Local musicians recall experiences in the industry
Tim Qualls and Richie Caldwell are tired of music scenes being segmented into genres and are determined to change the way artists collaborate with one another on a local level.
“It’s tough,” Qualls said about being a musician in Houston. He attributes a lot of the hardship to how spread out and segmented our city is. “You’ve got to start from the bottom and work your way up.”
At Fitzgerald’s, for example, if you hope to play upstairs and headline a show, musicians must first prove to the venue that they can pull a crowd, so most bands start out by playing downstairs, opening for another band.
“It rained for like 15-20 minutes … and we (were scheduled) to play in the middle of it all,” said Caldwell. And although it wasn’t the best situation to be in, Qualls and Caldwell didn’t let it sour their moods and focused on using the trip to Midland to network with other musicians and sell a few CDs.
“Networking is the biggest tool,” Qualls said. “People start to love you, then they start to love your music.”
Qualls, who graduated from Sam Houston State University in 2009 with a music degree, sat at Agora on Thursday afternoon with Richie Caldwell and discussed their tough journey as Houston musicians, the time they were the only band cut from a festival’s lineup (in Qualls’ hometown, no less), and their hopes to play on-campus at UH as soon as possible.
“In that kind of community, if one of you makes it, the chances of everyone else making it goes up a ton,” Caldwell said. “You cannot be a part of it without contributing to it.”
The business side of music is an integral part of the industry, and Qualls feels local artists oftentimes overlook it.
“In order to do what I love, I have to spend all my extra time and resources on my music,” Qualls said. “I work full-time, and if I’m not doing that, I’m rehearsing.”
About nine months ago, Qualls released his first EP, “This Is Our Land,” which he started recording while finishing his degree at SHSU. Since then, on top of playing an array of shows, he won the 2010 Houston Press Music Award for Best New Act.
“The live band that we’re going for is really like the Black Keys,” Qualls said. Besides emulating them, Qualls and Richie can’t stop listening to the Black Keys’ new album, Brothers. “It’s got a dirty feel… a grown-up, almost southern charm to it.”
But the real question students want to know is whether the group will ever play a show at UH.
“Hell yeah,” Qualls said. “We’d love to play there (at UH).”
In the meantime, the group has a show scheduled at the Continental Club on Friday, Sept. 10, and if you’re looking to take your lady out for a night on the town you can both enjoy, Qualls may very well be a godsend.