Photo by Daniel Mendoza / The Recording Academy
Metric Look Back On The "Pivotal" Release Of 'Fantasies' | Austin City Limits 2019
While On The Road at Austin City Limits 2019, the Toronto indie-rock favorites chat with the Recording Academy about the 10-year anniversary of their fifth studio album, prioritizing staying connected to fans above all else and more
Indie-rock favorite Metric have been going hard ever since forming in the late '90s and releasing their groundbreaking debut, 2003's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? They recently celebrated the release of their seventh studio album, Art Of Doubt (2018).
Emily Haines and James Shaw were on hand at Austin City Limits 2019 to talk with the Recording Academy about the 10-year anniversary of their 2009 record, Fantasies, a time Haines describes as "pivotal" for the band.
"I remember it was 2007-ish," he tells us. "We'd written a few songs. The band was really disparate at the time. We were living all over the place. I remember sitting down on my couch and thinking, 'If I don't hire the right person to produce this record, the band's not going to exist anymore.'
"We ended up perservering through it," he continues. "We were at a strained point when the record came out. We'd just gone staunchly independent and decided to put the record out into the world ourselves. We were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And we put it out and things kind of turned around."
"It was a pivotal moment," chimed in lead singer Haines.
Watch the band's full interview above.
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.)
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.
Set List Bonus: KLRU All-Star Celebration
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Lynne Margolis
The KLRU All-Star Celebration on May 16 at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater was billed as a tribute to GRAMMY-winning producer and pedal steel player Lloyd Maines, who has logged more hours on PBS' iconic "Austin City Limits" than any other performer. But the unassuming Lubbock, Texas, native was more than happy to play sideman to the evening's performers, particularly the GRAMMY-winning trio featuring his daughter, Natalie.
The Dixie Chicks' rare appearance highlighted a night full of Texas-bred talent there to "praise the Lloyd." It started with a set by Natalie Maines and her current collaborator, GRAMMY winner Ben Harper, who co-produced and guest starred on her recently released solo debut, Mother. Maines later returned to perform with songwriter and fellow Lubbock native Terry Allen and his daughter-in-law, Sally, on the rollicking "New Delhi Freight Train." Allen's sons Bukka and Bale played keyboards/accordion and congas, respectively, adding to an evening full of family connections.
The benefit also featured the Court Yard Hounds (sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, also the other two Dixie Chicks); Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison; Joe Ely, with whom Lloyd Maines made his first ACL appearance; blues multi-instrumentalist Carolyn Wonderland; and Lloyd Maines' longtime performing partner, Terri Hendrix. Robert Earl Keen delivered a hilarious poetic tribute via video.
The Court Yard Hounds delivered a dynamic set that included tracks from a new album due in July and from their self-titled 2010 debut. On "Ain't No Son,” Maguire’s slow-crying fiddle escalated into a reel as Robison added banjo, then turned into a scorcher with solos by guitarist David Pulkingham and Lloyd Maines.
But the energy onstage elevated considerably when Natalie Maines stepped onstage, turning the Court Yard Hounds back into Dixie Chicks. During "Truth No. 2," the line, "You don't like the sound of the truth coming from my mouth," felt weighted with meaning. But it was nothing compared to the knockout punch of "Not Ready To Make Nice," on which Maines' invoked every bit of the righteous anger and pain that caused the band to write the song. Standing in the audience, Harper appeared so blown away by the performance, he almost forgot to return to the stage for the finale, a lively full-cast rendition of Lubbock native Buddy Holly’s "Not Fade Away" mixed with Bo Diddley’s "Who Do You Love?" In a clever tribute to Lloyd Maines, everyone donned fake mustaches.
Maines also received a mayoral proclamation dubbing him "a living Texas music legend" and a plaque, presented by "Austin City Limits" producer and GRAMMY Awards telecast co-producer Terry Lickona, featuring a chunk of wood from the program's former Studio 6A stage where Maines made so many appearances. Lickona also announced that "Austin City Limits" would launch a hall of fame in conjunction with its 40th anniversary in 2014, and said celebration plans are already in the works.
They'll need plenty of time to top this one.
The Set List:
Court Yard Hounds
"Delight (Something New Under The Sun)"
"A Guy Like You"
"Ain't No Son"
"Truth No. 2"
"Cowboy Take Me Away"
"Not Ready To Make Nice"
"Wide Open Spaces"
Natalie Maines And Ben Harper
"If I Had My Way"
(Austin-based journalist Lynne Margolis currently contributes to American Songwriter, NPR's Song of the Day and newspapers nationwide, as well as several regional magazines and NPR-affiliate KUT-FM's "Texas Music Matters." A contributing editor to The Ties That Bind: Bruce Springsteen from A To E To Z, she has also previously written for Rollingstone.com and Paste magazine.)
Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
Caitlyn Smith Talks 'Starfire' EP, Songwriting Heroes
The successful songwriter-turned-solo artist reveals her favorite track from her 2016 'Starfire' EP, and dishes on her biggest songwriting heroes
Having fostered a budding career writing hit songs for some of the biggest artists in music – names like Meghan Trainor and John Legend, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton – Caitlyn Smith is ready to take on the world, on her own terms.
A year after her top-20 charting Starfire EP (Billboard Americana/Folk Albums) showed enough promise to make Smith one of the first marquee signings to Sony's newly-reformed Monument Records, Smith is making ready to service the title track from her 2016 EP to radio and streaming services, and is making plans to release her debut full-length album in January of next year.
Smith sat down with the Recording Academy to chat about her forthcoming LP, the journey that's brought her to the stage as a solo artist, and the musical heroes who've inspired her to create her best work.
Pick your favorite song off the Starfire EP and tell us a little bit about its story of its writing and its inspiration.
One of my favorite songs on the Starfire EP is the single "Starfire." It really is my theme song. I've been in Nashville for years writing songs for other people and have also, in a way been trying to pave my own way as an artist, trying to figure out what I want to say. Through that journey, there have been a lot of closed doors and a lot of heartache, and "Starfire" is my anthem to never give up continuing to shine my light and just tune out all of the negative voices and keep going. To me, it's just my favorite song.
You said there've been a lot of closed doors and heartache. Can you point to a moment where you knew without a doubt that things were going to move ahead and that you were going to succeed?
I think it comes in waves. Sometimes I'll be having a rough time, and I'll have a song get cut and things will look up or I'll get a gig, and I'll be like, "Okay, here we go. We're going to focus back in and keep trying." I wouldn't say there was one shining moment that's like, "You need to keep going." For an artist, it's up and down, and it's actually like a continual feeling of, "Phew, can I keep running this marathon?" And my husband has been such an incredible lighthouse on my journey to help to keep pushing forward and looking forward.
You have written for some really huge artists, and had great success in that realm. Rolling Stone called you "one of the 10 country artists you need to know." You're one of the first big signings for the reformed Monument Records, and you've got a new full length coming out this year. Two questions, are you ready to share the title and release date? And what's next for Caitlyn Smith?
I'm very excited. The single "Starfire" will be out later this month, and then the full record will be released in January. I can't say the date yet, but I cannot wait. 2018 is shaping up to be quite a fun year!
We'll be watching closely. I've read that you said you knew before graduating high school that music was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life. Was it difficult making that decision at such a young age? What was it like?
I always knew, from when I was a little kid and started singing, that music was what I wanted to do in some capacity. When I was in middle school, I put together a band with some of my friends and was cold-calling venues. It was something that was a passion of mine at a young age, and it continued to grow. I made my first record. Then my parents sat me down with my college fund, and they're like, "Here, we have this for you, but, if you want use it to make a record, pay us back, but here you go."
And so I went and made a record at 15, and that really was a turning point of putting my sights on what I really, really wanted to do. And so I made a couple records in high school, and I just knew before graduating. I was like, "Hey, you know, I'm not going to college for this. I'm just going to gig, and see what happens." So, it was a little bit of a leap of faith, but I think it's working out. Yay! (laughs)
Clearly, it was the right move. So when it comes to songwriting, who would you point to as your greatest hero?
I consider myself a student of songs and listen to all kinds of genres, but some of my top favorites are Patty Griffin, Carole King, Ray LaMontagne, and Paul Simon. I mean I could just keep listing on and on and on. I love songs. (laughs)