Shakey Graves gets the brass ring at Bass for KUTX party


As a child growing up in Austin, Alejandro Rose-Garcia — known to music audiences as Shakey Graves — often waited in the wings at Bass Concert Hall while his father worked jobs with the stage crew for theatrical productions. Saturday night, he returns to those old stomping grounds — but this time, he’s one of the stars of the show.

“I spent a lot of time not being allowed to get on that stage,” he remembers. “And being told, ‘No, you cannot go climb through the “Cats” set. I was like, ‘It looks so cool, can’t I touch all this stuff? Can’t I be on this stage?’ But the answer was always no.

“And now I can. So take that, Bass Concert Hall!” he exults with a laugh, looking forward to Saturday’s KUTX Birthday Concert at the premier University of Texas campus venue. Rose-Garcia joins touring pop acts Jenny Lewis and Tuneyards at the second annual event presented by the local public radio station.

Rose-Garcia actually played KUTX’s first birthday bash last year, but his set was seen only by those invited to a preshow private soiree in the Bass backstage area. Though he acknowledges that such gigs “can be hit or miss, where you’re essentially just background music for a party,” he has fond memories of seeing many old friends in the crowd, and of unveiling some new material with singer Esme Patterson that they had been working up in the studio.

Indeed, last year’s event was like an in-development snapshot of the year that was to come. Some of those songs turned up on Shakey Graves’ Dualtone Records debut “And the War Came,” that came out in October and helped make him a rising star of indie-oriented Americana music.

He spent almost all of last fall on tour. “It was grueling, but it was a blast and a total learning experience,” he says.

He made his national TV debut as a musician with an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show.

The qualifying phrase “as a musician” is necessary, given that Rose-Garcia had a minor recurring role in the Austin-filmed network TV series “Friday Night Lights” in 2007. Such a high-profile opportunity probably provided a leg up when he began pursuing music a few years later, though he points out that “I was a pretty deplorable character in that show. It was more like, ‘Keep your daughters away from that man’ than ‘Oh, he plays music too.’”

Shakey Graves will be back on network TV again in a couple of weeks, playing “The Late Show with David Letterman” on Feb. 13. It’s the start of another busy stretch that will include his first visit to Australia and New Zealand before a spring tour across the U.S. and Canada in March and April.

One place Shakey Graves is not planning to be, ironically, is at South by Southwest. Though he doesn’t rule out a limited appearance, “this will the first year that I think I’m going to step away from the madness,” he says. “It’s funny that it was such a big deal for me to even make it to SXSW in the first place, and now it’s a big deal for me to not make it.”

The fact that he can skip SXSW, an event largely geared toward up-and-coming acts, speaks volumes about the breakthrough Shakey Graves made in 2014. His jump from independent artist to the roster of Dualtone, a Nashville label that recently helped push the Lumineers and Shovels & Rope toward stardom, was a key step, though it involved abandoning the no-iTunes, no-Spotify approach he successfully employed in promoting his 2011 debut “Roll The Bones.”

Rose-Garcia is pragmatic and philosophical about such compromises. “My goal with all this is really to leave no stone unturned,” he says. “I don’t want to make it so far into my career and then have no worldly experience with a record label.

“Even though things are changing, (the record-label model) is still a relevant thing; it’s something that is not particularly just going to go away overnight. So I decided to lean full-in with this release and do it by the books, just to see what the exact opposite is like.”

Working a variety of approaches is a wise move for anyone seeking a career in music at a time when the business is unstable and unpredictable. Rose-Garcia points out, though, that his previous forays into acting didn’t offer greater assurances.

“They’re both kind of the same sort of magic beans scenario,” he says. “It was pretty impossible to do either. But it really came down to the fact that you can’t just act by yourself in your house. And music is so fulfilling to me anyway; I do it because I do it.

“There was kind of a stupid ‘aha’ moment where I realized that every day, I’m interested in waking up and messing around with music. Whereas I didn’t always feel like waking up and shaving my face and trying to pretend I’m a high schooler in a movie that I wouldn’t want to watch anyway. It came down to personal fulfillment.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Music

Making turkey soup this weekend? Here’s our family’s favorite homemade noodle recipe
Making turkey soup this weekend? Here’s our family’s favorite homemade noodle recipe

I can think of few comfort foods I love more than my family’s chicken and noodles. Homemade noodles can become the star of any soup, but they particularly shine with leftover turkey and homemade stock. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman My mom learned how to make handmade noodles from one of my dad’s co-workers in the 1990s...
Here are 10 Texas whiskeys you might want on your holiday wish list
Here are 10 Texas whiskeys you might want on your holiday wish list

Kentucky isn’t the only state in the U.S. making top-of-the-line whiskey. Texas may not have been doing it for as long as America’s bourbon bastion, but our proud state has proven that we can still hold our own against legacy producers — perhaps in part because the whiskey industry here is still so young and willing to be adventurous...
2017 Beaujolais Nouveau wine label is created by a St. Petersburg artist
2017 Beaujolais Nouveau wine label is created by a St. Petersburg artist

Every year, there are bad things we can count on: taxes and death. And good things: Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November and on the Thursday before, the Beaujolais nouveau arrives. What is less predictable is just how this vin de l'annee ("this year's wine") stacks up. Every now and then the young gamay from the Beaujolais...
Holiday gift guide: Food
Holiday gift guide: Food

These gifts will satisfy the appetites of the food and drink lovers on your list. The nubby handles take a little getting used to, but they encourage a proper knife grip by directing the hand into the proper position and enabling fingers to lock in the front and back. The forged steel eight-inch chef's knife and 3.5-inch paring knife slice cleanly...
Of pints and predators: inside the U.K. Parliament’s boozy hangouts
Of pints and predators: inside the U.K. Parliament’s boozy hangouts

LONDON — A plaque on a wall at the Sports and Social Club, a dingy and stuffy bar located next to garbage cans in the basement of the Houses of Parliament in London, reads: “The Code of the Man Cave. What happens here stays here! Violators will be shot — survivors will be shot again.” That jokey warning took on serious undertones...
More Stories