by: Thomas D. Mooney
Edit: Read the companion piece to this column here.
“Does it take time to learn how to be that guy, the party guy?”
Uncomfortable. Cringeworthy. Unflattering. Embarrassing. Avoidable. Juvenile. Bizarre. Unintentional. All of the above?
They were just some of the things running through my mind after I read a recent interview Maxim had with Texas
Playboy Country singer-songwriter Josh Abbott.
We’ll go ahead and look past the spelling and grammar errors in the piece and get on to the meat and potatoes of the article. This isn’t an English lesson.
Obviously, you shouldn’t expect Maxim to be the leader in in-depth reporting. You could say substance and readability just really isn’t their “thing.” With that, you have to at least acknowledge that this article wasn’t ever really about Abbott’s latest EP, his songwriting, or anything remotely to do with his music. It was about the circus and hoopla that revolves around it. The Hollywood and rock star lifestyle that comes with the 125K Twitter followers and sold out shows in Southern dancehalls.
In saying that, there’s no way someone reads it and has a more positive opinion of Abbott–unless you too are an up-and-coming Texas Country songwriter wanting to experience the excess of fame and your name in the marquee signs. If you’re in a certain kind of fraternity and enjoy being a frat cowboy, then you know what, you’ve probably already started your Josh Abbott idol and this is just another article that justifies your reasoning.
For the rest though, you’re walking away thinking, at the very least, thinking less of him as an artist. That’s the minimum. I know some will think Abbott comes across as a sleazy cheap womanizing douche who is only in music for girls, girls, money, and girls.
So why do an interview like this? Is it because any press is good press? Is it because he’s now signed on to a major record label and they’re pushing to expand to a larger demographic? Well, maybe not a larger demographic, but expand that demographic. It just seems like Abbott’s now going to have to do a little damage control.
Personally, I don’t think Abbott intentionally meant to come across as sexist, sleazy, womanizing, or anything of that nature. It was probably done with it in mind as a fun little interview on why women are flocking at his shows and buying up albums with songs such as “Taste,” “Touch,” “She Will Be Free,” and “She’s Like Texas.”
“Why are ladies so in love with Josh Abbott and yada yada yada?” It sounds good in theory, but it just comes across poorly on paper. But like I said, coming across like this is an unintentional consequence that the Abbott team just did not foresee.
It’s especially damning when it was less than a year ago that Abbott took to Twitter and had an open confessional about some of the very things that he’s speaking about here. Now, we’re not here to talk about the personal lives of musicians–or anyone for that matter. I will just say that it seems to be hypocritical and counterproductive.
Big picture wise, there’s a few things I’d like to bring up.
1) The rather blatant admission that it boils down to marketability and money.
Now I don’t think anyone has ever thought Abbott was trying to become the next Guy Clark. But, you’d think that still, there would be some musical integrity that went along with it. More than anything, it sounds mostly like “I write songs for girls because girls buy songs and drag their boyfriends to the shows and that’s the most profitable way to make it in the music and entertainment business.” Does that make Josh Abbott, the artist, any better than Luke Bryan, the artist? They’re both pandering towards an audience of teenage girls. Bryan at the moment is just doing it on a larger scale.
That’s generally what people outside the “Texas Country/Red Dirt” realm think of all “Texas Country/Red Dirt” music. The largest stars in a scene are who outsiders see and hear. This kind of thing doesn’t exactly paint the other bands in this area and scene as much different. Obviously, that’s not the case. That’s a legitimate problem.
2) Is the hand that feeds you too dumb and young to actually be offended?
To a certain degree, it’s admitting that they know their demographic so well, that they know they’re lifers. They just can’t help themselves to eat up Josh Abbott concerts, songs, and merchandise. I’m not saying that all Josh Abbott fans are dumb though. More so, they’re just teenagers who don’t know any better. I think it’s a valid question. Now, I’m not saying go out and boycott or to have a Josh Abbott album burning or anything like that at all. If you love Abbott’s music, that’s more than fine. It’s just that you may be considered to be more of a groupie than a fan. You may be considered more of a target audience than a person.
If [insert artist name here] said they wrote songs because they knew 20-something-year-old music writers just love them, I’m sure I’d still purchase and listen. I just may question why I do. Does that make the “art” cheapened and fake if they’re doing it to be marketable to a certain demographic or does that just make you a better businessman? I think the answer can be both actually. It’s obviously profitable. But it’s also obviously a gilded product.
It’s a stiff reminder that when it comes down to it, this is still a business based on selling more than the other guy (or girl) and by any means necessary.
I’m not sure how to even address this part, but I feel having some sort of disclaimer is needed or people will misinterpret or feel there’s some sort of bias.
I don’t have it out for Abbott or anything remotely close to that notion. I feel generally, he’s a good guy who loves music, Texas, Texas music, good times, and is a great supporter of the arts–even if his own art doesn’t necessarily embody that of the “Texas troubadour.” He’s been nothing but nice and supportive when it comes specifically to Lubbock music and New Slang. I want him to do good things–I’d say I want all musicians and bands to do good things. But that doesn’t mean I’m going out and putting on the new Josh Abbott album.
There’s nothing wrong with having a good time. There’s nothing wrong with being single, bars, alcohol, bad decisions, flings–what have you. That’s all fine. I guess the idealist in me just wants it to be genuine. I want the artistic aspects to be absolute without any compromises. For the sake of the song. That comes first. If being a “party guy” reflects that, it’s fine. But when it feels there are ulterior motives, it just bums me out. When the artistic value takes the back burner, it’s all just down hill from there.
Now obviously, that’s not practical by any means. I get that. Oh well.
As I mentioned, I feel as though Abbott, management, and Maxim thought this was going to be something light and fun. It was something that was supposed to be meant as tongue-and-cheek. But the fact remains that an article titled “Meet Josh Abbott, the Front Man with Ten Thousand Groupies” is a pretty cheap article premise. It’s flirts with being silly and ridiculous too. Let’s not pretend that Josh Abbott Band is Guns N’ Roses circa ’87.
There’s plenty of other musicians and artists who can speak to the excesses of life on the road and the life of a touring musician. The questions and answers specifically aren’t damning to Abbott. If you read them as individual responses in a series of random interviews, I feel he wouldn’t be getting nearly as much flack. But that’s not the case. It’s the gall and nerve of talking so openly about it. It’s not an isolated incident. There’s a history here and the context is needed.