Well, here we go.
In a recent interview with The Boot, Granger Smith explained how he felt fortunate to cut his teeth in Texas. But he said something else that inspired a snarky response from fellow Texan Wade Bowen. And an impassioned reply from Smith’s drummer Dusty Saxton, who demanded Bowen apologize.
Here is what Smith said:
“I’m very, very, very blessed to have had the Texas music scene as a testing ground. I had singles — on-the-radio singles — I had a radio tour a couple times … [We] had been running in the minor leagues; that’s really what it is.”
He goes on to explain how he remembered playing to empty rooms and bartenders. And how two people coming up after the show made him ecstatic. And how he paid attention to those who weren’t paying attention to him, honing his show and songs to catch more ears.
But it appears Bowen was particularly irked by calling the Texas scene “the minor leagues.” He framed Smith’s quote and posted it on Instagram, captioning it with, “Love my life! Cheers to the minor leagues!!”
And suddenly, a flame war began.
Some fans supported Granger Smith as a relentlessly hard worker who deserves success, while others said he was insulting Texas country and throwing other artists under the bus.
In the middle of it all, Smith’s drummer Dusty Saxton offered his thoughts in a lengthy post uploaded to Twitter. And demanded Bowen apologize.
— Dusty Saxton (@dustysaxton) July 17, 2016
Titled “Why Wade Bowen Owes Every Texas Artist An Apology,” Saxton’s note says Bowen’s attitude towards others’ success is harmful. He draws a comparison between country and rock music, noting both have incredibly passionate fans. But, ultimately rock bands all know they are struggling to achieve a higher level.
In Texas country, however, fans have been known to turn on artists who achieve greater levels of success or a more commercial sound. Just ask Pat Green.
That makes Texas country artists sometimes hesitant to acknowledge the scene’s smaller footprint compared to national country. Calling it the minor leagues clearly didn’t sit well with Bowen.
Saxton says Bowen tried to make Granger and his crew feel guilty for their success. “He acted as if he doesn’t want any other artists or struggling bands to ever achieve their dreams or be more successful than him,” says Saxton. “He saw a chance to take a stab at a fellow artist in a way that took the artist out of context and he still did it. But worst of all, he tried to turn fans against any future Texas country bands who are ever able to break national attention…do you even realize what you just did to any Texas band who could be on the cusp of their first label deal?”
It’s a lot to chew on.
On the one hand, all Bowen did was send a little sarcastic middle finger to Smith, albeit with a nod and a smile. These guys all play with each other a lot. They know each other. It could just be playful ribbing
On the other, Saxton has a point. His note should really be directed at Texas country fans, though. The passionate group is known for alienating and rejecting bands that achieve national success, usually because they think their favorite artist is superior to any country music coming out of Nashville.
As an artist who operated out of Texas for a long time, trust me: the divide is much more real among fans and radio DJs than it is among bands and artists. If only Texas country fans knew how often their favorite artists were on planes up to Nashville to write, record and push their band and brand further into the limelight.
That’s their right, and their goal, and it would be irresponsible of them not to.
It’s important to remember that Bowen had a major label deal. It didn’t work out for him. But it’s never affected the quality of his music, which is consistently at the top of the heap. His best bud Randy Rogers was on a major label for 10 years.
So it’s easy to take “minor leagues” as an insult, especially to songwriters like Bowen. And if Granger Smith meant that the quality of songwriting coming out of Texas was less than that of Nashville, he’d be putting his foot in his mouth. In a lot of cases they are one in the same, and in many others it’s just simply not true.
But in terms of how the scenes actually operate as businesses, it’s very true. There’s a reason so many legendary Texas artists eventually move to Nashville and achieve broader success. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Radney Foster, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, Randy Travis — the list never ends. The business operates out of Nashville, and if an artist wants to go from clubs and dancehalls to 60-foot stages, they can’t stay solely in Texas.
But it still comes down to the fact that fans could perceive Smith as belittling their scene, and Bowen amplified that with his post. If all the social media comments are any indication, it’s a real mess.
Neither Smith nor Bowen has further addressed the situation, but here’s to hoping they come together for a bit more context and explanation for the fans. Or at least a fun new song.