Davíd Garza is in seventh heaven following the release of his first major-label album, this euphoria (Lava/Atlantic) in April. It’s no wonder. Since 1989, Garza has been his own record company, selling 30,000 copies of nine albums on his Wide Open Records label and spending most of each year touring across America. His initiative and determination have paid off: In 1996, he found himself in the enviable position of entertaining bids from several heavyweight labels. He picked Atlantic Records, and the support that comes with such a signing has positioned the 27-year-old Austinite for national success. Last fall, while this euphoria was in production, Garza self-released The 4-Track Manifesto , an extended-play album that, like his earlier material, was a homemade recording.
Fans were probably expecting more of the acoustic pop he played with the college-crowd-pleasing Twang Twang Schock-A-Boom, a trio that grew wildly popular in the Southwest around 1990. But instead, The 4-Track Manifesto gave them a taste of the sophisticated, electrified rock ‘n’ roll they would hear on this euphoria , which one >music critic described as “scruffily lo-fi and bombastically phosphorescent.” Billboard magazine called Manifesto “an irresistible package that is destined to set rock radio on its ear,” and has hailed Garza as “an important new artist.”
Then in January, his song “Slave” was released alongside tunes by Tori Amos and Iggy Pop on Atlantic’s soundtrack for the film Great Expectations starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert DeNiro.
“It’s like night and day,” says Garza of the difference in size of his Texas audiences since he joined Atlantic. “Already there’s a different kind of buzz going on.” In El Paso, for example, a hundred more people showed up for his June 1 tour stop than came when he played there a mere five months earlier.
The Atlantic deal, he says, is the “next simple step” in his career. It’s a step that not only leaves him in control of his entire back catalog, but also lets him keep doing what he loves the most: playing live. “Plug in, turn up and play some rock ‘n’ roll. That’s what makes all this riding in a van and eating Taco Bell three times a day worthwhile,” he says.
Raised in Irving, Garza is the youngest of five siblings. He speaks with pride of his older brothers and sister. One brother, a psychiatric nurse who writes fiction on the side, is “very, very cool.” Another owns an advertising agency in Austin, and still another, who teaches literature, is “just a fun guy.” His sister works in computer sales.
Early musical influences include his mother, who sang in a Spanish choir. Garza cites other influences as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Blondie. In 1989, Garza earned a scholarship to the School of Music at the University of Texas-Austin. He passed the audition by pretending to have composed a classical guitar piece he actually learned by listening to the radio. Soon he was writing his own music and playing with Twang Twang to coin-dropping crowds of several hundred on UT’s West Mall every Thursday. The change they got was only enough for a weekly pizza lunch, but the band’s growing notoriety soon led to its first paid gig at Austin’s Liberty Lunch that same year. Back at Liberty Lunch recently for his this euphoria tour, Garza spoke about the importance of not overplanning. “Things started really going well for me once I stopped thinking about what was going to come next,” he said. This go-with-the-flow approach meant showing up at his sixth SXSW show without a setlist.
It turns out, that was the year his music was overheard outside the Steamboat, a live music venue, by the wife of producer David “Stiff” Johnson, resulting in Garza’s being invited to tape a demo in Philadelphia. It was this demo tape that helped entice Atlantic to take him in under its Lava imprint.
There’s no telling what his next album will sound like. For now, Garza is sticking to his motto: “Something new is always better than something old.” Garza says the name of his self-made label, Wide Open Records, stems from childhood football games with his older brothers. “I was wide open! Wide open! Why didn’t you throw it to me?” he remembers exclaiming often. That feeling of being wide open to receive a catch, he says, is not unlike the feeling of waiting for a record company to sign you. Your love of the game keeps you going no matter what. But there’s nothing more thrilling than getting your chance to take the ball and finally run with it.