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Max McRuiz: No Labels Please

By Johnny Griffith

In the music world there are all sorts of labels for musicians: guitarist, drummer, keyboardist, country artist, pop artist, R&B artist, etc. Then there are those people who transcend any attempt to be put into a box and are constantly evolving their skill and style as they grow.

Allow me to introduce you to Max McRuiz.

Born in Lindale, and raised in Longview, Max inherited a musical past from his grandparents on both sides of his family. Max attended Spring Hill high school where he excelled in the music program. A four-time All Area 1st Chair, and three-time State 1st Chair winner in drums, his passion for music translated into several scholarships and the opportunity to continue his education in music at the collegiate level where he continued to develop skills on several instruments. After studying music education/performance at Kilgore College as well as SFA, Max was a student teacher at Kilgore High School. It was during this time that he realized he probably wasn’t destined to be a band director so he started teaching music on the side as a hobby to keep his skills sharp and fresh on his mind.

A veteran of several successful musical projects in the area, Max has recently devoted more time to solo projects and building a new trio for local gigs across the area. I sat down with Max recently for a chat.

Johnny: When did you first start to develop an interest in music?

Max: I developed a love for music at a very young age. My parents would place my crib next to the TV when I was only 8 months old so I could stand up and dance to The California Raisins as they would sing old Motown hits like “Heard it Through The Grapevine” and “Sign Sealed Delivered.” My love for music has only grown stronger as the years progressed.

Johnny: You’re a multi-instrumentalist. What were you first drawn to, and what do you consider your best instrument at this point in your life?

Max: I started playing drums and guitar around 1999 when my brother bought an old Samick electric guitar and Laney amp and it came pretty easy to me. As the years went on, I picked up the piano and played by ear until college where I had proper instruction on theory and reading sheet music. Although I would admit that the piano is my favorite instrument to play and compose with, I think drums are my forte. I pride myself in the fact that I am a ‘Jack of All Trades,’ so I try not to become too unbalanced as far as which instrument I am better on.

Johnny: What was your first public performance?

Max: I first took the stage when I was 7 years old for a talent show. I continued doing talent shows throughout school but it wasn’t until 2006 when I started a country cover band named Pocket Aces and I started gigging and playing shows. Once in college at SFA, I started my most successful band, Westbound 21, with friends Cody Wayne, Lyndsey Torrez, and Jason Skidmore.

Johnny: You’ve been involved in several successful local music projects. When did you decide to do more solo work?

Max: In September 2013, I decided to leave Westbound 21 and the big country music scene to play music at my local church. I just started playing solo gigs by myself and with my trio about a year ago. This time around I have the freedom to play exactly what I want without having to stay within the confines of a specific genre or style. My shows have a very wide variety from MoTown to John Mayer to Michael Jackson to Goo Goo Dolls and many more. There is something for everyone.

Johnny: How would you describe your current style?

Max: I would say my current style is easy-listening/Adult contemporary. I play with a loop station so obviously Ed Sheeran has had a big influence on my music.

Johnny: Are you creating much original content or is it primarily covers at this point?

Max: With my last band, we focused a lot on original content but now I just play what moves me. I pick songs for my set that have meaning and are fun to listen to. I play a lot of covers but tend to play them with my own style.

Johnny: About how many gigs a month are you playing at this point?

Max: Between private events, charity gigs, coffee house shows, and big shows with my trio, I play around 3-4 times a month.

Johnny: Is this still in the hobby stage for your or are you looking at a more serious push for a musical career? And if so, what direction would you like to see that path take if up to you?

Max: I have “been there and done that!” My last band played four gigs a week for five years and it burned me out. Now that I am older and have a wife, I enjoy picking and choosing the gigs that I take. Music is an avenue that allows me to express myself but I don’t want to ever make it into a “job” again. It takes most of the fun out when you start to try and make a living while attempting to make it big.

Johnny: Anything noteworthy coming up in February or March the readers might catch you at to enjoy your talents?

Max: I’ve got a couple of gigs coming up in February that will be fun nights.

February 16th (7-9pm) – Bridge 281 Coffee Shop in Longview

February 17th (7:30-10:30pm) –  Central Station in Gladewater

Stay tuned to my Facebook page for other specific dates and times.

Johnny: What has been your best memory so far in your musical career?

Max: December 30, 2013, I got to play at The Dallas Cowboys Stadium for a 30-minute pre-game show. That was a great experience and memory that I will never forget. More recently I got to share the stage with my childhood hero Bryan White a few months ago at The Central Station in Gladewater. That was very surreal and great experience.

Johnny: Besides your own music, what do you listen to currently that gets you excited?

Max: I am a huge fan of Marc Broussard, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, Dave Barnes, Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson, and Journey to name a few.

Fine Mac McRuiz on the web:

facebook.com/maxmcruizmusic

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Around East Texas

April 21st: Mouse and the Traps and Bowling for Soup

Upcoming Concerts

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 advance online for $15 at etix.com.

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Bands

Blind Pursuit: Chasing Dreams

By Johnny Griffith

In science, there is a phenomenon known as the Butterfly Effect which states, that in a complex system, small changes in one place can have a larger effect elsewhere. This is best illustrated in the hypothetical example of a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico and causing a hurricane in China.

A more practical example of this would be the formation of the band Blind Pursuit, based out of Palestine, Texas. An amalgamation of sound and styles brought to the table by each individual member, Blind Pursuit is the end result of five people from different backgrounds and geographical origins ending up in a small town in East Texas and magic happening.

Hailing from Southeast Louisiana, Maine, Cayuga, and Harmony, the odds of these five people interacting were astronomical, but small changes had large effects and Blind Pursuit has been a staple in the east Texas music scene for three years now. We recently tracked them down to get to know them just a little better.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has been playing gigs around East Texas since 2015. What was the genesis of the band and what is the current line up?

Blind Pursuit: Our first show was February 28th, 2015 opening for our good friends Blacktop Mojo at Click’s Live in Tyler.

Our current lineup includes Marc Mitchell on drums, Craig Jones on bass guitar, John Reed on lead guitar, Katie Reed with lead vocals, and Michael Jones on lead vocals and acoustic guitar.

Craig and Katie hail from Cayuga, Texas. John was raised right down the road in the Harmony Community just outside of Palestine. Marc migrated from the great state of Maine; and Mike spent most of his time about 45 minutes southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been in Texas since 1998 and spends his time filling in behind the bar at Pint & Barrel Drafthouse in Palestine, and working construction. He met John and Katie again in 2013. John and Katie own Reed Construction where John builds custom homes and Katie does interior design. Craig owns Oak Floor Supply in Tyler, Texas and Marc is in marketing and communications and sometimes moonlights at the Appleton Coffee House.

Johnny: How about the name – there’s a lot to be said in that name. What does it mean to the band and where did the idea come from?

Blind Pursuit: The name Blind Pursuit stems from the belief that we are all pursuing something, whether it be chasing dreams, running after love, or following your passions; at some point, it takes a blind leap of faith to achieve something truly great. In all actuality, we started with the word ‘Pursuit’ and since we had no idea of how or where we were going or how to get there, ‘Blind’ seemed like the obvious choice.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has a pretty eclectic mix of sounds in your catalog but how would you describe ‘your’ sound?

Blind Pursuit: Wow! That’s a great question, one that we’ve been asking for quite some time. We play what we love. We are a varied group of musicians with different musical backgrounds and tastes, and we play what we would like to hear if we were sitting in the audience. Our own sound stems from songwriting, which is mainly done by our lead singer Michael, and so it definitely has a soulful, emotional style to it, and has a layered Indie rock feel. You can hear a little bit of our southern influences layered in as well as the obvious differences of having two lead vocalists. So if you wanted to pigeonhole us into a specific genre, I would say we fall into the Indie Rock genre, just because it encompasses such a wide variety of sounds and musical stylings.

Johnny: How much of your show is covers versus originals these days?

Blind Pursuit: After the release of our debut album “Offramp,” we do about ¾ covers and the rest originals. New material is constantly being added and we hope to shift the number of originals to a larger segment of the show.

Johnny: About how many shows does the band try to play a month?

Blind Pursuit: We’re currently averaging five shows a month but we are always looking to add to that.

Johnny: Are most of the gigs in the east Texas area or do you travel out of the area?

Blind Pursuit: The majority of our shows are in East Texas. We do travel to north and central Texas on occasion and we are hoping to broaden our travel radius this year.

Johnny: What are you most proud of as a band?

Blind Pursuit: Our album, without a doubt. We feel like it is such an outpouring of who we are and our evolution over the past couple years. It’s like we have given birth to our own child. So much love, nurturing and hard work has gone into this project. Our resources and time have been singularly focused towards this and we could not be prouder of how it has turned out. We worked with so many great musicians and our Producer, Phillip Moseley was a great asset. They have been invaluable in helping us birth this album.

Johnny: What has been your favorite moment, on stage or off, as a group so far?

Blind Pursuit: I think it has been a thousand small moments of connection with our fans. We’ve heard stories where our songs touched someone going through a divorce, or something we sang really resonated with someone going through a tough time, and you just stop for a second after the mad rush and adrenaline goes away, and you think about how you’re affecting people and the connections you’re making. When we see people singing along with our songs, grabbing their person and dancing, when you see an emotional reaction – that’s the good stuff, the reason we do what we do.

Johnny: What is in the works for the year?

Blind Pursuit: We’ve got another handful of songs and hopefully, that will translate into a new project as well. Whether the next step is an EP or a full-length album is yet to be determined.

Johnny: What’s in the water down in Palestine, between Blind Pursuit, Blacktop Mojo, Kolby Cooper, and others… seems like Palestine has become a serious music town. What’s your take on it?

Blind Pursuit: Every once in awhile, “magic” happens in the most unlikely of places. If you’ve seen the documentary on Muscle Shoals and the music that came out of that small studio in Alabama, then you kind of have insight into the madness behind the magic.

All these acts from Palestine are backed by the most awesome community of people who rally behind us and get the word out, grassroots style. The people here truly love music and they believe in us, or we wouldn’t be able to do what we love. We have a connection, not only through the town we’re from but through our producer and the studio we’ve all recorded at, Audioworx.

Johnny: What experience do you hope first timers will have at a Blind Pursuit show?

Blind Pursuit: Someone recently left a review on our Facebook page that sums it up perfectly: “Bet you will leave their concert feeling like your soul is a little more free than when you walked in.” We hope that everyone will leave feeling a little lighter and a little more connected to their fellow man. In a world where we are bombarded with distractions, we hope people can come and reconnect and feel more human than when they came in. We hope the love and passion that we have for life and music can be felt and translates well to concert goers.

Blind Pursuit can be found at facebook.com/Blindpursuit and blindpursuit.com.

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