Our next KUTX Live features NPR Music 2021 Slingshot artist Samm Henshaw, filmed at Blundell Studios in London. Premiering Monday, May 17 at Noon CT.
YOUTUBE/KUTX – Samm Henshaw is “All Good” with adorable puppers
The son of a reverend, British-Nigerian r&b/soul artist Samm Henshaw grew up on gospel music and began writing worship songs for church at the age of 15. Naming Kirk Franklin, Lauryn Hill, and Marvin Gaye among his early inspirations, Henshaw made his debut with a 2015 EP called The Sound Experiment, and soon began touring with such artists as Chance the Rapper and Tori Kelly.
At the end of 2020, Henshaw released “upbeat and positive anthem” (NPR Music) “All Good,” and landed on NPR Music’s 2021 Slingshot’s Artists To Watch list.
Enjoy the four song jolt of joy (including adorable French Bulldogs!) Monday, May 17 at Noon, filmed at Blundell Studios in London.
How Does It Feel?
Doubt (ft. Wretch 32)
Musicians: Samm Henshaw, vocals; Intalekt, DJ; Dayna Fisher, bass; Shelia Maurice-Grey, trumpet
Credits: Director, Giles Calalane; Lighting, Cara Brown; Creative Director, Prexa Shrestha; Audio Engineer and Audio Mix, Tim Southorn
Location – Blundell Studios
KUTX Live Volume 14 cover art by Rex Hamilton
Make your gift today and select KUTX Live Vol. 14 as your thank you gift. Our public service is powered by you!
It’s been over a year since we were able to enjoy music in Studio 1A but that didn’t stop us from bringing you intimate performances. Here are some of our favorites of the past year, captured from a socially safe distance in the Austin area and one (Arlo Parks) all the way from London.
These make up our KUTX Live Vol. 14 compilation, available as a thank you gift during KUT and KUTX’s membership Drive April 7 – 13.
Big thanks to our Live Music Team: Deidre Gott, Michael Minasi, Jake Perlman, and Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, and to all the artists for keeping us sane during this un-sane time.
A year in, it feels like a bit of a cliche to say that the pandemic has affected all of us in individual ways, but, hey, that’s where we are. Weddings have been modified or put off, careers have been brought to an unceremonious end, and major adolescent milestones have been taken away.
For the music industry, this has meant loss of income, canceled tours, and rescheduled release dates. All of these have been true for Austin’s Hovvdy, who have had the vinyl pressing of their upcoming 7″ delayed several times due to distributer production delays. After a long, patient wait, the 7′” (featuring “Runner” b/w “I’m Sorry”) is now available for pre-order — just in time for Bandcamp Friday!
Taylor Wallace caught-up with Hovvdy’s Charlie Martin and Will Taylor to see how COVID-19 has impacted their release and the process of recording new material.
Will Taylor and Charlie Martin of Hovvdy perform “Runner” for a KUTX Social Distancing Pop-Up
Before COVID, you were playing live shows pretty regularly. What was the last show you played? Did you have any major or particular shows scheduled that you were excited about that were canceled as a result of COVID?
Charlie Martin: It feels like 5 years ago, but I think our last show was an in-store at Waterloo Records. that was a fun one 🙂 and yes, we had a big tour that was canceled. What a bummer!
Y’all are no strangers to vinyl pressings, 12” or 7”. I know the process can be arduous and tedious without a pandemic, but COVID has clearly created even more obstacles. For those of us with zero experience with this process, can you give some insight into what the typical process and timeline are like vs. the experience getting this new 7” pressed?
CM: Ya it normally takes about 4 months, which always feels like a long time; but with the pandemic, it’s more like 6-8 months? We’re just rolling with it, and very thankful for our patient fans!
Will Taylor and Charlie Martin of Hovvdy perform “I’m Sorry” for a KUTX Social Distancing Pop-Up
CM: Yes! I’d say the majority of the record was at least finished (writing-wise) in 2020. For me, the content of the record doesn’t feel at all tied to the pandemic; but the process of recording it was definitely a wild and honestly terrifying experience. We were as safe as possible — just me, Will, and Sarlo in a tiny garage studio in LA — but with the traveling etc., there was always that hurdle of fear to get over before we could get to work.
I feel like using music as an outlet to pen feelings and experiences concerning the pandemic is nearly inescapable. Have y’all found this to be true for yourselves?
CM: I’d say my main goal as an artist is to make people feel better. so I’ve never felt more compelled to really dig deep and do my best. like I said before, there aren’t any covid songs on the album, haha. but it’s definitely the most vulnerable and inspired record we’ve made, and I’d be lying if I said the pandemic wasn’t a factor.
Do you find that for yourselves, a year in, writing music with the tone and theme is/might still be cathartic?
CM: I’m not sure I understand the question, but for me, writing songs is always cathartic. and lately, the need for catharsis is certainly stronger than normal for all of us I think.
Bringing this full-circle, as live music is sort of returning, do y’all have any shows coming-up? Are y’all comfortable playing live again including outdoor, spread-out venues like Sagebrush or Far Out Lounge?
CM: Yes, lots on the books for 2022! and maybe some stuff this year, we’ll see! i think once we’re all vaccinated we’ll be 100% comfortable getting back out there! can’t wait 🙂
WT: We’ll be back as soon as it makes sense. It’ll be fun!
– Taylor Wallace-Riegel, KUTX Morning Host
KUTX Social Distancing Pop-Up Credits:
Songs: “Runner” and “I’m Sorry”
Shot in South Austin, TX in October 2020
Musicians: Will Taylor; vocals, guitar; Charlie Martin; vocals, guitar;
Cameras; Michael Minasi; Edit: Michael Minasi;
Audio: Jake Perlman;
Producer: Deidre Gott
Kevin Russell of Shinyribs – photo by Michael Minasi for KUTX
KUT 90.5, Austin’s NPR Station, and KUTX 98.9, The Austin Music Experience presents a virtual holiday sing-along. Premiering Sunday, December 13 at noon and available on demand through January 1, 2021.
The KUT Holiday Sing-Along started in the early 1980s when KUT/X host John Aielli, an accomplished vocalist, gathered with friends and fans to sing carols in the Texas Capitol rotunda. Over the years, the sing-along outgrew the rotunda and moved outside to the Capitol steps. In 2002, KUT paired up with the Downtown Austin Alliance to combine the sing-along with the annual Capitol tree lighting and Downtown Holiday Stroll, where Aielli hosted solo until being joined by KUTX host Elizabeth McQueen in 2016.
The holidays may look a little different this year, but KUT and KUTX aren’t letting that get in the way of connecting people through the power of song.
The 30-minute special, hosted by Elizabeth McQueen (co-host of KUT and KUTX’s new podcast Pause/Play), features holiday favorites sung by Austin musicians Molly Burch, Gina Chavez, Eimaral Sol, and Kevin Russell of Shinyribs, with a special appearance by our beloved John Aielli.
Happy Holidays from KUT and KUTX!
Musicians: Kevin Russell: vocals, ukulele; Eimaral Sol: vocals; Billy Blunt: guitar; Gina Chavez: vocals, guitar; Molly Burch: vocals; Dailey Toliver: guitar; John Aielli: vocals
Credits: Host: Elizabeth McQueen; Executive Producer: Sylvia Ponce-Carson; Producer: Erin Geisler; Program Director: Matt Reilly; Cameras and Edit: Gabriel C. Pérez, Julia Reihs, Michael Minasi; Audio Mix and Master: Jake Perlman; Graphic Design; Lisa Kirkpatrick; Title Sequence: David Fried; Set Design: Jacquie Fuller; Original Music: Jack Anderson; Production Manager: Deidre Gott
KUT and KUTX would like to thank Whole Earth Provision Co., Central Texas Food Bank and ABC Home & Commercial Services whose sponsorship help make this event possible. Special thanks also goes out to mmmpanadas and Janie Orr.
by Jeff McCord
It’s become a 2020 cliche. A stuck-at-home member of a big booming rock and roll band releases a quiet, introspective record coping with the fears of the modern world.
Luca isn’t that. For one thing, Alex Maas’ new album, released December 4th, was finished pre-pandemic. It’s not that introspective, either. Its themes are more timeless and universal, and the set includes several songs (“Been Struggling”, “Shines Like the Sun”, “The City”) that date back more than a decade.
Most songwriters are more about their current work than songs they wrote so long ago. So why has Alex finally recorded them?
“Look, I’m the first one to always be playing the new material,” explains Maas. “Whenever I make a record, even with Black Angels, I’m always going to play the things we made yesterday. It’s hard for me to tell what’s relevant, what’s not, and the only way I can tell us if other people still think it’s fresh. And that was how some of these other songs made it on this record. It wasn’t me saying, ‘this is a brilliant song’. It’s more like people [saying] I like that song and it would be great if it was on this record.”
“It’s interesting to be put in a situation where I am releasing songs that have such a nostalgic feeling for me, to go through those thoughts and emotions again. It’s like a paragraph out of your diary. The songs were written around the time that we first met, 10 to 15 years ago, but it’s interesting how some songs stay in the state of chronological infantility. I feel like they could have been written 50 years ago or they could have been written now. I never set out to make music like that. I just can identify when that happens.”
Luca is named after Alex and his wife Michelle’s son, born in July of 2018, and it differs from the reverb-drenched drone of the Black Angels. There’s some of that, sure, but it’s more hushed. The album’s closer, “The City”, with its lilting vocals and ominous theme, feels like a paranoid folk song.
“I [initially] thought this record was going to be a straight-up folk record, acoustic guitar and vocals, the whole thing. “The City” came from a song that I heard (former Black Angel) Nate Ryan play nine or 10 years ago, it was unwritten and unfinished, and I kind of stole that song from Nate. That song was special to me because it was directly inspired by an artist who was close to me, like would have happened in Greenwich Village in the 60s. I riffed on it and made it my own thing. It could have been written in the 1500s. ‘All the watchmen on the tower are sleeping – that’s a city that’s ripe for the taking.’ When has there ever not been a time like that for our country? We took over this country from the indigenous people, resting and living in nature without a fear in the world. That is still happening in the world today. That’s what’s so interesting about that song to me, the idea that the enemy is right outside the gate and once you wake up, they’re already inside. They could be taking over a country, they could be running for president. Or the enemy could be something not so obvious. Maybe the enemy is a virus.”
“Been Struggling”, in a year where so many people are, is actually an older pop song with a rousing chorus, dealing with the highs and perils of first love.
NPR MUSIC LIVE SESSIONS/KUTX – Alex Maas performs “Been Struggling” for KUTX Pop-Up Sessions, Oct. 2020.
Credits: Camera and Edit: Michael Minasis; Audio: Jake Perlman; Producer: Deidre Gott
“Everybody knows that feeling of like going on a date for the first time,” explains Alex, “and then the week after, it’s like, oh wow, this could actually be something. And then two weeks later, this person’s still a stranger. I don’t know anything about this person, but I love them. But do they love me? And does that even matter or is this just like something’s going to happen temporarily?”
One of the album’s most enigmatic tracks is “What Would I Tell Your Mother”, a Michael Hurley-like folk thrum that despite repeated listens, doesn’t really reveal what it’s about.
“What you hear on the record is actually me playing that song for the very first time. I went into the studio and I started playing the music. And for me, that’s how it’s always been – the music comes first and then and then, lyrically, I try to just identify what I’m seeing in the music. So the record is actually me walking into the studio and playing this music for the first time ever and actually just freestyling. It was clear to me that they were traveling in this winter landscape, trying to find shelter and they were with their children. And one person had to make the sacrifice to stay behind. So, yeah, that was a fun one for me to put on the record, one of those moments where you just walk into reality and talk about what you see in the landscape.”
The most Black Angels-like song on Luca is also one of the newer compositions, “American Conquest”.
Maas explains its origins. “I’ve been scoring films and documentaries for six or seven years now with my buddy Brett, with whom I also recorded this record. “Conquest” was actually an instrumental for a film that we worked on. You know, I guess it goes back to being a parent when I started writing the lyrics for the song. I was [now] a father. You’re trying to figure out the world, trying to figure out how you can better what’s going on. Some of the main problems with the world. Why are your parents feeding their children shitty food and hatred? Feeding their children just terrible things. I realize that’s where most problems come from. Parents and what they’re allowing their kids to eat, both literally and figuratively. What they’re letting them watch, letting them get away with, what are they letting them like. As a parent, you have to let your child discover the world. You want to blame so many problems on the government and the education system and everything else. But so much of that, racism, sexism, starts at home.”
Being a parent has transformed Maas.
“At the start of this record, my wife and I were having a baby for the first time. And that was a huge transition. I think that you can hear that on the record, this sense of security and the idea of what home is, a sense of protecting that. Questioning the world and questioning what it’s like to bring a child up in what can be a scary place at times.”
“Luca still has elements of [my] songwriting, but it has a little bit more preciousness to it. The music just seems really honest to me. I feel this is the kind of music I’ve always wanted to make, but I didn’t really have whatever that is inside of you that says it’s OK to do things outside of your band and do things for yourself.”
Being a parent gave him that.
“My wife and I,” says Maas, ”we’ve experienced a lot. I’m not like a teenager anymore, not in my 20s anymore. There are only so many experiences in your life, and we wanted to have this opportunity. Having a child like this one, I can’t imagine what it’s like not being a parent. It’s enriched my life in so many different ways. It’s scary for other reasons. In the last year, you know, it’s kind of like, wow, where are we? Where is the world headed?”
These aren’t typical thoughts for a successful rock musician whose band has traveled the world.
“I think what you hear on this record is kind of like this hodgepodge of emotions that we are just going through, you know, any person would have these feelings, they start at the end of the day just kind of keep coming back. Realizing that home, being at home and is where it’s at, fostering and developing and learning and nurturing that that relationship with your family is a beautiful thing.”