Category Archives: Austin

Country Music is Around Us

Editor’s note: This is an example of Blog Post 5.

Before I started Rhetoric of Country music, the only experience I had with country music was  me actively seeking it through listening to it either on the radio or during a show. After going some of the assignments, I realized that country music is all around us!

To start, I went to the Texas Music Museum. Unfortunately, when I went the country music exhibit was not in display at this moment, but I did learn about Tejano music in Texas. I wish the country music display would have been available though, because I’m sure there would have been lists of the different artists and their backgrounds. I then went and had lunch at Threadgills on a typical Friday afternoon, and although it wasn’t brunch it was still great walking around the restaurant and seeing the pictures of the different artists (there was a section with a lot of Willie Nelson pictures there) and the southern vibe that the whole restaurant had.

Since those experiences kind of failed, I made sure I had other experiences and encounters with country music. Some of the ones I had throughout the semester are:

Watching ‘Cars’

Cars_2006I remember going to see Cars in theatres when I was young. The only thing I ever remember from the movie was the long scene when Lightning McQueen is driving and “Life is a Highway” was playing in the background. I decided to rewatch the movie, and I realized that there were country songs in the movie. I think at the time when I was little, I was taken back by the story line more than the actual music, even though I did love Rascal Flatt’s version of “Life is a Highway”. I think country music being involved in mainstream movies like this is good for the genre because it gives people the opportunity to listen to the songs without really realizing it’s country and judging it solely for it being country and quickly turn it off. And for kids, songs like “Find Yourself” and “Life is a Highway” are catchy tunes to introduce them to the genre and hopefully grow up to really like it!

Reading Texas Music Magazine 

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 8.04.33 PMI read February 2015’s edition of Texas Music  Extra. I had never heard of this magazine, let alone read it, but I did enjoy it. Even though it was informative, the information was clear and easy to read. I enjoyed that they had a good blend of well known artists like Miranda Lambert and Willie Nelson, but then they also mentioned local artists like Kasey Lansdale. Even though the magazine discussed different genres of Texas music, there was some about different country artists.

Visiting the Willie Nelson statue 12922335_992008737519006_1027440997_o

I also decided to pay a little visit to the bronze version of Willie Nelson. I also may or may not have attempted to face swap with Willie and got in trouble with the APD… I think it makes sense  that Austin decided to  rename it’s street to Willie Nelson Boulevard considering he has made a huge contribution to the city and has lived in Austin for a long time. I think the statue is in the perfect location because it sits outside of the Moody Theatre (which some people like to say he ‘christened’ the theatre because he performed on opening day) where ACL Live tends to tape!

After all of these different experiences, I noticed that country music is around us. It’s either in movies we watch, in our streets, at the restaurants we eat, or even aspiring or established artists among us, country music is there and makes a presence in every day life!


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5

Dan + Shay + a Memory

dan-shay-logo-652x367Unfortunately Spring Break is now behind us, and although this was a great one spent at SXSW, I have spent the past few days reminiscing over other experiences I have had at SXSW. In the past, I have had the opportunity to see many different artists, but among some of  my favorite performances, are Dan + Shay and Tori  Kelly (but this is about country music, so I’ll try to keep it that way. And it may have been because Tori Kelly was being serenaded by Dan + Shay, or it may have been Shay’s runs that made me have a memorable experience,  or the fact that their new single “From the Ground Up” is one of my favorite songs of the moment, but it’s definitely a memory I don’t forget!

Dan + Shay are an American country duo comprised of Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney. They both met at a party Dan had thrown at his house. Smyers has said that he hadn’t been able to afford to pay for there to be heat in his home, so in order  to keep his guests warm, they were all in a tent and all of the guests were huddled around a TV. To pass the time, and everyone at the party mostly being musicians (isn’t that what everyone does in Nashville?), Dan and Shay spontaneously started to jam out.

From that moment on, the two realized there was something there and decided to continue making music. Eventually they got signed to Warner Bros. Records Nashville and released their first single “19 You and Me”, along with other singles like “Stop, Drop, and Roll” and  “Nothing Like You”, all from their first studio album Where It All Began. They gained success and have received ACMA vocal duo nominations as well as a CMT nomination for their video “19 You and Me”. Dan + Shay have also been on tour with people like Hunter Hayes, Blake Shelton, and are about to embark on a summer tour with Darius Rucker!

tumblr_inline_n3f5ilYbvn1sb8vriThey performed at Banger’s Sausage House and Brewery at SXSW in 2014 for a SB projects showcase. Before their set, they stood around listening to the music and all of the artists going on before them. For a good 30 minutes Shay stood next to me drinking beer after beer, as I glanced his way fangirling on the inside, but too intimidated to talk to him. So for 30 minutes, I just stood there enjoying the music and processing the fact that 1/2 of Dan + Shay was next to me.

After a few hours, Dan + Shay took the stage. Not a lot of people were there for them, so it was easy to make my way to the front of the stage. With a wide smile on my face, I watched them perform. They sang their singles as well as other songs from their upcoming album. On stage, they bantered with one another, told stories, made the crowd cheer, and sang songs!

The greatest moments of the night for me were that Dan + Shay brought out Tori Kelly and serenaded her on “Somewhere Only We Know”. Eventually they started to talk about their performance to the IHeart Country  Festival and asked the crowd who was going. My friend yelled out that we weren’t going because the tickets had sold out, and they offered us tickets! My friend and I never actually got them, but it’s the thought that counts…right? The two of them continued to sing for the rest of their set. Dan sang and played guitar, and Shay impressed everyone with his runs. When their set was over, I was pretty sad, but they came out during Tori Kelly’s set along with all of the other artists that had performed that day and I got to see them again as everyone jammed out!

Overall it was an amazing experience! I was so close to them and I was able to sing along to their songs. They are entertaining performers, and every time I see videos of them or hear their songs, I quickly remember this moment!


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 4, Bro Country, Concert, Live Music

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

My Love for Country Music Remains

Note: This is an example of Blog Post 5, in which you are asked to reflect on different experiences you had over the course of the semester.

Three of the things related to country music that I have done throughout the semester that have shaped my perception of the genre include watching the Dixie Chicks Documentary “Shut Up and Sing,” exploring new featured Country artists in an issue of Garden and Gun Magazine, and attending a Jerry Jeff Walker Concert at Gruene Hall. Each of these things has given me a unique insight into what the world of country music has to offer.

IMG_4021Let me first dive into “Shut Up and Sing” and explain my take on it. To start, you should know that I am a huge Dixie Chicks fan and had never actually done the research to find out why they fell off the face of the planet about 13 years ago. I knew it had to do with slamming Bush but I didn’t know what exactly was said and why it had such a huge effect on their career. After watching the documentary, I can see why their words upset so many people. In short, Natalie Maines, the head singer, expressed that she was ashamed the President was from Texas regarding his decisions on the war in Iraq. Her comment caused radio stations to ban their music from being played as a consequence. This documentary has shown me just how conservative the world of country music is at large.

700-new-outlaws_0Secondly, I have learned more about Country music through my discovery of several artists featured in Garden and Gun Magazine. These include Aubrey Sellers, Parker Millsap, Margo Price, and Andrew Combs. Of these, my favorite is Parker Millsap. He brings a kind of different flavor to the country scene. His music has a country sound with a little bluesy, rock and roll feel. I typically am not a huge fan of genre mash-ups but for some reason Parker Millsap does it for me. Through this discovery, I have broadened my horizons and become more open-minded to different takes on Country Music.

IMG_0011And lastly, my experience at Jerry Jeff’s concert at Gruene Hall has left a lasting impression of why I love Country Music so much. When you look around and not a soul in the crowd is wearing something other than cowboy boots, you know you’re in good company. I have been to several Jerry Jeff concerts in the past but something about Gruene Hall made this one particularly special. It was a two-steppin, singing every word to every song, surrounded by good people kind of night. I can’t think of a better way to see one of the greats do what he does best.

Each of these experiences has shaped my view of Country Music. Whether it clarified a characteristic of the genre, opened my eyes to new aspects, or solidified why I am such a fan, I have learned something from each one. My perception over the course of this semester has been stretched and has grown into a deeper appreciation for the greatest type of music known to man. I am now that much more confident that Country Music is my all time favorite type of music.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5