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Songwriting, social media and hard work keys to success for post-pandemic Austin bands
Candy Riot

Jessica Arroyo

Everyone knows that Austin has built its reputation on being “the Live Music Capital of the World.”

Whether you’re being greeted by a guitar-laden crooner upon arrival at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport or enjoying breakfast tacos in the shadow of statue and mural tributes to legends like Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan, nods to the famous moniker are apparent throughout the city.

But following a pandemic that turned the entire world upside down, what’s it actually like to be a musician in Austin right now?

Julie Nolen

Julie Nolen has been part of the local music scene for 23 years, not only as an alt-country artist but also as the host of open mic and songwriter nights across the city. She said her goal is “to keep getting better and meet a few heroes along the way.”

Nolen described the Austin music community “like a college – you can learn from the best here.” She said that while it can be difficult to make ends meet at times, musicians are fortunate to lean on local organizations such as the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and the SIMS Foundation, which offers mental health and substance use recovery services for those in the music industry.

(David Brendan Hall)

She added that the pandemic caused her to shift focus from performing to talent buying. After initially booking music for the Rustic Tap, Nolen’s reputation as a talent buyer spread – her Pearlsnap Music Group now books for eight bars and produces one festival – the OUTlaw Pride Fest, which is this Saturday, Sept. 24 – each year.

Candy Riot

Bobby Cheatham and Liz Feezor, founding members of synth-rock band Candy Riot, said the pandemic forced them to write lyrics first, then build music around the words.

(Jessica Arroyo)

“We were heartbroken when Austin’s music scene shattered for 20 months,” Cheatham and Feezor said. “Writing, rehearsing, recording and performing are all communal activities, so we’re grateful to see everything and everyone come back together.”

The band, which has now expanded to include Ricky Rodriguez and Erica Porter, held a launch party for its debut album, “Moonstar,” earlier this month and will release a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” in collaboration with the Foxtales on Oct. 4. A show at Empire Control Room and a music video release for the band’s single, “Black Tie,” are also planned for November.

“We take emotions and give them a soundtrack, and hopefully some people will like the songs,” Cheatham and Feezor said, adding that their music was featured recently on 101X Homegrown. “It feels good when they’re played on the radio and when friends come to the shows. The band has given us great opportunities to create art, befriend other musicians and spend more time having fun.”

Cheatham and Feezor said the challenges facing new bands in Austin post-pandemic include finding places to play, writing music and finding the money to record. They added that new bands also need “good songs, pretty pictures, a well-written bio, and traction on social media to get the attention of the venues. Knowing the right people is also important.”

Nolen said that while music is still abundantly available in Austin, pay, fair treatment, affordable housing and transportation also remain major issues for artists. She added, however, that Austin remains “very receptive” to new bands and that, like so many other things, making it in the music business here comes down to hard work.

“Mostly it's how to differentiate yourself from the rest of the hay in the haystack,” Nolen said. “You'd better be really different and good, but more than anything, you'd better work really hard. Harder than everybody else.”


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway