Take a stroll through the downtown bars on a Saturday night, and you’ll hear a melting pot of jazzy seventh chords, shredding guitar licks, and pinging brass bands. With so much music vibrating through this city, it’s no wonder artists find inspiration in Austin. Whether it’s a bluesy homage to downtown nightlife or a sentimental saga about adulthood, musicians have plenty to say about the live music capital. Here are ten great songs with a shout out to our hometown.
– Elisa Regulski
1. Gary Clark Jr.’s “Travis County”
It’s no surprise that this song was chosen for the ACL Live theme song. After just one listen, that infectious hook will buzz through your ears all day. Inspired by his stint at the Travis County Jail, Gary Clark Jr’s poppy blues number weaves a tale of crime and social injustice.
2. Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues”
The imagery in this classic country song stirs up intense feelings of nostalgia and longing. It also has way of sparking up a craving for a Mad Dog margarita.
3. Common Ground’s “Sixth Street”
This hard rockin’ foot-tapper expertly captures how you feel at the beginning of a wild night on Sixth Street. The pounding drums sound like pure debauchery, and the biting lyrics make you feel invincible. Of course, by the next morning, it’s highly likely you’ll be singing something much more subdued.
4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Multi-Love”
This psychedelically funky band from Portland sneaks a little Austin love into their hit single. Songwriter Ruban Nielson begins this song by singing that his god wants to bury him “in Austin under Uchiko.” Now, that’s not a bad way to go.
5. Gary P. Nunn’s “Austin Pickers”
This song alludes to Austin in almost every line, and you can’t help but beam with pride when you hear it. Nunn sings a long list of famous Austin pickers, but if you don’t hear your name in this short little song, don’t stress. There’s simply not enough time. After all, he says “Our DJ friends’ gotta do their job, so two and a half minutes is all I got.”
6. Matthew Logan Vasquez’ “Austin”
This lethargic saga tells a coming of age story that could rival any novella you read in high school. “Austin” has a hypnotizing quality to it. Even after the first seven minutes, you find yourself hanging on to every word.
7. Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash’s “Austin Night”
It’s easy to “lose your heart in the heat of an Austin night.” We feel you.
8. Dale Watson’s “South of Round Rock, Texas”
Though this Dale Watson never mentions Austin by name, we all know what city this country crooner is boasting about.
9. Bob Schneider’s “King of the World”
It’s no surprise that Austin native Bob Schneider would throw in some poetic references to this city.
10. Johnny Cash’s “Austin Prison”
It wasn’t just Folsom that Cash sang about.