The old joke is to say one likes both types of music: country and Western. That's not easy anymore. There still are two types, only now it's run-of-the-mill, generic pop country, or cliché-free, from-the-heart-because-the-song-matters country. Texas singer-songwriter Bart Crow falls into the latter category.
"I feel like I've got my own style and don't feel like I fall into a certain stereotype," Crow says from his Austin home. "I just write songs. I've tried my hardest to write Texas country songs or just country songs, and it just doesn't work for me. . . I don't set out to ignore clichés, but I set out to challenge myself to write something fresh and new, so I just think it works out that way."
"Real country" music fans have noticed too. A number of Crow songs landed high on the Texas music charts -- including several number ones -- and he's hoping his fourth and latest album, Dandelion, appeals to a national audience as well.
"I've noticed the music sometimes come first, and sometimes it doesn't. I've seen it when a song catches on like wildfire and watched [a band] go national," he says. "So far, there's been no miracle pill for me. I'll just keep touring, and if lady luck throws something our way, we'll be on it in a heartbeat."
Having grown up in a musical family -- his grandfather and father were professional musicians -- it makes sense this would be his calling. Yet, it wasn't quite that simple. Crow didn't really start playing guitar until his peacetime military stint afforded him the time to learn the craft. He started writing songs, too, and during his college time that followed, he began playing shows. Out of college, Crow landed a "really good" non-music-related job. He had a decision to make.
"I'd keep playing shows, and whichever [career path] outweighed the other first would be the way I went," he says.
When his job ended due to downsizing, an even better one was waiting, again causing a back-and-forth struggle between his musical heart and paycheck. Yet when layoffs began at the second company, there was no turning back.
"When that second layoff came, we decided to buckle down and see if we could make this music thing pay," he says, the "we" being him and his wife, a photographer and model.
"I'm not going to lie to you -- there's been some hellacious times. We've been so broke we didn't know what to do. I worked a bunch of side jobs and kept playing music, and slowly we gravitated to where we were comfortable and on our feet. That graduated into just doing music all the time. We fought the good fight and were able to over come it."
Crow's music reveals these struggles as well -- and it sets him apart from his pop contemporaries. He writes about what he actually knows.
"I try to keep a light heart about most things, not let life bog me down," he says simply. "There are the good times, and I try to show that side of who I am too."
His ballads touch a place deep inside, while his more rocking numbers allow those good times to shine through. It's all integral to his musical growth and future outlook.
"I've grown a lot -- from a single guy in college to married for seven years and a father of three," he says. "The music and writing style has all grown up with me, I guess. I hope! If not, I need to figure something else out."
At this stage, that hardly seems necessary.
Bart Crow Band is scheduled to perform Thursday, August 21, at the Rhythm Room.
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
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