By Lauren Floyd
With Austin being dubbed the “live music capital of the world” and San Marcos being the historic home to Float Fest and countless live music venues, it’s very obvious that the local music scene that sprawls from Austin to San Marcos is bursting at the seams with talent. In two cities with a high volume of college aged students, there are tons of opportunities to take in and digest a wide variety of sounds and genres from artists of all backgrounds.
While many of us take advantage of the surplus of fun, exciting live music and festivals, it’s easy to forget that there is a whole world behind the local music scene. I often find myself wondering what it’s like to be an up-and-coming musician in an area packed with people trying to accomplish the same goal, and what hidden challenges are associated with living and performing here.
To answer some of my questions, I reached out to three local bands/artists to inquire about what life is like in this rapidly developing metropolis – Rick Jennings, who is a part of two bands in the Austin area, Jean Claude Van Dang and Arborenna; Dee Seibert, a local solo artist here in San Marcos; and Luis Parra of the Austin-based band GOOD.
I know that – and it may be because of my position here at KTSW – it can sometimes be incredibly overwhelming and hard to try and keep up with everything happening in the area. This leads me to wonder, “Is this area oversaturated? Are there too many people trying to accomplish the same goal?” According to all three artists, yes, this area is oversaturated for its size – but they also told me that that’s not the challenge of living and playing in this area.
“The industry in San Marcos being oversaturated isn’t the issue,” Luis Parra told me, “It’s the constant shutting down of venues that are causing issues.” Jennings reaffirmed that statement as well, “The San Marcos music scene has certainly dwindled with the closings of Triple Crown and Gold Crown.”
This revelation led me to wonder if this area is even a sustainable place for musicians to be. Sure, there is a bounty of homegrown talent, but if the opportunities aren’t there, will the local music scene continue to grow in a constructive way? Both Parra and Jennings told me that the area is very sustainable for budding musicians; “Get into the right venues and crowds and it’s totally possible to book opening acts for big bands,” Parra said.
Dee Seibert, on the other hand, brought up a valuable criticism in her answer; “It’s hard to find people in Austin who will take you seriously without a full band,” she said, “I think that, while there is a lot I can do here for myself, I will have to move up north east where I see more music closer to the genre I write in.” This is a very fair assessment – just take a look at the record label directory on the Texas Music Office website and you will see record label after record label listed under rap/hip hop, blues, and pop. To say that the area has an established sound is definitely an understatement.
Now, knowing that there are challenges with being an artist in the area, I asked all three artists how they think prospective musicians can stand out here. Parra reiterated his idea of the value of live music, “Stage presence is a very important thing and there’s no way to get better at it than by just playing as much as you can.” Jennings and Seibert had similar answers that can be summed up into one word: authenticity. “When your work is inauthentic, people see right through it,” Seibert told me.
To wrap up my inquiries, I asked each musician to tell me what makes Austin/San Marcos special to them. Interestingly enough, all three performers gave me the same inspiring and heart-warming answer – the community is what sets this area apart from any other.
“People love music here,” Parra said, “Everywhere you go, people are willing to come in and listen, even if it’s just for a little while. Everyone feels like a friend when they come up and talk to you.”
“This town (San Marcos) is a safe space for both established and brand new artists,” Seibert told me, “It is a place of growth and acceptance.”
Finally, Jennings gave me and answer that I think we can all resonate with, “San Marcos is a place that I associate with overwhelmingly good memories. I have developed such a great network of friends and musicians who I trust and always strive to keep creating great things with.”
Overall, what I learned from gathering information from these three talented artists just reaffirmed some of my beliefs – being a musician is hard, but rewarding, and most importantly, that this area is special .
Let’s be honest – even with all of the challenges and flaws of living and working here, there is something undeniably whimsical and unique about this area of Texas. Whether you’re a prospective musician overwhelmed with the opportunities available for you, or just someone looking for new, interesting music, the San Marcos and Austin areas house something valuable for all of us.
Featured image by Tania Zapien.