“At the end of the day, you’re only going to be as successful as your fans want you to be,” Josh Abbott tells me over the phone one Wednesday in August. “The key to any sort of success we may have had at this juncture is all just attributed to the fans. There’s something that’s connected between the fans and myself, where they not only want listen to our music, but they want to wear our t-shirts and they want to tell their friends.”
And fans of Abbott and his eponymous band have been hard at work in the last year touting the group’s second album, She’s Like Texas. Thanks to grass-roots publicity and the band’s rabid fan base, the album hit No. 1 on the Texas Music chart and was named one of iTunes’ Best Country Albums of 2010, and their single “Oh, Tonight” featuring Kasey Musgraves hit No. 1 on the Texas Music chart and No. 4 on Billboard’s New & Active chart.
Still, Abbott is quite humble when asked how he feels about the album’s success. “Well, it’s nice that you say it was successful. That’s a term that’s very subjective,” he says. “It has been very successful for us and where we are, you know what I mean?”
Abbott’s proud of what he and the band have been able to do independently on their own label, but he’s not about to sit around and revel in the band’s success. He’s been busy writing and touring, and he quickly moves the interview along to what he’s doing now and what he’s doing next.
“[On She’s Like Texas] I thought that we did a good job of picking the right songs that told the story of a girl in Texas and the struggles of love,” says Abbott. “This next record that we’re working on has more of a cultural and geographical theme about the South. A lot of the songs focus on specific places or problems that are going on in Texas or other states.”
That theme comes through loud and clear on the band’s latest single, “My Texas,” which the band released in July. The song is a veritable checklist of things uniquely Texan, from eating kolaches at the Czech Stop in West, to hiking through Big Bend National Park, to fishing in Port Aransas. Abbott knew a song about things uniquely Texan needed the voice of Texas country music legend Pat Green, so Abbott called him up and asked him to do the song.
“[Green] didn’t even ask to listen to it,” says Abbott. “He said, ‘That sounds great, man. I’d love to do it.’”
The single is the first song released that will be on the band’s next album, and though it hasn’t been released—or even officially announced—Abbott already has a lot of material for the next album after that.
“I feel like I’ve already written 90 percent of the next record, one that we’ll probably release in 2013 or something,” he tells me of all the songs he wrote that for one reason or another didn’t fit with the theme of the band’s next album. “I just think it’s important that all the songs on an album are cohesive, they sound well together, they’re a project. It can’t just be 10 or 11 songs thrown on a CD. It can’t just be a bunch of songs that, yeah they’re good songs, but they don’t mesh, you know?”
In addition to writing and recording, the band has been diligently touring Texas, the States and beyond. The week before we spoke, Abbott and the band were performing and gaining new fans in France and Italy.
“It was a really neat experience to watch them line dance and clap along, even if they didn’t speak great English or understand what the song meant. You could tell that they were just listening to the instrumentation and watching how we handled ourselves on stage. It was just really cool to watch them dig it.”
By Andrew Miller