If you stay in the game long enough – any game, really – you’re going to experience some ups and downs. Jason Boland & The Stragglers are no exception.
For the better part of two decades, the band has created a unique brand of country music. Hailing from Oklahoma but infused with plenty of Texas country, Boland and his bandmates have developed quite the following in and around the Houston area and have survived in an industry that often breaks bands under the weight of expectations, in-fighting and financial struggle.
Boland & The Stragglers play a show at the Garage Bar & Grill in Alvin on Friday night.
“Well, the key to success is to identify what you’re good at, and more importantly, what people want to hear,” Boland said during a recent phone call. “To take something common and make it extraordinary, or vice versa, that’s what we’re always trying to do.”
Boland and crew’s music is interesting in that a number of their tunes are fun, up-tempo country jams. Others, are slower and more introspective. As Boland’s publicity team accurately points out, some of his tunes are of the one-night-stand variety, others more in the vein of a long-time mate or lifelong companion.
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Hailing from Oklahoma (where the Red Dirt scene runs deep) but firmly entrenched as a Texas act (which, of course, has its own version of regional country) has benefited the band’s musical approach as well. They’re able to blend any number of styles into one unique brand of country music.
For Boland, the approach to songwriting is simple. Sometimes, he’s in the mood for fun. Other times, he’s more soulful.
“We really just live as we go, and with regard to music, we write about what we know or what we’re feeling at the time,” he said. “But, still, the concept of country music has always been about loss and redemption, so that certainly plays a role.”
And therein lies the title of Boland & The Stragglers’ new record, Hard Times are Relative, out May 18. After all, everyone goes through times of trial, some more severe than others. In the end, it’s a matter of having perspective and a greater appreciation for the day that lies in front of you.
And, of course, not taking yourself too seriously.
“You have to be where you are, keeping working at it and doing the best you can,” Boland said. “For a bunch of slackers like us, that’s not too difficult.”
Boland is being somewhat facetious when referencing he and his merry gang of musicians as “slackers.” In reality, the Stragglers are among the hardest working, DIY outfits in Texas. The band has never been on a major record label, and while Boland heard rumblings over the years that they were potentially being scouted by major labels, he jokes that he “probably would have screwed it up without ever knowing it.”
Certainly, there were times along the way when the thought of a major label deal would have been enticing. The money is good, the studio time ample and the marketing push – at least, back in the day – was full-throttle for major label country acts.
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Alas, those days are long gone. Major record labels have fallen by the wayside, and thanks to the Internet and social media, DIY types like the Stragglers have a voice and some reach. Hell, even a number of major, name-brand acts have ditched their former labels and either gone independent or joined up with smaller labels. Some have even started their own indie labels.
Turns out, all those years of wondering about the pros and cons of a major deal were moot. Boland & The Stragglers were making the right career move all along.
“Yeah, it’s crazy, because what you thought was a horrible setback back in the day ended up saving your career,” he said. “If we’d have signed a major deal, this band would have cratered long ago. You sign for a ton of money and they give you free artistic control, but then somebody smarter than you puts something in there that you didn’t read or wouldn’t have understood if you did, and they’ve got you for five records. Whatever else might have happened in our career, we were lucky enough not to have that happen to us. We’ve always been where we’ve needed to be, and that’s been good for both our sanity and overall health.”
The performance is scheduled for 7 p.m. at The Garage Band Bar and Grill, 1755 Hwy 35 North Bypass, Alvin. For information, call 281.824.4000.