Bart Crow has traveled around Texas and beyond for nearly a decade, trying to make a name for himself on the state's club circuit. Over the summer, the hard-working musician grabbed significant attention at Texas radio with "Little Bit of Luck," an achievement that satisfied longtime fans who have largely discovered his music through live shows and word-of-mouth.
The up-tempo, flirtatious track comes from Crow's new album, Dandelion, his fifth career release. With a focus on Crow's smart songwriting and Justin Pollard's crisp production, the project should appeal to fans of mainstream country music with a hint of Texas honky-tonk.
Although he's based in Austin, Crow and his band play an average of 200 shows a year. Calling in from the road, he chats about the craft of songwriting, his social nature and his tiny hometown.
CMT: How did the song "A Little Bit of Luck" set the tone for this project?
Crow: I think "A Little Bit of Luck" is one of those songs that fires out of a gun, so to speak. It sets the mood like, "Whoa, we're playing now." Even down to the fact that it starts on the chorus, the song sets itself up pretty quick. And I think it's a good reflection of the record of being in your face, like, "Yeah, let's go."
You're playing a lot of clubs and bars with your band. As a songwriter, do you feel like fans are hearing what you're trying to convey in your songs?
I feel like the real fans do. I sometimes think I miss the group that comes to hang out and have a good time. It's not on purpose or anything, but I have tried to put forth some effort into writing intelligently. I struggle a little bit because the music I like to listen to is somewhat thought-provoking music ... and I'll think, "Oh, that was a cool line," or "Oh, man, I wish I came up with that." Instead of "Let's get drunk and party!" So I miss over on the party crowd by accident by being that way.
Do you keep it high-energy through your whole show? Or do you slow it down long enough to do some acoustic stuff?
We keep it going, keep it chugging, for a couple of hours. We really try to walk the line of being good entertainers as well as picking the right songs. We work hard, and we rehearse a bunch to be a good band, so I think if somebody comes out and hangs out at a show, we can offer that. ... I think you can come out for a good time, I think we perform well and we'll keep the energy up and make you feel like you got your money's worth.
Why was it important for you to develop your talent for songwriting?
I think it's from my love of writing songs -- the thrill and the fun of creativity. ... It's almost like an adrenaline rush to be creative and artistic. Then you step away from yourself and look at it, you think, "I'm playing music for a living. I'm writing songs. Wow, this is a pretty good deal I've got going." You just try to challenge yourself to be better.
And I'm a social butterfly. That's what I'm called by my friends. They always make fun of me, like, "We can't get anywhere with Bart over here, shaking hands and kissing babies." So I think, personally, I want everyone to like what I write and what I create. That is the goal. I think that's where wanting to be a good songwriter and a good performer comes out.
What is your hometown of Maypearl, Texas, like?
It's about the size of a dime. (laughs) Maypearl is home. Maypearl is everything. I do live in Austin, and I love, love, love, love, love Austin. But all of my family is in Maypearl. I lived there until I was 18, then I left and joined the Army. Then I was in Georgia for three years. And I went to college, met my wife and moved to Austin. We've been there since 2006, but my best buddies are back in Maypearl.
When you moved to Austin in 2006, was that when you started playing live?
No, I started around 2003 when I was in school at Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas. So by the time we moved to Austin, I had been playing about three years.
What were those early gigs like?
(laughs) We had a lot of honky-tonks and dive bars. We were not playing a lot of cool rooms. We were just playing anywhere and everywhere that would have us. Doing a lot of places where they'd move the tables so we could set up in the corner and do our four-hour set.
How important is the dedication and work ethic to reaching this point in your career?
I think it teaches a lot. You can't learn this stuff overnight. I'm sitting in a van right now, traveling between Las Cruces, N.M., and Midland, Texas, in no man's land. And I think that teaches you a lot. It teaches you appreciation and it teaches you drive. I don't want to be in a van. I'd rather be on a tour bus or something. But I'm the only person who's paying for everything, so it's just got to happen when it happens. God's got it all figured out, and I'll get there when I'm supposed to be there. ... We're still working, still trying to kick every door down we can. But we're out here slugging it in the trenches, and once we get there, we'll be so appreciative of it.