Garrett T. Capps is a man on the rise. And he’s taking the San Antone Americana scene with him – hopefully.
No stranger to anyone who’s followed local music over the past 10 years or so, Capps has hung his hat on his ever-sharpening ability to write relatable, engaging, and sometimes provocative songs, his earnestness, and his oddly-satisfying restlessness.
From his early days as a one-man band/cow-punk wrecking crew, often playing shirtless and full of a particularly Texan brand of Dionysian abandon, to his first forays into roughshod roots-rock, from his unexpectedly excellent fusion of krautrock and Americana on 2016’s Inc. EP to his triumphant return to roots-rock on that same year’s Y Los Lonely Hipsters LP, Capps has demonstrated an easygoing penchant for sonic exploration that pays real dividends.
Even as he’s preparing to release his (stellar) latest album Back in the Shadows (Again) on May 4, it’s Capps’ old album Y Los Lonely Hipsters, or rather its best track “I Was Born in San Antone” that has blessed the singer-songwriter with some timely shine.
Recently, that song – a rambling and rollicking blues-rock sizzler that name checks SA staples as disparate as USAA, Flaco Jiménez, lengua, Matt Bonner (and several other Spurs), Hogwild Records and more – was featured in the Season Three premiere of Showtime’s hit series Billions, exposing Capps’ music to the nearly 1 million viewers who watched the premiere live and the many who have streamed it after the fact.
In a story that seems readymade for a Spotify ad targeting up-and-coming musicians, Capps explained, as we caught up over the phone a few weeks ago, that the Billions-bump – which seems perfectly-timed ahead of Capps album release, despite being the product of sheer chance – came as an after-the-fact result of an official SXSW showcase that Capps played in last April.
“Nobody was there except for a few of my friends,” Capps remembers of the showcase, a San Antonio spotlight affair. “But,” Capps laughed, “the organizer told me that being a part of the showcase might get people to go to my website or something.” Turns out that organizer (Jeff Smith of Saustex Records) was right – sort of.
Several songs from Y Los Lonely Hipsters, including “San Antone,” were added, without Capps even realizing it, to an official SXSW Spotify playlist. This, Capps reports, caused a massive uptick in plays for him. More importantly, however, is the fact that Capps inclusion on this official playlist led Billions director and one-time music industry A&R professional Brian Koppelman to hear “San Antone” completely by chance. He was captivated by it.
After hearing the song, Koppelman tracked Capps down and told him that he loved the song and planned to use it in his show. And, months later, he did just that: parts of the song play through the first minute and a half of the season premiere.
While Capps isn’t exactly sure what will come of this, he’s got a good feeling that something will. “He’s definitely helping me out more than anyone has ever helped me out,” Capps said of Koppelman. “He’s truly championing the song because he loves it, which is amazing.”
I guess sometimes that whole “playing for exposure” thing kinda works out, huh? Just how well it has worked out for Capps’ music career remains to be seen.
Courtesy Garrett T. Capps/Dave Terry
What I can tell you is that his new album, recorded with his band NASA Country, provides an ideal focus for any new attention Capps manages to get.
His most country album to date, Shadows falls in the category of psychedelic country, or “space country” as Capps is fond of calling it. The sound on the album finds Capps pulling all of his musical interests together for a finished product that is moody, atmospheric, danceable, thought-provoking, and, above all, generous and open-hearted, loose and ambling without sacrificing a bit of polish.
In fact, this is easily the most refined, tight and polished recording Capps has ever put his name on, which is not an accident. “I wanted to do something new and do a real-deal, professional-level album, but I didn’t know how it would come out,” Capps explained.
Of the sound, which is different but not too different for Capps, he said he was “looking to do a country album, but the plan evolved when Justin Boyd [on modular synthesizer] and Torin Metz [on guitar, lap steel, and vocals] came onboard with the band.”
“You have to be far out with those guys,” a chuckling Capps said of the two musicians who each have reputations as fonts of psychedelic sound in San Anto.
Capps told Shadows producer Lucas Oswald that he “wanted this record to sound like The Byrds were recording Sweetheart of the Rodeo and Jerry Jeff Walker was there and then aliens showed up and took over the sessions.” And, as crazy as that sounds, I’d say he got pretty close.
The album, which will come out digitally and on vinyl (through Shotgun House Records) on May 4, is a start-to-finish delight that will quickly and permanently endear itself to fans of the likes of Sturgill Simpson (especially his Metamodern Sounds in Country Music vibe) and Jason Isbell, as well as fans of legends like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Blaze Foley, and Townes Van Zandt.
If that last bit sounds like tall talk to diehard outlaw country fans, just check out album tracks “Ballroom,” “The Interstate 35 Waltz,” “Here Right Now” (a personal favorite and the album’s centerpiece), and “Baby Please.” You’ll be convinced that Capps is the real deal in no time. He’s got that special something that can instantly make you remember that country music can, in the best of cases, be a mystical thing.
To celebrate the release of Shadows, Capps has planned a doozy of a dual album release show with D.T. Buffkin, who will drop his new album Saturday Night, Sunday Morning on the same day. The lineup for the show really could merit its own article.
Featuring San Antonio legends Augie Meyers, Flaco Jiménez, and Santiago Jiménez Jr., as well as a host of other great local talent, the show represents the coming together of generations of musicians. It’s the kind of event that, if one were inclined to romanticism, might lead one to conclude that the San Antonio Americana/roots/country/Tex-Mex scene is about to have its next big moment.
Cinco de Mayo Tex-Mex Fiesta w/ Garrett T. Capps, D.T. Buffkin, Augie Meyers, Flaco Jiménez, Santiago Jiménez Jr., El Campo, Los #3 Dinners, Topo Chica, The Shut Ups, and Pochos Chidos Free, 4pm-11pm, Paper Tiger, 2410 N. St. Mary’s St., papertigersatx.com.
Watch the hilarious promo video featuring Augie Meyers and Santiago Jiménez Jr.:
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