Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My full circle life in music

I'm working in music again. But approaching it like a brand manager this time and not caring at all that I don't know exactly how things work in the music industry these days.
I say it all the time. Not being jaded by the "rules" or history of something makes it easier to reinvent. So, though music is a soul crushing business and one that can stomp an artist's heart, I feel strangely fearless.
I owe that to one Robyn Ludwick.

I often get asked "What got you in the vodka business?" And the answer is The music business.
I started taking corporate event and music marketing gigs when I moved to Austin. I moved to Austin because I wanted to take my experience in marketing the arts, like theatre, and apply to the music scene in Austin. So I did. In a weird corporate sell out kinda way.
Eventually those jobs led me to one where I promoted and sponsored unsigned bands all over the USA for Jim Beam Brands. I sat in those corporate meetings listening to those old white men try and relate to new bands and the people that follow them. They sent out millions of dollars in swag and spent more on advertising and though the bands loved me and appreciated the support from Jim Beam, they did not drink it and they were very sensitive about appearing to "sell out". One fall, after seeing Tito on the news, I ran into him and told him I think I knew the way to make it big in booze with no $$. AUTHENTICITY. TRUST. WORD OF MOUTH. NO ALIENATION or STATUS MKTG CRAP. Duh. He already had a stellar product.
2 months later, Jim Beam measures their giant waste of $$ and Tito calls me. Goodbye Bands. Hello Tito and no $$. Hello Happiness. The most amazing challenge of my life....to take Tito's to the streets.
So, You know how this turned out 8 years later.
This year, I ducked out of my title at Tito's to get my creative life in order and take more clients outside of liquor and though I had met her a few years back at a music festival in Steamboat, Robyn Ludwick officially found me and asked me to help her manage a record release.
Her music made me say YES before I knew what I was agreeing to. Just like I agreed to work for Tito for free because he was too broke for employees. I felt something cosmic. It was one of the adult absolute truths.
Robyn's CD will be out in the fall and more than that, she's an incredible person who's spirit has become a beautiful source of calm and warmth to me. Though I have bouts with self doubt at times when it comes big decisions I've made, Robyn reminds me this is all making perfect sense and leading in a place I need to go too.
Oh, AND she is playing this Thursday at Continental Club at 6:30pm. Her music is dark and primitively female. This is her bio.

Many a green song writer has squeezed callow lyric from near-empty diaries, hoping that one day life might catch up with their words. Robyn Ludwick entered the world of song primed by years of life lived. When pen did come to paper, it teemed with ink—and was driven by a hand softened by love and strengthened by life.
Her earliest nights found her sprawled across the folding chairs of many a Hill Country dancehall, eyelids closing on her grandparents, as they twirled each other over creaky wooden floors. Her older brothers would grow to be Two of Texas’ favorite sons, Bruce and Charlie Robison.
While her schoolmates were embracing the rituals of small-town Texas; Robyn was teaching herself guitar and sneaking off to Austin, immersing herself in the city’s wealth of live music. Eventually she’d settle there, where rent was paid working the door at the world famous Continental Club. Robyn shared many a lean meal with her brothers in those South Austin days. From their Goodwill couch, she plotted a stable future for her and the family she hoped to one day have. She shelved dreams of a career in music and enrolled in The University of Texas School of Engineering and eventually took work in that field. Just after she and husband John “lunchmeat” Ludwick had their first child, and felt their road had been paved, Robyn was laid off. The intensity of such life changes woke Robyn’s sleeping songwriter.
"It just pretty much poured out at that point. I guess it was time, you know." Robyn cashed in her pension, and dove headlong into her craft.

The critics agreed that it was time, as 2005’s For So Long , Produced by the legendary Danny Barnes of Bad Livers, was named a top 10 album of the year by both the Austin Chronicle, and renowned Austin public radio station KUT-FM. It went to No. 1 on the Euro-Americana Music Chart and earned her a raved-about SXSW 2006 showcase (sponsored by No Depression, the Americana magazine), and a slot at the 2006 Austin City Limits Music Festival.
After many acclaimed performances for American and European audiences, Robyn got to work on her second album. Too Much Desire, another set of soulful originals. Released in 2008 to many a stunning review, contributions from Grammy nominee Eliza Gilkyson, Rich Brotherton, Mike Hardwick and more, coalesce with a timeless execution on Robyn’s part, the effect of which is, as AllMusic puts it: “…elegant and graceful as a straight razor; it takes no prisoners, makes no apologies. In other words, it's just drop-dead gorgeous.”
Look for Robyn’s latest, Out of these Blues, when it hits the rack this year. It features a dizzying cast, including Producer/Multi-instrumentalist Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams, Blaze Foley), Ian “Mac” MacLagan (Small Faces, Faces, Rolling Stones), John Ludwick, Eddie Cantu, Gene Elders (George Strait, Lyle Lovett), Trish Murphy, and Slaid Cleaves.


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