Country Music People March 2019 - Page 19

James Steinle There’s a new Texas singer- songwriter on the block T ake one look at James Steinle and your immediate thought is likely to assume he’s a country singer, but the singer-songwriter following in the footsteps of the Texas greats generally prefers the label ‘folk’ over ‘country’ or ‘Americana’. “Since folks immediately want to assume ‘country music’ when they see the hat and the get up,” says the Austin- based musician, “I’d say I’m trying to make country music for people that usually don’t like country music. Some of my buddies and I have this ongoing inside joke about how to describe our style of music. We have these sub-genres within the ‘County Country’ umbrella...’Brush Pop’, ‘T-Post Metal’, ‘Black Brush’...they all kind of cover exactly what I said about country music for people that don’t like country music.” It’s perhaps because of the craftsmanship that goes into his work and the importance of the lyrics that Steinle favours the ‘folk’ label, but his style is varied, as ably demonstrated on his recent South Texas Homecoming release. A variety of styles, all of them very Texas, raise their head across the album, with Steinle himself suggesting, “Some folks might listen to my record and think, ‘Wow… there is a lot of variety’, others might say ‘This dude needs to find his sounds because he is all over the place.’ That’s just who I am… sonically I’ll always be all over the place. I don’t like records that have one flavour. The lyrics are where I always hang my hat. So I’m hoping by caring about what I write and caring how I say it...it will connect with folks. “I grew up on Robert Earl Keen’s No. 2 Live Dinner... that is perhaps the first music I can recall hearing in my life. So he definitely weighs on my melodies and writing. I’m a big cowboy poetry and Country and Western Swing fan so those sonic landscapes and motifs always show up in my writing. I, like lots of folks, went through all kinds of musical phases. But the common thread throughout the years was trying to find what was real within each genre and sub-genre. Once I started attending the University of Texas at Austin and playing open mics around town… that’s when I started to define who I wanted to be as a songwriter. This is the period where I came to the greats of my style of music. Terry Allen, Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, etc… I could go on and on. I initially started with these kind of legendary songwriters but in the past few years have come to all these other great Music Row writers and more ‘off the beaten path’ songwriters... folks like Tom Waits, Malcolm Holcombe, Dan Reeder, Bob McDill, Hoyt Axton, Steve Goodman, Richard Dobson. These are all folks that inspire my writing and melodies significantly.” Steinle is a native Texan, but spent many years overseas in the Middle East and Europe while growing up, giving him an unusually informed view of the world. He explains, “I was born in San Antonio, Texas. My mom’s family has been cattle ranchers down in McMullen County since the 1850’s. My dad was from San Antonio and is a pediatric dentist. So from the get-go I’ve had this culture clash going on between the rural and urban side of things. My dad was teaching a course at UT’s medical school in San Antonio and got offered a job working for Saudi Aramco in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. We were supposed to go for a year… but we stayed for 9 years. We had a one year stint in Germany where he contracted for the US military but the majority was in Saudi. It was an absolutely bizarre and extremely privileged upbringing. I got to travel all over the world by the time I was a freshman in high school as well as explore all over the Arabian Peninsula over those years. The school system ended there in 9th grade… most kids went to private boarding schools but that’s not my thing… at all. “So I moved home to Jourdanton, Texas where my family’s place was and attended public school. Had some reverse-culture shock initially...but the whole time we were in Saudi we’d come back for trips to work cattle and take care of stuff on the ranch...so it actually felt really good to finally be home (which is where I got the title for my record, South Texas Homecoming). Texas was and will always be home for me. All of that being said… that part of my life is essentially the reason I decided to give a career in writing songs a stab… figured life handed me lemons with this upbringing and subsequent world view and that I might have something to say folks haven’t heard.” MARCH 2019 - cmp 19