Perhaps the biggest way Texas has influenced Nashville recently, Liddell speculates, is that the time-honored Texas tradition of artists growing their fanbase show by show and city by city is gradually emerging as an alternative career-­development path to executives who previously tended to rely solely on the radio lottery. Radio remains crucial to any country artist's success, but Liddell points out that both the Randy Rogers Band and Eli Young Band landed their major-label deals after independent radio promoters broke them in cities like Denver and Kansas City.

"Somebody came to [the labels] in both Randy's case and Eli Young Band's with proof that this could possibly work," he says. "I still don't think you have anybody in Nashville running down to Texas trying to find the next Guy Clark. If somebody like Guy Clark came along, they'd probably have to make ten records and have a cool A&R guy somewhere go, 'God, I've always loved that guy. I want to sign him.'"

And, as uncomfortable as it may be to admit, some things will always be bigger than Texas. Especially in Nashville.


Hayes Carll performs, with Ray Wylie Hubbard, 8:30 p.m. Friday, August 8, at the Showgrounds at Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 N. Sam Houston Pkwy. West, 281-807-8700.

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"If somebody shows this town that they can make some money, then this town will run after them," Liddell says. "To me, these big companies basically carry around big cans of gasoline. They don't have any matches, but if they can find a spark somewhere, they've got all the gasoline in the world."

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