Bart Crow releases “Parade”

| November 15, 2015 | Reply

First printed in the November 2015 issue of Buddy Magazine.Bart Crow 2

If a musician can use life on life’s terms for material, Bart Crow has a wealth of positive experiences about which to write and sing. And he seems to draw upon those when writing, co-writing, or choosing cover songs, as evidenced by the lyrics in “Top of Rock Bottom,” off his newest CD, Parade: “It seems nobody cares about love songs anymore, they’re here for the party, they’re here for the score.” Then he sings, “God gave me a brain, so I can think and I can feel.”

Parade is full of songs with equal depth and conviction, stunning in its stark simplicity. That evidence of simplicity is the result of top writing, top recording, top production, and top musicianship.

Crow remains, in spite of that song title, at the top of the Texas honky-tonkers.

Bart graduated from high school in Maypearl, Texas, in 1995, and almost immediately went into the U.S. Army. He served two years, he said, at Fort Stewart, Georgia. That done, he moved back to Texas and graduated in 2004 from Tarleton State University in Stephenville, earning a degree in Business Public Relations. He and his wife then moved to Austin, where they continue to live with their three sons: Townes, 4 1/2 years old, and 2-year-old twins River and Parsons. His wife “holds down the fort,” he said with respect and admiration in his voice.

It’s fairly apparent from the names of his sons just who some of Crow’s musical influences were. Townes Van Zandt was an early-childhood influence, and obviously the twins were named for River Phoenix and Gram Parsons.

Crow said that he doesn’t delve deep into the lives of those who influenced him.

“I don’t start snooping around, some weren’t always the upper echelon of character, I just listen to their music and absorb their art. Someone told me one time to let your heroes just be your heroes.” He also holds in high esteem classic country artists (Let’s just use first names here — you know them all), Merle, Waylon, Jerry Jeff; and rockers Pearl Jam, Metallica and the like; and throw in the soul sounds of giants in that field, too. OK, is he honky-tonk or Americana? You, dear reader, decide.

Now, 20 years past high-school and college graduations, military service, marriage and family, and spending at least 130 nights on the road and half a dozen CDs under his belt, what has Bart learned and now applies to his music and his life?

“Music is supposed to be fun. You are the bard, always around alcohol and smoke and people and stages, and the music is the universal glue that binds all of it together. If Miller Light were nutritious, I would be the most nutritious person out there,” said this man who is often described as the musician with the smile always on his face. “I take songwriting seriously and band rehearsal and performing, too, but when you get out there and perform, it’s should be fun, and it is fun.”

Now, after all these years, too, he has sold more than 40,000 of those albums, completely produced without outside backing, which gave him 100% artistic say on them; seen the inside of Billboard and Texas music charts; and earned the respect of the most respected of Nashville songwriters. On Parade, he’s co-written songs with Gary Nicholson, Trent Sumner, and Mando Saenz. It was the Nicholson-Sumner-Crow trio who wrote the song which has spent 6 months on the Texas Music Chart and remained at No. 2 as of the end of October, “Life Comes At You Fast,” which is also right up there on the Texas Regional Radio Report chart. That’s not, at all, ‘rock bottom.’

“I try not to get bogged down and worry about it (where a song is on the charts.) It’s one less thing to worry about.”

Now, with those 20 years of hard-core living behind him and probably more decades ahead of him, Crow got pretty serious when asked if he has ever been told he’s influenced others. “I get a handful of that, and I don’t take it lightly. I’m very flattered by that. I try to be gentle and not make a joke… I don’t. I say, ‘Thank you.’ It doesn’t happen every day, and when it does, it’s a pretty incredible feeling.”

Step it up more on ParadeProcessed with VSCOcam with h6 preset

Parade was recorded by the same group of musicians, Crow said, who made his previous record project, Dandelion, the success it was. “I met those guys the day we started recording and we captured it pretty good together then. We’ve been pals for almost four years ago. That was January 2012, and fast forward to December 2013, 1.5 years later, (when they began working on Parade), and we now have a comfort level and trust with each other. That’s definitely a plus factor. Those guys record together a lot, and they knew I wasn’t just another guy who hired them. I trust their opinions, they trust that I bring incredible material to the table.”

Crow said, “Three years to write new material and play 300 more shows. We didn’t have to begin as strangers this time. The comfort level is the biggest thing. We kept our nose to the grindstone, writing songs and coming in with a pocketful of material.”

Bart continued to explain that they did the arrangements in the studio. “If I got lucky and nailed it in the writing process… I’d say, ‘here’s what I wrote,’ and they are so much more professional than I am. I might be the one to say, ‘what if we try this chord’ or note or slow it down, we’d try it before deciding.” It all goes back to trust, he elaborated.

The writing part is, for Crow, often like kneeling down on a concrete floor and slamming your head on it. “Sometimes it’s hard to squeeze something out of nothing, and sometimes you catch a bolt of lightning. I made a promise to the music gods and, when that happens, I’ll stop and listen. And I keep the promise.

“Sometimes ‘lazy’ wins,” Bart laughed. Sometimes, in the wee hours of the morning, ‘old man lazy’ wins the battle.”

“This is the Bart Crow album we’ve been waiting for,” said KHYI program director Chuck Taylor.

Parade features 11 new songs. Thirty Tigers began distribution in late October. A window into Crow’s life, values, experiences, and dreams, this project, along with the artist’s blue-collar, professional personality, will have Crow extending those aspirations far beyond his nose.

Where to from here?

“It’s so early in the game. I try not to put my plans too far beyond my nose.”

Bart said he’s worked hard to put a good team together to help all of those in the band, and to release the album and spread the music. “I hope new people discover the music and we get to keep getting to eat.”

He does plan to continue to travel to Nashville to write songs with others and “better myself and be creative.

“I am working now on co-writing, to have more songs under my belt so when I make the next record, we have material.” In addition to those iconic songwriters already mentioned, Crow is co-writing, too, with

Matt Chase, Gary Nickelson, and Ben Danaher, to name a few more.

And, “We’re keeping busy, playing around 125 shows a year now, without it killing us.”Bart Crow

During the past year, the band has traveled to Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Idaho, Chicago, St. Louis, New Mexico, Arkansas and Arizona, Oklahoma and, of course, criss-crossed all over Texas.

Crow and the band played the Grand Ol’ Opry in August. How’d that happen? “We sent them the music and they enjoyed the record and sent us an invite and we soaked it all in and had a magical evening.”

The not-at-all-unique-to-musicians situation of balancing road work with family and home is a challenge for Bart, as it is for most traveling troubadours. I’m trying to get better at it every day. ‘Just to my best’ is the motto, quality over quantity at home. Sometimes, I know, I miss that mark, probably more than I’d like to admit. It’s definitely not easy.”

At the end of the discussion with Bart Crow, he answered the question, “Is there anything else you’d like to say that hasn’t been asked?” He laughed, and said, “Well, I’m pretty transparent and pretty boring. If there is one more question, it would be… ‘How in the hell did I ever record the best thing you ever heard?”

We here at Buddy Magazine can only hope that’s already been answered.

The Bart Crow Band will be playing November 20 at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth and on November 28 at Southern Junction Steakhouse and Dancehall in Rockwall/Royse City. On December 1, Bart Crow, Casey Donahew, William Clark Green and Mike Ryan will be leaving for Dublin, Ireland, for their Red Dirt Pub Crawl.

 

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