SEDUCED BY SOUND: AUSTIN, 100 Musicians on Why They Make Music
Even if you hung out in every bar, dive and dance hall in a town for the last 40 years, you wouldn’t capture the musical influences, history and “feel” of a place as well as this book tells it. Part history, part interviews with music makers, SEDUCED BY SOUND: AUSTIN is far more than a cheat sheet for the vast array of talent that inhabits this “live music capital of the world.” It tells the story of the Austin music scene, in the words of the people who lived and made it, in a way no narrative history could.
Producer and publisher Kim Gorsuch, with a guiding hand from Carley Wolf, multi-instrumentalist and front woman for the Ghost Wolves, assembled this hard cover “coffee table” book by relying on the artists themselves: their stories, influences, and images fill the pages, the famous and the obscure, from the past and present. Every city has its story, and Austin’s is as much about music as anything; the music not only tells of the place, but also is shaped by it.
The interviews are revealing: songsmiths and performers sometimes sharing a common inspiration but take it in different directions; the texture of the music and its evolution is almost palpable. It is very difficult to write about music without falling into cliché. This book manages to avoid the obvious pitfalls by letting the musicians tell their own stories in their own words.
More a reference than a guidebook, there are some jewels here. The real meat of the book is the candor of working musicians who describe their own, very individual realizations of the artistic process. This is not about burnishing reputations, but more an inside look at the process of becoming a songwriter or performer, something that is never “achieved” but a continuing process: of growth, exploration, change and maturity. For the aspiring musician, it is an inspiration; for the listener, it tells the “why” of music making in a way most books seldom approach, from fighting stage fright to the hard work of regular practice to the mystery of the “creative process.”
No music scene would come to fruition without the club owners, photographers and radio personalities that support and help the artists broaden their reach. Older artists are inspired by the young; humility and open-mindedness are as essential as discipline. Some artists learn by helping others; to paraphrase one artist, there is no “wrong” way to make music.
There’s a lot of history here too—long shuttered venues that were incubators for talent decades ago are remembered by artists who saw their first show at a storied club, or heard a famous performer, not even knowing who was playing at the time.
The book includes a section on Legends & Legacies, with tributes to the more famous music makers from the Austin scene. Despite the truism, victors do not write history—in life, few people achieve enduring fame, but none survive the vicissitudes of life itself. And “truth,” as any student of history knows, is more often found in the travails of the less storied, whose tales are less well known and harder to unearth. This book manages to make those stories accessible. Doing so reveals more about the process of music making than any well-burnished history of the most celebrated names.
Seduced by Sound: Austin is accompanied by a download code to sample the music of a variety of artists featured in the book. Gorsuch plans to expand the series to include places other than Austin and mine the musical riches of other towns and cities whose histories need to be told in the words of the artists who shaped their sound.
The book can be ordered at the Seduced by Sound website: https://seducedbysound.com/home
January 12, 2018
Cover photo: Erika Rich.
Churchwood: Leon Alesi
Annie Marie Lewis: Danny B. Harvey & Annie Marie Lewis
Barfield: Yvonne Barfield