Alesia Lani at ACL 2019
Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images
5 Texas Artists Who Rocked Austin City Limits 2019
From Kacey Musgraves to Gary Clark Jr., a sonically and racially diverse array of artists put their best notes forward at ACL 2019
There’s no place like home, and, over the last two weekends, several Texan artists represented their hometowns at Austin City Limits Festival 2019.
Reflective of the state itself, a sonically and racially diverse array of artists put their best notes forward, even if the weather, which began in the upper 40s on Friday and warmed to a high of 79 on Sunday, was a little moody. With the exception of Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion, who missed her allotted set time, each artist proved to be a standout act in one of the country's greatest music hubs. Some would say it was all “a big dream,” as R&B artist Alesia Lani describes it.
Here are a few names, both familiar and on the rise, who rocked the stages at Zilker Park.
Hometown: All over Texas
Following in the prevalent trend of doing away with vowels, this eight-man rap collective’s name is pronounced “pantheon.” Earlier this year they told Complex they’re “a group of gods coming together.” Amongst them is a graphic designer, a photographer and several producers. This year at ACL gives the Texas-based group a chance to let the audience decide for themselves.
"The sky is finally open, the rain and wind start blowin'… You hold tight to your umbrella, darlin’ I’m just tryna tell ya/That there’s always been a rainbow hanging over your head." Is that a Kacey Musgraves song, or a description of this crisp year at ACL? Let’s say both. The country-pop singer's show, lacking in neither hand clapping nor yee-haws, was one of the festival’s most awaited acts. The 2019 Album Of The Year GRAMMY winner dazzled and serenaded the audience in her golden-hour slot.
Photo: Daniel Mendoza The Recording Academy
This year marked Alesia Lani’s first time performing at ACL. The Missouori-born R&B loyal who grew up in Austin, Texas took a moment to chat with the Recording Academy, telling us of the city's artistic nature, “With Austin, there's so much room for opportunity... There's so much room to grab your goals and get out there and talk to people." Beloved by locals, the soul singer hopes being in Austin will shed light on the authentic work she’s doing. In 2015, she, along with GRAMMY winner Gary Clark Jr., earned a spot of The Austin Chronicle’s list of top 10s. Her upcoming work, she shares, will differ from her prior two albums. As she sings on "Along the Way,” from 2017’s Resilient, she’s figuring it out as she goes.
Photo: Kahlil Levy
19-year-old Dayglow (Sloan Struble) is so good at making dreamy bedroom pop he’s reportedly decided to take a bet on it, leaving college in Austin behind to pursue a more long-term musical career in Nashville, Tenn. This will perhaps be the first time the Texan ops to live outside the state, and this year will forever live on as his first festival performance. The entirety of his debut self-produced and the self-released album was recorded in the bedroom he grew up in.
Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr., signed to Warner Bros Records, is ahead of his time. In 2014, he won a GRAMMY for Best Traditional R&B Performance and was nominated for Best Rock Song. At 35, he’s shared the stage with the likes of Beyoncé and the Rolling Stones. His latest LP, This Land, is already a conversation-starter, with fans taking the liberty to nominate him for awards that won’t have a list of potential claimants for months to come. In the meantime, Clark tells KVUE his only plans on the horizon at the moment are to "ride off into the sunset with my family and go hide out for a second." Needless to say, those who got to see his nine-song set over these last two weekends were in for a treat.
ACL Celebrates 40 Years
After 40 years and more than 800 performances, "Austin City Limits" continues to thrive as America's longest-running televised music program
When GRAMMY winner Gary Clark Jr. taped his "Austin City Limits" episode with Alabama Shakes in late 2012, the blues guitarist had already performed at the White House with Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, and B.B. King, and played alongside Eric Clapton. In fact, Clark had also already played on "Austin City Limits," appearing five seasons earlier in a tribute to Jimmy Reed. But when he stood center stage before its iconic Austin skyline backdrop, finally joining a fraternity populated by so many of his idols, the Austin, Texas, native, then 28, said, "I've been wanting to do this for 16 years."
Like Clark, who learned to play guitar by wearing out his VHS tape of the 1996 tribute episode to Stevie Ray Vaughan, GRAMMY nominee Sarah Jarosz also grew up watching the public television series — which, unlike other TV programs, showcases artists performing actual, uninterrupted sets. Multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Jarosz, who was raised in Wimberley, just outside of Austin, recalls, "Just getting to see some of my musical heroes on that show was pretty priceless, and inspiring."
The PBS series — the longest-running televised music program in the United States — has helped launch careers for 39 years. Even those who gain international renown before setting foot on the show's storied stage count their performance as a bucket list/holy grail moment. On Oct. 3, the night before season 40 kicks off with GRAMMY winner Beck, PBS will air "Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years," a two-hour special featuring some of the series' most beloved artists and rising stars, from Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt and Joe Ely to Clark and Alabama Shakes.
Co-hosted by actor/musician Jeff Bridges and GRAMMY winner Sheryl Crow, the special combines footage from a four-hour event taped in June and the show's inaugural Austin City Limits Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held in April. Among the first class of inductees were GRAMMY-winning pedal steel player Lloyd Maines, Vaughan and Willie Nelson, who taped the pilot episode of "Austin City Limits" in 1974.
ACL, as it's commonly called, has featured more than 800 live performances since it first aired 40 years ago. Conceived by KLRU-TV (then KLRN) program director Bill Arhos, producer Paul Bosner and director Bruce Scafe, the series initially focused on the unique music scene that had sprouted in central Texas, where country, blues, folk, and rock had cross-pollinated into something labeled progressive country, or "redneck rock." (Nelson's strain was dubbed "outlaw country." The nascent genre would become known as alt-country before morphing into Americana.) Broadcast during a 1975 PBS pledge drive, the show's fundraising success got it picked up for the 1976 season.
Since then, it's managed not only to stay on the air, but gain popularity, weathering the birth of MTV and other competition for viewers' attention. Time magazine has cited ACL as one of the 10 most influential music programs in TV history. It's also the only television program ever awarded a National Medal of Arts. Other accolades include a Peabody Award and its designation as an official rock and roll landmark (both the show and its venues) by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
"Nobody ever thought it would go this long," says KLRU CEO and General Manager Bill Stotesbery. "Shows don't run this long in television. I think it's due to the fact that the show's maintained a very high level of quality and that it's on PBS, because PBS has a commitment to this kind of programming."
ACL also grew well beyond KLRU's Studio 6A on the University of Texas campus, its home for 36 years. In 2002 the series spawned the now-annual Austin City Limits Festival and in 2011 PBS first aired the "ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival," featuring highlights from the Americana Honors & Awards Show. Also in 2011, the series relocated to the newly built ACL Live at the Moody Theater in downtown Austin on Willie Nelson Avenue, with audience capacity increasing from 350 to 2,750.
For Jarosz and performers such as GRAMMY-winning jazz artist Esperanza Spalding, who wasn't allowed to watch non-PBS programming as a child, both stages hold magic — as does the experience of playing on them.
"To get to really do a [full] set, it's like performing one act of a play or performing three acts of a play," says Spalding. "It makes a difference for the audience to see a fuller palette of what you are as an artist. … It's really such a luxury to get to stretch out and show your whole self. Forty years is a testament to that. People want to know what the artist is saying."
There's a definite career bump, too.
"Probably 90 percent of the people who come up to me after my live shows say that [ACL's] how they heard about me and that's where they first saw my performance and heard my music," says Jarosz, who was 18 when she recorded her first episode. "To be given that chance really has helped a lot."
ACL executive producer and host Terry Lickona, who also co-produces the GRAMMY Awards and is a former Recording Academy Chair, says the show's longevity has made it even more desirable to artists.
"They see 'Austin City Limits' as a validation of their music," notes Lickona, who joined ACL in its second season.
His wish list still includes Bruce Springsteen and Prince, who's apparently a fan.
"I've heard from other people [Prince] saw Esperanza Spalding and Grupo Fantasma, and he loves to tune in to see if there's somebody new he's never heard of before," says Lickona.
Speaking of career bumps, Prince subsequently hired Grupo Fantasma as his backing band for various high-profile gigs, including a Golden Globes after-party.
Lickona also still gets a thrill from discovering new, original talent, too, and sharing it with viewers — via TV, the Internet or some other still-to-come technology.
"We're all proud of where 'Austin City Limits' has come from," says Ed Bailey, vice president of brand development for ACL. "But we're proud of where it's going. Forty years is a stopping off point to celebrate where we've been … but we're also looking for the next thing. That's why ACL still matters."
(Austin, Texas-based writer/editor Lynne Margolis has contributed to a variety of print, broadcast and online media, including American Songwriter and Paste magazines, Rollingstone.com, the Christian Science Monitor and NPR. She also writes bios for new and established artists.)
Tyga Talks Inspiration Behind "Go Loko" & Collaborating With L.A. Rappers Like YG
"Growing up in L.A., it's a really big culture here, Mexican culture," the rapper said. "So we really wanted to do something to give back to the culture."
Tyga's latest collab has him paying tribute to Los Angeles' large Mexican community. The rapper is featured on fellow L.A. rapper YG's leading single, "Go Loko" off his latest album 4REAL 4REAL and when asked about his take on the song, he says much of it was inspired by Mexico's cultural impact.
"Growing up in L.A., it's a really big culture here," he said. "Even YG could tell you, he grew up around all Mexicans, so we really wanted to do something to give back to the culture."
The video features visuals and symbolisms inpired by the Mexican community, including mariachi, but also by the Puerto Rican community (you'll easily spot the boricua flag). The song also features Puerto Rican rapper Jon Z. Tyga mentioned the diversity of Latinos on the different coasts and wanted to make a song that also celebrates the different Latin cultures in the country. "We wanted to do something different to kinda try to bring all Latins together," he said.
Watch the video above to hear more about the song and the vibe when he joins forces with other L.A. rapppers.
Photo: Nicole Davis
Quarantine Diaries: ARI Is Cuddling With Her Cat, Making Her Own Tea & Preparing For Her Debut 'IDIOT GRL' EP Release
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors
As the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, the Recording Academy reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, rising singer/songwriter ARI shares her quarantine diary. ARI's debut IDIOT GRL EP is out Aug. 14.
[9:40 a.m.] A late start to the day. I just woke up to my cat Malakai licking my face and snuggling under my chin, desperate for cuddles. I reluctantly gave in before diving into my morning routine, which starts by going through all of the daily news on my Snapchat feed to see what’s going on in the world.
[11 a.m.] Just out of the shower and into the kitchen for the usual: tea and avocado toast. I don’t typically like tea or coffee, but I had this amazing tea from Starbucks once and fell in love with it. I ended up finding the recipe and making it myself, and to be honest, I like my version better. Once I boil the kettle, I start part two of my morning “meditation”: watching one of my favourite shows while I respond to emails. With the IDIOT GRL EP coming out next week, I can tell you there are a TON of emails. I turned on "Gilmore Girls" (my guilty pleasure) and opened up my laptop to go through my calendar.
[1:45 p.m.] Recording session time. Zoom calls have become my everyday life. It’s crazy to think that this time last year, you could actually be in a room with people. Now the most social interaction I get is virtually. On the positive side, I get to set up my little home studio from the comfort of my own bed and I find the sessions to be really productive with no outside distractions.
[3:30 p.m.] Malakai is meowing at my door. As I try to sing over him, eventually I can’t ignore his cute little voice. We take a quick break and I have a little playtime with him. I can hear my song playing in the living room—it still weirds me out hearing myself. My guess is my roommate aka my manager is sending off final approval for the “IDIOT GRL” music video, which comes out the same day as the EP. Super excited for everyone to finally see it!
[6:00 p.m.] Time for dinner. It may just be my favourite part of the day. During my session, my roommate cooked us some delicious pasta. We eat dinner together every night, which is really nice. Usually, after dinner, we wind down and watch TV, but we decided to try doing an arts and crafts project tonight. I watched this TikTok video of a DIY way to make music plaques. You take a screenshot of a song on Spotify and use a marker to trace out the name of the song, artist, play button, etc. Once that’s done, you simply add the album artwork of your choice, frame it, and voila! I thought it would be a cool idea to make a wall of each of the songs off of my EP.
[9:00 p.m.] After an eventful day, I decided to go watch a drive-in Maple Leafs game (wearing a mask, of course). My sister works for the TSN network and started hosting drive-in game nights to promote the network and social distancing events. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest hockey fan, but I’ll never pass up an opportunity to spend time with my family.
[11:30 p.m.] I finally get home and hop straight into bed. I feel like I haven’t spent much time on Instagram today, so figured I’d open it up before getting some shuteye. I launched the pre-save link for the EP today and told my followers that I would DM anyone who pre-saved it and sent me a screenshot. I always love getting to interact with my fans and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to see how excited people are for my debut EP. It’s a great feeling to end the day with.
EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE: Mexican Institute Of Sound Takes Gaby Moreno Into New Musical Territory With Mystifying "Yemayá"
Listen to the synth-infused track blending pop and Latin sounds that's named after the Afro-Carribean goddess who represents fertility, water and self-love
Anything Mexican Institute Of Sound (MIS), a.k.a Camilo Lara, touches turns into musical gold. The Mexican producer and artist proves that with celebrated GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Gaby Moreno in "Yemayá."
Moreno, whose soothing voice we have heard magically adapt to a range of genres including Americana, Latin folk and R&B, continues exploring her creative range this time with GRAMMY-nominated Lara in the synth-infused, mystifying track blending pop and Latin sounds. The catchy song about the overpowering feeling of love is named after the Afro-Carribean goddess who represents fertility, water and self-love.
Moreno told the Recording Academy she and Lara wanted to capture the deity's essence in their collaboration:
"She's a powerful woman of color taking all forms. It's a universal theme and we wanted to incorporate this mysterious and mystic figure into the song, since it's part of the folklore of many different cultures."
The song, which Lara brought to Moreno and was written in one day in 2019 at Red Bull Studios, takes Moreno into new territory.
"I’ve been a big admirer of [Lara's] work and esthetic and the way he blends Latin folk music with electronic and hip hop. I come from a fairly different musical background, having very rarely experimented with synths and those kinds of sounds, so this was a really fun and different collaboration for me," she said. "I got to step out of my comfort zone and bring forth something a bit unusual but very much enjoyable, nonetheless."
The Guatemalan singer/songwriter will also soon be releasing "Fire Inside," a song she wrote with Andrew Bissell. The song has already been featured on ABC’s "Station 19", TLC’s promo "I Am Jazz," UK’s "Free Rein," NBC’s "American Ninja Warrior" and recently on YouTube’s "Dear Class of 2020."
Moreno is also working on an upcoming album she will produce herself and is also producing other artists.
Listen to "Yemayá" in full above.