The Radio Vagabond - 194 AUSTIN, TX: House of the Rising Songs
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38M • 26/5 2021

194 AUSTIN, TX: House of the Rising Songs

HOWDY FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS I mentioned in the previous episode from Quebec, Canada [https://www.theradiovagabond.com/193-quebec-canada-therapeutic-horses-in-the-garden-of-eden/] that I was going to Finger Lakes in Upstate New York after my short visit to Canada. I went there to attend a TBEX conference [https://tbexcon.com/] for travel content creators, which was really fun. I was only there for a few days and didn’t get a chance to explore the beautiful area around the lakes, so I didn’t record enough for an episode. Soon after the conference, I jumped on a flight headed to Texas where another conference was waiting for me. And the flight wasn’t without challenges that left me stranded in New Jersey… My flight out of Ithaca was delayed, which is not news. But I decided to get to the airport super early that day to catch up on some work while I waited, which was supposed to be only a few hours. But my flight was delayed once. Then twice. Then again. Then my connecting flight left without me. So, I had to spend the night and pay for my hotel without United Airlines helping me out with the inconvenience. Anyway, par for the course for a vagabond like myself, I guess. I finally made it to Texas so let’s get rocking in Austin! KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD Austin's unofficial slogan is "Keep Austin Weird". It became a thing in 2000 when a local librarian, Red Wassenich, used the phrase on a local radio show. He later began printing bumper stickers and launched the website KeepAustinWeird.com [http://keepaustinweird.com/]. In the spirit of weirdness, let’s get to know the city a little better with some facts about where I am. WEIRD FACTS ABOUT AUSTIN, TEXAS * At some point, Austin was entirely underwater. But that was a little while back — some 66 million years ago. It was also home to 10 underwater volcanoes, which is why Austin's cliffs are made of white, crumbly rock known as "Austin Chalk." * Austin is ranked one of the most dog-friendly cities in the U.S. with its 12 off-leash parks, dog-friendly restaurants, and hotels. * An average of 20 million people visits Austin every year. This is more than the annual visitors to Rome (4.2 million), Hawaii (8.3 million), and even London (17.4 million). * Austin is the capital of Texas, and the Texas State Capitol building [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_State_Capitol] is the second largest state capitol building in the United States, after the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. Which just goes to show that everything is bigger in Texas. * U.S. News & World Report [https://www.usnews.com/info/blogs/press-room/articles/2017-02-07/us-news-unveils-the-2017-best-places-to-live] named Austin the best place to live [http://www.travelingwiththejones.com/2017/09/27/23-fun-facts-about-austin-texas/] in the U.S. in 2017. * Austin has its very own Bigfoot named Hairy Man [http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/texas/austin/facts-about-austin/] who allegedly lives on Hairy Man Road. * Austin is home to the largest bat colony in North America. Around 1.5 million bats emerge from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge just before sunset every day from March to October. And I got to experience that! * And, most importantly, Austin has the only legal nude beach in Texas. I didn’t get to experience that... AUSTIN MUSIC But what the city is most famous for is its vast and rich music culture [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Austin,_Texas]. Austin’s official motto is the "Live Music Capital of the World" because of its 200+ live music venues and over 2,000 bands and performing artists calling it home. The city hosts the annual South by Southwest [https://www.sxsw.com/] conference and festival for parallel film, interactive media, and music that takes place every year in mid-March. The music part of it — South by Southwest Music [https://www.sxsw.com/festivals/music/] — is the largest music festival of its kind in the world, with more than 2,000 acts performing. What’s called "Austin music" in its modern form emerged in 1972 when a new form of country music exploded on the scene — a scene that turned its back on Nashville. That same year, Willie Nelson did the same, when he left Nashville and moved here. In the following years, Austin gained a reputation as a place where struggling musicians could launch their careers in front of receptive audiences at informal live venues. HOUSE OF SONGS Austin is also home to The House of Songs [https://www.thehouseofsongs.org/], a homely retreat that invites songwriters from around the world to the United States to craft their music. Here, musicians can share in the universal language of music through collaborations and live performances, and the house is designed to bridge cultures, build friendships, and cultivate peace. It was all inspired by a collaboration between Troy Campbell [http://www.lonestarmusic.com/TroyCampbell] and Danish singer-songwriter Poul Krebs [https://poulkrebs.dk/], who happens to be a household name in my home country. 100 points to you if you have heard of him before… if you’re not Danish. Coincidentally, a friend of mine has been playing music with Poul Krebs for years, and when he heard that I was going to be in Austin, he introduced me to Troy Campbell. HOUSE OF SONGS I met Troy outside the House of Songs house and we immediately hit it off. He was excited to tell me about how he and my friend Poul came up with the concept of House of Songs. Troy and Poul got the idea for House of Songs at a writer's retreat on the Danish island, Samsø. And in 2009, they started a one-year project to bring Danish artists here to Austin. “At a South by Southwest festival, I was approached by a few people who were looking to invest in the arts and culture scene and knew that Austin was the perfect place for it. They heard that I had an idea for a creative music retreat where musicians can create a community of shared inspiration. I had spent time in Denmark and Scandinavia collaborating with local musicians and a few came over here. The investors loved the idea, and the rest is history.” Troy told me the impact the Danish musicians had on the local music scene in Austin. They were so intrigued and inspired by the Scandinavian sound and soon they had an army of Scandinavian musicians coming to the retreat. NOW IT’S NOT ONLY AUSTIN But now it’s not only Danish artists that come here. And actually, The House of Songs is not only here in Austin. Campbell developed a plan to spread the concept to other parts of the world. “We are going on 9 years now and have spread to 14 countries and 3 locations. We are just about to open our latest location in Haarlem, New York. We are working in partnership with Art Space, a massive arts organisation who have helped us secure an apartment to curate the artist we want, to do international co-writing residencies,” House of Songs has evolved into a non-profit organisation and has grown far beyond what the pair had originally planned. Troy is always keen to voice his appreciation for Denmark, the Danish music scene, and of course Poul for the positive influences. “I want Poul to hear every song that is sung in every house, because for me as his friend, I know that it delights him. He’s not about the money-chase, success to him are his friendships and his family. This helps inspire me that the level of the house is kept high”. The Austin-based House of Songs is situated just outside the hustle and bustle of downtown Austin in a calm neighbourhood near a river. Troy and Poul wanted each of the houses to feel authentic to the city they are situated in, thus this house ‘feels Texas’ according to Troy. Troy took me on a guided tour of the location, giving me great insights and anecdotes about every part of the place. Every room has at least one instrument in it as a way to allow musicians to be able to "reach out and grab an instrument at any time". DANISH INFLUENCE When new musicians arrive at the House, Troy makes sure there is always food to welcome them — something he experienced when he first visited Denmark to attend the music retreat on Samsø Island. “When I arrived, I was a little out of sorts trying to figure out how I was going to involve myself, as I felt all the musicians were more talented than me. I was a bit nervous. Everyone was out by the time I arrived, but I was greeted by a little food parcel and a lovely welcome note written by Poul. I thought it was a really nice touch and it immediately made me feel comfortable. Poul gave me some cheese, dark bread, fruit, and his note, saying ‘welcome brother’. And this is exactly what I give to all newcomers here at House of Songs”. WHEN TROY MET A DANISH SUPERSTAR Troy told me a funny story about the first time he met Poul Krebs — one of the most recognized singer-songwriters in my home country. I mean, everybody knows him, and we can all sing along to his songs. He sings in Danish so not many people outside of Denmark know him and his music, and when Troy visited Denmark for the first time, he had no idea he was famous. Then Poul put on sunglasses and people started recognising him. “I didn’t know who he was!” Troy laughs. “I thought he was just a really cool guy, and I loved his music. But back in 1999 you didn’t really Google people – and if I did everything would be in Danish. After we hung out and started co-writing in Texas, he invited me to Samsø Island.” When Troy arrived, he still had no clue who Poul was. On the island, everyone was relaxed, and nobody had any ego, so Troy didn't suspect anything. For the first gig in Denmark, they played together they both hopped on a boat to the venue. And when they got off the boat, Poul put on his sunglasses and then EVERYBODY started to recognise him. People swarmed him. “What? Are you famous?” Troy asked Poul. “I do really, really, really okay”, Poul jokes. That was when Troy found out that Poul was a big deal. And what Troy expected would be a small show with a few hundred people (at best) turned out to be a great show to 4,000 loud, cheering, and adoring fans. Hilarious! If you want to know more about the House of Songs go to their website [https://www.thehouseofsongs.org/] and be sure to watch the 25-minute PBS documentary [https://www.pbs.org/video/arts-context-house-songs/] (which won an Emmy!) about the concept. In the next episode, I hire a small open-top sports car and drive to Houston. Lots of exciting and interesting stuff to come next week, don’t miss out! My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you!

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