Houston Calling

SXSW preview: Austin Collins and The Rainbirds

March 13th, 2009 · 1 Comment

South By Southwest, for many people, is an opportunity to discover bands they have never heard before and to see bands perform in more intimate venues than they typically are accustomed to playing. It’s what it’s all about, as far as I am concerned. A few years ago at SXSW, while waiting to see another musician, I was fortunate enough to catch Austin Collins’ set. Since becoming an instant fan, I have kept up with his music, which most recently includes his 2008 release, Roses Are Black (with backing band, The Rainbirds). The album sets a new standard for the alt-country genre, with solid songwriting that mixes traditional country’s high points with hints of Midwestern rock.

One of the best quotes about Collins comes from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Those still in mourning over the breakup of alt-country heroes Whiskeytown can take solace in the debut from this Houston-born/Austin-based singer/songwriter.”

Similarly, Dallas Observer noted that “Collins’ hard edge folk/country is the closest thing our state has to Steve Earle. And Roses are Black, Collins’ most recent effort, might just be the best roots record of the year.”

Austin Collins recently answered a few questions about his latest album, South By Southwest, and the band’s plans for 2009.

Houston Calling: Roses Are Black received a lot of positive reviews and was on some best-of 2008 lists. Are you pleased with the reaction to the album so far?

Austin Collins: I am very pleased with the response so far, we’re all obviously very proud of how the record turned out and I think it has still got some legs, so we’re also excited about some of the new opportunities the album could afford us in 2009.

HC: You live in Austin, and you guys have played during South By Southwest before. Anything memorable stick out? It sometimes seems like an odd thing to me that so much emphasis is put on on SXSW yet a lot of the shows are at crappy-sounding venues, many of which don’t normally have bands play…I remember last year seeing you get some sort of shock from a microphone and working it into your lyrics.

Collins: Yes, some of the Austin clubs have a challenge in operating as music venues. It’s not their fault, it’s a big week and there’s a lot to be gained by hosting these showcases. Usually you have very professional sound teams doing the best they can with unfamiliar rooms and limited resources, so in the end you just gotta say fuck it, it’s South-by — really it’s all part of the fun. And yes, I did get shocked or blasted by feedback or something last year -– I can’t remember exactly what happened but I did a poor job concealing my frustration with the situation.

HC: What are you hoping to get out of this year’s SXSW? What are you most looking forward to at SXSW?

Collins: To make new friends and fans. The circle grows every year, but it always comes back to connecting with other bands and songwriters and also getting to know industry folks who are going the same direction we are.

HC: I read an interview a while back that said something about the songs on Roses Are Black being written by observing people in various places you were. Is this true? If so, what brought about that idea and how do you typically approach the songwriting process?

Collins: Yes. Watching life happen. Experiencing joy and sorrow. Conversations, holidays, funerals and weddings. Anything real. I’m not always good at talking about those things. It’s easier for me to laugh it off, then write about it to deal or take a stance. I’m not really sure how songs get finished, I’m incredibly undisciplined and ADD. Usually it starts with a feeling or memory and creates itself from there.

HC: You play a lot of gigs across the state. What are your plans to continue the album’s momentum during 2009?

Collins: We’re going to be making a music video and record an EP in the next few months. We’re also gonna hit the road and hopefully tour with some of the friends we’ve made over the past year.

HC: …What do you consider to be your primary musical influences and how do you think they play into your songs?

Collins: …I don’t know about influences anymore. I know that guys like Jay Farrar and Ryan Adams got me into this stuff, but these days I’m finding myself inspired by what my friends are doing.

HC: Roses Are Black was released in Europe last year as well — I want that vinyl the German company is offering. Have you guys played in the UK and Europe yet, and if so how were the shows? What did you like best?

Collins: I did a solo run in the UK a few years back, but we haven’t toured as a band yet. We’re shooting for next spring after we get the new album out. I just found out about the double vinyl that Blue Rose put out and I can’t figure out how to get my hands on one, but I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

HC: What are some of the bands you’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s SXSW?

Collins: I haven’t even seen the schedule yet. I’ll start making a game plan Tuesday night once I get a good look at the Chronicle. Honestly, who I go see usually depends on who I talk to that day.

Here’s a video of Austin Collins & The Rainbirds’ “11 Months” live at SXSW 2008:

Austin Collins and The Rainbirds plays during South By Southwest on Wednesday, 3.18.09, at the Sin City Party at Saxon Pub (12-5pm); on Thursday, 3.19.09, at Opal Devine’s Free House (12-8pm). Collins also plays a solo gig on Saturday, 3.21.09, at Graham Weber’s annual showcase at Cactus Cafe.

Visit the band online at www.austincollins.net.

Roses Are Black was #5 on Houston Calling‘s Favorite Albums of 2008.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings · SXSW

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 SXSW previews // Mar 20, 2009 at 7:54 am

    […] Petrol Emotion | Bosque Brown | Johnny Goudie and The Little Champions | Tre9 | B L A C K I E | Austin Collins & The Rainbirds | Indian Jewelry | Jimmy Webb & The Webb […]

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