The musicians next door

If Burleson Heights and Burleson-Parker have a harmonious vibe, it’s bound to be because there are so many musicians living here. Meet just a few of the artists who call our Southeast Austin neighborhood home: Musicians Maurine McLean, Lisa Rogers, Chris Cann and Elena Antinelli and photographer Mathew Sturtevant.

And stay tuned: Just in time for South by Southwest, the Hurly-Burly will present South by Southeast, a list of live music venues in and around our 78741 neighborhood.

THE THERAPY SISTERS

Maurine McLean and Lisa Rogers perform as the Therapy Sisters and Las Gabacha-chas.

Maurine McLean and Lisa Rogers perform as the Therapy Sisters and Las Gabacha-chas.

Maurine McLean and Lisa Rogers have been entertaining Austinites with witty folkabilly since 1987, first as the Therapy Sisters and later en Español as Las Gabacha-chas.

You’ve probably seen them onstage or heard them on National Public Radio, but if you spend any time in Burleson Heights, you’ve also crossed paths with them on a walk through the neighborhood or along the Country Club Creek greenbelt. Homeowners here since 1995, they say they were drawn to the neighborhood’s personality and natural beauty.

“I love the old trees, the dedicated dog walkers, and the fact that each house looks different,” says Maurine, who translates medical documents into Spanish when she isn’t songwriting or strapping on an electric bass or a fretless bass ukulele. “I play deep notes to balance my shallow thoughts,” she jokes, adding that her musical influences include 1960s TV theme songs.

Fellow vocalist Lisa plays guitar, ukulele and bass, and once ran for president against George W. Bush: “I thought putting a Texas Folksinger in the White House would offer a corrective political experience to the world.”

Around the world, Austin is synonymous with music. What does being an Austin musician mean to you?
Lisa:
It’s a little like living in Mecca. I’m delighted that it’s a crossroads for so many great musicians.
Maurine: It’s being in the right place at the right time. We have as much music as NYC, but we also have parking!

What do you like about Austin audiences?
Lisa:
Folks still appreciate the closeness, intimacy, and the fact that they can pretty easily hear good music or poetry any night of the week.  Also, they tend to be literate enough to appreciate lyrics.  One of the best things about Austin audiences is that you’re apt to be playing for great musicians who can join you onstage.
Maurine:  I like the fact that they become our friends. It’s an honor to hear about how a song has resonated with someone or made them laugh.

What’s your favorite place in Austin to perform or to go hear music?
Both:
Patsy’s Café, Cactus Café, New World Deli, house concerts and farmers markets.
Maurine: We could use more coffeehouses offering music.
Lisa: I love playing coffeehouses. Audiences are sober enough to get the jokes.

Do you have a favorite hangout in Southeast Austin?
Lisa:
Patsy’s and our house.
Maurine: I have my eye out for new places on the East side. East Riverside has the Buzz Mill coffeehouse, and East Cesar Chavez has several new restaurants that may begin to offer live music.

What will you be doing for South by Southwest?
Maurine:
The Therapy Sisters will play at the event called South by North Lamar at BookWoman on Saturday, March 16.

The Therapy Sisters perform every fourth Friday of the month at Patsy’s Café. They also have an upcoming house concert in Burleson Heights in late April, where they’ll play nothing but dog songs. Find out more from their Therapy Sisters and Las Gabacha-chas Facebook pages.

 

CHRIS CANN

Chris Cann has opened for the Pretenders and toured with Journey and Peter Frampton.

Singer Chris Cann has opened for the Pretenders and toured with Journey and Peter Frampton.

There’s really no place rock singer and songwriter Chris Cann would rather be than Austin.

“Austin is that perfect combination of weather and food and affordability,” says Chris. “There’s kind of an attitude. When I moved here from San Antonio, it just felt right.”

The musician slipped into the lifestyle easily back in 1990, and within 11 years released the album “Are You With Me?” on Arista Records with his band, Color. Soon they were opening for the Pretenders and touring with Journey and Peter Frampton.

“That was a fun, three-year paid vacation,” he says.

Chris went on to make some independent recordings, including “Crank It Up,” which has been featured on college football on ESPN, and to write the soundtrack for the 2009 movie “American Cowslip,” starring Cloris Leachman, Val Kilmer, Rip Torn, Peter Falk and Bruce Dern.

These days he’s focused on songwriting, which he does in the quiet of a vintage Airstream trailer at his house in Burleson Heights.

“My friend Olivier and I were going to sell it in France, where people love to take Airstreams on long vacations,” Chris says. “But I fell in love with it. I’m never getting rid of it.”

The trailer has a view of ¾ acre of woods around his house and another large lot belonging to the pastor across the street, something that makes Chris feel lucky for finding his home back in 1996.

“We stumbled upon this the day they put up the sign,” he says. “After looking for a few weeks around town, it was an amazing find.”

He says the house he shares with his wife, Georgia, feels like it’s in a park or out in the country, but he loves that he’s so close to the Riverside Corridor, a thriving district that’s undergoing a transformation.

“I can’t wait until Riverside gets developed and beautified,” he says. “I love the idea of moving businesses closer to the street. Someday it will be almost like the Triangle. I hope it happens sooner rather than later.”

What does being an Austin musician mean to you?
I’m proud to be able to call this home. There’s never a shortage of places to play, and there are always people to collaborate with. It’s an inspiring place to live.

What’s different about Austin audiences?
There’s an appreciative community of people who share the same passion for music, and you can feel that at live shows. They have a diverse palate, and with so many choices in town, they’re well-fed on a musical diet.

Where’s your favorite place in Austin to perform? To go hear music?
Now I like ACL Live at the Moody Theater, and the Continental Club is classic. I used to love the Backyard, before it was swallowed up by a mall.

Do you have a hangout in Southeast Austin?
I like Justine’s, over in the Springdale area just across the river. It’s a great French restaurant that sometimes has live music. It’s got a really cool vibe.

What will you be doing for SXSW?
I’ll be working a lot, tending bar and taking tourists’ money. And there’s a lot of it this week.

Chris Cann writes music, finds housing for visiting artists and tends bar at the Jackalope.  

 

ELENA ANTINELLI

Elena Antinelli sings with the Papermoon Shiners.

Elena Antinelli sings with the Paper Moon Shiners.

Texas Hill Country native Elena Antinelli has called Austin home since high school, but she didn’t move into the music scene until recently.

“I had no inclination that I could sing,” says Elena. “I didn’t start this musical endeavor until my 40s. My boyfriend and bandmate, Frank Meyer, literally pulled my voice out of me until I believed that folks liked what they were hearing. I’m a poster child for others who have talents, no matter what age, that lie waiting until you go looking for them.”

She had already been living in Burleson Heights for a couple of years after getting a film degree in Chicago when she embarked on her musical career, and she now sings songs from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s with the Paper Moon Shiners. The band is also recording some vintage-inspired originals for their first full-length CD, which they hope to release before they perform to their largest audience yet at the Kerrville Folk Festival this spring.

When she gets back from Kerrville, she’ll come home to fresh eggs from her backyard chickens and sweeping views from her hilltop home in Burleson Heights. The neighborhood is like the intimate music venues she says she prefers – removed from the crowds but still part of a thriving community.

“I love being so close to South Congress Avenue and downtown, but without the hubbub of traffic and so many folks,” says Elena. “Burleson Heights isn’t a cookie-cutter neighborhood, and it’s situated just right due to its proximity to businesses and the hills. I love to see deer in my front yard and watch storms from my front porch.”

What does being an Austin musician mean to you?
Austin musicians have the most community-oriented lifestyle I have ever been exposed to. It’s not a world of competitiveness but of compassion for and from those who have chosen a creative outlet that doesn’t always pay the bills.

Times are exciting for us. We love seeing folks beaming when they approach us after a show. We laugh a lot and don’t take ourselves too seriously, and try and wrap a warm blanket around our audience for the transitory time we have them.

What do you like about Austin audiences?
Intimate venues in unlikely spots and attentive audiences make a space become timeless. There really is no music community without the music lovers and supporters. I feel that with every new fan, I gain a friend and family member who joins me on this ride of discovery of self, bearing witness to my unfolding as I grow. Why not rediscover ourselves with every decade?

What’s your favorite place in Austin to perform or to go hear music?
My favorite spots so far are the Elephant Room and Flipnotics. We stay pretty close to our South Austin area, and Whip In is just a jaunt over the freeway.

Do you have a favorite hangout in Southeast Austin?
Patsy’s Café has great music from time to time.

What will you be doing for South by Southwest?
We have three showcases: 10 p.m. Wednesday at Whip In, 6:40 p.m. Thursday at Central Market Westgate, and 5:45 p.m. Saturday at Flipnotics.

Elena Antinelli performs with the Paper Moon Shiners in South Austin, Houston and beyond. Keep up with the band’s schedule on Facebook and at ReverbNation.

MATHEW STURTEVANT

Photographer Mathew Sturtevant's book, "The Sound of Austin," features portraits and interviews with 100 Austin musicians.

Photographer Mathew Sturtevant, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Men’s Journal and Fortune magazine, has a new book of portraits of 100 Austin musicians.

For a music lover in high school in the mid-1980s, there were few places better than Austin. Just ask Mathew Sturtevant.

“I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan on Auditorium Shores in 1985. Then I saw Darden Smith at the Cactus Café in 1989, and I thought this intimate music thing is like nothing else.”

Mathew went on to spend his days behind the camera and his nights in front of the stage at the Continental Club and other favorite venues around town. Almost 30 years later, he has blended his love of photography and music in his book, “The Sound of Austin,” a collection of 100 portraits and interviews with some of the city’s most iconic performers.

So how does a photographer get an in with Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Marcia Ball, Eliza Gilkyson and other Austin stars and up-and-comers?

“You get used to hearing ‘no’ a lot,” says Mathew, who collaborated on the book with his wife, Jeannette Heindel. “I just kept e-mailing them, their managers, their friends. Our kitchen became a war room.”

Word spread among musicians, many of whom are his friends. And his respect for music and style as a portrait photographer won the trust of musicians like Junior Brown, who posed for Mathew after turning down legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz.

What’s striking is the intimacy of his portraits, which were taken at artists’ homes and studios and Austin’s out-of-the-way places. Musicians are great collaborators, Mathew says, and weren’t afraid to try something different. Ephraim Owens, of Mumford & Sons, posed at the underpass of Burleson Road and Ben White Boulevard that neighbors will recognize as the concrete gateway to the south.

“Every photographer in Austin shoots music. I’m competing with everybody who has $400 and a Facebook page,” he says. “But I don’t do concert shots. That’s like shooting animals in the zoo.”

Published in 2012, the book is in the rooms at the Four Seasons Hotel, the Hotel San José and Hotel Saint Cecilia, and Mathew sells copies to music fans around the world from his website and in 30 local stores.

Making a living as an artist, he’s sympathetic to the performers who bring billions to the economy in the Live Music Capital of the World, but struggle to pay the rent. He’s donating 10 percent of the book’s proceeds to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.

Giving artists an affordable place to live is one of the things he likes most about the Burleson-Parker neighborhood, where he’s lived since 1991 and where he’s active in improving nearby Mabel Davis Park.

It was on a shoot for the book that he found out that musicians Rosie Flores and Patricia Vonne live right around the corner, and there will soon be more nearby with the number of music venues in Southeast Austin on the rise.

“I think it’s great,” he says of Antone’s and other clubs moving in. “Heck, I can ride my bike there. It’s good for our area. And it’s inevitable. We’re the last affordable neighborhood.”

What does it mean to be an artist in Austin?
As I say in the book, I’m inspired by Austin’s musicians and try to make photographs rather than take photographs.

What’s your favorite place in Austin to go hear music?
The Continental Club.

Do you have a hangout in Southeast Austin?
My wife and I are at Hai Ky constantly, and Curra’s Grill is just across the freeway.

Where will you be for SXSW?
The Continental Club and Jo’s Coffee on South Congress.

What’s next for you?
I’m getting portraits of more musicians for the second edition of the “The Sound of Austin.” I’m also starting on a travel adventure book. Motorcycling is one of the ways I test my fears of remote places, the “what-ifs” in life, and I’ll document my trip as I ride off-road for three weeks from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Mathew Sturtevant’s musician portraits are on exhibit at the Continental Club Gallery in March and on permanent exhibit at the Wyndham Garden Austin hotel. Meet the photographer at a gallery opening at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Continental  gallery, and look for his book, “The Sound of Austin,” in local stores, on his website and on Facebook.

 

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About burlyheights

C. Forrest is a longtime resident of Burleson Heights.
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