Chris Hillman is the kind of free only earned by having nothing left to prove. “It was a passion,” Hillman says, reflecting on his early years with a guitar, mandolin, and bass. “I had this passion to embrace the music and learn it, never really thinking, ‘I’m going to be a huge star.’ I didn’t think that way at all.”
Andy Roddick was nine years old when he realized what he was born to do. These days, he’s devoted his life to recreating that moment, over and over again––but not for himself. It turns out that one of the greatest tennis players of all time was born not just to pursue his own passion, but to help others discover theirs
Travis Meadows spent years trying to escape himself. He’s anything but selfish, so he’d find a way to get away––a bottle, a bag, a sermon––and he’d share it with everyone. That was then. Now, Meadows isn’t trying to get anybody lost or high. Instead, he’s trying to get every single one of us to settle in deeply to ourselves––and love what’s there.
There is power in telling your story. The power doesn’t lie in the story itself, but rather, in the possessive––often defiant––act of voicing it: I am here. This life is mine. But to speak and claim what’s yours, you must first find your voice––a process tortuous to pursue and a wonder to witness, especially when the one sharing that journey is an artist like Galen Ayers.
The pop/folk trio Castro is a breath of fresh air. Self-aware but never self-conscious, fun but never trivial, Jason, Michael, and Jackie Castro’s free-range pop soars thanks to a funny little twist for a trio of siblings: It is not how the brothers and sister are alike that creates their undeniable chemistry, but how they are different.
If joy were a person, he’d bring both peace and frenzy. He’d be full of music, light, and energy that soothes even as it stirs us up. Eyes closed, wire-rim glasses in place, mandolin pressed against his ribs, joy would be Sam Bush on a stage. “I feel fortunate that when it’s time to play, no matter how I feel physically or mentally, once the downbeat starts, my mind goes to a place that’s all music,” says Bush. “The joy of the music comes to me and overtakes me sometimes––I just become part of the music.
The first thing you notice about Justin Foster is his kindness. It isn’t meek or people pleasing or subtle. His goodness is bold, open, and a bit wild, capped off by acute opinions and raw belief in the potential of people. “It doesn't matter that you're the smartest person in the room anymore. It matters that you're the kindest person in the room,” he says, before smiling as he shrugs.
“I spend a lot of my time waiting,” Derik Hultquist says. “Waiting on life, waiting on a word, waiting on women. Waiting on myself. There is something I want to access. I’m trying to find poetry, and the only way I know how to do it is to just be as honest and patient as possible.” He pauses, then adds dryly, “And tell a couple of jokes.”
In a world where absolutes seem to be slipping away, you can count on this: Mike Green won’t ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do. That’s the good news. The bad news––or superb news, depending on your current frame of mind––is this is a guy who hitchhiked from New York to Alaska just to prove a point.
Rebellion doesn’t have to be loud. Smarter won’t always get in your face. A revolution can be an awfully nice guy with a small Bose p.a. and head full of songs in a Prius, passing 15-passenger vans and tour buses on his way to his next gig.
Wild Child doesn’t want a place to hide. Song after song, town after town, they’ll wear their hearts on their sleeves, addicted to the rush that only comes when thousands of strangers know all your secrets and sing them back to you, because they’re their secrets, too.
The best art often challenges widely held preconceptions about performance and beauty. We’re moved when we find the sublime in the gross, entranced when crassness collides with grace. It makes poetic sense that one of this practice’s finest current purveyors is named after a blood-sucking survivor. Deer Tick: undercutting expectations since 2004.
When asked what he hopes listeners get out of Mr. Jukebox, Joshua Hedley doesn’t hesitate. “I just want people to remember they have feelings, and that they’re valid,” he says. “Not everything is Coors Light and tailgates. There are other aspects of life that aren’t so great that people experience. They’re part of life, part of what shapes people. And that’s worth noting.”
Sunny Sweeney is the party and the morning after. She’s the quip that makes you laugh and the truth that makes you cry, the devil that’s egging you on and the angel whispering that you aren’t alone. But those compelling contradictions aren’t what’s most interesting about Sweeney: it’s the depth and brazen authenticity she brings to all her roles that grabs you and won’t let go.
Paul Cauthen remembers sitting alone in an Austin house after a weekend-long bender. A life making music seemed to be slipping away. Wide awake with nothing to lose, he fell on his hands and knees right there, bowed his head, and threw down a divine gauntlet.
Roughly 3,300 people live in Okemah, Oklahoma, a town with vintage redbrick storefronts, a dive bar called the Rocky Road Tavern, a name that means “things up high” in Kickapoo, and a strange track record of birthing great American songwriters: Woody Guthrie is from Okemah. Grammy-nominee John Fullbright is, too. Evan Felker belongs on that list.
In music, one of the most transformative experiences a woman can have is also an unspoken artistic taboo: Have a baby if you must. But for goodness’ sake, don’t write songs about it. Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Alela Diane has a problem with that.
“To do this job, you have to be an extraordinarily self-centered person,” Drew Kennedy says. “That’s just what it requires. I don’t want to be self-centered, but I was made to do this. A lot of artists say art comes from conflict––they talk about relationships ending or trying to overcome serious habits. Well, my conflict is this: how do I be so self-centered while being as selfless as I can?”
Listening to Liz Longley is like diving into a vivid dream, moody and somehow both familiar and strange. At first, the dream belongs exclusively to Longley. But as she sings what she’s trying to know––her lovers, her place, herself––her fierce candor shatters any walls that may have separated us, and the dream we’re swimming in becomes more than just Longley’s. It becomes ours.
Lori McKenna puts a magnifying glass on unchampioned lives. She doesn’t just notice the quiet and ordinary, she delights in it – effortlessly transforming the average to extraordinary. The result is over a decade worth of songs filled with honest stories and melodic depth, and her latest release is no exception.
The Earls of Leicester have discovered a kind of magic that, when harnessed, allows moments once relegated to memories to roar back to life. Old sounds rattle loose chains of space and time that have kept us from forgotten joys and who we once were. Suddenly, as we listen to and watch the Earls pick, saw, and croon, instead of contemplating once upon a time, we are living it.
Parker Millsap didn’t know not to sing like this. Listening to old albums as a kid alone in his room, he didn’t realize howling like a Delta blues ghost readying the world for rock-and-roll isn’t a how skinny white boy from Purcell, Oklahoma usually sounds.
Music is having a moment. Listeners are crying out for something true––some meaty songs that’ll give us some comfort, even as they cut closer to the bone. Everyone is finally ready for the gritty, thundering country Jason Boland & The Stragglers have sharpened over almost 20 years’ worth of selling out roomy venues, playing festivals and commanding stages across the nation.
Happiness has always come naturally to Cory Morrow. With his rollicking, soulful, feel-good Texas country, he has made thousands jump on tabletops, shimmy, scream, and suspend worries for almost two decades, like a honky-tonk pied piper.