A few months ago one of the Texas Monthly interns, a perky blonde not much older than my college-sophomore stepdaughter, made my day. “Do you,” she asked, pausing shyly, “play in a band?” An ancient musician’s instinct kicked in, and I smiled hopefully. “Uh,” I said, “yeah.” She laughed with relief. “I thought so,” she said. And then she froze the smile on my face: “My dad used to see you play fifteen years ago.” Oh, that band, the one you never saw because you were learning how to read.
That band was the Wild Seeds, and I’ve just released a compilation from those days, the late eighties. I’m 44 now. I’ve been a professional writer for 23 years, but I’ve also been a musician for almost that long, playing in bands, touring, making records (big, round plastic things, little intern) and then CDs—seeking the Pure Rock Moment. For the longest time, though I never would have admitted it, I dreamed of being a rock star, albeit some version of an Austin rock star—dressed in flannel shirts, probably; unshaven, definitely. Sometime in the past decade that changed. Though I’m still unshaven and badly dressed, I play music for different reasons now.
Asked to explain myself, I sometimes go back to my senior year at the University of Texas at Austin, where I began writing about music for the Daily Texan and playing the guitar. I was a fan, and I didn’t see any distinction between writing about rock and roll and playing it. My favorite music was simple but passionate stuff like garage rock, soul, and punk. As I figured out, anyone can do it; that’s part of the promise of American music. So I did. The first band I played in that I took seriously was the Wild Seeds,