The Texas Gentlemen are the Swiss army knife of music
The Texas Gentlemen are a glorified band collective from Dallas, TX who have finally released their exciting debut album "TX Jelly" on New West Records. After playing mostly for and with other artists like Leon Bridges, Paul Cauthen, Jonathan Tyler, Kris Kristofferson and many more for several years, they are still one of the best kept secrets in the music scene but I am sure that will change soon. I have seen them live in Austin during SXSW 2017 twice (most notably at Luck Reunion, playing for 2 hours with multiple guests on stage and various singers rotating in and out like The Band did it during their "The Last Waltz" show). I am highly recommending the band, the album and their live shows. I had the chance to talk with band member, songwriter and producer Beau Bedford via phone a couple days ago. Here's our conversation with all the information you need to know about The Texas Gentlemen...
As Songpickr I am searching warm, organic, authentic and timeless songs for my playlists.
Dude, you just described our band. We want to make timeless, American music. Earnest music. You just crushed it! That’s a match made in heaven.
How would you describe the TXG in your own words?
The Texas Gentlemen are the Swiss army knife of music. We celebrate everything in modern Pop music - from Jazz to Blues to Country, to Folk to Pop. We are really influenced by our predecessors, the generation before us - The Band, The Swampers, The Wrecking Crew were big influences for what we are doing as a band. We are into timeless, American music and I hope that's what the output of our content sounds like.
When did the band start? We started playing shows as The Texas Gentlemen about 5-6 years ago but we just started being our own band a little over 2 years ago when we really started playing our own material the last couple of years. Before that we were more a backing band for an artist, playing a record for somebody or doing some covers at a show.
Did you always call yourself The Texas Gentlemen? We started promoting the name in 2013. All of our shows were at Dallas, TX at the time. We did two regular spots as residencies. One of them is this historic "Grenada" theater where we played approx. 3-4 times in a 6 weeks period and then we went to "Magnolia Motor Lounge" in Fort Worth to play with another artist named Jonathan Tyler. That was also the time when we met Leon Bridges and did a bunch of shows with him as he just started off. That's how that whole connection happened. The cool thing with Leon was, he was just wearing his dad's clothes, that's just his whole style. He was showing up with guitars his mom has just gotten him and he could barely play the guitar. He was like, "I just wrote this song last night" - it was "Lisa Sawyer". Beau sings the lyrics with a soulful voice - "Good morning, New Orleans..". Hearing him, playing that on the guitar just right after he wrote it - it's the same arrangement than on the record. Nothing about Leon is manufactured, he just had that in him."
How many people are in The Texas Gentlemen, how big is the core band? The whole thing seems to be kind of a mystery.
There's definitely a mystery. A lot of that depends on who we are playing with, e.g. if we back somebody up who requires a bigger band or if we go out, trying to do something really special. We grow and shrink as we need for shows. We even had gigs where we brought two drummers with us. The reason why we are able to do that with the Gents is the fact that there's no central figure, no point man and everybody feels at home. It’s a big group of us, making music together - in the studio, backing up artists and doing shows as own performers. It's just a huge flight of musicians - drummers, guitar players, bass players, keyboard players and we all love getting together and making music. That’s why it can get really big sometimes, especially when everybody is available. That being said, we have a core group of guys that play most of our shows. That core is myself, Daniel Creamer and Nik Lee - we are the writer guys of the band (according to information provided by their label the core sextet consists of Beau Bedford, Nik Lee, Daniel Creamer, Matt McDonald, Ryan Ake, and Scott Lee). Almost everyone in our band performs with another artist. It's a glorified studio band, that tours when we can, that puts together unique shows. Every time we go out and play it's a brand new experience from night to night and that's what makes the music really exciting. One of our drummers is Aaron Haynes who also plays with the Quakercity Night Hawks. When they have something going on and Aaron has to go out do his stuff, it gives us the chance to have one of our other buddies McKenzie Smith play drums with us. He’s Midlake's drummer, has worked with everybody from Father John Misty to Nelly Furtado (comment: He’s also in the new supergroup “BNQT”). That’s what really makes it fun for us – anytime we insert somebody into our group, it’s like putting new ingredients into a soup. It constantly changes. We love playing off one each other, every show is such a unique experience.
Do you know similar collectives of musicians?
I don’t know how everybody operates in their different projects but the Dap-Kings have worked with Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, The Budos Band, backed up Amy Winehouse on her “Back to Black” record, etc.. I think they are another great “modern day” example of what The Band did back in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We were huge fans of The Band and we are also big students of recording music history. The Wrecking Crew and The Swampers are kind of a lightning rod for us of what we can accomplish musically. The difference between us and them is that we go out play shows and perform songs as our own entity. There’s a deep friendship between all the guys who play with The Texas Gentlemen, really long-term relationships. Most of us have known each other and played music together for over 10 years and that’s reflected a lot in the music. We know where we are going musically before we get there. Everybody is pretty tight together. The fact that we can extend that to 10-15 dudes is really fun! The music gets really exciting when you have a bunch of people on the same page, pursuing something that they love, with people they communicate, without having to speak. It’s really unique!
When Ray Wylie Hubbard joined you on stage at Luck Reunion he shared a little story about rehearsing with you. He basically asked you “Do you know the Blues?” and when you replied “Yes”, he said “Rehearsal done”.
(Beau laughs) I have this attitude when somebody asks me “Can we do this?”, I am always “Yes, we can and we want to!”. Especially with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ray Benson and people who have been doing music for this long. We are students of all these stars, we are familiar with their taste and all that good stuff. It’s an easy “Yes” when timeless artists come up to you and say “Hey, can you do this?” and we’re like “Yes, and if we don’t know how to do it, we will figure out how to do it with you". Most of the guys in the band are pretty well-rehearsed enough for almost every style of music so we can at least get away with it for a little bit. Whatever style is asked of us.
A band like The Wrecking Crew have never released something under their own name and the story of the recording of your debut album “TX Jelly” almost sounds like a coincidence. You were booked with another artists to record at FAME studios but the session got cancelled. Because the studio time was already paid for you invited all your friends to record together.
In a nutshell that’s really exactly what happened. It was perfect timing. We had just played our first show outside of Dallas, TX. We went out to Newport Folk Festival to do the show with Kris Kristofferson and the studio days were like 3 weeks away. So when the other artist dropped out I was like maybe this a great time to try out something new with the Gents. I put zero pressure on it, I pulled everybody that showed up “Don’t worry about it, don’t stress out doing songs or preparing for this, let’s just get there, let’s have fun. The worst thing that happens is that we as a band have fun, as a community in one of the most classic recording studios in American history. That’s the worst thing that can happen and if we make some great music – even better!” The record we have coming out flew off from these guys - the musical performances, the songwriting, just the vibe in the room was so good. We were moving super quick, not really analyzing everything. Well, we were analyzing, it sounds like we were just shooting from the hip but I mean everybody is super quick in this band! We were not sitting there, picking every tiny little thing apart, we were just doing inspired performances we really believed in and the guys gave me enough latitude. They trust me enough – “Hey, let’s move on and do the next thing”. There was some really sweet magic in the room during these sessions.
How many people have been in the studio with you?
At one point we had like 18 people in the studio. We had booked studio A and studio B working. My really good friend from Dallas, Jason Burt was engineering, working in studio B and I was in studio A where we were just churning out as many songs as we could, having fun, being inspired, just digging deep into the music.
When you were finished you had about 28 songs.
I don’t know if this part of the story is out there yet but after we did the FAME sessions we secretly spent a day at Jackson Highway studio (the original site of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios) which is where the Swampers moved to right after they left FAME to work with the Rolling Stones, cut “Wild Horses”, “Brown Sugar” – it's a super historic little studio over there. We got in there undercover of the night and cut four more songs we haven’t even listened to. I have the tapes over at my house. We actually got a lot of the songs, the number got really high, while playing through a set of music in the studio that we had been performing at shows. I think we got 14 of these songs done in about 1,5h. What made the album of that 1,5h is “Habbie Doobie”, “Shakin’ all over”, there are a couple of other tunes which almost made the album but we really stacked up some big numbers when we just ran through the 14 songs. I was like “One take, if we get it right – great! If not, let’s move on.” So we just cranked them out and had some fun.
The final album has 11 tracks. How did you pick the songs?
The criteria was what feels inspired, what feels timeless and what stirs the spirit. Right as we finished recording in Muscle Shoals, I drove back to Nashville and I had maybe 20 of the songs on a CD and I was just listening through it and the first 4 songs are the first 4 songs on the record. “Habbie Doobie”, “Pain”, “Bondurant Women” and “Dream Along”. I was like “Alright, this is it. This is the very beginning of the record, this is how it starts.” It just had such an emotive power when it finally got to “Dream Along”, the fourth song, it was just a good feeling inside, everything the first three songs had built up, this beautiful moment for “Dream Along” to just sit in. When I’m working on an album, that’s always super important – not overthinking things - connecting emotionally with the sentiment and the feel of the song and those work so well together and from there it was really easy to build out, make decisions on what songs would be on, there was just a vibe to it. Even a “TX Jelly” track which is just a jam the guys were doing while I was getting sounds, you can hear me cooking through filters, getting drum sounds set up and that really helped me to define what the album was. We love Country, we love Folk, we love Modern Rock, we love Classic Rock, Psychedelia – all these genres are huge influences to us. We’ve been so blessed to grow up with this rich heritage of American music. So it’s really a celebration of things we love. We have the experience of a decade of playing music together and that was kind of a culmination. It’s a great introduction to what The Texas Gentlemen are and sound like.
As you said, the album is showcasing a wide range of genres and it takes until track 5 for the first Country song to come up. There are a lot of surprising turns. “Shakin’ all over” is a Tarantino style Rockabilly-Surf-Rock song which ends with heavy jamming. I wasn't really prepared and didn't expect that.
We didn’t expect it either when we started the song and that’s part of the magic working with a group like this. We are all comfortable and confident. Just like Jazz in principle, we have a little bit of order with the song but then it’s like “Let’s just play music and communicate together” and that’s what you really can hear on a track like “Shakin’ all over”, that is us in the moment. I don’t believe there’s a video but if you could see how tapped into we are, literally out of our minds, just involved in the song, having fun but also very committed doing something righteous in the moment. That song and “Habbie Doobie”, “TX Jelly”, that’s just us vibing off each other. “Bondurant Women” has the same thing. We didn’t have a fixed set of rules we had to follow but to listen to each other and play music, let’s not overthink it. A lot of the magic happens when you are surrounded by a lot of super talented people and great songwriters and performers. I wish more people in music went after it like that. There’s a special magic when a bands makes a track together - live in the studio. But it’s just one of the ways we make records.
Was it an attempt to put your live shows on a record?
Oh, no doubt! The album is a showcase what we do as a live band and how varied the show is. We go from the chilliest Country song ever into a psychedelic rock song. We do it because we love all of that music.
Let’s talk about the videos for your first three singles. The clip for the first single “Habbie Doobie” is more like a classic performance video (except for the Armadillo race part of it). In what studio did you film it?
We did that in my home studio – the Modern Electric Sound Recorders which was built in 1967, it’s one of the oldest studios in Dallas, TX. We get new artists in every day. Nikki Lane was out there recently cutting some tracks. Working at FAME and Jackson Highway was great but having a home base with a level of familiarity and comfort where timeless music is made is really the end goal. We are very focused on building a rich legacy of that studio. Originally it was used for jingles. Basically most jingles in the US were made in that studio. It’s funny.
The videos for “Pain” and “Bondurant Woman” are more like short 70s B-movies. It seems you put a lot of thought into it on the one hand but again focussed on the fun part.
Yeah, the videos have been a lot of fun. We didn’t want to do performance videos, that was not really our intention. Everybody does performance, pretend you are playing along to the song. We all love the corkyiness and narrativeness of the Beatles short film for “A hard days night”. That was absolutely a focus for us – let’s do some weird narrative pieces to go with this music and you get to see that in “Pain” and “Bondurant Women”. We had a lot of fun! The puns and the comedy that was constantly happening is almost not overshadowed by the music.
I just discovered the extra-long 15min version of the “Bundurant Women” video with a deep-dive into every character of the story. How much real-life is in the characters of that clip?
Hah, the true story telling is pretty low, almost none but we have grown up among some amazing characters here in Texas, a lot of the characters in the video have been inspired by the personalities around us. We told everybody, hey you are going to be an Armadillo trainer, you are going to be a farmer, etc. – we just gave everybody a role and then everybody kind of invented a backstory to the character they were playing. A lot of that is not scripted, just in the moment, being asked an absurd question, giving an absurd answer. A lot of the inspiration came from the documentary “Hands on a hard body” and that in itself is so absurd and amazing.
On “Bondurant Woman” the vocals are sung by a guy named Noah Jackson. I couldn’t find any official releases by this artist on digital services. Is he new?
Yeah! He’s one of the great secrets of all the musicians I got to meet. I met Noah Jackson through Paul Cauthen and through Jason Burt (one of the engineers of the album). Noah is just a freak of nature songwriter and vocalist. I mean, he does everything, sings every genre. He popped in that day, jammed with the band – I believe that’s the second take that we did, it’s completely live, no overdubs on that take and it was just an inspired performance. The vocal microphone was right next to the drums, so almost the whole drum sound is the lead vocal mic and it’s just – what else can I say about that song – ridiculous. Both lyrically and melodically, it puts on a Jefferson Airplane vibe, all the way to some weird Paul Simon, a mix of Psychedelia, what a classic song that is! That tune in itself encompasses so many of the themes of modern Pop music starting with The Beatles era, that wraps up all my favorite vibes of music into one song. That song does just showcase what talent and a champ Noah is. Definitely somebody we want to work with more in the future. I’m excited about what he will cook up in his career. We are brothers out of the same family – metaphorically speaking.
You are introducing a lot of new talent on your record. Besides Noah, I discovered Dan Dyer who is great and Kirby Brown who also recorded with you but that’s one of the songs which did not make it onto the album.
Yes, Kirby was down and we cut a song. It didn’t make the record out of vibe. It was more like a Kirby song and it needs to be on a Kirby record. We had a lot of great songs which had a little different vibe than what ended up on the record. But Kirby and Dan are amazing. We are sitting on two albums right now and are looking for a great way to put Dan’s new music out. It’s so inspired, it’s really my favorite bits of Country music what Dan is doing right now. So yes, it’s really a showcase for all these amazing Singer-Songwriters and talent around us.
When you recorded the album you had not signed a record deal. How and why did you pick New West Records as your label?
There was never the intention to go with a record label. We had planned to release it on our own and it wasn’t until New West saw us during SXSW, really just made an offer we couldn’t refuse. It gave us the chance to expose the album and the Texas Gentlemen band to a much wider audience compared to what we could do on our own. There are some amazing people in that office incl. Kim Buie (VP A&R, New West Records) and John Allen (President, New West Records). Those guys have been in the industry for so long, worked on some amazing records and we just felt right at home with that team once we met everybody. It’s just a great fit for our record.
Until now your fanbase is mainly local and regional and I assume not so many people on the Westcoast or in Europe have heard of The Texas Gentlemen?
It’s part of our ambition to spread the word throughout Europe incl. the UK where people earnestly listen and enjoy music but even here in the US we spent half of our time in the recording studio so the upcoming tour is really our first time in some parts of America. Up to now we have done shows throughout Texas, in Newport and we have played a handful of shows in Nashville so the nation is getting introduced to us for the first time. We have been really fortunate to have a lot of artists go out ahead of us, telling everybody what we have going on – people like Paul Cauthen who has been an amazing champion of The Texas Gentlemen, same thing with Jonathan Tyler, we just had some amazing partners in crime, dear friends of ours and artists who have been huge supports. It’s really cool, we’ve been blessed to have that support of the community.
How does it feel to embark on a bigger tour, do promotion for the album and give interviews?
We all have been in different acts, I actually toured with Jonathan Tyler for a few years when one of his albums came out, I stepped into the studio shortly after that to start making records full-time. It’s a little putting on the old hat. One of the nice things about promoting this record is it’s fun to talk about. As a producer I am inspired by my artists but I am never the kind of person that tells the interviewer about the artist. I love talking about the artists I work with so this is the first time where I’m yeah, I’m the producer of this album and I am so pumped to talk about the artist – all the things that are special and amazing about the artist. I actually love doing that because I love all the work those guys have done personally and collectively. It’s just a privilege to be part of it. The promotional side is super fun. I can tell everybody how great these guys are, every single day. It’s part of what I love to do, being a producer, working on things I love. Nothing I take for granted.
What’s your expectation when the album comes out?
I’m not a great prophet but regardless of what kind of success this generates our approach will not be affected either way. We are going to make our following record just out of the passion for the music and doing what we love. That’s what made this project unique. It wasn’t made to try to fit a nitch or work on a particular format where we thought we can make a lot of money. It was built on the love of music and to pursue just righteous things for the song we were working on. That’s what is going to continue for us. For the next few years we will see what happens on the touring side of things. We are with the William Morris agency and they have been great connecting us with big artists. I am sure we will do some more special guest things but also do just Texas Gentlemen centric shows. Beyond that we will make as many records as we can.
A lot of people think that that there’s no good new music coming out but I think that’s not true. What do you think?
A bunch of us, especially studio musicians get caught. You have artists come in, they want to make a Pop, a mainstream record because they want their music to have success. But you can’t really manufacture success. Don't chase it too hard. Great Pop music usually happens when it’s done earnestly and it just happens to sound Pop. On our side of things, making music from the heart, authentic, not appealing to a “target group”, is just a completely different vibe. If we are not celebrating artists who do that it will disappear, at least from the business side of things. I love that there’s still an underground network of people who still cherish music that is made in this raw and organic way. I don’t expect it to be anything that disappears but we are definitely in a lower ebb of the flow right now.
Would you blame it on Streaming?
No! No, I don’t blame anything. I just think there are seasons culturally in the world and right now there’s so much to pick from. It’s a great problem to have. Nobody in our group is making music because we are expecting to get rich from it. Everybody is making it because we can’t help to do it. Doing anything else sucks! So regardless of what comes in, the output will remain the same because of our love for what we are doing. I think that’s something which is really important, something which should be protected. Whether great financial success is happening is really out of anybody’s control.
There was this article about how “Rock is the new Jazz”, claiming it is only appealing to a niche audience and doomed to die because it is only repeating history and not reinventing itself.
We could say that about every genre of music. That’s a whole separate conversation. Musical eras used to last for 150 years like the Baroque era, the Renaissance era but today, I mean we go through a set of music every 5 years before it’s done and then we move on to the next thing. It’s definitely an interesting time. I would say if you compare Led Zeppelin to Tame Impala today I would argue there’s been amazing growth in rock music. I’m not saying Tame Impala is better than Led Zeppelin but I do think they are some amazing steps that have been made, innovations with technology, which all the bands since the 60s benefitted from. They had all these tricks in the studio, reverse play, lowering the pitch and now today we have even more tools and some people use them amazingly. So I don’t know if I totally agree with that. But it is true there has been a lot of Rock music which has just repeated itself but for mainstream music it’s a business to repeat something we already know it’s successful. That’s inherently going to happen but it’s up to people that don’t give a fuck, people who say "I don’t care what has been done, what’s a traditional song form. I’m gonna do something that is awesome, that is righteous and inspiring to me." That’s where innovation happens. And as far as I can tell there’s still a lot of people out there doing that.
As you say, there always have been cultural seasons. Remember Disco? Killed by Punk. Hair Metal Bands? Killed by Grunge. Today's Country music has a bad reputation - at least in Europe - because of all the commercial Pop Country.
It does. But there are guys like Chris Stapelton, Sturgill Simpson and Paul Cauthen. These guys may never going to be the big Pop stars but the longer they stick to it, immediately more people get to listen, learn and discover their music. It’s like Kristofferson. You can discover him when you’re twenty if you have the ears to hear it or if you’re eighty. The music is timeless so it doesn’t have to catch you today. It can literally catch you in years from now. And a lot of people forget the importance of that and focus on the success of today. I like bands and artists that set themselves up for a long-lasting career. You can’t really control if your music is popular today but you can control the quality of your content. If it’s done righteously it doesn’t age, it doesn’t have a pull date on it. There will always be mainstream Country music, mainstream Pop, mainstream Rock, trying to fit the formula. I’m sure as much marketing dollars they put behind a release it will always reach a certain level of success but it will also have a great level of failure because it doesn’t always work. The nice thing about people making real arts music is that they don’t have the huge budgets but there’s also not the pressure that it has to be a blinding success story overnight or the project is dead. That sucks! So what? David Bowie – not every of his records blew up the shelves, people didn’t know what they were listening to when David Bowie came out and it was just years over years when Bowie was constantly pushing what is cool. By the early, mid 70s people were like “I wanna know who David Bowie is. He’s a freak of nature who does whatever he wants”. We need more artists taking up that mind set. In all genres of music, to innovate, to push the boundaries, not worry about traditional song structure.
Who are the bands today doing that?
A band like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is so much fun! They don’t care, they have like 20 different styles they already put out. We are all discovering stuff that we love from this band. They are so nuanced in their different genres. Not every of their records will hit home for every person but for me as just a music fan in general, not as a Rock fan, Folk fan or a Hip-Hop fan, they are doing super fun stuff. I love it because they are doing what they love. Man, there’s plenty of artists out there who are pushing the envelope but we need more. More people be honest, more people telling the truth. Don’t tell me what I wanna hear, tell me your wisdom through music. That’s one of the great traditions of music, the sharing of wisdom – both melodically and lyrically.
How much time do you spend in the studio?
We are either playing a show or are in the studio, every single day, 7 days a week. We all thrive on creating new music, that the wheel never stops turning, for all of us it is pretty much all we do in life. Everybody has his own philosophy but I literally cannot do anything else than music. It is a gift that was handed down by whatever great spirit up there and I can’t help to do it. There is no plan B, there’s just make music.
"TX Jelly" album track listing (release date is Sep 15th 2017):
1. Habbie Doobie 2. Pain 3. Bondurant Women 4. Dream Along 5. Gone 6. My Way 7. Superstition 8. TX Jelly 9. Pretty Flowers 10. Shakin All Over 11. Trading Paint
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