Rocks Off hadn't thought much about Sundance Head since his 13th-place American Idol finish in 2007 and the momentary ballyhoo that followed.
Head, the son of legendary Houston blue-eyed soul man Roy Head, remains the only artist who didn't finish in the Top 5 on Idol to sign a major-label deal. But the deal with Universal Motown turned into a frustrating experience for the 32-year old Porter resident who released his first album, 2016 and Gruene, last week. We caught up with him at his job as an expediter for a local oil company.
Rocks Off: We seemed to have lost track of you not long after American Idol and your signing with Universal Motown. What happened there?
Sundance Head: It just didn't work. I signed under the impression that I would be doing an album of originals, but that's not what happened.
RO: What was the problem?
SH: They put me with Peter Collins as producer, and that was thrilling. He's produced all kinds of people -- Rush, Queensryche, Tracy Chapman, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper -- so I thought something big could really happen. But as soon as we got in the studio, it all went south fast.
RO: What went wrong?
SH: I really was expecting to do an album of my originals, but from the minute he walked in it became clear they wanted me to sing their catalog. He said something like 'we're going to be doing the Motown classics.' And my heart just sank.
There was also talk of me doing a duets album of covers. Anyway, it wasn't long before they could tell my heart wasn't in the project. We cut the album, but they've never released it.
RO: So what did you do?
SH: I asked to be let out of my contract, but they wouldn't release me. Then I tried to buy out my contract, but they said no.
RO: Why do you think they wouldn't let you out of the deal, especially if it wasn't working between you and them?
SH: I honestly don't know. Maybe they didn't want another label to sign me. Maybe if I'd gone somewhere else and made a hit record they would've looked bad for letting me go. Whatever it was, we finally got to a place where they weren't returning my phone calls.
They just stuck me on a shelf and forgot about me. It was very frustrating, and I ended up wasting several years. And they owned the rights to my name and my image, so I wasn't able to play gigs on my own, couldn't do anything really. So it was a very frustrating period for me.
RO: Your father told us you played all the instruments and basically did everything on your new album.
SH [laughs]: Well, that's not exactly true. I just didn't have a band when I started recording. I didn't really even know how to put a band together. I had a lot of douchebags who would tell me they wanted to play with me, but I think it was just because I'd been on American Idol and had gotten a little press, you know.
But the way I did the album, I would put away a little money every month from my job, and I'd just go in the studio one or two days a month, whatever I could pay for. I tried to do one song every day I was in the studio. So in the beginning I was by myself and did everything on the first five tracks I recorded. But then I got a little band together and those guys were in on the rest of the tracks.
RO: What does the future hold for you now that the album is out?
SH: I've got a great job situation, the people I work for are real supportive of me, so the plan is just to play all the gigs we can. Our sound fits in with the whole range of Texas and Red Dirt music, I think, and my goal is to try to get recognized as one of the better acts on that circuit.
I'd like to think if we hustle and stay busy I can make that happen in the next year or two.
Sundance Head performs tonight at the Hideaway on Dunvale, 3122 Dunvale, 713-977-3515.
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