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Lauren Alexander: Earning Her Own Scars

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By Johnny Griffith

Lauren Alexander is breaking your rules. Just listen to her latest album “Smoke Signals,” and she’ll tell you. Obsessed with music from an early age, Lauren was surrounded by opportunities to explore, educate, and express herself in a myriad of genres. Once the Bullard native had a taste of the stage she never looked back, but don’t call her a Country artist; she’s much more than that box can hold. Crossing her “twangy country roots” with “soul driving classic rock,” she sprinkles on a healthy dose of folksy Americana for a unique, expressive, soul-bearing blend of original music and lyrics that invites you to break the rules along with her.

In between traveling and her latest project, a new song release “Sleeptalking,” Lauren caught her breath long enough to answer some questions about where she’s been, what she’s doing now, and where she’s headed.

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

Lauren: I was always around music growing up. My dad is a sound engineer and plays guitar so there were instruments and equipment lying around all the time, and my parents were cool about letting me be super loud. Having that freedom early on led me to be very comfortable in a creative mindset.

Johnny: Do you remember when and where you first performed in public?

Lauren: My very first performance was at church when I was just six years old. From there I performed at fairs and festivals around Texas, pretty much anywhere I could. I remember being so nervous early on. I wanted to be up there singing, but I didn’t want anyone to look at me!

Johnny: How integral was your family in helping you develop that early interest?

Lauren: I think I would have found music at some point no matter what, but my family is the reason I was able to get started so young. They drove me all over Texas to play at festivals and dive bars, and every other Sunday we would drive to Fort Worth for yodeling lessons. I knew very early on that music wasn’t just a hobby for me. It is a blessing that I’ve been able to focus primarily on my music, and I have to credit so much of my success to my parents and the family of people that have been so supportive of my vision.

Johnny: When did you make the decision to start writing your own music?

Lauren: I’ve always been a little shy, which has led me to feel misunderstood a lot. Songwriting was the best way I found to communicate without having to say a word. It’s easier to express your feelings when they’re tied up with a melody that carries half of the weight. Writing songs is like another part of my language now that helps me to organize all of my thoughts and feelings. I have to write for my world to make sense.

Johnny: Has the writing process evolved as you’ve become more experienced in the craft?

Lauren: My process is different every time, so I can’t say that it has changed. My creative headspace is definitely different than it used to be, but I think that mostly just comes from gaining new experiences and being comfortable with who I am and what I have to say.

Johnny: Your sound is quite a unique tapestry that has threads of several different styles and artists weaved into it. How do you describe it, and who are the artists you looked to for inspiration in the evolution of your sound?

Lauren: The evolution of my sound has been very organic. I grew up singing country music, but as I got older and began to develop my own musical appetite, I didn’t limit myself to being just one kind of artist. As I’ve transitioned into the sound that I have now, and writing for “Smoke Signals,” I’ve listened a lot to The Black Keys, Grace Potter, and Lana del Rey, as well as Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, and The Beatles. I think you will always be able to hear whispers of my country music upbringing in everything I do.

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Johnny: You grew up in Bullard and have played all over East Texas, but you’ve spent a lot of time in Nashville as well. How much of the time is split between the two these days, and what kind of professional challenges does a move like that bring?

Lauren: I lived in Nashville for about a year and a half. There’s music going on all the time, and I found a really great community of people that were really into what I was doing. But I missed having the freedom to travel. I missed my band. At one point I was working three part time jobs, playing shows at night, and still paying for groceries with spare change and calling home for money. I got into a really dark place being stuck there. I had to make the best decision for my career and myself, which was to move back home to East Texas and have more freedom to go and play shows wherever I want. I’ve been lucky to find cool music communities all around Texas, Colorado, and California. I joke a lot that I basically live in my car; it feels like it sometimes!

Johnny: Your debut album “Smoke Signals” is a great release, and the production value is out of this world for a debut from an independent artist. Who did you work with on this, and what has the response to the album been so far?

Lauren: Thanks! “Smoke Signals” is one of my greatest accomplishments. I’m so incredibly proud of that record and all the great people who were involved with it. I worked with Rosewood Studios in Tyler where I’ve been recording since I was 12. They’re the best, and people seem to really love it. I’ve gotten some radio play on several songs from that album, which is one of the coolest feelings in the world.

Johnny: Behind every successful singer at some point is a solid band. Do you have a regular cast of musicians taking the stage with you?

Lauren: I’ve been touring with my guitar player (and husband) Richie and my drummer Jeff for about six years. My bass player Stacy has been with us for about two years. We’ve all got a really good thing going on. I feel comfortable knowing that they’ve got my back on stage, and I think that’s really important.

Johnny: What do you feel has been your biggest milestone to this point in your career?

Lauren: Releasing “Smoke Signals” was huge for me because I worked so hard on it, but I’ve also gotten to play a lot of cool stages and travel to so many beautiful places; so it’s hard for me to pick just one big moment.

Johnny: Where does Lauren Alexander go from here?

Lauren: My plan is to keep doing what I’m doing: playing shows, writing songs, and putting out music. I’ve got another album in the works that I’m very proud of, which will be released in 2018. I’ll also be having a baby in February, and I can’t wait for the new adventure and challenge of touring with a kiddo.

Upcoming Shows:

  • October 13th and November 17th: Eagles Bluff – Bullard
  • October 14th: The Grove – Tyler

For more info about Lauren Alexander go to:

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Bands

In Case You Were Wondering:  We Have Your Dog

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By Johnny Griffith

One of the great things about live music is the spontaneity you can get in a show you don’t get from an album. The freedom to let the music take over and drive the performance is something magical you just don’t get anywhere else. That being said, there’s nothing worse for me than walking into a show by a new band and two or three songs in, having the realization that the next hour or two of your life is going to be listening to, essentially, minor variations of the same song or being able to predict exactly what you’re going to hear next. Sure, if I’ve got a favorite band, there may be certain songs I want to hear every time I see them, but a great band knows how to keep the same set list fresh night after night.

Enter local Tyler band We Have Your Dog (WHYD). Now, besides the uniqueness of the name, this six-piece band delivers fresh treats night after night and is anything but predictable. With sweeping vocals, an eclectic mix of capable musicians on stage, and a refusal to fit into anyone’s idea of predictable, WHYD is one of the more exciting live acts you can find on a stage in the area. We sat down with the musical collective this past month to see exactly what’s up with my dog.

Johnny: So, who exactly has my dog and what is their musical background?

WHYD: Well, We Have Your Dog is made up of the following:

Cosmic Kenneth, who studied voice for multiple semesters at TJC and is a naturally talented singer/songwriter. 

Havaan, also a singer/songwriter but mostly self-taught with a few private lessons here and there to further her skill. 

Peabody Coltrane on guitar. He is a classical guitar player who graduated from UT Tyler with a formal academic study of music. 

Jackie Chernobyl is also on guitars. He is a self-taught guitar player who was classically trained on piano at an early age. Chernobyl channeled all his natural talent into the guitar and is most obsessed with making manipulation of feedback and molding sounds through FX pedals. 

TheMind on the bass. A classical guitar player studied at UT Tyler and TJC with a formal academic study of music. He is a multi-instrumentalist who is currently obsessed with mastering the bass. 

Haddad on drums. He is a self-taught drummer/percussionist. Volcanic with natural talent, Haddad is a multi-instrumentalist who specializes in banging things. 

Johnny: Where did you find my dog?

WHYD: Kenneth, Haddad, TheMind, and Chernobyl have been playing together and in different projects since high school in the early 2000’s. Peabody and Havaan joined the band much later in the college years – around 2012-2016.

Johnny: When did the idea of actually looking for my dog first happen?

WHYD: Like we mentioned before, we had been in different projects together off and on for years, but specifically came together with the purpose of WHYD around 2015 and our first official show was at Click’s in Tyler on October 22, 2016.

Johnny: So, What’s the story with my dog’s name?

WHYD: We Have Your Dog’s name was put together out of the will to subvert the listeners expectations. We like to let the music speak for itself, rather than try and define a style of music according to the name. 

Johnny: When and where did you first find my dog?

WHYD: Our first gig was a party we threw at our house in October of 2015. We wanted to get a soft feel for our music and how it would resonate with some folks we knew. The results were us refining our show for an October release in 2016 at Click’s Live. We had not added Havaan at this time. 

Johnny: Your sound and presentation is a bit out of the ordinary for this area, how have you found the reception to be with local dog catchers?

WHYD: We find that folks who are interested in listening to music love us! Folks who just want background music, not so much. We’ve always followed the philosophy of “Do your own thing.” We Have Your Dog is always trying to refine our live show and at the end of the day, we do what makes us happy. 

Johnny: How did that dog sound evolve over the life of the band or was it pretty much the goal from inception?

WHYD: Our sound is ever evolving. One thing we want to stay away from is the cliche of “that band is good but all their songs sound the same.” We don’t have a particular sound in mind other than what starts to craft itself on the palette in the jam room. Our goal is to have all our members feel free in the creative process and the other members to back them up. All musical genres and styles are welcome in WHYD! 

Johnny: About how many dogs are being caught a month, on average, by the band currently? 

WHYD: We’d like to get to playing at minimum once a month! However, at this moment (Winter 2019) we are taking minimal gigs while we record our upcoming album “What Have You Done?” as well as rehearsing new tracks for our new live show coming Summer of 2020. 

Johnny: Do you primarily have dogs in the Tyler area or do you branch out to other areas often?

WHYD: Lately we have been staying in the Tyler area. As much as we love traveling, we like getting paid even more. So far clubs like XL’N and Click’s Live treat us well enough that we stick around this area. We do love playing in Dallas and Longview when we get the opportunity though. 

Johnny: What has been the most memorable dog to date?

WHYD: We are always proud of our shows where we jam with our local counterparts Post Profit or Gypsum and The Travelers. Whenever we can, we make sure to share the stage to feature with each other on particular tracks. Those are always memorable shows, but our most memorable would probably be The Band Wars Competition that we competed in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Johnny: Have you guys caught any dogs in the studio or are there plans for any studio projects coming up?

WHYD: We are current working on  several albums/projects. “What Have You Done?” is our main project; and “Sex, Money & Murder” is a concept and side project that we are creating.

We do most of our studio work in house. We do all our own tracking, then we have been contracting third party folks to mix and master. We’d like to give a shout out to Dejour Productions who have been really involved with our sound and how it will be portrayed. 

We have some stuff available on Spotify, ITunes, GooglePlay, Amazon and ALL the audio streaming services. We also have them available on BandCamp for a more personal purchase. Currently we have two singles: Kenneth lea, “Bite the Bullet;” and Havaan lead, “Equilibrium.” 

We also have a forthcoming duet entitled “The Don” from a concept album we’ve been placing together on the side. 

Johnny: So let’s say I want to come find my dog. What can I expect at a WHYD show?

WHYD: When someone comes to see WHYD, they will experience a diverse and evolving show. We want our audience to experience multiple feelings and experiences as they progress through our presentation. Our goal is that nobody can listen to one or two songs and feel as though they know what’s coming the rest of the show.

Follow WHYD at:

wehaveyourdog.com 

facebook.com/wehaveyourdog/

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Bands

Feeling The Groove: Señor Gringo

By Johnny Griffith

We’ve all had THAT moment when we’ve been out enjoying ourselves and our friends and family on a patio somewhere on a gorgeous day. The food is delicious, the wine is perfect, the weather is the stuff people in Wisconsin dream about … and as you are sitting back enjoying everything, you notice a band about to play and think the moment couldn’t get any better.

And then they start to play.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they’re bad, they’re just not the right band for THAT moment.

And it’s because they’re NOT Senor Gringo, who seems to always be right for the moment.

The Tyler-based quartet is a musical force that isn’t afraid to think outside the box and bring just the right blend of Latin-infused jazz and rock to venues around the area that require a little more finesse to the set list than raw power. With a lineup full of seasoned musicians, Senor Gringo definitely has the musical prowess to bring the precision and consistency to the stage that is sure to please those who are wanting something a little different from the norm and love to sit down and just enjoy the music. With a mix of originals and covers, everyone is sure to find something that pleases while listening to a Senor Gringo set, and a lot of old favorites with a new twist are sure to surface as well.

I recently had the pleasure of catching a set at Taco Fest in Marshall back in September and I’ve been trying to catch them for an interview ever since. We were finally able to sit down this past month and talk a little bit about the origins of the band and to get to know Senor Gringo just a little better.

Johnny: So let’s get to know everyone first, what is the current line up of the band?

Senor Gringo: Senor Gringo’s lineup currently consists of Alex Blair on bass, Don Elbert on keyboards, Keven Ewalt on drums and percussion, and Richard Callahan on guitar.

Johnny: Okay so how did you all you meet?

Senor Gringo: We have played together in various bands over the years. The music scene in East Texas is pretty close actually, and we’ve all been involved with some project together at one time or another.

Johnny: Playing together over the years is one thing, but when did the idea of Senor Gringo actually first start taking shape?

Senor Gringo: Well, about seven years ago, Tony Marsh, who is a past guitar player, had this idea of starting a band that played music similar to XM Watercolors, where the nylon acoustic guitar plays melody versus traditional vocal music. The rest is history from that point.

Johnny: So what about the name? It’s pretty recognizable. How did you guys come up with that?

Senor Gringo: Well, we came up with that name because of the Latin influence and the fact that most of us are older, seasoned musicians. It just kind of stuck after that.

Johnny: Do you happen to remember when and where the first Senor Gringo gig was?

Senor Gringo: Absolutely. We were the very first band to play Lago del Pino here in Tyler.

Johnny: So you guys have one of the more unique sounds in this area with the Latin-infused groove that, in some cases, evokes threads of Santana as well as others. How have people in East Texas responded to what Senor Gringo is doing?

Senor Gringo: Well, truthfully, it all depends. If we are playing a Country bar, it isn’t necessarily so good, but most of the venues we play do appreciate our talent and the fact that we are different. I would say one of the most consistent criticisms we hear is we are mostly an instrumental band and they just don’t get enough vocals. More times than not, though, the listeners end up staying longer and really focusing in on the music.

Johnny: So is Senor Gringo staying busy around East Texas currently?

Senor Gringo: It definitely depends on the season as to how much we play. In the spring and summer, we can play a lot, but in the late fall and winter it dwindles down to about one or two gigs a month.

Johnny: Where would you say Senor Gringo’s home base really is? Are you primarily in Tyler, or have you branched out to some surrounding areas?

Senor Gringo: Currently, most of our gigs are Tyler area specific, although we do play Jacksonville, Athens, Longview, and Marshall. We are always open to more areas as the opportunities come.

Johnny: What would you say has been the most memorable gig to date?

Senor Gringo: A few years back, we were playing an outdoor summer festival down in Athens and it ended up being one of those magical gigs! We were on a large stage with an amazing sound system, a fantastic audience, and we were just on fire! {[It was] easily one of those moments that sticks with you.

Johnny: Has  Senor Gringo done any studio work or are there plans for any studio projects coming up?

Senor Gringo: We actually have done some studio work in the past, but at present there are no future recording plans. We are doing strictly live shows at the moment

Johnny: So if you had to sit down and explain to a potential first timer to a live show what the experience was about to be like, how would you describe it?

Senor Gringo: We’d say they are in for a completely different type of experience for East Texas. They’re about to hear a combination of original and contemporary Latin-flavored jazz-rock played by talented musicians with the ability to improvise and flow with the crowd.

Follow Senor Gringo on the web at facebook.com/RockinLatinJazz/.

 

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Lost In Space: Gorgeous Jetson

Laid Back Rockers Gorgeous Jetson

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By Johnny Griffith

There is a band from Tyler that you can absolutely get lost in. I mean the “sit back and just ride the soundwave across the infinite universe” kind of lost in. I mean the sort of lost where you start peeling back the layers, and find more layers, and then realize there are more layers underneath that. Whether it be diverse and ever changing guitar riffs, strangely soothing vocals that take you on fantastic voyages, foundational drums and bass that are precise and on point, or the keyboards filling in the gaps with expansive and ethereal sounds…Gorgeous Jetson opens the door to a new sonic reality for the duration of their show.

Helmed by Marc Beevers on lead guitars and vocals, Gorgeous Jetson is rounded out by Ian Power on bass, Logan Strong on guitars and backing vocals, Jed McNeil on keys/synth/backing vocals, and Gamaliel Quezada on drums. I was able to catch up with Marc this past month to find out more about the band and how they click.

Johnny: Let’s start out with the basics. How did the members of Gorgeous Jetson come together?

Marc: So I’ve known Jed since high school. Our schools were rivals and we were both on the drum line. We also looked a lot alike in high school and everyone made a big deal about how we looked alike, so we ended up meeting several times at ball games. I graduated high school early and got an apartment of my own, and there were always tons of people there so that’s how I met Ian. He was another young kid just trying to figure stuff out like me and we hit it off immediately. We’ve been pretty close for about 11 years now. Later on, Jed and myself formed a band called Babe, and I met Logan at one of the last shows that I played with Babe. He actually played in Babe after I left the band. Finally, I met Gammy back in early 2017 at an art show. After talking over a cigarette, I got his number because he said he played drums. 

Johnny: So knowing a bunch of musicians and coming up with the idea of a band like Gorgeous Jetson are two different things. When did the idea first take shape?

Marc: The idea of the band came up in 2015. I went to rehab for a little over a month that year for alcohol and substance abuse. I was still in Babe at the time, but while I was in rehab I decided I wanted to start a project that I had creative control over so when I got out, I told the guys I would be leaving Babe. It wasn’t anything personal, I just wanted more control when it came to the style of the band. 

I asked if they would still play with me under my direction, so Babe became Gorgeous Jetson for two shows. After those first couple of shows, circumstances for me changed and I ended up moving to Midland and those guys went back to Babe.

Johnny: So the name is fun and, honestly, is one of the reasons I first listened to you guys. How did that idea come to be?

Marc: I thought up the name while I was still in rehab. There was a wrestler in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s called Gorgeous George who, essentially, was the first Hulk Hogan…the first flamboyant hero. I like playing with words and making odd phrases like Gorgeous George Jetson. That eventually just turned into Gorgeous Jetson. 

It’s super catchy, I think, and I think that’s important. I think a catchy name can be click bait for sure. For example, our most popular song on the internet right now is my least favorite I’ve written. I know it gets clicks just because the song’s title is “Buddha on Quaaludes.” When you see that, you just have to see what it is simply because of the song’s title. It’s almost an involuntary reaction, so putting some thought into something catchy like that is an important part of the overall equation as well.

Johnny: When and where did Gorgeous Jetson first strut their stuff?

Marc: Technically the first gig was in 2015 at the DIY Spot with the old Babe lineup. With this lineup of guys it was in March of 2018 at Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ. Some folks at Stanley’s heard I had got this group of guys together and asked us to play a gig the following month. We only had like three songs at that point, so they really lit a fire under my tail to get to writing before that show.

Johnny: Your sound is a complete departure from what gets the most real estate in this area, which tends to be some variation of country or hard rock with the occasional blues band thrown in the mix. How have local crowds responded when you break out with your music?

Marc: We’ve had nothing but good responses from our local venues and audiences. I think people like a break from the Texas blues and Texas country. As far as having a different sound than what people are used to, it makes me laugh as to who people compare us to. I’m talking about the people who only listen to top 20 hits. I’m so glad that they like us; I just really don’t like the bands they “think we sound like.”

Johnny: Speaking of that sound, how did that evolve? Was it something you had wanted to play for a while or was it a definite choice in a definite moment?

Marc: The style is evolving for certain. I don’t wanna play the same kinda music forever. We really have a variety of mellow, spacy, and ambient songs. At the same time we have several chaotic, aggressive, almost unnerving at times kind of songs. I like so many different styles of music. I think it’s important that my guys and myself continue to push our limits of playing and what we feel comfortable playing. It only makes us better. 

Johnny: How often are you guys getting to play at the moment?

Marc: We’re currently playing 2 or 3 gigs a month. We are trying to focus on mostly out of town shows at the moment. We just don’t want to oversaturate our home town and have people get tired of us. It helps make it more special when we do play a local show.

Johnny: There are some pretty decent recordings out there of Gorgeous Jetson. Where did you guys do that work and is there anything new coming up?

Marc: We recorded 4 songs with Christian Diebert at GoodShed studio in Canton in 2018. That was our first demo and it’s on all major streaming platforms. 

We recorded our last single with Yacht Country records, Aka John Hetherington. 

We are currently in the process of recording a new song now that should be up by the end of the year. The new song is called “Pet Detective” and it’s a little more mellow than our previous songs. 

Johnny: What can a first-timer expect at a Gorgeous Jetson show?

Marc: It’s really kind of hard to explain our sound. I get bored easily so I enjoy putting in key changes and changes in time signatures frequently. Abrupt changes like this make me very happy. My favorite description of our music was from Meredith Crawford: She said, “Gorgeous Jetson songs are like a washing machine full of colors.”

Check out Gorgeous Jetson on the World Wide Web:

www.gorgeousjetson.com  

facebook.com/gorgeousjetson

instagram.com/gorgeousjetson

 

 

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