By Johnny Griffith
When you think about growing up in Texas, there are a few boxes that typically get checked off along the way: playing sports (most likely football or baseball), hunting, fishing, camping, working hard, and playing hard. I had the pleasure of meeting Colton Mathis, and it didn’t take me long to realize that he checked off all the boxes and then some. As a kid he played football and baseball in school at Crandall, Texas where they had moved from Greenville, via Austin. Also having a love of the outdoors, he remembers hunting trips as a kid where he would spend six hours in the car on the ride down listening to music that would shape his tastes for years to come. Perhaps one of the most Texan things he’s done in his life, though, would be to pick up the guitar and make it an extension of who he is. He uses it as a vehicle to tell stories, make people laugh, make people cry, but most of all, make amazing music.
Currently residing in Forney, Mathis has been performing all over East Texas recently. Luckily we managed to get him to sit still long enough to answer some questions for EGuide.
Johnny: What was the one thing in music that grabbed you early and wouldn’t let go?
Colton: As long as I can remember music has always affected me differently. Around age six or seven I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan and that was it, I was hooked. It hit me deep. I really didn’t understand it then, but it did something to me.
Johnny: Was it always guitar for you, or is that where you landed eventually?
Colton: Yeah, I think it was. When I figured out that the sound I was hearing was made by the guitar, I had to have one. I played a little saxophone in middle school, but it never really did it for me. I enjoy playing bass and keys as well, but there’s nothing like the guitar for me. It’s nothing short of medication for my soul.
Johnny: Those hunting trips with your dad and the six hour drives listening to music had to have a major impact on you. Did you pick up any influences from that early exposure?
Colton: Man, I had quite a few, a lot of blues influence as well as classic rock even into classic country. My father had a collection of cassette tapes in a blue cassette case, and that was pretty much my playlist growing up. He was a carpenter and worked on the road quite a bit, and he took me on the road with him as much as he could. I loved going to work with him, the longer the drive the more music he introduced to me. I remember the first time he said, “Hey son, you should listen to this.” It ended up being Stevie Ray Vaughan’s greatest hits and “Taxman” is the first song on the album. From that point every time he would say that, I would listen. From there it was Stevie, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, ZZ Top, and Hendrix; by that time the blues had its grips on me. My dad also loved The Eagles and had just about every album. That’s kinda where the rock thing started in. The first time I heard “Life In The Fast Lane” I was like, “Woah what is this?” Then it went to Skynyrd’s album “Another One From The Road.” It was a live album and man, it sent me into a frenzie! I had just fell in love with the sound of guitar, and now I’m hearing three guitars pretty much soloing all at once! It changed me; that music spiritually changed me. And I really started to get more interested in what all was in that blue cassette case and found one that just said Led Zeppelin across the front of it, but there wasn’t anything in the box. I went to Walmart with my mom one day (back when they still sold cassettes), and scrolling through them I found Led Zeppelin 3. As soon as I got home, I put it in the Walkman, and it blew my fragile little mind! They were hard rock and blues and even folk all in one band. Led Zeppelin is my favorite band, as I got older I got into more modern rock and blues. But these bands were the reason for my love of music.
Johnny: Did you find being a musician in high school to be more of a challenge or an asset?
Colton: Well it never hit me until high school that the girls dig the guitar. It became somewhat of my identity, and I quit all sports to devote all my time to guitar. I was addicted to music by then, I wasn’t able to focus on anything else, including school work. I ended up staying up all night playing and sleeping in class, even when I was awake in school all I thought about was playing. They called it ADD. I eventually found myself leaving public school to be homeschooled where I would sit down for a while and do some work, but mostly played guitar all day.
Johnny: Stylistically it seems you gravitated toward the Texas blues sound of Stevie and Jimmy Vaughn. What drew you to that more than country or rock, which seem to be a bit more prevalent in this area?
Colton: Well the foundation of my music is definitely the blues; it has changed over time, but it always seems to be there. The blues is so much more that a music genre; it’s a feeling, and I’ve felt that feeling for awhile now. Just the emotion of it, a single bend of a string can send chills up my spine. I get goose bumps every time I hear Albert King bend a note way up there or when Stevie hits that long bend, it hits deep. I got more into rock and country music later, but the blues has always had me.
Johnny: When did you figure out this music life was for you?
Colton: I was about 15 or so when I started playing out; me and one my best childhood friends Mackenzie Brooks, his brother Robert and their Uncle Buckwheat, played at the park in Crandall. I think that might of been my first couple of gigs, but was still just jamming around the house at that point. One day my friend Bobby Braswell came over to borrow an amp, and we ended up jamming until we decided to make a band out of it. Around the same time Bobby was working at the cotton gin and met a guy named Chris Cunningham. He suggested we jam with him. So we joined up, and the Chris Cunningham band was the first gigging band I played for. We played Texas red dirt, and at the time, I was just getting into it so it was real cool for me because it was new to me. I loved those days.
Johnny: About how many shows a month are you playing these days?
Colton: I play about 10 shows or more a month, sometimes less, sometimes more. I’d like to be playing everyday, but it’s just not possible at the moment.
Johnny: Are you primarily performing as a solo artist, or are you sitting in with other musicians?
Colton: Yeah, somewhat. I’ve been playing a lot with a good friend of mine Cody Daniel and doing song swaps. I’ve been searching for the right guys to form a band, but you know how hard it is to find the right folks.
Johnny: How would you describe your original music stylistically, and how did that process develop over the years?
Colton: Well my original stuff definitely has the blues in it, but over the years I’ve developed this darker side of country, a more red dirt/Texas sound. It just kinda comes out that way now days. My girlfriend says, “Babe your stuff is kinda depressing,” but I guess I just play what I feel or more or less what I know. It’s difficult to explain how I ended up here; I just did. I do like to write in different styles, though, for every feeling there’s a song that sings to it. But I like that people haven’t been able to label me yet. Maybe one day someone will say, “Yeah, that guy just plays what he feels.” That would be the best way to describe my music to me.
Johnny: What has been your best memory so far in your musical journey?
Colton: Playing main stage House of Blues in Dallas, no doubt. I had a blues band a few years ago called Colton & the 45’s, and it was so awesome, the place was packed. It was probably the biggest gig I’ve ever had. Sitting side stage I was so nervous I was shaking, but when it came my turn it was like I just floated out there. I didn’t sleep the entire night, I was on such a high. I’ll never forget the feeling. I can remember we played a slow blues tune, and somewhere in the middle of the song we brought it real down low. I hit one of those bends I could feel it in my knees, then I guess it hit the crowd because everyone went crazy at that moment. I didn’t feel like myself; it really didn’t even feel like I was the one playing; it was just happening. After the song I turned to my bassist Mike Pope and was like, “Did you feel that?” He said he thought everyone did.
Johnny: Where can people find you performing over the next couple of months?
Colton: I’ve got gigs all around north East Texas, looking to start moving out towards Dallas and Fort Worth soon. One place I do play regularly is Boondocks out in Seven Points, Texas on Cedar Creek Lake. That’s kinda my home place right now.
Johnny: As the year draws to a close, what is on the horizon for Colton Mathis in 2018 ?
Colton: Right now the plan is to continue to play gigs as much as possible. I’ve got an EP that will drop some time in the beginning of the new year, but really I’m just trying to focus on my original material and play as much as I can.
For more info on Colton Mathis go to facebook.com/cmathis34.
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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