Fri June 19, 2015 8:56 am By Andrea Valdez

Have you ever heard a song and wondered, Dang, that’s a good tune. How did they come up with that? Well, we have too. Texas’s songwriting history is rich and well documented, but the creation stories behind some of these hits had yet to be fully explored. So as part of a piece on the stories behind some of Texas’s most famous songs, executive editor Michael Hall has been speaking to songwriters to find out what mix of creative juices it took to wring out timeless classics like “Tighten Up,” “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” and, of course, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen’s “The Front Porch Song.”

Hall spoke to the two very charming and very talented musicians about songwriting, Texas music history, and the early days back in College Station, as part of an interview featured in our July issue, out on newsstands next week. 

Below, a teaser of the cover (don’t you want to be hangin’ on the porch with those two?) and a little bit from the interview: 

Texas Monthly July 2015 Lyle Lovett Robert Earl Keen

Michael Hall: You two guys started playing music together almost forty years ago—and you’re still doing it. And that song you wrote together back then, “The Front Porch Song,” still resonates today. You realize how rare this is, right?

Lyle Lovett: I’m proud of that song—I feel it represents our friendship, which is very important to me. And it’s really cool to be able to do something in your life that you love to do—to be able to do for a living what you do for fun, that’s the biggest blessing in the world. 

Robert Earl Keen: And then having a connection with someone you have a shared experience with—like, the excitement of talking about gigs back then. I remember when Lyle got to open for Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver at Rockefeller’s. We didn’t give a damn about Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, but, “You’re playing Rockefeller’s!” We had a lot of classes together too. 

LL: We took summer school together the summer of ’76—American Literature.

REK: That’s when I realized, Lyle’s a much better prose writer than I could ever hope to be. He wrote this amazing piece on how he spent the weekend with his friend Tony Gallucci, and he referenced Hawthorne and he got an A–, and mine was footnoted and everything and I got a B–. The magic of beautiful prose—that’s a powerful thing.

Thu May 21, 2015 2:42 pm By Andrea Valdez

Summer is upon us and that means fun in the sun. Wait. Where is that guy? He’s been MIA for a while. Instead, his pal Torrential Texas Downpours has been hanging around a lot, occasionally with his own bullying pal, Texas Tornadoes—and yet we still haven’t managed to shake this drought. Good thing there’s ice cream, right? Oh, wait. That’s been MIA too. Okay, I guess it’s time to go for a walk and enjoy all the fine flora and fauna this state has to offer. What’s that you say? The horned toad, our state reptile, is also reported missing? What is going on here?! Next thing you’ll tell me is that A&M’s Corps of Cadets is now helmed by a woman. Oh, my word! Is it end times?!

Probably not. (Also, for the record, a big Aggies thumbs up to Alyssa Michalke and the Corps.) So since we’re likely not facing apocalyptic doom, you should have plenty of time to read our June issue, now up on Learn more about the Google-esque video search engine that helps Jon Stewart and John Oliver skewer politicians and celebrities. Or why you shouldn’t invite a history buff to your viewing party of Texas Rising. Or the backstory of Urban Cowboy, including snappy bits of cocktail chatter like how Deborah Winger almost wasn’t cast as Sissy and Patrick Swayze’s mom was the choreographer for the film. Or, If, like me, you were reading this and zeroed in on the word “cocktail,” might I suggest you try this one from the Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas. But leave the getting smashed to avocados, which are best when one applies a little pressure to them.

Elsewhere on, experience the wonder that is advice from everyone’s favorite bongo-playing Texan, Matthew McConaughey (including gems like he is his own best friend, he hates the word “unbelievable,” and those No Fear t-shirts from the nineties were peddling lies). Watch a video of what is arguably the most aggressive school bus driver in Texas. Wrap your head around the fact that up to 4 percent of Africa’s rhinos could soon be your neighbor. And stop to consider the reaction to the #WacoThugs involved in the Twin Peaks shooting

If you only like to handle your Texas Monthly live and in the flesh, might we suggest buying a ticket to the Urban Cowboy screening that will be taking place at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in Austin, a guaranteed-to-be-memorable evening featuring Johnny Lee, that crooner who was “Lookin’ For Love” in all the wrong places? Or get your seat at the table for a masterful meal made by Underbelly’s Chris Shepherd and Ronnie Killen of Killen’s Barbecue

Perhaps you prefer your dose of Texas Monthly in 140-character bites. In which case, follow us on Twitter, if you don’t already. (And all of our other social media accounts, too. We promise we won’t overshare.)

And as always, if you see something (wrong with the site), say something (to me). I’ll just be over here rooting for the Rockets (Clutch City, baby!).

Mon April 20, 2015 4:27 pm By Andrea Valdez

As our editor-in-chief Brian D. Sweany explained in his editor’s letter, this month marks the fifth time Big Bend’s impressive vistas have graced our cover. So while it might appear to some as though we’re, ahem, treading the same territory, given the majesty of one of our state’s most remote areas—and the fact that it sadly remains one of the National Parks System’s least visited parks—it seems appropriate to return to this land that we love and trumpet its astounding beauty.  

Or, for some, it was a good reason to visit the park in the first place. That’s exactly what Ryan Kuehl, a producer with Bourke Productions, did. He—along with Chris Bourke, the company’s cinematographer and editor, and director Ryan Farmermade the trek from Austin to far West Texas to shoot a short film capturing the area’s seemingingly infintite sights and attractions. “The three of us had been talking about either shooting a short film or taking a camping trip, and Big Bend gave us the excuse to do both,” Kuehl said. The resulting product is a stunning two-minute journey through Big Bend that shows just how vast the 800,000-acre park is. 

As everyone is when they encounter the area, they were blown away by its beauty. “Santa Elena Canyon certainly had a lasting affect on us,” Kuehl said. “The canyon wall, which prominently juts out to form the Mexico border, is a humbling reminder of the powerful and patient forces that sculpted the landscape.”

Below, their video, which paints a more vivid picture than these words ever could:

Fri February 13, 2015 10:37 am By Brian D. Sweany

Texas is no stranger to hot-button issues in the Legislature—abortion, gun rights, immigration—but the one that has the power to reshape the state in a truly profound way is now making national headlines as it winds its way through the courts: same-sex marriage. That’s the subject that Pamela Colloff, who was nominated for a National Magazine Award for last year’s story on the death penalty, takes up in “To Love and to Cherish” from the March 2015 issue, which will hit newsstands and be posted online next week. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover, which was shot by LeAnn Mueller:

Pam’s story focuses on Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman, a couple who live in Austin with their two-year-old son and a baby on the way. They filed suit against the State of Texas in 2013 (the case before the Fifth Circuit is De Leon v. Perry), charging that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. As Pam writes:

The lawsuit coincides with a fundamental change taking place in the country at large. Less than two years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Windsor—which gutted the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman—11 states have legalized same-sex marriage, and judicial rulings have brought it to 25 more states. Texas, which passed a constitutional ban a decade ago with 76 percent of the vote, is one of the last, stubborn holdouts, though recent polls suggest that opposition around the state is also declining. Last fall, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll of registered voters found that 47 percent of respondents said they did not believe gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry; 42 percent supported same-sex marriage; and 11 percent were undecided.

The recent news in Alabama indicates that the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear marriage cases later this year, may be inclined to strike down state bans entirely. Until then Cleo and Nicole will have to wait for the drama to unfold:  “Until the Supreme Court rules—or until the Fifth Circuit decides to act—nothing is certain for Cleo and Nicole, who are having to again draw up second-parent adoption papers so that Cleo can secure parental rights to their baby girl.”

Sun December 28, 2014 10:15 am By Texas Monthly Staff

Revisit (or devour for the first time) Texas Monthly’s fifteen most-read longform stories of 2014.

1. The Murders at the Lake

Michael Hall • April 2014
In 1982 three teenagers were killed near the shores of Lake Waco in a seemingly inexplicable crime. More than three decades later, the tragic and disturbing case still casts a long, dark shadow.

2. The Witness

Pamela Colloff • September 2014
For more than a decade, Michelle Lyons’s job required her to watch condemned criminals be put to death. After 278 executions, she won’t ever be the same.

3. Sinners in the Hands

Sonia Smith • February 2014
Twenty-seven-year-old Catherine Grove is a member of a small, insular, and eccentric church in East Texas. Her parents think she’s being brainwashed. She insists she’s being saved.

4. He Ain’t Going Nowhere

John Spong • January 2014
As the godfather of Nashville songwriters, Guy Clark has survived more than forty years of late-night partying and arduous touring—and suffered the loss of those he loved most. Yet somehow his genius is as sharp as ever.

5. The Girl Who Saw Too Much

Skip Hollandsworth • March 12, 2014
Robin Doan was ten years old when a stranger killed her entire family. Nearly ten years later, she refuses to let the past haunt her.

6. “I Would Only Rob Banks for My Family”

Skip Hollandsworth • June 2014
Scott Catt was a single dad who held up banks to make ends meet. As his greed intensified, he knew just whom to enlist as accomplices: his kids.

7. Honey, I Want to Move to Mars

Jason Stanford • April 3, 2014
My wife is a semifinalist to board a one-way mission to the Red Planet. I’m proud, happy, and thrilled for her. Now, do you want to know how I really feel about it?

8. A Question of Mercy

Pamela Colloff • March 2014
In 1998, when district attorney Tim Cole sent a teenager named Randy Wood to prison for murder, he was convinced he’d given the boy the punishment that his brutal crime deserved. Now, more than fifteen years later, as Wood serves a life sentence, Cole is not so sure.

9. Man on Fire

Michael Hall • December 2014
The Reverend Charles Moore ardently dedicated his life to the service of God and his fellow man. But when he couldn’t shake the thought that he hadn’t done enough, he drove to a desolate parking lot in his hometown of Grand Saline for one final act of faith.

10. A Shooting on Spring Grove Avenue

Skip Hollandsworth • November 2014
When Michael Burnside was found dead in his Dallas home four years ago, detective Dwayne Thompson decided that the victim’s girlfriend, Olivia Lord, had pulled the trigger. But as the case made its way through the courts, she maintained her innocence—and claimed Thompson was the one who should go to prison.

11. Confessions of a Fat Bastard

Daniel Vaughn • September 2014
The joys and perils (but mostly joys) of being the nation’s first full-time barbecue editor.

12. The Click Clique

Francesca Mari • September 2014
How Dallas’s Amber Venz transformed a stylish group of young bloggers into a powerful force in the world of fashion—and made them rich along the way.

13. Is This the Most Dangerous Man in Texas?

Skip Hollandsworth • August 2014
University of Texas regent Wallace Hall has been accused of leading a witch hunt against UT-Austin president William Powers. But the Dallas investor insists he’s doing his job. And he doesn’t care what you think.

14. Man About Town

Katy Vine • May 2014
How Houston Rapper Bun B became his city’s leading man.

15. The Man in the Arena

Erica Grieder • February 2014
In the brief time Ted Cruz has been a senator, he has managed to convince half the country that he is a true patriot and the other half that he is a dangerous nutcase. What will he do next?