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Anniversary in Austin

Published 10:03am Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Little Texas
Little Texas

Little Texas is bringing its tour celebrating the band’s 25 years to the Paramount Theatre

If Duane Propes has his way, the Paramount Theatre will be standing room only on April 26.

Little Texas is set to bring its blend of country rock to the Historic theater at 7:30 p.m. on the 26th as part of the tour to celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary.

Propes, the Little Texas bassist, promised the Paramount will be rocking, as Little Texas works hard to involve the audience with their live shows, noting they aim to give their audiences a good time so they come back again.

“If you’re going to call yourself a performer you damn well better perform,” he said.

The Nashville-based band formed in 1988 and rose to prominence in the 1990s with a multi-platinum album and six top 10 hits, like “My Love,” “God Blessed Texas” and “What Might Have Been.”

Those hits will be on display at the Paramount, as Propes promised the band’s biggest eight to 10 songs will be featured in the performance in some way, but he noted the group always works to change them slightly or add a little more punch.

A Little Texas show is not the place to sit down and listen quietly to the band. As Propes noted, Little Texas is nothing like a chamber orchestra or classical music.

“You’re not going get up off your but and be energized by that,” he said.

The goal is to send the audience home saying they had a good time.

“That’s really all that matters,” Propes said.

A little different

Even though the band will play songs from throughout its career, the group will adapt their songs to fit their newer style.

“They’re going to have a little more power behind them,” Propes said.

Little Texas is a different band than it was during its original run, but it still is made up of four of the original members.

After a hiatus from 1997 to 2004, the band came back, dropped the keyboards and decided to go with a more guitar-driven sound. The band now consists of Propes on bass, Porter Howell on lead vocals and lead guitar, Dwayne O’Brien on vocals and rhythm guitar and Del Gray on drums.

During the band’s time off, the Internet became more prominent. Many fans took to to online chat-rooms and started talking about how they’d like to see Little Texas get back together.

“We were reading all that,” Propes said.

That’s when the members decided to make a comeback.

“We finally realized we were stupid for stopping in the first place,” he said. The only thing that would be even stupider, Propes said, would be to not come back.

The return of Little Texas was not a return to status quo, as the band came back on its own terms.

The 1990s was a different time in music, and Propes said it was expected for a country band to feature keyboards. Propes said his inspiration doesn’t lie in the country music of the 1980s and 1990s, music he described as slick-sounding.

Even though the band is perhaps best known for the ballad “What Might Have Been,” Propes said he and early inceptions of the band were more inspired by southern rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd than classic country acts. Propes even remembers the first concert he attended was 38 Special with openers Iron Maiden in Louisiana.

Rather than listening to classic country, Propes grew up listening to what he calls the first arena country acts, like Alabama and Hank Williams Jr, and southern rock. Aside from those big acts, Propes said country music in the 1980s was often limited to roadhouses, small theaters, county fairs and other such venues.

For Propes, Little Texas returning to a more guitar-driven sound is a step back in that direction.

“You kind of go back to your roots, and you know that’s what’s working for you now,” he said.

And since the band’s initial run, the country music industry has grown dramatically.

 Little Texas today

Today, Little Texas isn’t driven by a big manager or a label executive; instead, they look out for their own best interest and hire key people to help when necessary.

“As far as the music goes, we just do what we want to,” Propes said.

The band recently released “Deep in the Heart” Vol. 1, a collection of five singles. When they’re ready, the band will release five more tracks as Vol. 2, according to Propes.

Eventually, the group will release a new album, but Propes said they’ll take their time, test out songs on audiences and release material when it’s ready. With no manager and studio, there’s no need to rush.

“We just kind of do what we know is right,” he said.

The band is enjoying its freedom on the new material. All the songs are about 3 minutes and 50 seconds or longer, which likely wouldn’t happen with studio backing. Propes said most studios want songs around 2 minutes and 30 seconds, so the songs are more radio-friendly.

Propes sees the changes as a good thing for the band, as the group’s early run was exhausting.

“I would call it a typhoon,” Propes said of the band’s initial run.

Early in their careers, the band performed as many as 300 shows a year, playing five to six days a week and traveling across the country.

“That’ll kill anybody,” he said.

During the peak years, Propes said he mainly lived out of hotels and kept most of his possessions in storage.

“It is a hard, hard road,” he said. “And it’s not glamorous at all. It’s hard work.”

Today, the band has a new motto: “We’re going to work smarter, not harder,” Propes said.

Little Texas now has the luxury of moving at its own pace. Concerts are mostly reserved to weekends, which helps the group stay fresh and upbeat, not to mention it keeps them from getting at each others’ throats, according to Propes.

The band members now all have families and children ranging from age 11 to their 20s, so the group isn’t able to commit to the rigorous touring schedule of the early days.

Coming to the Paramount

Propes said he and the band are excited to play a historic venue like the Paramount.

“We love playing those old theatres,” he said. “They were built to sound incredible, and you don’t run across that much anymore.”

Propes researched the Paramount and was impressed by what he saw.

“The architecture is amazing,” he said.

With many historic theaters struggling to survive, Propes urged people to get out and support venues like the Paramount.

“There’s so much history in these places,” he said. “It’s just special for us to be part of that history.”

Little Texas discography: 1992: “First Time for Everything” (Certified Gold) 1993: “Big Time” (Certified Double Platinum) 1994: “Kick a Little”(Certified Platinum) 1995: “Greatest Hits”(Certified Gold) 1997: “Little Texas” 2007: “Missing Years” 2007: “Live and Loud”


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