By Stephen Boothe
Roots Rock, Americana, or whichever name you choose to label that unique sound I like to call Texas Country is not only alive and well but is thriving here in Texas; and you have to go no further than Palestine, Texas to find some of the best this state has to offer.
From The Bigsbys website: “The path to finding willing ears for new music is a twisted, thorny road. Good songs, good music and good people inevitably find their way into open ears and hearts. The Bigsbys play rock and roll distilled from the roots of America and tested by the road. The band is quickly building a reputation for soulful performances, tight sets and a unique sound. ‘Good Will Suitcase,’ their second album is out now.”
I first met Alex, Russell, Brad, and Nick after a performance at a festival in Tyler, Texas. I was not only impressed with their performance but also with their songwriting and musical ability. I remember asking ‘Where are y’all from?’ and when the answer was ‘Palestine,’ I was blown away. I remember thinking ‘Where have you guys been hiding’ followed by ‘These guys are going somewhere.’ The topper was that they are such great people. But what else would you expect from Texans?
Being around these guys is like being around family because they are that laid back. It was a pleasure to interview them and ask them a few questions about where they came from, where they are going, and what lies in between.
EGuide: I never asked, how did you come up with the name The Bigsbys?
Alex: I wish there was a good answer. We were tossing around band names and my last name is Smith. I always wanted to have a band that used a last name and well, Smith was taken so we were thinking about what to use and The Bigsbys came up and it kinda stuck. I have always liked the single word names like The Beatles, The Who, and so forth. It doesn’t have anything to do with the vibrato on the guitar, by the way. We used to be called ‘Alex Smith and The Two Car Garage,’ so we definitely had to shorten that up!
Alex: Well, Russell and I have been playing together for around three – three and a half years. Prior to that I was playing in a cover band for a while and then went solo doing some acoustic shows in the East Texas area. After a while, I thought I would just teach my buddy Russell how to play bass, so I showed him a few notes and he just took it from there. Then after about two weeks he was showing me stuff. Then, a friend of mine, Stefan Cotter played guitar with us for a little while when he first moved here from West Virginia. Then we got a drummer when Stefan started doing his own thing. We found Brad and he’s been playing with us for about three years. Nick replaced the drummer we had and he’s been with us for about two years. Looking back, everything just fell in place but at the time, it felt very rocky building our band.
EGuide: That’s a pretty short period of time considering how far you guys have come in your career.
Alex: Yeah, it’s been one of those things where we just locked ourselves in a garage for about six months and tried to get as tight as possible. When I look at bands like Uncle Lucius or Shiny Ribs, who have been playing together for a while, I see what years of experience will get you. We’re still just working at it and I think in five or six years, we will be a beast.
You know we all speak different languages when it comes to music. Brad and Nick are big music theory guys – Nick coming from the Baylor University Band and Brad is big on music theory while Russell and I aren’t so much, but we find a way to come together to make it work. We are getting to that point where we understand each other better compared to a couple of years ago, and now we are able to play off each other a lot more.
EGuide: I really love your first CD ‘True Story’ and am equally impressed by your new CD ‘Good Will Suitcase.’ You seem to have stretched out a bit on the second CD. Is this part of a master plan or is this just a natural progression as you grow?
Alex: We really haven’t, as a band, done anything the traditional way. Our first record was primarily just a bunch of songs that I had written on acoustic guitar and brought to the guys and said ‘lets make big songs out of these.’ So we went into the studio to cut ‘True Story’ with that all worked out. On our second record, we had gotten a small record deal with an Indie label through Shiner Bock Beers and they paid for us to go into the studio, but we had a specific time frame to work in and get it done. So we went into the studio with only about three or four songs we had been working on and had not really been thinking about making a record until we got that deal. In a couple of months we had cranked out about 22 songs, but they were pretty barebones – like a verse and a chorus. So after 2 weeks in the studio, we built those songs from the ground up. It wasn’t one of those ‘spend a year writing, spend a year getting ready situations.’ It was ‘Let’s go in here and just do it and see what happens.’ So that’s what we did and I’m pretty happy with it!
EGuide: Who did you work with on the record?
Alex: Jonathan Tyler and Matt Pence produced the record for us at The Echo Lab in Denton. Matt has won a Grammy for some music he had previously produced so we were glad to work with both him and Jonathan. Jonathan also brought in the keyboard player he plays with to do the keyboard parts. We’re hoping to get a full time keyboard player by the end of the summer. I really love that 5 piece sound, so adding a keyboard player will really add to our sound.
EGuide: Why the name ‘Good Will Suitcase’?
Alex: About a year – year and a half ago we were on this crappy tour with 19 shows in 21 days. We went from Palestine, TX to Chapel Hill, NC and every state in between. We were so new to this, we were thinking ‘just get out there and play’ but hadn’t learned that there are both good and bad ways to do tours. We hadn’t figured out which days of the week to play, which days to do radio spots, and that kind of thing – we were paying our dues, so to speak.
So we were out there for a while without much money; and the little suitcase that I carried my pedals around in broke and I was down to about 20 bucks in my pocket. So we go into this Goodwill Store and I buy this little suitcase for 3 bucks. Then when we got in the van, I opened it up and discovered 10 bucks hidden behind the name tag inside.
It was one of those things when you get down on your luck, the most, good things happen to you.
EGuide: Is this where you expected to be at this point? Did you expect this kind of success at this point in your careers?
Alex: I never really had any expectations to be honest. There have been so many things that we have done and that have had happen.
There are several bands that I’ve always looked up to, like Reckless Kelly, and to get a chance to play with guys like that, to have them call up or e-mail and say, ‘hey come open for us for a few shows,’ that is something I never would have dreamed would happen.
We’re happy. Our families support us and our friends support us. We have a great bunch of people that help us, like our Manager Matt Torno. He’s doing Bigsbys things every single day. He’s done so much for us. He’s not afraid to call someone up and say ‘give these guys a chance, they’re good.’ It takes an army and we are grateful for those who have helped us build our dream. We just want to keep playing and keep getting better and hope people enjoy our music and want to come see us.
Find more info at www.bigsbysband.com.
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EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
April 21st: Mouse and the Traps and Bowling for Soup
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.
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.
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Date Night: From Fancy to Simple, Tyler Offers a Lot of Romance
April 21st: Lead the Way 5K and more Upcoming Races
Theatre Guide: “Love, Loss & What I Wore” on Stage at Lindale Theatre
The Apple Didn’t Fall Far From The Tree
April 25th-28th: “Hamlet” on Stage at TJC
Duck! Here It Comes!
Art in the Garden April 28th at the Rose Garden
Kane Brown at TJC in Concert April 25th
“Secure Your ID Day” April 21st
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