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!
EGuide: How long have y’all been playing together?
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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