For many musicians, entering the music industry is like going to war. It’s a do or die field that’s filled with unpredictable circumstances and survival rates. Creativity requires constant combat and prosperity that comes through popularity, with legions of fans dictating the victories.
It’s not far-fetched to say that Austin, Texas-based Shakey Graves is triumphing on the battlefield of soundscapes. Gaining recognition as Best Emerging Artist at the 2015 Americana Music Awards, Alejandro Rose-Garcia, who goes by the campfire Indian guide-inspired moniker, is a growing force of folk, blues and rock ‘n’roll.
After surfacing on the music front as a one-man band, Rose-Garcia released 2011’s Roll the Bones independently on Bandcamp, where it generated rabid acclaim from listeners. Touring solo for much of the time that followed, he shook things up for 2014’s And The War Came, an album featuring collaborations. Worth noting is “Dearly Departed,” a track recorded with songstress Esmé Patterson (formerly of Paper Bird). The 13-track album also prompted a full-band tour, and Shakey Graves arrives at The Jefferson Theater on November 18.
“This is as full and cohesive as it’s ever sounded to me,” says Rose-Garcia. The current lineup varies based on musicians’ availability. Some shows have been four-piece, some three-piece and some two-piece.
Because live shows are subject to change, Shakey Graves fans never know exactly what to expect. Folks attending his shows are often surprised when what they thought was going to be an acoustic set is a raw rock outing filled with spontaneity.
“I guess there are ways to please everybody, but I’m not going to be the person for that. I’m not trying to disassociate anybody from my music. At the same time, I feel like if people really did get into my music then they’d understand that,” Rose-Garcia says.
The musician, who has been acting since age 6—he starred in “Friday Night Lights” and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, among others—credits his involvement in theater as helping him conceptualize live shows, which can turn on a dime.
“There’s still a kind of organic way that shows will unfold even though you’re doing the same thing every night,” he says. “An audience will be different every time. In theater, sometimes people laugh at the wrong parts of the show or they’re in a different mood on some nights even though it’s the exact same script. It’s important in a lot of ways to not fight and to deal with it as a performer.”
While Rose-Garcia continues to get small acting roles pitched to him on occasion, he’s currently focused on his music. He snickers when producers and directors ask him if he’s down for playing a musician role.
“Why would I want to play a musician? I play a musician every day of my life,” he says. “The situation would have to be absolutely perfect, which is asking a lot because right now it would be based on how everything else is going, and right now this is an absolute dream come true. This is direct, like, manifest destiny kind of stuff. I’m really not trying to put too many things on too many burners. I still have a lot more to do with my music and there’s a lifetime ahead for me to act.”
Rose-Garcia admits that committing himself to music has affected other arenas of his life. He describes And the War Came as a “be careful what you wish for” sort of album.
“I’ve spent a lot of time wishing to be successful in my art and I’ve also simultaneously been wishing to fall madly in love for a long time,” he says. “Lo and behold, it all sort of started to happen at the same time a few years ago and one of them lost to the other. I had both of those things on my hands and realized I wasn’t even prepared to juggle either entirely. You can wish for something as simple as love, but if you don’t know what it is, be careful because once it shows up it will show up full force.”
The album’s tracks lament on the concept of failed relationships—some romantic, some platonic and some undefined. While lyrics ponder the course of human interactions and conflict, they also acknowledge disaster and defeat.
“There’s plenty of darkness in all of us,” says Rose-Garcia. “We’re all tormented somehow, and we probably all grapple with concepts of death, loss, spirits and ghosts and all that shit. When you learn to love the people in your life and to love yourself, then all that other stuff kind of becomes a dull roar.”
This is wise advice coming from a man who went parading through Washington, D.C., on an LSD trip. His mesmerizing visit to the Lincoln Memorial influenced the title for And The War Came. Rose-Garcia, who loves reading about American history, believes his views toward war are straightforward.
“I hate war. I’m simultaneously appalled by it and totally enamored by it,” he says. “Touring around is the closest I’m ever going to get to going out on any frontlines. It feels like a romanticized version of war. It’s my own fight in a lot of ways.” —Anita Overcash