Is This Band Local? A Guide to Making Claims on Tenuous Ties
Not too long ago, we at DC9 took a look at the value of supporting music with the local tag. It's tempting to apply the tag to anyone with any ties to North Texas, but how often is it accurate? Two notable releases will be widely, and perhaps wrongly, deemed local in the coming weeks.
The self-titled fifth record from former Dallasite Annie Clark, better known to most as St. Vincent, came out earlier this week to universal raves, and indeed it sounds even better than her stellar previous releases. Also, Denton-born Eli Young Band's latest, slick dish of modern country, 10,000 Towns, hits the street next week, and all signs point to it being a chart-buster for the former Mean Green-ers.
These two headline-grabbing records merely provide us a chance to set some things straight. There are plenty of well-known, beloved examples of acts we should both stop considering completely local, and continue to appreciate as fully local. The time has come, area music lovers: The definition of what makes an artist or band "local" needs to be reexamined.
A restaurant boasting locally sourced ingredients is careful to refer to only produce, meats and cheeses that come from their relatively nearby environs. The USDA states that "local," in terms of food, can mean the product travels up to a maximum of 400 miles from the provider to where it is consumed.
Applying the "local" label onto a band or a singer is much more complex due to the fact we're dealing with humans, not heads of lettuce or keg-filled trucks. On a regional level, Steve Earle and Guy Clark, for a couple of prime examples, are still regularly referred to as "Texas treasures" in magazine profiles and regular discussion amongst music fans, yet it's been decades since either have lived in the Lone Star State, and for the most part, their greatest works have been created well north of the Red River. Does being born in Texas and enduring some of their formative years here mean we as Texans can claim them as our own? Is our pride well-meaning, but misguided? Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, at least until very recently, has lived in Austin. Is he a Texas artist, or is he the majestic rock god from the U.K., only?
Clark, who now regularly graces magazine covers and has rocketed to indie god status since her debut album in 2007, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and has lived in New York for the past several years as her fame has grown more intense and her work even more splendid. Though to be fair, she has recorded albums in Dallas with John Congleton since her move to NYC. On the flip side of that coin, The Eli Young Band, born out of Denton in 2000, has become the most commercially successful act associated with the Texas country/red dirt scene. Even with three Billboard No. 1 hits and millions of singles sold, three of the band's four members, including lead-singer Mike Eli, still call North Texas home, though massive cabins in Nashville where the group would be closer to the action they're a part of is a temptation few emerging country artists can say no to once the massive checks start filling their collective mailboxes.