Talk Music: How Jarrod Birmingham went from rodeo to music

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

June 12, 2013 at 1:12 a.m.

Jarrod Birmingham

Jarrod Birmingham

With a childhood spent around his grandfather's fiddle, it was only a matter of time before Jarrod Birmingham traded the rodeo arena for the musical arena.

Now, back home in Victoria from a hectic tour stop in Nebraska that included a trip to the hospital for a bandmate, Birmingham caught up with Get Out to talk about his heroes, the music he makes and the rodeo lifestyle he left behind to do it all.

How'd you get your start?

What it was ... I was rodeoing at the time and I had a number of injuries - five pretty complicated, major injuries in a five-year span - so I had taken some time off. A bunch of friends of mine, we used to sit out in a barn and play music. I started writing because I wanted to play music that I liked. It was one of those things. I think it's one of those things where I never intended it to happen, but it did, and I'm thankful.

Now, I play music on every continent except Antarctica.

What impact do you want to have on the Victoria music scene?

That question might be better answered by somebody who could say I influenced them. That's how it happened with me. If there's a younger kid out there thinking they want to play music for a living, and they think if he can do it, I can do it.

What's on your radar?

I always want to put albums out. That's a little bit bigger of a task for me, putting out albums. I like to play more than I like going into the studio to reproduce something. I've done three albums this year with other people, helping produce them. I don't mind the creativity part, I'm more of a live-playing musician than a recording musician.

I just got into writing music for television, I wrote some music for a show on NBC Sports called "WildLifers." That has started to influence me doing TV and movies and other projects. That's another aspect that came to me that I don't have to travel and do.

Are you looking for less traveling opportunities?

This morning, I got in from Nebraska back to Victoria about 6 o'clock. I love to play, but there comes a time when the travel part wears on you.

I love to play music; I just hate getting there these days. That's why this weekend is going to be so cool, I don't have far to go. I can sleep in my bed when it's all said and done and see familiar faces at Schroeder Hall.

Schroeder was the first place I played in front of people. It was in 2000.

Are there any similarities between bull riding and playing music?

Only the travel.

People always try to draw similarities - the adrenaline rush and you know. I don't know if I get that. But with both of them, you travel. Neither of them are for-sure businesses.

I always liked the rodeo community. It's pretty tight-knit, and music is pretty cutthroat. I have great friends in music, but you also create great enemies.

You've mentioned your "true grit" lifestyle in previous interviews. What did you mean?

I think probably other people have said that. I'm not one to brag on myself. I think what they meant was I have plates in my face and pins in my knees and my shoulders. People see that as rough and tumble. I write more from a rougher - I don't know if it's rougher - but a less sugar-coated way of playing music.

Consider yourself to be like Waylon Jennings?

People in the industry and others say that. I would never compare myself to Waylon Jennings. I think everybody's got to carve their own footprints. You can't be the first next person to walk on the moon. Waylon was that style.

If you're a music lover, you ought to see your influences when you write, sing or play. If they really influenced you, people ought to be able to pick that up.

There are people who try to say they're influenced by something, but you can't tell.

It's no different than you are what you eat. You are what you ingest musically.

And you've played with some of your greats. What was that like?

I'd met Merle Haggard before we played at Schroeder. He invited me on the bus with him, and we had a very nice conversation, and he told me that he thought that I was the real deal. That's pretty priceless.

I've been very fortunate. I got to record with Waylon Jennings' band after Waylon died. They saw something in me.

I got to meet Hank Williams Jr. and got his approval and Billy Joe Shaver. Every person that I've really looked forward to who was still alive - I've gotten a chance to meet them.

If people ever ask me what my success was in music, I've played all over the world, in front of 200,000 people in Europe and in front of five people before. To me, I've made a lot of money, and I've lost a money, but the success comes from getting to meet my heroes and have them tell me, 'You're really something.'

Is there anything one of your heroes has said that stuck with you?

David Allan Coe. I did a lot of shows with him.

There was a time I complained about commercial success - what I felt I had never had and commercial success that I wanted.

He changed the whole thing for me. He said, 'You just got back from recording an album with Waylon Jennings' band, you can sell crack and make money, but you can't sell crack and gain the admiration of your heroes.

You can do anything in the world to make money, but you have to do something right to gain the admiration of your peers and heroes.'

For that moment, I said, 'Wow, he's right.' You've got to focus your evaluation of what success is.



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