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Tommy at South By Southwest

A Conversation with Tommy Womack (continued)

PM: You must be just back from South By Southwest. How did that go down there?

TW: It was awesome, Frank. I played four times. I wasn't in the actual festival, I was an outlaw. And I always have more fun at the outlaw showcases than whenever I'm in the real thing.

PM: Oh, absolutely.

TW: And I played four times. I made money.

PM: What?

TW: Yeah, yeah. That's rare--that's like a rule, you don't make money at South By Southwest. I made money. I made 485 bucks.

PM: That's funny. Where did you make money?

TW: Just selling merch.

PM: Wow!

TW: I had my duffel bag. I'd bring it on stage with me, and I'd say, "Please feel free, after the show, to visit the gift shop." And I'd hold up my duffel bag--

PM: [laughs]

TW: --and I'd zip up my guitar in its bag after my set and step off the front of the stage and start selling. And the first gig I did was Cafe Caffeine on Wednesday morning at 11:00. And I made 120 bucks before lunch.

PM: Wow.

TW: It was hilarious, it was so typically Austin. Everywhere I went, the PA wasn't set up when I got there.

PM: [laughs] And did you have to finish setting it up, or what?

TW: Well, at Cafe Caffeine, 11:00 became 11:15, became 11:30, and there were people gathered. And I thought at first, being used to being an unknown, that they were just gathered to be gathered. And a couple of them said, "Hey Tommy, when are you going to play?" And I had no idea who they were. And then I realized, they're here to see me.

PM: Wow. In Texas.

TW: And I got my guitar out in the parking lot and started playing. And I did like four or five songs au naturale, just buskin' without any electricity, and I was killin' 'em.

PM: [laughs]

TW: And then they got the PA together by four or five songs. And I did like three more from the stage, and just knocked 'em dead. And Clare, who's the owner of the coffee shop, was just really grateful for me carpe'n the diem and going ahead and starting playing instead of just petulantly waiting for the PA to get ready.

PM: Right.

TW: And every show I did after that was just as good. I played Mother Egan's Pub later that night, and did really well. And the next day was Jovita's, which was really, really good.

PM: That's a great little scene there at Jovita's.

Tommy at Jovita's

TW: Yeah. That was the Twangfest show. And they actually had a staff to sell merch at that one, so I really racked up. I hate to sound so mercenary about it, but it's a reality of the biz.

PM: It's about making a living, man.

TW: Yeah, it's about making a living. Then I got invited, after the Cafe Caffeine show, the bass player of Buttercup saw me at that show. And they're a great band from San Antonio. They invited me to be part of something at Hot Mama's Thursday night, so I wound up with a fourth show, and just had a ball. My rental vehicle was 330 bucks, I made 485 in merch. So I cleared the rental vehicle, and then some, was able to eat all the time. I went down there with, I think, 50 bucks in my pocket, saying to myself, "I'm going to live"--usually would take 100--"No, I'm going to try and make it on 50." And I wound up just doing so well business-wise that I was never hurting. And every show has been that way since the record come out. Something has happened with this record that's never happened with any records I've ever had. The buzz is good--I've never had a record touch this one.

PM: Well, records don't usually constitute something to actually talk about. But the spirit of this record is something that everybody is talking about.

TW: Uh-huh.

PM: I mean, since I started getting into it the last few days, I found myself in various conversations all over town--like, "Have you heard this record? That's really something, that guy came out and he said it!"

TW: That's intoxicating. I love hearing that.

PM: And everybody is going, "I know! He f****n' said it! I couldn't believe that!" And so to me, I wouldn't be surprised if various songwriters say, "Well, jeez, I ought to try and get real about some stuff like that in my life and see if I can write something true about what's happening with me instead of, 'Oh, everything is great, I'm doing demos.'"


PM: It's amazing. So this interview was a good idea of our mutual friend Vicki Lucero of Propaganda Media down there.

TW: God bless her, yeah.

PM: Which also led to the idea of asking you to play our Puremusic show Monday night, which I'm very excited about.

TW: I am, too. I'm really excited about that. [He was great, and we hope to bring video of that and a host of other shows to you shortly.]

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