Crowd Control Q&A | J. Isaiah Evans
1. You’ve been around the Dallas music scene for years which gives you a unique perspective on its current boom. What about the scene has gone away that you’d like to see return and what new developments in recent years do you wish there was more of?
In the old days, we had so many venues that were competitively booking and promoting their own shows. There was no shortage of amazing bands back then, too. Funland, Vibrolux, Sorta, Hagfish, Brutal Juice, Lone Star Trio. The list went on and on. We hit this stretch in the 90s where Dallas bands were getting signed to major labels left and right on the heels of Tripping Daisy and Toadies. DFW was hot! I think we are seeing that again. Paul Cauthen, Vandoliers, Charley Crockett, Quaker City Nighthawks... they're all from here. We should all be really proud of that. But the next wave needs places to play and people to play to. Few venues are independently promoting and booking anymore. It's the age of the third party booking agency and outsourcing promoting. I'm not saying that is bad. It's just different. There is that lack of friendly competition between venues to book the show that everyone is going to be talking about on Monday. I'd like to see more venues embracing the incredible live music that the rest of the country is starting to catch on to, especially in Deep Ellum. Double Wide, Three Links, Adair's, Club Dada, Twilite Lounge and a few others are really in on live music. There's just always room for more... more venues and more people seeking out the music.
2. In the last year or so, The 40 Acre Mule seems to have really taken off. Y’all have been playing bigger venues and festivals (specifically HomeGrown Fest) and have had the opportunity to share the stage with some big name artists. What do you attribute to that success?
It's kind of like a pyramid scheme but in a good way. One person would come see a show and like us. Then, they would bring a friend to the next show and so on. It's been very grassroots, especially without an album to push. It also helps that we've made friends that have worked hard to get where they are and they like what we do and they think that their fans will dig it too. It's really opened some incredible doors for us, and fortunately we've been able to make the most of those opportunities.
3. The 40 Acre Mule recently signed with State Fair Records. What are some of the benefits of signing with a label vs. remaining an independent artist?
It's strange. Being older, I remember a time when getting signed was the ultimate goal. Then, streaming happened and independent artists really didn't seem to "need" labels anymore. Artists have so many platforms by which we can release our music on our own. It's made for a much needed power shift. In the old days, the record label kind of owned the artist. Now, it's definitely much more of a partnership, at least with State Fair and The 40 Acre Mule. It's great to have a partner that's out there doing their damndest to get our music in front of the widest audience possible while we can focus on making music. We're invested in eachother. We love that about State Fair. We had some really good friends like Joshua Ray Walker and Vandoliers come up through State Fair. It's been a great fit.
4. The 40 Acre Mule is also in the process of releasing its debut album. Can you tell us a little bit about the album and when it will be released?
Our producer (and now lead guitarist), John Pedigo, did the math on this the other day. 4 years and 5 studios went into this thing from when we first started it. We can finally say that Goodnight & Good Luck will be released on July 19th, 2019. The first single, "16 Days", will come out the day before HomeGrown Festival on April 12th. It took a long time but I think it was worth the wait. John did an incredible job of producing and engineering it and Christopher Moock mastered it for us. The best part is that from recording to mastering to our label and publishing... it's all based in the North Texas area. We're really proud of that.
5. What is one of the biggest challenges you've faced in songwriting?
Trusting myself. I wrote every song on this record through various phases of my life. When I started these songs, I was in my 30s and single and not making the best life choices. I think you can hear that in a lot of the early songs. Revenge, one night stands, self-loathing, whiskey... it's where I was. Failed relationships fueled a lot of that and it all got tangled up. I thought the songs weren't good enough because I wasn't good enough. So, I tucked them away, but I always came back to them because they were honest. Years later, I'm a husband and a father and the songs that came from that place of hope and perseverance are honest, too. The difference is I trust myself as a writer more now. I still have moments of doubt but only in a constructive way. I'll still write a song that isn't very good, but I trust myself to call it what it is. It helps when you have bandmates that are genuinely your friends and partners in bringing the songs to life.
6. You’re starting over from the very beginning of your career – what is one thing you’d do differently?
I don't know if I would have done anything differently. That road from then to now made all of this possible. So, no, I wouldn't do anything differently. I do wish that I was a little younger than I am now. I still would have made mistakes. We moved into a new house recently and in the move, I came across an old notebook of lyrics from songs I wrote in my 20s. Absolute garbage! I think you have to stumble and try things and write terrible songs and live life. Go get your heart broken. Get some scars but know that you will get better. Live a life that is a story worth telling. That's what's scary about Frankie Leonie and Remy Reilly and Charlie Memphis and Parker Twomey... these young cats that are breaking through. They already write pretty solid songs. Wait until they live life a bit! Getting that confidence now and being young enough to try things and fail makes you dangerous.