By Johnny Griffith
Matt and Megan Magill love the stage. From the moment they met on stage in Oklahoma City years ago, through a decade in New York City, and a return to roots in East Texas, theirs is a marriage of music and ministry. As the “Magills” portion of The Magills & Co, the husband and wife duo take the stage singing songs of life, love, faith, failure, triumph, and trust. They like to call their music “grace music,” an honest conversation with the listener rooted in transparency, compassion, and music that flows from the lives they live together.
I sat down with Matt this month to get a better snapshot of who The Magills are and what’s coming up for them in the near future.
Johnny: When did you each start developing an interest in music, and what was really the moment when you realized this was something you wanted to do as more than just a hobby?
Matt: Ursula K. Le Guin said that “the creative adult is the child that survived.” Megan and I didn’t develop an interest in music. We just never left our childhood behind. We are children, and so making music is both hobby and vocation. It isn’t work to play. A child at play is unconcerned with things like deadlines or obligations. His/her life is an expression of possibility and joy. When considering “moments” that we realized music was something that was sacred to us, it’s more that there were moments that could have crushed us, that could have caused us to withdraw; rejection, failure, and discouragement did not have their way with us. Instead, our marriage has been a great gift to each of us – a friendship based on the mutual determination to remain open, expressive children, receptive to what we’re given and faithful to give it away to others.
Johnny: You two have a great story about meeting, whirlwind romance, marriage, and off to the Big Apple to “make it” where you persevered through struggles, eventually finding your way back to East Texas. How much of what you guys had to endure during that time period, going through the crucible of maturity and experience, influences how you approach the music today?
Matt: New York City was transformative for us because it’s an incredibly difficult environment to endure but also because we moved there two weeks after getting married. Cut off from our respective communities and parents, we had to learn who we are in light of our new city and new marriage. It changed us forever.
People often ask us, “Why would you all move (or stay) in Tyler, Texas?” or “Don’t you want to make it?” Our response is always that we’ve already made it, and we’re finally home. We dreamed dreams and lived lives in New York City and became a married couple there. We walked through “the fiery furnace of affliction” that is choosing to stay with someone who inevitably fails you from time to time. The commitment fuels the passion and as you look in the rearview mirror (which is all you have) you see that God was faithful to provide you the tools emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually that you needed to keep walking through whatever “valley of the shadow of death” you were enduring. Gratitude becomes the response, and hope springs eternal. Artists need to be critical of the status quo but hopeful about the future. Otherwise, what’s the point? If you’re not critical, then there’s no need to speak truth. If you’re not hopeful then you’re resigned to silence expecting truth won’t be received. Music is a means of truth in our lives both when it comes to us (and through us) as a cultural critique or an expression of hope. The roots of our commitment to and appreciation of this path were forged in our earliest days and darkest nights of our marriage together in NYC.
Johnny: When did you decide you wanted to make music as a duet instead of pursuing individual musical paths?
Matt: From the day I met Megan I knew my life would be better with her than without her. I feel the same way about our musical lives. I’m better when she’s beside me. Our sound is better when she sings with me. I’m a more honest performer when she’s there with me, and the reason is that I am who I am because she is my help-mate. I have become who I have become because of her help, and she has become more fully alive in that role. She is such a fully-realized woman….and probably because of how much help I needed! I HAVE to have her beside me.
Johnny: Do you primarily perform as a duet, or do you utilize a full band?
Matt: We love to play with our band. Collin Anderson (bassist and Meg’s brother), Chris Foreman (guitar), Loren Roe (drums), and Andrew Lindstrom (keys and trumpet) are brothers and are the most generous guys I know. We love to play with them as often as possible, but we also dig the intimate moments around town playing as a duo.
Johnny: Who are some of your most significant influences musically to this point?
Matt: I go through phases. When I was a kid I was crazy for Paul Simon, and I still am. Then I went nuts for The Black Crowes through high school, and then I got into southern California hippy folk rockers Gram Parsons and David Crosby type stuff, and then I got super into all the Tulsa Sound JJ Cale music and Leon Russell and Delaney and Bonnie. Currently Megan and I are huge fans of Dawes, and lately, an Ontario duo called Kacy and Clayton have caught our attention. We also really love Blitzen Trapper and their whole Portland, Oregon music scene. It’s so super rich right now (Fruit Bats, Vetiver, Blind Pilot, Laura Gibson just to name a few). And on the Gospel tip I still listen to old school stuff like Larry Norman, Andrae Crouch, and The Staple Singers – before the Christian music machine made everything sound the same. Don’t get me started on all that.
Johnny: How would you describe your musical style, and how much of your current set list is original versus cover songs?
Matt: We play songs we like to listen to as well as songs that I write. I’m a super record freak so I’m always discovering old tunes that I want other people to hear. So we learn them and play them. Learning the newest cover song that everybody is listening does not interest me at all. Megan loves the Standards (Great American Songbook) so we’re always mixing those in, and I’m always bringing the band songs from early Clapton or Spencer Davis Group or Steely Dan or Traffic or Sam Cooke. But, if people are listening, I’m apt to play more originals. So listen up, and you’ll hear them.
Johnny: Faith is a big part of your lives and by extension, your music. Is that a deliberate decision to utilize music as a ministry tool, or would you describe it as simply an organic expression of your core selves?
Matt: We play with the same band that plays at Bethel Bible Downtown campus (above The Foundry Coffee House), so musically it’s like a “Farm to Market” band. We live lives alongside these guys; we pray with these guys; we break bread with these guys; we drink wine with these guys, so it follows that we would make music with them. Before we met, Megan and I were both trying to be something we weren’t yet. That’s what kids do. But God gave us one another to learn to become comfortable with who He created us to be and accept love. Because we have accepted that love (first from God and then from one another) we have become increasingly at ease with who we are. Whether it’s Saturday night music or Sunday morning music we are us – receiving love and giving love. We’re the same; our band is the same; our sound is the same. We’re not trying – we’re just being.
Johnny: What has been your best musical memory to this point in your journey together?
Matt: Watching the curtain close on Megan’s musicals each year fills me with so much pride. She has a musical theatre studio and teaches about 80 kids throughout the school year imbibing them with so much confidence and encouraging such profound character and emotional honesty in these kids. She writes these musicals that are just beautiful and so much work. When they come to completion it just fills my heart. As far as rock n’ roll goes, getting to play with Marc Ford of The Black Crowes, and probably the baddest guitarist ever, was THE highlight of my musical life. Period. (Not to mention he played guitar all over our new record, “Down is Up is Down” available on itunes, spotify etc.)
Johnny: What have been the biggest challenges to this point?
Matt: Megan and I don’t always agree. And mostly because I don’t want to be wrong. Our challenge is the same that any married couple working together experiences. I want her to think that I am strong and dependable and wise (the list goes on). But the trick is, when I fail her, I don’t want to admit it because it makes me feel weak and dependent and foolish. Vulnerability is the key, and it doesn’t get easier, but through the years we’re becoming more aware of our need to exhibit it. You didn’t know this was going to turn into marriage counseling, did you?
Johnny: What kind of experience are you hoping a first-timer gets when they come to a Magills concert?
Matt: On the best nights, they’ll get us talking into the mic saying things about our lives and laughing with the band. If we’re feeling good, giving grace to one another in the moment, then our music will sound great, our hips will be shaking, and I’ll probably be sweating. Those are the good nights – when the folks in our community are soaking up what we’re pouring out.
Johnny: What’s on the horizon in 2018 for you guys?
Matt: We’re thinking about taking all of our gear down to Meg’s folk’s lake house and setting up for four or five days with all the wives and kids and just working out some new tunes and writing together and living together for a while. The tribute shows at The Foundry will continue (we do four or five a year), and February 23rd-24th I’m putting on The 4th Annual Mockingbird Conference in Downtown Tyler. This year our musical guest will be Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper. I’m a huge fan of this guy, and it will be an honor to host him in Tyler. Megan will put on another musical in May, and we’ll play all year long with the band that goes by “& Co.” on our never-ending “Stick Around Town Tour.” Why would we ever want to leave?
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Jason Herrin, Shooter Jennings, Dirty River Boys in Concert this Weekend
March 9th (8pm) Jason Herrin will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door. Cover is $7.
March 10th (8pm) – Shooter Jennings – Shooter Jennings is an American singer-songwriter, active mainly in the outlaw country music and Southern rock genres. He is the son of country music legend Waylon Jennings. Tickets range from $35 -$45. Liberty Hall is located at 103 E. Erwin St., Tyler. Tickets are available at libertytyler.com.
March 10th (8pm) – Dirty River Boys with Pushwater will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $15 for general admission.
March 16th (8pm) – Parker McCollum will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are available at wildtexastickets.com. Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Parker McCollum treats each song he writes with a painstaking level of dedication, reverence, respect and as he will readily admit, even a bit of obsession. His new album “Probably Wrong” follows the Austin-based performer’s ultimate goal is to reinvent himself with each record he makes. Tickets are $13-$20.
March 17th (8pm-1am) – St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre will take place at Click’s Live, 1946 ESE Loop 323, Tyler. The St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre features Edge of Misery, No Due Respect, and LowLife. Cover at the door. Doors open at 8pm.
March 22nd (7-10pm) – Zach Winters and Jason Barrows will perform at The Foundry Coffee House, 202 S. Broadway, Downtown Tyler. They will be performing songs from their new albums and changing every city they visit to the city of brotherly love. Early bird tickets are $10. Pre-sale ticket are $12. At the door tickets are $15. Doors at 7pm and music starts at 7:30pm. All ages are welcome. For more info go to zachwinters.com or jasonbarrows.com.
March 24th (8pm) – Bibeau Record Release Party & Concert – will be held at Click’s Live. Tickets are available at the door with proper ID.
March 25th (8pm) – Texas Sunday Returns with Brandon Rhyder at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $15 for general admission.
April 7th (9pm-1am) – Post Profit with Travis Christian will be at Garage Bar, 418 E. Erwin St., Downtown Tyler. There is a $5 cover.
April 7th (7pm) – Sam Riggs will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are $15-$20 and available at wildtexastickets.com.
April 8th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Jason Boland & The Stragglers will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $20 for general admission.
April 12th (8pm) Wesley Pruitt will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door.
April 12th (7pm) – The Legendary Johnny Rodriguez in Concert – Texas Country Music Hall of Famer, Johnny Rodriguez, has had fifteen top-ten singles and 6 number-one hits since 1973. Some of Johnny’s classic hits include: “Pass Me By,” “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me),” “Riding My Thumb To Mexico,” “That’s The Way Love Goes,” and “Just Get Up and Close The Door.” For tickets call (866)710-8942. Tickets start at $35.
April 15th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Chris Knight will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $20 for general admission.
April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.
April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advanced online for $15 at etix.com.
The Blacksmiths: Still Like That Old Time Rock & Roll
By Johnny Griffith
Bob Seger has a well known hit from the early 80’s called “Old Time Rock And Roll.” This song laments the lack of soul in the contemporary music of that time period and declares his intent to keep playing classic rock as a solution. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet Mr. Seger, but the closest thing we have here in East Texas is Chris Austin of the local classic rock band, The Blacksmiths. A native of Chapel Hill, Chris played drums on the drumline at Chapel Hill High School and went on to graduate from the Dallas Sound Lab with a degree in Audio Engineering and Sound Techniques. Blessed with parents that loved music and supported him in his endeavors early and often, Austin developed a love for classic rock through the sounds he heard coming from his parents’ collections and eventually started a band and is still playing to this day.
We managed to get a word in with Chris recently to find out more about The Blacksmiths
Johnny: What is the current lineup of the band? Any changes over the lifespan of the band?
Chris: The current lineup consists of myself on lead guitar and vocals, Joshua Stewart on drums, Angelo Lopez on bass/rhythm guitar/vocals, and Ben Carter on bass and vocals. Angelo and Ben have both been filling the shoes of bass player when available, but recently we decided to shake it up a bit and go with a 4 piece instead of 3 with Angelo on guitar as well…as our busy schedules finally allowed. The lineup has changed immensely over the years. I haphazardly started this project about 6 years ago with a couple of friends just messing around in my kitchen,,,which was the only place we had to set up all the equipment at the time…typical broke musicians haha. We eventually gained a keyboard and rhythm player and were a 5 piece band by the time we started playing shows. We decided to go back to a 3 piece after about a year for convenience and scheduling issues. Our drummer at the time had to move for work but introduced me to Joshua before doing so. Joshua had played with Angelo before with “Something Blue” and I met Ben after watching him play for “King Richard and the Bayou Boys” …and as they say, the rest was history.
Johnny: Who were some of your early musical influences?
Chris: My parents were very into music and had a plethora of vinyl records to dig through. I was turned on to The Doors, The Who, The Allman Bros, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, CCR, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, SRV, David Bowie…but most importantly Led Zeppelin. When I was 12 I received a cheap electric guitar and Led Zeppelin IV on cassette tape for Christmas and that changed everything..
Johnny: At what point was the decision made to be a primarily classic rock band? Have to say you guys are a bit younger than most of the other ones in the area.
Chris: That’s really the stuff I always enjoyed playing the most and felt most comfortable with, because those tunes were ingrained in me from a young age. When we first started, we tried a lot of 90’s stuff and some 80’s Metallica and Misfits which we were pretty decent at but learned pretty quickly what we had more fun with. Even though we’re a bit younger, I feel we were all entranced by that era of music growing up. We were very lucky to have Miss Robin Griffith from XLN on 5th street give us the chance to really explore our potential. We played every Sunday there for quite a while as the house band which gave us a lot of quick feedback from the crowd…and from the venue owner haha.
Johnny: Is there any specific period of classic rock you guys gravitate towards over others?
Chris: Not really, I’ve just personally loved the 70’s era most, but we cover the 60’s and 80’s as well. We do seem to cover a lot of Creedence Clearwater and The Doors though, if that says anything.
Johnny: Where did the band name come from?
Chris: The guys from the original lineup and I were hanging out after practice having a beer or two and trying to come up with something, After a length of time and much pondering, we looked around the room and noticed the main theme of what we were looking at…which was old, broken down, second hand, very junky equipment that I had been hoarding and frankensteining together with duct tape and zip ties for years. I’m really not sure how we didn’t shock or hurt ourselves but I remember us saying…”well, we sure know how to make something out of nothing…like a dang ole’ blacksmith” (speaking of the ramshackle but playable equipment). And just like that, it stuck.
Johnny: do you guys do any originals at this point or is it primarily covers?
Chris: I’ve had a couple of blues tunes in the works for a while but we’ve honestly been so busy playing shows and working full time day jobs or careers it’s been tough to find time, but I think this is our year to shine.
Johnny: You’ve been playing music in this area for a while now, do you have a favorite memory so far?
Chris: I’ve had a lot of really cool experiences along the way getting to play with some amazing musicians. I was the guitar player in a band with Jonathan Scott from Resident Hero for a while and grew up with the singer Ryan White. I also toured a bit as guitar player for Stewart Mann and the Statesboro Revue out of Austin. I’d have to say though, my favorite memory thus far is a recent one. Joshua and I were both taught drums by Nardo and I learned guitar from Larry Stanley. We had the opportunity to open for Mouse and the Traps for the New Years Eve party at Love and War in Lindale and man was it an experience! We got to open for the guys who taught us everything in a packed room. Too cool
Johnny: Where can people get their Blacksmiths fix over the next couple of months?
Chris: Our next scheduled gig is March 31st at Club 155 on Frankston highway…at least for the public. We do a lot of private parties, bike rallies, and events as well. But always keep an eye out for us at XLN on 5th street…that’s our main stomping ground
Johnny: What do The Blacksmiths have on the radar through the rest of the year?
Chris: We have a lot of new stuff planned for this year. A whole new set of songs, some killer merchandise and a new demo ep. Also, I’m told that you might see us opening for Mouse and the Traps again in the near future…so keep your eyes peeled
Johnny: What can a new listener expect to see at a Blacksmiths show?
Chris: A good ole’ Rock show with lots of classic favorite tunes played by guys that do the best they can to respect and represent the music for what it is….life and love
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Date Night: From Fancy to Simple, Tyler Offers a Lot of Romance
March 24th – Tyler Azalea 10k, 5k, and Kids Run plus MORE!
Theatre Guide: March 15-18th, “The Lucky O’Learys” on Stage
The Apple Didn’t Fall Far From The Tree
March 24th: Save the Mayfair Fundraiser, Dinner & Live Music
“Playhouses on the Plaza” Downtown Tyler Through March 22nd
UT Tyler Graduate Student Exhibits Feature Steel, Wood Creations
DATE CHANGES!! April 2nd: Glass Rec. Center, Summer Camp Registration Open
The Skinny on Cooking at Home: The Cookbook Junkie
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