We’re excited to announce that we will have a Songwriter Panel composed of three of the most respected songwriters in the scene! Here’s an opportunity to take in the insights of Jamie Lin Wilson, Drew Kennedy, and John Baumann as they share their thoughts on finding inspiration, song structure, melody, writer’s block, co-writing, & more!
Wilson, Kennedy, and Baumann join a seminar lineup of fellow artists and songwriters Wade Bowen, Parker McCollum, Bri Bagwell, and Mike Ryan, as well as a prestigious list of booking agents, artist managers, radio promoters, talent buyers, radio personnel, publicists, producers, music lawyers, bloggers, and more!
More information on the Texas Music Seminar can be found here: http://www.texasmusicpickers.com/texas-music-seminar-2018/
Jamie Lin Wilson
“It’s unfair that the poets and songwriters are the ones who have the songs about their lives, when maybe that’s not what’s poetic,” Jamie says. “Maybe the moments are the ones happening in everyday farmers’ lives, or to a widow, or a son.” It’s her comfort in and commitment to two distinct worlds––that of the dream-chasing artists and the dirt-under-their-nails realists––that makes Jamie and her songs not just inviting, but cathartically important.
Jamie’s anticipated new record Jumping Over Rocks marks her second full-length solo album, but she’s not the new kid. She cut her teeth fronting and co-fronting beloved bands including the Gougers and the Trishas, winning over listeners and peers across the country. Now, her place as an acclaimed singer-songwriter on her own seems fated, imbued with a singular blend of freshness and road-earned wisdom. “I consider ‘Jumping Over Rocks’ to be a definitive record on myself and my style,” Jamie says. “I hope it’s something people connect with, that it’s familiar to them but also new. I hope that people find it interesting.”
No one covers the spectrum of age and experience quite like Jamie: moving portraits of men, women, and children coping, striving, wondering, and celebrating. Interesting? Undoubtedly. Universal but specific and personal, too. “I studied people around me more for this record than I have in the past,” she says. “I wrote songs from my perspective, from the outside looking in.”
Jamie didn’t pick up a guitar until she was 19. Casual remarks she dropped to her mom and cousin led to a gifting of an acoustic that Christmas. She started attending open mics in College Station, and was immediately welcomed into what was primarily a boys’ club of aspiring pickers and writers that included future fellow Gouger Shayne Walker. “By the end of the summer, I was playing gigs in a band, the Gougers,” she says. “I learned how to play guitar on stage.”
Jamie never looked back. She fell in love and married her college sweetheart, Roy. Together, the two raise their children and make their “weird road” work beautifully. “I’ve been taking kids on the road for eight years, touring constantly, just taking breaks to have babies,” Jamie says.
Jamie recorded Jumping Over Rocks during four days at Arlyn Studios in Austin. A fierce cast of musicians joined her, including Charlie Sexton on guitar, and together, Jamie and the players cut every track live. “You’re hearing my voice with the band––their playing, reacting to my emotions, and my voice reacting to the things they’re playing, all in real time,” Jamie says. “I think that adds to the feeling of these songs.”
The result is a rich collection of story songs delivered over rootsy strings, moody keys, crying steel, and sparse percussion, carried by Jamie’s songbird soprano that can convey tears or laughter with equal panache, sometimes in the same bar. The record kicks off with “Faithful and True,” a vocal showcase that mixes the sorrow of admitting shortcomings with a plea for forgiveness. Written with Jack Ingram, the song sounds like a classic from golden-era Nashville. “In our minds, it was about a relationship and obvious temptation,” Jamie says. “I started playing it at shows, and someone came up after one and said, ‘That song sounds like a prayer.’ I said, ‘Man, I think that’s what it is!’ That’s how I’ve thought of it ever since.”
Gently rolling “The Being Gone” questions the cost and payoff of decisions made, while “Oklahoma Stars,” which Jamie wrote with Turnpike Troubadours’ Evan Felker, pays tribute to those long nights that run together, unremarkably, but in hindsight come together to build a relationship, land, or life. Dreamy “Everybody’s Moving Slow” conjures up images of hazy summers as Jamie delivers a crooning performance worthy of the Rat Pack.
Opening with plaintive strings, “If I Told You” mulls over a painful thought: what if the other person doesn’t really want to know how you feel about them? Smiling through defeat, “Eyes for You” explores the vulnerability love brings. “In a Wink” kicks off with a poignant question: “Did you enjoy the clouds as much as Maggie did this morning? / I don’t know that anybody could,” before cataloguing the gorgeous moments we rush through instead of savor.
“Instant Coffee Blues,” originally written by Guy Clark and featuring Ingram as a duet partner, is the sole cover on the record. It’s followed by Jamie’s own song, “Run,” which explores an area Clark mastered, with a stirring debate over how long is too long for a woman to stay.
The album gets its title from standout track “Death and Life,” an epic it took Jamie four years to write. A widow mourning her husband and not quite ready to let go; a son who copes with his father’s death by getting to work with his hands, hammers, nails, and 2x4s: the two true tales became intertwined thematically as Jamie mulled them over. “I realized the song is how people who are still here deal with death,” she says. “It’s life after death, but not heavenly life. It’s how the living deal with death.”
When asked how she hopes listeners react to Jumping Over Rocks, Jamie brings up a hero: John Prine. “On his new album, there is a song that always gets me––‘Summer’s End,’” she says. “Every time I listen to it, I start crying, and I think, ‘I don’t know why I’m crying!’” She laughs her big laugh, which comes often and easily. “I hope something I create can get to somebody in that way. That’s what gets us through––finding common ground with someone else, whether it’s in songs or friendship. It makes you feel better about your own life.”
“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?”
Kennedy is asking himself these questions as he drives through some snaking Colorado mountain roads, on his way to pick up his wife and two young sons from the airport after about a week apart. He’s missed them terribly, but it’s been such a good run: listening rooms scattered throughout Colorado, New Mexico, and West Texas, all packed with devotees anxious to hear just him and his Gibson Hummingbird tell stories. He’s doing what he loves while who he loves most is 1,000 miles away. And it’s that tension––the struggle between being the kind of man he wants to be and being the kind of artist he has to be––that keeps him up at night.
It’s also what enables Kennedy to write songs that comfort even as they break your heart.
“When you’re alone, the thing that keeps you company is your memories––your thoughts,” Kennedy says. “Sometimes your mind wanders into something that happened 20 years ago that was just a lily pad you hopped onto and off of on your way to wherever you were going. But with the benefit of time, you can look back and say, ‘That was sweet, and I’m going to hang on to the sweetness of that.’ That’s what makes you feel at home. Grabbing the goodness you’ve experienced when you don’t have a lot of human interaction or you don’t get to kiss your kids.”
On his highly anticipated eighth album At Home in the Big Lonesome, Kennedy grapples with how and when we can grab that goodness. Produced by Dave Brainard and fueled by Kennedy’s character-driven songwriting and distinct vocals, the album is a confident foray into Kennedy’s most complex musical territory to date: lush piano pop, layers of strings, and dramatic percussion that nods more to the Wrecking Crew than any Texas playboys. “Dave said, ‘What do you want this to be?’” Kennedy says. “I said, ‘I want to make a sophisticated record for adults.’ We ended up making a record that’s so close to my personal listening taste––something I’ve never done before.”
At Home in the Big Lonesomeaccomplishes that and more. Respecting listeners as it challenges them to think––and all without ever sacrificing a hook––it’s a big artistic win, even for a singer-songwriter like Kennedy with a history of besting the status quo. But for a while, he wasn’t sure that it was going to happen. The first day of recording at Sony Tree in Nashville, his manager Scott Gunter interrupted the session: Kennedy had missed two calls and a text from his wife Holly. At just seven months pregnant, she’d gone into labor with their second son. “Scott helped me find a flight so I could go throw up in the bathroom,” Kennedy says. “I was so scared. It was a terrifying few hours until I could get home and look at her and just be there.”
As the Kennedys’ son Oliver was being born and fighting for his life in Texas, musicians in Nashville continued to work on At Home in the Big Lonesome. Kennedy pushed through inner conflict like he’d never experienced: joy over Oliver’s progress bumped up against fears about feeling disconnected from his own album, then shame over worrying about the record at all instead of focusing solely on his family. “It’s a really confusing tightrope I ended up walking,” Kennedy says. “I did not enjoy the guilt and anxiety that was created, when at the same time, I was watching my son flourish.”
Between three and four months later, Oliver was thriving, and Kennedy was ready to return to the studio. “I was really nervous I’d feel disjointed from all that work that’d been done without me there, even though there was still so much more to do,” Kennedy says. “It felt good to get back in and realize, No. These are your songs. Just because you had an emergency and those guys soldiered on without you doesn’t mean you’re not in this. It is you.” He pauses, then smiles. “In an odd way, it almost made the album even more personal because it was Dave’s and all the musicians’ way of being able to give all they had to support me, my family, and my art.”
Kennedy needn’t have ever worried: At Home in the Big Lonesome is patently, beautifully, unmistakably his. Old men, devoted lovers, nostalgic loners: the characters Kennedy has become known for creating are all here. “I try to make little movies,” Kennedy says. “I don’t try to create little episodes of the same TV shows with the same recurring characters. There’s a place for that, but I like to paint vignettes that stand on their own.”
Album opener “When I’ll Miss You Most” sets the pace: a piano-cushioned farewell that lists the times, ways, and reasons goodbye will never really happen, the song is a moving ode to the people who won’t leave us. Next track “Sing This Town to Sleep” offers an intimate moment that “When I’ll Miss You Most” would list.
Kennedy has long-since mastered the art of literary lines that evoke sharp images and strong emotions. As he sings, “The sky’s as wide as a smile on a waitress / at a late night, roadside cafe outside of Pecos” to kick off “Open Road,” West Texas skylines and the people who dot them are inimitably captured. All brimming toe-tapping keys and crisp cymbal crashes, “24 Hours in New York City” traces the exhilaration and possibility of young love, while “House” describes a home’s dismantling to heartbreaking perfection. Moody “Cream and Sugar” and driving “Jackson” are both straight-ahead pop smashes, and Kennedy’s vocals have never sounded better. Walt Wilkins’ gem “Walnut Street” makes for an ideal addition and marks Kennedy’s first-ever inclusion of a cover on one of his albums.
“Miles to Go” offers wisdom for Kennedy’s sons in nuggets we should all take to heart. When asked about the song, he talks about the need to remember that while a day can feel momentous, each day is just a tiny part of a much bigger story. Kennedy pauses, then says warmly, “It’s also partly me saying that I know I’m gone a lot right now. I wish I wasn’t. But just so you know, I’m carrying your hopes and dreams with me, even as I go out and chase my own.
Fans and media alike are buzzing about the recent release of John Baumann’s latest project and new album PROVING GROUNDS, which he put out independently June 9. Hailed as a “Texas Troubadour on the Rise” and an “artist to watch” by Wide Open Country, the guitarist-singer-songwriter is currently touring in support of his latest effort across his home state through the summer.
“This record feels like a coming of age project for me,” explains Baumann, “It’s the first project I’ve done that stands up on its own two feet, from the opening track to the closer. I couldn’t be more proud of it.” Adding, “I think it will resonate with anyone who has experienced new love, loss, and growing up.”
Baumann’s fourth release and second full album, PROVING GROUNDS was recorded in Austin, TX. Writing the entire album himself, apart from his cover of Aaron Lee Tasjan’s “The Trouble With Drinkin’,” it features 11 songs including the poignant “Old Stone Church” where he describes the loss of his father to cancer. The track has already earned “Best Song of 2017” from Saving Country Music. Arguably his most mature and emotionally-stirring material yet, Texas Music Pickers praises, “The originality of Baumann, his sound, and this record is undeniable and proves he belongs in the ranks of Texas’ best songwriters,” while Lonestar Magazine hails, “Too soon for accolades? Nah. More like right on time. And so long as he keeps gunning for the horizon and doesn’t succumb to the middle of the road, there oughta be a lot more of ’em coming not too far down the line.”
Produced by Justin Pollard (also drummer for fellow Texas artist Pat Green), the band was a mix of several notable studio musicians along with his longtime guitar and steel player Nick Gardner, featuring Cody Braun (Reckless Kelly), Michael Ramos (Shawn Colvin, Los Lonely Boys), Brad Rice (Keith Urban) and Nate Coon (Aaron Watson).
Baumann, who is from San Antonio and based in Austin, is currently making his rounds on tour in and out of Texas through the end of the year.
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.