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Catfish, whiskey & vinyl

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Posted: Friday, July 20, 2012 8:00 am

Halliburton combines out-on-the-porch sentimentality with a good ol’ boy sense of humor for latest CD effort

It must feel good to be able to reach a wide array of people by communicating through media of frequencies and art.

That’s how it feels to be Jeremy Halliburton, a singer/songwriter on the south Texas music scene. With the upcoming release of his second CD, “Good Vinyl,” Halliburton is poised for the future with an aura of anticipation that reflects the anticipative tension within the layers of the songs themselves.

“It was recorded at Play-Mor Studios in New Braunfels,” Halliburton says of his sophomore effort. “Cozily located in an RV behind Clear Springs Restaurant. Matthew Peter Briggs produced, engineered and mixed the album, as well as playing a majority of the instruments and providing the CD artwork.”

Halliburton says the recording process was a little more mellow and relaxed this time around.

“The recording itself was very laid back,” he says. “We took our time. It spanned the course of various days from January to May. Evenings were devoted to figuring out where we wanted the songs to go, and then we would spend the next day trying to bring them to life. Beer was consumed, catfish was eaten, life was discussed and trailers were moved around the RV park ... all part of the creative process.”

Halliburton says the most enjoyable aspect of making this album was the fact that friends and family were involved in the process – from the songwriting to the recording.

“Kari, my wife, and Emily, my daughter, sang on a couple of songs,” he says. “Having a female voice on this outing added a little different dimension. On the first record, we didn’t have that.

“Some of the songs on the album are ones that I’ve been carrying around in my ‘sack of songs’ for some time,” he adds. “However, a majority of them were either finished or written in their entirety after we began working on the record.”

A native of Gonzales and former KCTI deejay, Halliburton is no stranger to country music, and considers the genre the main ingredient in his musical gumbo. Armed with a knack for catchy songwriting as well as a peerless, anomalous wit, Halliburton picks up where his first CD, “Whiskey and Lies,” left off by combining an out-on-the-porch sentimentality with a good ol’ boy sense of humor, and yields a take on music that’s all his own.

“What first set me on the path was when my dad bought me a pellet gun in the third grade,” he remembers. “He handed me the gun and I was like, ‘Wonderful,’ because I had always wanted one. But when I went to grab it, he pulled it back and said I’d have to take guitar lessons first. So it started from there.”

But the mandatory tutelage, beneficial or not, proved to be quite boring for the 9-year-old.

“At first, I hated the lessons,” he winces. “My mother and I took lessons together, but I just couldn’t stand sitting through it. However, the experience laid out a foundation of sorts. But I play about as good now as I did then.”

Halliburton learned to play the tenor saxophone in junior high, but ultimately discontinued that in favor of strumming his acoustic guitar.

“The sax was good for learning to read music charts, clefs and keys,” he says. “But the acoustic was just more fun, hands down. On the guitar, I learned how to play all those basic open and barre chords that are used by so many songwriters. They are the essentials, and you can’t go wrong with them.”

By the time he got to high school (GHS Class of 1992), Halliburton was trying his hand at songwriting, an endeavor many musicians don’t have the talent or desire to even attempt.

“My early material wasn’t all that outstanding,” he says modestly. “But I stuck with it, and eventually the songs started getting better.”

While in college, Halliburton shared an apartment with a childhood friend who also played guitar, and learned an important lesson from that experience.

“He told me that somebody can strive to be a virtuoso on guitar, but if they can also bang out a few chords and sing songs around a campfire, then it becomes enjoyable for everybody. That’s when you’re entertaining an audience, and it becomes much more of a sharing thing. It’s more mutually rewarding.”

An anecdotal example of Halliburton’s early songwriting, recording and performing forays would be his prankish tendency to call his friends’ answering machines and croon and strum along to whatever lyrics struck his fancy at the time.

“This was before Caller I.D.,” he snickers. “Maybe subconsciously I was expecting my ‘audiences’ to hit star 69 and give me some kind of review. I don’t know. But maybe there are some of those early ‘demos’ circulating out there in bootleg fashion, generating some retroactive royalties.

“Since I had worked at KCTI during the ’90s, as well as KTXN much of the last decade, I spent a lot of time around recording artists and radio people,” he says. “I started seeing a good connection there with my songwriting habit.”

Where “Whiskey and Lies” was explorative of different varieties of music from doo-wop to bluegrass to gospel to honky-tonk, “Good Vinyl” conveys a more stripped-down, earthy personality. It is as much a paid homage to his influences as it is an example of his stick-to-itiveness.

“I listen to a lot of rock music, too,” he admits. “There are a lot of earthy, bluesy tones in the record’s production. But there are a lot of ’70s rock effects on the vocals, like reverb and sustain, which give the atmosphere a weird kind of counterbalance.”

Given the subject matter of some of the songs, one can only wonder what influenced Halliburton to pick up the pen and linguistically circumnavigate topics like alienation, love, despair, excessive inebriation and fences out in Greenwood Hills.

“I once read an interview with Billy Joe Shaver where he talked about his songs being little gifts from God,” he says. “I would agree with Billy Joe that they are little gifts. They just come to me, or they don’t come at all. I don’t ever really ‘work’ on a song. Some may be rooted in truth or some sort of half-truth, and some may be completely fictitious, but they’re all my little children ... some are just a little more well behaved than others.”

Halliburton recalls his tenure with KCTI as a deejay with a fondness akin to sitting on the porch at night with the grandparents.

“KCTI was my start,” he says. “It’s where I got my feet wet in radio. I learned a lot from Aaron Allan during my time at the station, not only about radio, but also about crafting a song. He once told me that one word can mean the difference between a song being good or being great. That’s something that will always stick with me.

“I don’t think most people realize how many amazing musicians came through the backdoor of the station to join me for my ‘Live at the Lonestar Lounge’ show,” he says. “That one aired every Wednesday night for quite a stretch of time ... Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Jack Ingram, Reckless Kelly, Bruce Robison, Kevin Fowler, The Derailers, Wayne Hancock, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Joe Ely, Chris Wall, Chip Taylor (of Wild Thing and Angel of the Morning fame), just to name a dozen. There were some truly magical evenings. I took the opportunity to soak it all in. It would come in handy down the road.”

In time, Halliburton decided to further his career in radio by venturing south. Specifically, Victoria.

“I left KCTI to head to KTXN in Victoria after a programming change was made,” he says. “They went to a more Tejano format for awhile, and my Spanish just was not good. So a door opened at the Victoria station, and I walked right in.

“I spent the last seven or eight years reunited with the late (deejay) Steve Coffman in Victoria,” he says. “Steve did more for Texas music than anyone else I know. RIP, brother.”

Saturday night, July 21, Halliburton & Co. will celebrate the forthcoming release of “Good Vinyl” at the second oldest dance hall in Texas – Schroeder Hall, sharing the bill will be his old friend, Jarrod Birmingham.

“I’ve decided to call our show on Saturday a CD ‘prerelease’ party,” he says. “It’s the only place to get the CD until it hits stores Tuesday, Aug. 7. This party will be a gift to all of our fans that have supported us over the years at Schroeder Hall. That’s also a way of saying I didn’t get the darn thing finished as soon as I was hoping for.”

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