Blues Music

Jonathan Terrell On “Sweet Maxine” and a Rough First Gig in Austin

Jonathan Terrell

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

Sweet Maxine (every young man’s dream) is a 2015 Chevy Express with 170k miles. She’s never really broken down too bad, but I just had the transmission rebuilt so hopefully she’s good to go for a little while. She’s a solid whip!

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

I tour with other bands and eat their catering. I’m not really too much of a fast food dude so I’m all about packing a cooler with healthy snacks, fruit and good coffee before a tour. I will absolutely crush some BBQ though if offered.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

0 strings. I am a professional, I don’t break strings.

Where do you rehearse?

We rent a space by the hour, so it’s different every time. We have had some crazy experiences, but nothing we can print here…

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

No idea haha. A wise person once said the 1st 100 don’t count. But my new single is out and counts very much. I hope everyone reading this checks out the video and shares it with 10 people.

Describe your first gig.

I played in some cover bands as a kid with my friends’ dads. We played the local honky tonks in Longview, TX where my big number was “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak. But before I moved to Austin, my 1st gig in Austin was at a dive called Trophy’s on South Congress and we thought we had hit the big time! Our drummer passed out on methadone 3 songs in and when we revived him on stage he threw all his drums at the audience and we had to tackle him and drag him outside. They still paid us the 100 bucks but it was pretty rough.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

My last job was tending bar at a honky tonk here in Austin called the White Horse. I was a shit bartender but I knew most of the folks coming in and was, I believe, a welcoming entity. That job added a few layers to my soul and shaved a few layers off my life. Amazing place. I’m still tight with everyone there.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

I think I really started trimming the edges in a less is more approach. I think some of that comes with wisdom along the way but mostly I wanted folks to dance and have a great time. That’s hard to do when you’re on your 6th verse. If I keep shaving down my songs, who knows, they might be 3 seconds long in the future, which should line up with most folks’ attention span.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

Party less. Focus more. I always just assumed the songs would come. I always thought I was an endless wellspring of ideas. I probably lost countless songs in the fog. Ahhh but sometimes it’s good to flip that and light a fuse on a Saturday night.

Jonathan Terrell has been doing things on his own for two decades now. He likes it that way, conjuring stories from histories both shared and made-up, creating a world from the depths of his imaginations and from his humble roots in equal parts. Born and raised in a trailer hidden far in the Pine Curtain of East Texas to a family of ex-religious cult musicians, Terrell has taken the myths and lineage of his deeply held history and mixed them into a radically inventive career as the torch-bearer of Austin, Texas’ cosmic country scene.

Between his side gig touring the world in and with Midland and a record label by his side that believes in his creative vision as a songwriter, photographer, director, and part time Honky Tonk/Disco DJ, Jonathan Terrell has finally assembled a team that enables him to be his best self. “They have my back all the time and I think that makes me write from a stronger perspective,” adds Terrell. “I don’t have any fear at all.”

A Couple 2, 3… will be released on 9 September. Connect with Terrell online and on the road.

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