AUSTIN, TX – After midnight, Spencer Garland continued to amicably stalk the King of Animated Comedy of Texas from the stage at C-Boy’s Heart and Soul club on South Congress.
“This one is for Mike judgeGarland said, gesturing to the back of the club as if the Emmy-winning comedy director was in the house.
The creator of “Beavis and Butthead” and “Office Space” who sometimes lives in Austin is reportedly considering a reboot of his animated series, “King of the Hill”, which takes place in a fictional town inspired by Richardson, Texas. This is the Dallas suburb where Garland grew up.
Garland and his best friend Jim Campo, who recently reunited as the Berkshire Hounds, tore up what they think is a perfect theme song for a “King of the Hill” revamp.
“Don’t Doubt The Team,” the song is called.
“I just had this idea in my head that this is what the theme song would look like if ‘King of the Hill’ did a reboot, which I heard he’s working on. So, I’m like, that should be the song. I’m from Richardson, TX. That’s what Arlen, the town of King of the Hill is inspired by. I don’t know, that’s my pitch, ”Garland said. mostly tweeted, to no avail. “
I met Garland on my summer storytelling tour of America during a prime time of the coronavirus crisis before the easily spreading delta variant revived government restrictions in parts of the country, including Austin.
For about a week, I was a sweaty tourist alongside the Austin stage performers, recalibrating my ears to the gleeful sound of amplifiers at full blast during my first live gig since March 2020.
On back-to-back parties, Garland has shared the stage as accompanist for Delta Spirit’s Matthew Vasquez, Texan crooner David Ramirez, country singer Paul Cauthen, Adrian Quesada of the Black Pumas and Kelsey Wilson of Sir Woman, the 2020 Austin Music Awards’ “Best New Group”.
On a recent Friday, Garland wrapped up the night under the stage name of his solo project, PR Newman. The next day, he traveled to Dallas to perform at Jeff Fest, a boon for music producer Jeff Saenz, who survived a high-voltage electric shock.
MORE ABOUT PATCH: Jeff Saenz’s high-voltage shock story sparks national support
“Now that things are opening up again, I say yes to every show,” Garland told me in his home studio. “People are so excited that the live music is back, I could probably just fart into a microphone the whole show and people would still be crazy about it right now.”
Maybe even Judge, a guy who first rose to fame for his wax-loving characters.
“A really difficult city”
Garland, 32, is seen on stages in Austin as a guy who kills on guitar, keyboards, harmonica and whatever instrument you put in his hands; sing beautifully and write songs that stick in your head.
His solo project, PR Newman, has performed in crowded clubs since the release of his debut album, Turn Out, in 2018. At the Vegas Friday Hotel, a fan gifted Garland with a hand-painted version of the cover of the PR Newman’s debut album.
For the past two years, Garland has written and recorded keyboard parts on the Black Pumas’ Grammy nominated album. He was asked to help Renee Zellweger write songs on the recommendation of Bob Dylan guitarist Charlie Sexton.
When he wasn’t on tour with Vasquez, playing at least four shows a week in town, or promoting his second PR Newman album, Garland still worked as a restaurant waiter to make ends meet.
What many people across the country who flock to see shows in South by Southwest and watch “Austin City Limits” on PBS, may not realize how unprofitable a grind performance can even be for musicians. most talented freelancers – even before the coronavirus crisis.
Garland, Campo, and their local contemporaries will tell you that they sometimes play seven shows a week that earn each player $ 40 per pop – barely enough to pay rent.
“Austin is a really tough city. There are crowds for an insane number of musicians, but there is no music industry here. So it’s like, who you even fight for. Attention. There will never be any Record Company Scouts at your show, ever, “Garland said.
“There is a circle of people who do it just for the sake of making great music and being together, but it doesn’t make a lot of money, or hardly any money. Every guitarist is a coder. now. That’s why I continue to work in the service industry. I’m too stubborn to learn new things that I find disappointing. “
At the worst of the coronavirus crisis, some of Garland’s musician friends continued to play concerts they dared not promote on social media for fear of a backlash.
Magic Rockers of Texas lead singer Campo admits to performing spoken language shows in the city.
“I was unemployed for four months and it’s the most money I have ever had in my life, but it’s not enough either. I had a day job when everything the world was grabbing anything just to hold onto their own reality.… So when I was asked to play in a bar… I was kind of like, where’s the line here? I can risk mine [health] work in public, but then I have to say, no, to [playing music] that I really appreciate and devoted most of my life to? ”noted.
“If I could have sold songs to Mike Judge on COVID, I would have done it and I wouldn’t have played any shows. But that’s what it is.”
When the coronavirus silenced most scenes in Austin, Garland relied on government help and his part-time job to deliver touchless vegetarian cuisine to the Bouldin Creek Cafe.
“I’m not some kind of bloody story. Everyone’s dreams have been shattered by the pandemic. I’m just no exception to it,” Garland said. “People like me is basically what I think is the lifeblood of everything that happens in the music scene in Austin, all of them have been through the same things. Honestly, before the pandemic I had made my record. … But I still felt pretty jaded. “
He spent a lot of time at home with his wife Sophie Molinari and their dog Sage. He’s kept himself busy making improvements to his studio, writing and recording songs for PR Newman’s upcoming recording, and worrying about an uncertain future during a summer of civil unrest and volunteering to efforts to exit the vote in the controversial presidential election.
“I’ve felt so isolated over the past year or so. We even panicked, bought a broken Airstream, and we were like, go around the country and stop the music,” Garland said.
“You know I’ve been through all kinds of drug and alcohol abuse in my life, and depression, and the thing I find when I’m at my lowest – sitting in the dark drinking a six pack by myself, or something, is that I’m isolated and feeling lonely. And that’s what last year was like. Coming back to music is really empowering to have this community of people who present themselves to people. “
You move, Mike Judge
Everything seemed to be going well in the world as the tipsy Texans danced while the Berkshire Hounds performed “Don’t Doubt The Team” in honor of Mike Judge, who was not at the show – and has yet to return any tweets from Garland.
“Everything feels like it’s coming back in full force and there’s this new kind of momentum for live music,” Garland said. It didn’t last, of course. Since leaving Texas, a spike in cases of the delta-variant coronavirus has led to city-imposed masking requirements and capacity limits at bars and concert halls.
Still, Garland said he felt hopeful – for himself and his musician friends in Austin.
“One of the biggest accomplishments I have after last year is that I only have to do the things I can control. I put on hold what I wanted to do and what I believed in because I thought another gig was going to raise my profile and uplift me, ”he said. “During the pandemic, I have learned – artistically at least – that no matter what pays the most, I have to do what makes me happy.”
This week Garland told me he was doing just that.
After 16 years as a restaurant waiter, he dropped off his two week notice at the Bouldin Creek Cafe and set aside the entire month of August to put the finishing touches on his third PR Newman album at his home studio in South Austin.
“I’m just going to line up my ducks for this record because I think it’s going to be good, and I believe in it,” Garland said.
He even temporarily stopped hunting down the creator of “King of the Hill”.
“But of course you can tell him I’m easy to find.”
Your decision, Mike Judge.
Mark Konkol, recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, wrote and produced the Peabody Award winning series “Time: The Kalief Browder Story”. He has been a producer, screenwriter and narrator for the “Chicagoland” docuseries on CNN and a consulting producer on the Showtime documentary “16 Shots”.
Tits summer, follow KONKOL ON THE ROAD: