Even though he has moved back to Austin, it's nice when singer/songwriter Owen Temple finds his way back up to Madison. Folks here get a musical dose of real Texas personality and he gets to visit with friends he made while pursuing a master's degree in psychology at UW-Madison. He will be cutting loose with some Madison friends to bring the best of his catalog to the heart of Willy Street.
So get your boots on, Madison, let those spurs jingle jangle on down to the Crystal Corner Bar this Saturday night. Local act Earl Foss' Brown Derby will add icing to the cake as they rip through their own repertoire, inspired by the electric country sounds of Buck Owens, Ray Price, and "Shotgun Willie"-era Willie Nelson.
Temple, 30, recently won the 2007 B.W. Stevenson Songwriting Competition in Dallas and was a finalist on this year's New Folk stage at the Kerrville Folk Festival in the Hill Country of central Texas. He has been keeping busy with gigs several nights a week in the Lone Star State. "I'm doing it full-time right now," he says on the phone during the break at a Radney Foster gig he was attending. "I've got the grad work in my back pocket. It's one of those things where, when I'm 65 years old, I'd wonder 'What if I didn't just do it?'"
It's also partly "self-acceptance' Temple says. Knowing full well the challenges of booking gigs, traveling, loading and unloading gear, and writing good material, he acknowledges that he wouldn't really be happy doing much else. It's worth the multiple challenges, he notes, when the band hits the groove for that one night and everything just comes together.
Temple has embraced the digital age by releasing cuts from his new album Two Thousand Miles on Lone Star Tunes, the Texas version of iTunes. Fans promptly made him the number one downloaded artist there earlier this summer. Texas pedal-steel demigod Lloyd Maines produced the album, while musicians from the Dixie Chicks band and Asleep at the Wheel added guitar and drums, respectively. Other sounds include fiddle, bass, Hammond B3 organ, and harmony vocals from a variety of Austin standouts.
"I wrote most of those songs in the six months before the session," Temple explains. "They were all inspired by my time in Madison." "Can't Drink Enough to Sing" is about a would-be open-mic participant at the Harmony Bar, he says, who was trying to muster enough courage to get onstage but ended up just getting drunk. The title track, "Two Thousand Miles," is a road song about him and his wife renting a U-Haul and driving up from Texas with their then two-year-old son. "That was an adventure," he says.
"I love the fertile creative environment that is Madison," he continues. "There are a lot of people making music that I like in that area but would have never heard otherwise." He mentions regional standouts such as Peter Mulvey, Jeffrey Foucault, and Iowa's Greg Brown as examples.
Temple is staying busy around Austin, indeed. On Friday night he has a private party engagement and on Sunday he is one of seven songwriters to swap tunes for a golf-tournament fundraiser put on by his musical colleague Cory Morrow. His socializing in Madison may be limited to the Crystal Corner on Saturday night, meanwhile. "I'll have more time in October," he says, when another trip to town is scheduled for a Wild Hog in the Woods solo performance. Catch him while you can.