We really don’t have to get into my “punk rock” phase.  Texas country music just seems more real to me than any other music out there. 

How long did it take for you to get your foot in the door? 

Getting our foot in the door hasn’t been the easiest thing.  We truly have been blessed with opportunity though.   I think we have come a long way since we first moved to Austin 3 years ago.  We still have a long ways to go to really get to where we want to be.  But like with any career, the harder you work, the greater the reward.

How does living in Austin, the music capital of the world, benefit the band’s career? 
Moving to Austin was a big decision for us.  We had long discussions about it and knew that it was the best place to be for what we wanted to do.  A lot of bands are based out of ATX and we are happy to be one of them.  There is always something going on everyday of the week in the music world here.  It really helps for networking.  And in this business, it helps to have friends that do what you do.  Advice and guidance from other musicians is vital.  We are proud to call Austin our newest home.  
You guys just finished your first album. What was the hardest and best part of the process?
Our album is finally finished and we couldn’t be more proud.  This was a learning experience for sure.  I think the hardest part was figuring out the process.  There are so many little things involved that I had no idea even existed.  Some people think that it takes a few weeks or even a couple of months to complete but thats not the case at all.  There is so much more that goes into it than walking in and recording some songs.  I think the best part of the process was actually doing it, completing our project and getting our music out there.  It was great to see us all come together creatively.  We really grew closer as a band and as friends.  Learning is always a positive thing and we experienced a lot of that. 
What is your favorite song on the album?
I think my favorite song on the Album is the title track “Sinners and the Saved.”  I put a lot of time and effort into this one.  It is a song written about my two grandfathers and most definitely most meaningful to me. 
(Below is the a piece of the track!)
What inspires you to write a song? 
There are a lot of different things that can inspire someone to write.  The sun, mountains, trees, maybe a girl or heartbreak.  Honestly you could pick any topic and make up some type of song about it.  I like to write about things that have happened to me in life or maybe someone close.  Real life things are usually the ones that turn out the best.  
Who has influenced your style of music?
I think at the end of the day there really are certain people that stand out to me as influential.  Groups such as The Eagles or Conway Twitty, and Willie Nelson go way back before I was even born.  To people like King George Strait who has had a major impact on my music style.  It all boils down to people who really got me started listening to the Texas/Red Dirt music scene.  Pat Green, Reckless Kelly, Cody Canada and Stoney Larue.  Those guys really pulled me in.     
Cody SparksWhat is the most rewarding thing about being a singer/songwriter/in a band? 
For me personally I think the most rewarding thing about being a singer/songwriter in a band is getting together and making something so great with the guys in the group.  Seeing a positive fun look on peoples faces while hearing us play means more to us than anyone will ever know.  We love when people get out and dance and party to our tunes.  We have a good time doing what we do.  So its great when people respond the same.  We are more than just a band, its a family.  
Any big plans for the near future?
The album is now out on iTunes, so our future plans are to push and promote the record. We want to keep getting our name out there.  The more people that hear our stuff the better.  We always welcome new fans and friends.  
Here is the link for Cody Sparks Band facebook page.  If there is anything I appreciate about Cody is how much I have seen him grow with his music and the hard work he has put in. And I am not just saying that because he is family!


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 4, Live Music, Texas

A (Free) Night to Remember

The-Best-of-Wurstfest-2015_01In the middle of November a couple of years ago, four of my friends and I were feeling claustrophobic in Austin after midterms, so we decided to go on a day trip to New Braunfels for a German festival called “Wurstfest”. When we pulled into town, tacky lederhosen and fake German façades were everywhere, but they couldn’t mask the smell of sausage and beer. As we walked towards the food stands, several people who were leaving started giving us all of their coupons. It turned out that this was the last day of the festival. After exchanging these tickets at the food stands, we found our arms filled with free pitchers of Miller Lite and skewered knackwurst sausage. As we made our way into the beer hall to feast on our bounty, an elderly German band played the Gene Autry dancehall classic, “South of the Border.”

Right as we sat down, however, smoke began to fill the enormous hall from a nearby sausage stand. It turned out that there was a minor fire on the cooker, which was quickly extinguished. While this ended up not being a threat to anyone’s safety, the beer hall was deserted in the frenzy. After a few minutes, one of my more astute friends noted that there was plenty of beer left abandoned on the tables and nobody seemed to be returning. This good fortune added onto our previous stroke of luck left us as very rich men in this fake German village. As our stomachs filled, the band (who were apparently unfazed or maybe even uninformed about the fire) closed their set and the crowd thinned out outside of the beer hall. We realized that it was time to go.

As we were about to leave town, we decided to stop by Gruene Hall because one of our friends had never been. We parked down the block and walked up to the front door, but the bouncer told us that it was a sold out show and that we couldn’t get in. Being the thrifty college opportunists we were, we decided to walk around back to see if there was another entrance. We saw a light from the side of the building and approached it. It was an open door, and through it, stood Willie Nelson, about twenty feet away from us playing his hit, “Crazy” with his full band, and with “Trigger”, his infamous guitar, in his arms.

We were dumbfounded.

None of us ever thought we’d be able to see the Red Headed Stranger play a legendary venue like Gruene Hall. As the song went on, a cop approached us and told us that we could stay for a few more songs before he got in trouble. He also informed us that if Willie invited him to smoke in his tour bus, he wouldn’t feel professionally obligated to say no.

willieATgruenehallAs we got back in the car to go home after the show, I realized that I’d been able to cross off a long-time item on my bucket list, on accident. It was always a dream of mine to see Willie play at Gruene Hall but it was always too expensive for my friends and I or sold out too quickly. While we couldn’t buy tickets to actually go into the dance hall, I’m still grateful for that cop letting us watch the show from the musicians’ entrance, also known as “Willie’s door.”

Willie using the musicians entrance to Gruene Hall, or “Willie’s Door”


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 4, Concert, Texas