This interview with ZiG originally appeared on SongwriterInfoPage.com. in April 2004.
Gary: What about Texas music – then and now? Let’s start with then.
Zig: Texas back then? Well, when I was a kid growing up in Ft. Worth there was definitely something brewing in Texas in the 70’s with Willie, Michael Murphey (I had those first two records on A&M, before he was Michael ‘Martin’), Fromholtz, Willis Alan Ramsey, Guy Clark, etc,etc. I remember wanting to go to Austin was too young to have a driver’s license (much less a car). You know, later on in my years in Nashville I worked with a lot of good songwriters and some of them were aware of Willis Alan …or ‘Texas Trilogy’ ……if they weren’t, sometimes I’d turn ’em on to it.Years later, when I did get a car (and a license) I went down to Austin many times, and as I began to write songs, my first few ‘publishers’ were down there. I loved the vibe of the city in the late 70’s, early 80’s. I would visit there and see some singer/songwriters and get inspired. I saw Doug Sahm, Uncle Walt’s Band, Asleep at the Wheel, Commander Cody…there was a group called the ‘Bees Knees’, so much happening – I can’t name ’em all – of course, Willie and Jerry Jeff.
Gary: Did you perform in Austin?
Zig: No, not till years later. At this time I just drove down and saw some of the bands and writers. I played a little in Ft Worth. I remember seeing Delbert and Willis Alan Ramsey in Austin and then the next day I played at ‘the Hop’ in Ft Worth with some guys (Mike Kerrigan Band) on acoustics and I met Willis and Delbert because they played after us. There were so many – Gary P. Nunn, Rusty Wier, Ray Wylie… David Alan Coe ran his motorcycle into my friend’s car at a gig one night at a place called ‘Showdown’. Those guys were the Texas ‘stars’ of the day. My age was still just in our first bands and writing our first songs. They gave us hope that we could play our music and make a living and have fun – without aspiring to be a megastar. I didn’t know then that some of them were barely making a living and surviving.
Gary: So, you were already writing songs back then?
Zig: I wrote a few songs in that early time period, but I still lived with my parents in Ft Worth. Then as I got out of high school, I got more and more into playing electric guitar and gigging, and jazz, and engineering, and having a backyard studio, and wanting to be a producer and a musician – so I did less songwriting. But…I had gotten a dose of the songwriter bug early on and Jerry Jeff and Austin and those writers and that time period certainly colored my songwriting opinions and values. And that bug stuck with me and I returned to writing a few years later.
Then came a time period when I started my own studio in a little building that a friend and I built in my parents’ backyard. We lived over in Northside and most of my customers were TexMex and Tejano bands. Then I started doing jingles for the Spanish radio station, KESS. I was also at this same time playing in several country bar bands and a jazz group that played weddings and hotel gigs (occasionally we played some real jazz, mostly we were more easy background music).
Gary: What about Texas records as an engineer and a producer?
Zig: Well, when I was a kid I had Viva Terlingua, Walker’s Collectables,
Ridin’ High, and the first Jerry Jeff record – the one with ‘Charlie Dunn’ and all that. The ‘realness’ of those performances and the casual sound of the recording has always been an influence on my production, along with some ‘slick’ recordings like Steely Dan, Peter Gabriel and others. I’m also a big jazz fan and I’ve been influenced by the sound of Miles and Coltrane and the records on Blue Note and Prestige and some of those old jazz labels. And then there’s Motown and the Beatles and the Allman Bros at Fillmore East and Zeppelin…and bluegrass – all cool recording – all have ambiance, roominess, spontaneity……. that ‘realness’ is there in all those records because they captured a little of the live feel in the studio and so each song seems more like a performance or an event.
During that same time that the ‘Progressive Country’ movement was brewing in Texas there was also a lot of acoustic rock and folk-rock and west coast country rock happening that influenced me. I think it influenced everybody at that time, but the Texas thing was more local. I mean, everybody all over the US heard James Taylor and Neil Young and the Eagles but those of us in Texas also heard Texas artists like Willis Alan and Stevie Ray Vaughn years before he hit national radio.
Gary: And Texas now?
Zig: Texas now? Well, it’s really the same – just bigger – and more years have gone by so there’s more history. I think Pat Green is proving what we all always believed – that a Texas artist could sell his music to the Texas audience (and beyond) without Nashville or country radio. I feel strongly that the future home of country music is in Texas. And I thank the Dixie Chicks for that too.
In the 80’s we used to say,”Man, why doesn’t George Strait or someone commercially big on country radio record in Texas instead of Nashville?” Of course, Willie did records in Texas and that helped a lot, and to George’s credit, he did use his live band on his records some, and he never moved to Nashville and all that, and he’s always been a great spokesman for Texas. But I guess we just hoped that he would start recording and producing his records in Texas too.
Then when Garth Brooks was so successful and made so much money, and he seemed to like to ‘control’ things, I thought…Man, he ought to open a label in Texas and use that money and popularity to bring the music business here where it belongs. I remember I was producing an artist (Tim Murphy) on Capitol Records back then and I saw the vibe between Garth and Capitol – there was a power struggle and Garth won. He pushed the label to do what he wanted and they went along. I thought that if he was that driven and had that kind of power, he’d use that to start a label in Oklahoma or something. I guess that just wasn’t a goal for him – he fought Nashville in his own way but I guess he didn’t have an interest in seeing the home of country music be in Texas or Oklahoma.
But….the Dixie Chicks….they did what everyone used to hope a Texas artist would do – go to Nashville, get on country radio, sell 10 million CDs, become nationally known mainstream artists, then go back to Texas to cut their next record.
Gary: What projects are you working on lately in Texas?
Zig: Well, I produced CDs on King Cone and Jordan Mycoskie, and I’ve also been working with James Hinds who is the lead singer of the band Running Behind that plays out at Cowboys Red River in Dallas.
Gary: King Cone?
Zig: That’s his real name. King’s from Decatur and lives down in Austin, goin’ to UT. I just went down and wrote a few songs with him. He’s finishing up school and then I think he’s gonna kick everybody’s ass. He’s a good singer and performer. He goes from George Strait to Lynyrd Skynyrd to originals. Some songs we cut could get airplay on mainstream country radio (in style or direction). He always goes over well in Texas. We’re building up songs for a new project that will push him over the edge – man, that sounds dangerous.
Gary: And Jordan?
Zig: Jordan is a singer/songwriter that writes interesting songs. He’s mostly performed on acoustic. He’s now putting a band together – they’re good. I played electric guitar with him and his bass player and drummer at Woody’s and it was sloppy and fun. Jordan is kinda like Jerry Jeff, the Stones, Springsteen, college rock, and Steve Earle all kinda mixed together. He plays Poor David’s and the White Elephant people like him cause he has fun and they have fun.
Gary: And the band?
Zig: Well, sometimes it’s James Hinds and sometimes it’s James and the band – that’s still to be hashed out- is it a band? a duo? a trio? or James alone? I’ve gotten some management and some label interest in James but I think he likes the band thing – and they’re a killer band. But James is a great performer and fun and has a rich deep voice and he writes too. So we’ll see how the direction shapes up in time.
Gary: What about the new “Texas” Grey House Studio?
Zig: It’s here in Arlington, right off of I-30. We have ProTools, Mackie board, good mics, including a few Neumanns. We have a drum room, a control room, and several other booths. We’re cutting a few bands there now and also some acoustic singer/songwriter stuff too.