It’s been a while since I turned the focus of this blog toward my other passion, MUSIC!
I want to share with you a fabulous group of talented musicians I recently had the opportunity to interview – The South Austin Moonlighters!
Inside the acoustic room at The Guitar Sanctuary in McKinney Texas, ready to conduct a quiet interview with The South Austin Moonlighters, the first band member comes through the door.
Daniel James oohs and aahs over the vast collection of guitars hanging on the wall, grabs one, plays a sizzling riff, then puts it back on the wall, turns around and says, “I’m just the drummer.”
That scenario set the tone for a lively interview with The South Austin Moonlighters.
The one quintessential thing that sets this group of musicians apart from other bands, is the individual talent each member brings to the table. There is no front man with sidemen backing him. These guys are all in this together on equal footing. Each member plays multiple instruments, writes, and shares in the vocals. Everyone is invested.
I wondered how this group found each other and came together.
“We were playing at South by Southwest eight years ago, and someone just mentioned that we should get together and jam sometime,” said Lonnie Trevino. “So, we agreed, thinking nothing would ever come of it, but it did. Then I booked some gigs at the Saxon Pub, and those were pure practice sessions. Three years later, when we brought Chris Beall in, it really legitimized the band. We decided this was something serious and really, really good, and it took off from there.”
And where did they come up with the band name?
Phil Hurley answered. “We were all working in other bands at the time. So, with a new project, we’d be moonlighting.”
Their newly released album, Travel Light, was recorded at a destination studio in Maurice, Louisiana and produced by New Orleans songwriter, Anders Osborne.
When I listen to any new record, there are certain tracks that stand out to me, and it always has to do with the words. That is very much the case with Travel Light.
Chris Beall, along with Amy Hooper, composed the title track.
“I’ve never been very good at writing fiction. I have to have a personal connection with the things I’m describing,” said Chris. “So, with “Travel Light,” Amy and I sat down and essentially wrote what was happening in our lives.”
Phil added. “I think one of the things that Chris is so good at, and something that we all aspire to, is to have the ability to tell something extremely personal and yet somehow give it a universal meaning that anyone can relate to.”
That describes most every song on this album. I knew there had to be a story to go along with “Machine Gun Kelly.”
“Danny Kortchmar wrote that song,” said Chris. “I wish I had written it. Our record label president heard us playing the song live and wanted us to include it on this album.”
Another song that I found to be compelling was “Dug Down Deep,” written by Chris Beall.
“It’s a true story, a miracle that happened in my life,” said Chris. “It’s about my dad. He was a motorcycle racer, and he was badly injured in an accident when I was three. The doctor came out to tell my mom that he was deceased when they suddenly got a pulse. So, it was this progression every step of the way. They said he’d probably never come out of the coma, but he did. Then they said he’d never be able to walk again, and he did. So, it’s all about digging down deep and finding that well of strength to overcome anything.”
In this collection of compelling story songs, “Daylight Again,” closes out the album with a fusion of harmony that the South Austin Moonlighters are well-known for.
Phil Hurley said, “This is a song that Crosby, Stills, and Nash closed each set with back in the day. We loved it, so, Lonnie looked around and found a version with more verses. It is very provocative, kind of a civil war story that we knew we had to approach differently. It was early one morning in the studio. Chris picked up this beautiful little parlor guitar that belongs to Anders Osborne, and I grabbed something else, and we started playing. It turned out his guitar was tuned to A432 instead of A440. A432 tuning is known as spiritual tuning. Anyway, we just started singing, and it came together on such an incredible level. That was the base we built the track from.”
I had the pleasure of watching the South Austin Moonlighters perform inside the beautiful Guitar Sanctuary venue. While it was a joy to meet and interview this talented group of men, witnessing the magic they make on stage climaxed the entire experience.
If you have a chance to catch a live show, I highly recommend it. If not, at least pick up this new album, Travel Light, and be prepared for pure entertainment.
This song give me goosebumps! The harmony is perfection!