Making Music in Lubbock
A Look Inside the Lives and Work of a Lubbock Record Producer and a Musician
By Steven Schwartz
Photos by Tarryn Lambert
A musician lives from show to show, paying rent through his art, trying to make his name known. An up-and-coming record producer sits in front of a studio he built, sculpting a reputation that he has worked countless hours to create. A talent agent spends late nights promoting new bands and helping venues fill their walls with the newest sounds. All of their efforts must be successful for a music scene to work. In a city like Lubbock, so much time and effort is spent to keep art alive in a country with a struggling economy. What meaning does it hold?
There are people in Lubbock that have the answers to that question. Musician Tristan Hill, record producer Jon Taylor, and talent agent Toshia Humphries all believe in what they are doing and will stop at nothing to see Lubbock's music scene evolve into something great.
Lubbock is no stranger to a vibrant music scene. Ever since Buddy Holly and the Crickets started jamming in local venues and country musicians, like The Flatlanders sold out the local stages, Lubbock has created its own definition of a music scene. Now, after decades of successful music, Lubbock is continuing its evolutionary process. These individuals are on the frontline of what Lubbock music will become.
Tristan Hill is the lead singer of the band called Strange Weather. Playing music together since 2007, he and his fellow band members have come a long way since playing music in their dorm rooms at Texas Tech. Adorned in the classic "rocker" attire, sporting a leather jacket, Hill explained how he became involved in the Lubbock music scene.
"It was just two of us in 2007, freshmen living in the dorms and it culminated from there," Hill said. "We started with an acoustic type of thing, and then we added a piano and a drummer."
Hill describes his music as "jazz-fusion, pop-rock." Strange Weather has garnered a firm following in Lubbock, especially in the bars along Broadway Avenue. While Hill explained the nature of his music, his confidence and exuberance were too obvious to ignore. As a band that has built its name from nothing, Strange Weather has had the time to perfect their image, sound and description as a working band. However, Hill explained that the scene in Lubbock has changed and his band has had more and more to compete with over recent years.
"Actually, honestly, I have seen an increase in number of bands recently. Sometimes it's a little more competitive, especially when we started playing Broadway gigs," Hill said. "Now we are seeing a lot of different bands play."
Strange Weather nearly has completed production of the band's first demo, which band members hope will get them more shows in the future. As a business, Strange Weather has made a lucrative living out of something that started as a hobby. Hill said he believes this would not be possible in a city like Austin, which has hundreds of bands competing to get their chance on the stage.
"Austin is a musician's Mecca, so there is a lot more competition. It's really difficult to support that," Hill said.
Although Lubbock does not have the size of Austin, it has seen more diversity in recent years. Hill explained that at first, he and his band members saw a majority of bands paying cover songs. Now, as the Lubbock music scene continues to grow, he sees more bands making their own creative impact on the area.
The band expects to record more in the future and hopes to play the "South by Southwest" music festival in the spring of 2012. As for now, Strange Weather will continue to make its mark on the Lubbock music scene. Playing two or three shows a week, any person is bound to hear their music drifting through the streets of the entertainment districts; just listen for a smooth, jazzy sound.
The Record Producer:
Jon Taylor sits behind a slew of expensive recording equipment. Bordered by three rooms of instruments and amplifiers, the old wooden walls behind him support the mounts holding guitars of numerous shapes and sizes. This is Jon's studio, also known as Mount Vernon Records. Jon would not strike any person as a technical music guru, or a big-shot producer. In fact, he looks like any normal guy who is into music. However, he has spent the last 10 years of his life dedicating himself to the art of making music sound best.
After attending South Plains Community College in the sound technology department, Taylor decided he wanted to do more than just record instruments on one microphone and a small amount of computer equipment. So, he started collecting the equipment he needed to record artists at the highest level, something that would become his future career.
"I didn't ever want to have a full-time job doing anything else," Taylor said. "I can't imagine working for someone else; doing construction or whatever it is. That's what made me dive into engineering, producing and recording -- all that stuff."
Now, Taylor is at constant work in his studio, recording music with bands such as: Estelline, Tommy Alverson, and Brandon Rhyder. Bands are hard-pressed to find time to work with Taylor; he is booked completely through the month of August.
While Taylor works for payment, it is very evident that he cares about what he is doing. Time invested with musicians is very precious to him, and his goal is to see these artists grow in their art.
"The best part for me about this is that they don't know me, but by the end of the recording, we are really good friends," Taylor said. "It's something that lasts longer than, 'Hey give me a call next time you have money.' The relationship, for me, is really cool."
Taylor has no plans to leave Lubbock in the near future. He explained that Lubbock's music scene has a heart, and he loves to see artists succeed in this city. In recent years, Taylor has seen numerous bands come out of the woodwork, and he wants to be a part of what they will become.
Turn over a local band's album, and there is a good chance you will see Mount Vernon Records label on the casing. Taylor has created a local entity that will be a major part of Lubbock's identity. For the future, Taylor has just begun working on a video series called "Mount Vernon Sessions," that features artists playing songs in his studio. He plans to expand the video side of his recordings, while still maintaining his audio recording business.