The Railhouse Bar presents...

Austin Gilliam

at The Railhouse

August 17, 2024 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
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Time: 8:00pm     Day: Saturday     Doors: 7:00pm     Ages: 21+ Ages     Price: $10

Persistence — a recurring theme in Austin Gilliam’s music — has been a defining element of the Texas artist’s character since childhood, and fueled his transition from ubiquitous sideman to songwriter fronting his own band across the Lone Star state’s vital music scene. In the predominantly country music community where he “made his bones,” the brawny guitarist has resolutely blurred the lines dividing country and rock to establish his personalized Americana rock style. Now, into the third year after the pandemic canceled all live gigs, Gilliam is finally ready to release his aged-to-perfection new album “I’m Sorry, I’m Fine” on May 26 , 2023.

The offspring of a musically inclined family in Kingsville, Texas, Gilliam’s earliest memory of music is of stumbling upon his mother’s 12-string acoustic guitar and being infatuated with Slash’s guitar solos in Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” video. At 15, he screwed up enough courage to play Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” at a downtown Corpus Christi café, a memory that in retrospect inspires a hearty laugh: “I was shaking like a poodle shitting peach pits.” By 17, he was playing in his brother’s old band, working the Corpus Christi rock club circuit and hauling gear for acts at downtown clubs; he scored a job at Dr. Rockits’ blues bar, where he joined jam sessions and absorbed licks from some of the best guitar players he’d ever heard. Those experiences merged with the Brit rock, grunge, metal and Tom Petty hits he’d grown up playing to shape his evolving sound.

A stint with another band landed him in New Braunfels, home of leading Americana radio station KNBT. With so many local and marquee acoustic artists performing at beloved New Braunfels venues Gruene Hall and River Road Ice House, Gilliam found himself increasingly drawn to finger-picking guitarists and singer-songwriters like new-found heroes Ryan Adams, Slaid Cleaves, Jason Isbell and Chris Knight.

“I was striving to be better, in every way,” recalls Gilliam, who earned respect as a harmony-singing guitarist and bassist for regional artists such as Brandon Jenkins, Drew Kennedy and Matt King. “There are people out there who have music down as a religion — they dig deep — and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. I needed to broaden my horizons so I started jamming with other guys that were in tune with that side of music. I grew into what I am now because of my time in New Braunfels. That helped influence who I am, why I play, what I play and how I play it.”

Standing at 6’5; with his mountain man beard, edgy baritone and beefy guitar lines, Gilliam strikes a commanding presence onstage. In 2010, tired of waiting on lead singers to hire him, he pulled on his front man boots and created his own opportunities. “A bunch of my friends were side musicians as well and we all needed money so I was like, ‘Screw it, I’ll start my own project,’” Gilliam recounts with the earthy practicality of a working musician who earned his chops in the bar scene. “I had five original songs and played covers the rest of the time, but I made it work. That’s how it went for the first six months. I was still a side guy until one day in 2014, when I looked at my calendar and realized I had booked myself solid with my own gigs instead of playing guitar or bass for somebody.

I’ve been doing my own project since then.” Gilliam’s 2012 EP “Sunshine” showcased his songwriting, burly vocals and diverse sonic palette. His infectious pop-rocker “Strawberry Lemonade” quickly became his flagship song, earning him local radio play and a ground swell of notice. The Oasis-influenced anthem “Convenient” has also remained a fan favorite and the steel-buffed ballad “Next Stop” offered the conversational comfort of lived experience. The tracks were unified by Gilliam’s dynamic fretwork, compassionate real-world stories, and strong melodic hooks that encourage audiences to dance and sing along.

As the pandemic disrupted the rhythms of nightlife and touring in 2020, Gilliam did what many other musician did; held down a day job and rode it out. As venues and listening rooms across Texas began to slowly open back up, he jumped on every gig he could snag and continued to sit on the smoldering new album he had in the can waiting for the right time to air it out.

“I’m Sorry, I’m Fine” comes out strong, a muscled body of work in deep flex, ready to tangle despite its apologetic title. Ever true to Gilliam’s hallmark sound, this album is a mixed bag of sonic goods with a girth too wide to fit in any one genre box, but one thing you can always count on is that he is going to bring in big guitars. Each song has its own build, distinct personality and unique voice, and each one has earned a right to stand as its own volume within a grander series. The album’s first single “A Little Dirt” is a gritty honky-tonker confident in its flaws and honest in its intent. “Runnin’” tastes like pure Americana with a highly potent melodic chorus that will absolutely get you high. “Never Gonna Die” hits you in the face with an angsty British rock and then buys you a beer in a chummy Irish pub. “I’m Sorry” begs and pleads for a clear path yet the two roads never seem to merge.

It’s well known that Gilliam is a fantastically successful fisherman of melody, and this song bears the catch of the day. Rounding out this motley collection is “I’m Fine,” a darling little orphan without a genre looking for its forever home. As a whole “I’m Sorry, I’m Fine” is a perfect deep dive spot for the treasure hunter who will not surface empty handed.