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Guitar For Hire: Mayson Garner

Mayson Garner

By Johnny Griffith

The term ‘mercenary’ has pretty much always had somewhat of a negative connotation with it throughout its history. It’s typically portrayed in literature and film as someone whose loyalty extends as far as the next highest bidder and in whom trust can’t be entirely placed. In the music world, however, being a “gun for hire” isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact, some of the most talented musicians you’ve never heard called by name, you’ve actually heard on some of the most famous albums of all time as studio musicians or on stage as touring musicians. One of East Texas’ most talented musical mercenaries is Mayson Garner. With eclectic musical tastes, killer guitar chops, and the vocal range to cover a broad spectrum of styles, Mayson can be found on stage in the area several nights a week and has worked with several projects in the area as well.

We caught him at a Thursday Open Mic night at Alibi Barcadia over in Longview this month to get a little better idea of the man behind the guitar:

Johnny: What was one of your earliest musical memories growing up?

Mayson: I remember my mom having this classical acoustic guitar lying around the house. It had only three strings and I would play it anytime I got the chance. That little guitar sparked this intense love that I now have for music, and guitars in general. I ended up playing it until all three strings came off, but I couldn’t forget the feeling it brought me when I played it. That’s why I am the way I am till this day. 

Johnny: When did you first pick up an instrument, and was it a guitar or did you start somewhere else and gravitate to the guitar later?

Mayson: I was 4 when I discovered my mom’s acoustic, and from then until I was 15 or 16 it was only the guitar that I was interested in. Then it was drums, piano, bass, and other various instruments. 

Johnny: What were some of your early musical influences when you were learning your instrument?

Mayson: My real musical influences started to appear when I was an early teen; that’s about as early as I can remember having major influences on the guitar. Adam Jones from the band Tool, as well as Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains, were major impacts on my playing, and still are in a few ways with Jerry Cantrell being the one I hear most in my playing these days. Guys like David Gilmour, Jeff Loomis, Michael and Christopher Amott, and Mikael Åkerfeldt played a part as well in shaping my earlier years of guitar playing. 

Johnny: Did you pick any of your musical abilities up from your parents?

Mayson: No not at all, neither of them could play instruments. I mean my mom could sing, but that was heard on the rarest of occasions. It’s still a mystery to me how I fell in with music. This might sound a bit quirky, but I like to think maybe whatever or whoever is looking out for me was like “here you go I want you to have this.” 

Johnny: When did you perform your first public gig and do you remember the first gig you ever got paid for?

Mayson: The first time I played for an audience was a talent show at my school. I loved being up on stage showing people what I could do. From then on I was hooked on playing for the masses, but it would be years before I would ever play my first paying gig, which was for the acoustic nights held on the patio of an On The Border here in Longview about 4 years ago. The first night I ever met Neal McCoy too – it was weird sitting there trying not to suck as this country star was sitting across from me. 

Johnny: When did you get the idea that you might want to be a bit more serious with music and take it just beyond the hobby stage?

Mayson: I think I’ve always been serious about music, and wanted to take it past my bedroom, so I started playing different churches and youth groups. But I wanted to keep pushing it further, so I went to a jam and knew at that point I had to be in an actual band. And before I knew it, I found myself in a few different bands basically marketing myself as a hired gun, and have been doing so since that jam, and I gotta say I’m very glad I labeled myself as a hired gun because I have met some really talented and genuinely awesome people along the way.

Johnny: You’ve got a pretty extensive catalog of songs you call on when doing open mic and solo events. What would you say some of your favorites currently are?

Mayson: I would have to say right now my favorites are “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, “I Am The Highway” by Audioslave, “Do I Wanna Know” by Arctic Monkeys, and “Keep on Swinging” by Rival Sons.

Johnny: How many originals do you have and how often do you get to work them into sets?

Mayson: I actually have a few notebooks of originals, but I have yet to work them into any of my sets because after I write them I either forget about them or never think they are quite right so I never play them. I tend to overthink my music thus keeping me from sharing it – a bad habit I’ve got to break – but that doesn’t stop me from writing. I will have some new originals waiting to be played in the near future. 

Johnny: Some of your work I enjoy the most is when you’re doing some of your bluesier covers. What direction do your originals tend to take stylistically?

Mayson: Thank you. I’m very much an eclectic musician, so I tend to write various styles of music, but if I had to pin down a specific genre I feel is the most me, I would have to say rock ‘n roll. Rock music inspired by the styles of the ‘70s and ‘90s is more what I dig than anything else. 

Johnny: You do a lot of collaborative work with other local musicians as well as your own solo nights at several venues around East Texas. Who are some of your regular partners you take the stage with?

Mayson: My good friends Jerry Johnson, who is a killer bassist; and Ladarius Daniels, who we all know for being the main man when it comes to playing a mean saxophone. But recently I’ve made a new friend named Kasey Moore who is a cool dude, and a good player. 

Johnny: About how many times a month are you on stage somewhere around the region?

Mayson: Anywhere between 5 and 6 times a month on average. I do some solo shows and some open jams, but with this coming year chances are my band and I will be everywhere else besides our home town. 

Johnny: What have you been the proudest of, so far, in your musical journey?

Mayson: Probably how far I have come with who I am as a person and how I am as a musician. Both of which are things I am constantly working on. 

Johnny:  What are you excited about, musically, as we begin the new year?

Mayson: The new shows my band and I have lined out for 2020, and really just the excitement of where me and my music are going. There’s a sense of excitement for me in what the future may hold as I keep my head down and keep working toward the ultimate goal. 

Follow Mayson Garner at facebook.com/mayson.garner.

 

 

 

 

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Cowan Center: Sept. 24th “Menopause the Musical”

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\For more events, check out EGuideMagazine.com ‘s entire

Wondering what is showing at the Cowan Center? 

“This is our 24th Season! We can’t believe it either! We promise to have lots of great talent again and will be gearing up as we celebrate a quarter of a century soon. Over the next 2 years we will be developing programming for new target audiences and upgrading our premiere venue known across the state and beyond as a magnet for amazing artists and shows.”

All events are performed in the Cowan Center located on the campus of The University of Texas at Tyler, 3900 University Boulevard – FAC 1120 in Tyler, TX (Google Map).

QUESTIONS? Call (903)566.7424. More information and TICKETS can also be found at CowanCenter.org. Watch for announcements on Cowan’s Facebook and Twitter pages too.

Upcoming acts are:

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Music

Keeping Her Groove: Lauren Alexander

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By Johnny Griffith

2020 hasn’t been a kind year for working musicians, or really just about anyone for that matter, but it certainly seems in the maelstrom of chaos created by Covid-19, the financial and creative toll for musicians hasn’t been getting front-page news. 

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See who is playing where at EGuide’s Gig Guide!

Between the complete shutdown, partial re-open, and then partial shutdown again, the number of stages up for grabs has shrunk dramatically, making gigs harder to come by. 

On top of that is the balancing act of health concerns for yourself and your family versus the desire to get out and connect with audiences and fellow bandmates. To say the landscape is challenging would be a gross understatement.

But musicians are a resilient, creative lot and have found various ways throughout the last few months to still get their music out for public consumption whether it be via live stream acoustic shows in their kitchens, new material available for streaming, or starting a podcast

All of these have given fans a much-needed connection to their favorite musicians, in a surprisingly more intimate setting, allowing for real-time requests and interactions as well as giving people an opportunity to still support the music with online donations via Paypal, Venmo, etc.

Speaking of podcasts (see what I did there?) I had the opportunity recently to sit down (virtually) with one of our local musicians, Lauren Alexander, and talk about how things have been going in the midst of the shut down for her, her family, and her band and what she’s been doing to stay occupied in 2020.

Johnny: First of all, great to get to interview you again. I think the last time we talked was in 2017 and you had a baby and a new album on the way. A lot has transpired since then, but how has the transition to juggling motherhood and being a full-time musician gone?

Lauren: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat. Yes, a lot has changed since 2017. My baby is now 2 ½ and the world has gone mad! But seriously, besides the obvious hard times that are going on, things have been great. 

Motherhood has been the most incredible, rewarding journey. It was definitely a weird transition for me though, and something I’m sure I will always be working on. When you become a parent, everything changes. Everything becomes about somebody else, and there is SO much planning involved. If we’ve got a gig, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got a babysitter. I’ve got to make sure there are diapers, and toys, and snacks in the diaper bag. And most importantly, I have to make sure I raise a kind and loving human. 

I’ve definitely had to step up my game. I’ve never been much of a planner, I’m usually a “go with the flow and see what happens” kind of gal. So, yeah, the transition has definitely had its challenges. But I’ve grown in every area of my life. My songwriting is so much deeper, and more meaningful now, and I owe it all to my son, Rhodes.

Johnny: Speaking of a world gone mad, everything for working musicians pretty much turned upside down this past spring. What went through your mind when the order to close all bars, limit gatherings, etc., came down? 

Lauren: It was scary. Most of our income comes from playing live music, so not being able to play or book future shows has been weird and hard. 

Everything feels uncertain. But I’ve been doing a lot of writing and filling up my cup. I’m trying not to focus too much on what I can’t do, and focus instead on things I can do. Although this season is hard, I know it’s not forever. 

Johnny: As things have sort of opened back up then closed back down and the general yo-yo effect has become the new normal, have you been working toward any specific goals for when things get back to “normal?”

Lauren: I’ve got a new album called “Field Notes” coming out. We are almost done recording, so I’ve been working really hard on that. 

I know a lot of bands are playing live right now, but that’s really not an option for me with a young kiddo. Our babysitting options are very few at the moment. 

I’m not sure how touring will look going forward, but I feel good knowing that right now, I’m doing what I need to do to keep my family safe…even when my heart is aching for the road.

Johnny: A lot of musicians started doing live streams just to maintain that sense or normalcy, and to give fans a way to still enjoy that live music experience as well as show their appreciation through some creative tipping avenues. Did you climb on that train and, if so, did you feel that adequately satiated that desire to perform live in front of an in-person audience or did it still lack that…something? 

Lauren: I’ve done one live stream, and I’ve got another scheduled September 17th with the fine folks at Universal Language. 

But I’ve gotta say, that first one was weird. I was really nervous. It’s hard to connect through a screen. I’m glad we have the option to do live streams, but I sure do miss the connection. 

People have been very generous buying merch though. That has been so helpful. I’m not even sure they realize how much it means to an artist, especially right now. Spending $20 on a shirt helps keep the lights on and food on the table. It’s also what has made recording this new music possible.

Johnny: So, you’ve got this new podcast, Groove LAB, you’ve started. When did that idea start to take shape in your head? Was it a product of boredom from the lack of a live creative outlet or was it something you’d had in mind for a while, or simply the fruition of a few conversations sitting around with bandmates and family? Or perhaps all of the above?

Lauren: Starting the Groove LAB podcast has been something I’ve talked about for a while. I started listening to podcasts when my son was born so I could have some “adult interaction” and feel like I was with friends when I couldn’t be. I’m not the kind of person who can sit around doing nothing, so I just decided to go for it. 

Johnny: Were there any specific challenges to overcome in taking it from idea to reality?

Lauren: Luckily, we had most of the equipment we needed to record a podcast already, and my husband, Richie, was quick to get it set up. I do struggle with shyness, so reaching out and asking questions can be uncomfortable for me. I’m usually on the other side of the interview! Coming up with good questions, keeping the conversation flowing, while also knowing what I’m going to ask next is definitely a different skill set. Luckily, there’s always room for growth and learning, and I so appreciate everyone’s support in this new venture. 

Johnny: So when you made the decision “Yes, we’re going to do this,” did you have a solid idea of what your focus would be on or did that take shape on the fly?

Lauren: I knew I wanted to talk about music, but not really the full ins and outs of it. I also knew that unlike music, where I can practice and rehearse in private, I would need to jump in blindly with this and figure out how to make a good podcast host while in the thick of it. I’m not great at it yet, but the more episodes I record, the more comfortable I feel. I love the idea of giving other people in the music industry an outlet to talk about their art. The world is overflowing with incredibly creative and talented people, and I hope to speak to as many as I can!

Johnny: So how did you land on the name Groove LAB?

Lauren: It was a back and forth for several weeks on what we should call the podcast. I aspire to make music you can groove to so that part was easy. LAB is an acronym for Lauren Alexander Band. I thought it would be fun to have that little element in the name. Groove LAB just felt really good and natural.

Johnny: You’ve got a couple of episodes under your belt now. How has the reality of producing a podcast been different from the idea?

Lauren: It’s a lot of work! There’s lots of editing involved. And I truly didn’t realize the number of times I said ‘um’ and ‘like’! I’m working hard to figure out the transitions of keeping a conversation flowing and asking every question that’s on my list. 

I’m also starting to look into analytics and talk with people about sponsorships which have me very out of my element. But it’s great. There’s been lots of learning involved and I just kind of jumped in with nothing to lose so it’s not super stressful.

Johnny: The first couple of episodes have certainly been entertaining and given us a personal look into the lives of a couple of musicians that, at least for me, were off the radar. What is your vision moving forward for the podcast

Lauren: I’m glad you think so. I listen back and think, “Oh God, is this really how I sound when I talk?!?” 

I’m only used to hearing my singing voice played back. Moving forward, I just hope that people keep enjoying it. I want to continue to grow and get better, and to be able to stay in the loop of what’s going on in the music scene. 

Johnny: Do you have any guests lined up you’re particularly excited about?

Lauren: I’m going to interview Drew Hall from Rosewood Studios soon. And Robert Woodward from Wunderful Design Co.! They’ve both been invaluable in helping me with my creative vision, so it will be fun to hear what they have to say and see if they have any good tips for other artists.

Johnny: Thanks again for taking the time to tackle some questions for us. Last question…who are you listening to, besides yourself, that really excites you these days?

Lauren: Thank you! I’ve been letting myself fall in love again with old favorites who have shaped me over the years….Pink Floyd, Neil Young, The Beatles. I’m also throwing in some TLC and No Doubt for good measure. 

You can follow with Lauren’s adventures in podcasting online:

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