Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Q&A: Shakey Graves on new album Movie of the Week, storytelling through song

Courtesy of Sacks and Co. by Alden Bonecutter

When Shakey Graves (Alejandro Rose-Garcia) released his 2011 debut album, he catapulted into the folk rock conversation. Unveiling his latest album, Movie of the Week, the Austinite talked with The Daily Texan about new tracks, songwriting, artificial intelligence and Austin’s music scene. 

The Daily Texan: This album began as a movie soundtrack, but you ended up going in another direction. Explain the concept. 

Shakey Graves: I was at home (during the pandemic), readdressing the way I make music and working on a soundtrack for a friend’s movie. I got into songs about what different characters were feeling on screen and applied myself to that. I’ve always stayed on the storytelling side, as opposed to being super duper confessional where I’m like, “Let me tell you if I’m heartbroken or feeling like a shithead.” No matter how much I didn’t feel like I was writing about my life, I found myself in these moments. 

DT: What makes this album different? 

SG: It’s more confessional. (The band) made the music together in one fell swoop instead of coming in with songs. Then, I decoded it and wrote lyrics, and spent more time with the music and what I wanted to say with it. … I was feeling exhausted by the world, and Texas itself. As much as I’d love to keep my head down, it’s been ugly. The lyrics are about me struggling through continuous blows I felt friends go through, and people I didn’t even know — through George Floyd and the abortion ban. 

DT: How do you walk the line of choosing when to stand up or deciding you aren’t going to walk that line at all?

SG: The only reason people assume I don’t write about hot topics is because they see a photo of me wearing a cowboy hat and hear one song. I’m always blown away that people assume musicians shouldn’t talk about politics — that’s what it’s always been. If you write, it’s usually to explore dark corners. I’m not the bravest person, but I always choose to stand my ground. 

DT: You’re working on creating a personalized experience for listeners with alternate arrangements from recording sessions. What will this look like? 

SG: This is a breathing project. … I came up with 150 album titles and parameters and used AI to generate more. There’s 1,000 titles and 400-plus album covers. Chat-GPT will take “horror” (or any theme) and give you a movie synopsis and randomly make a soundtrack. … The album is our director’s cut. I loved what we made so much that I wanted to find a way to put it out. You could wake up every day for a month, and make yourself an album, and it would never be in the same order. 

DT:  You’ve played everywhere, but what feels different about stepping onto an Austin stage? 

SG: I always want to have an impactful show here. Playing at Waterloo Records (Sept. 15) means the most. In high school, I would go there all the time. It’s going to be amazing to connect with fans who care. It’s a relationship I don’t take for granted. 

DT: Austin’s music scene earns global recognition; what’s it like on the ground? 

SG: We have a good music community, but it sometimes feels like a talking point. …  I hope we’re not becoming an incubator where you can learn, but to be successful, you have to leave. There’s got to be another way. I make my living outside of Austin, so I don’t play here that much, which just ain’t right. If you love bands, go see them and pay them as much as you can. 

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About the Contributor
Logan Dubel, Senior Life & Arts Reporter
Logan is a journalism freshman serving as a senior life and arts reporter. He joined the Texan in Fall 2022 as a general life and arts reporter and comes to UT from Reisterstown, Maryland. While not writing his latest feature, he loves collecting vinyl, going to concerts and being Stevie Nicks' biggest fan.