Musician John Gaar has all the elements of a great rock guitarist, and possesses them well. As his bio states, he’s played funky zydeco in his native Louisiana, and smoking country blues rock in his adopted hometown of Austin, Texas.
Gaar and his buddies exude their love for Austin and Texas in Gaar’s new music video for his single “Roll Like That,” featuring two legendary Texan locations; Riley’s, which was the first bar in Texas to sell alcohol after the repeal of prohibition, and at Saxon Pub in South Austin, which is a thirty-year-old club.
Gaar chatted with us about his love for all things Austin, and what makes it a great place, his earliest memories of playing guitar and how where he grew up and currently lives shaped his musical outlook, and much more. Read on to discover more about this talented guitar player and musician:
What led you to your adopted hometown of Austin, Texas, inherently known for its rich music and arts history?
John Gaar: Being from Louisiana, Austin was always a touring destination for a couple of groups I toured with, and bands from Austin played my hometown and they were always great players. I simply fell in love with Austin as a city as it always felt so comfortable and funky. Austin was ground zero for blues and rockabilly music when I was touring through it. I moved out to the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1980’s; worked and toured from there until 2002 until we decided to move to Austin – in a way “going home.” I wouldn’t live anywhere else!
What’s your earliest memory of playing guitar, and what drew you to perform and sing in front of others?
John: I grew up on a farm in the country in Central Louisiana, literally on a bayou. I loved it, even though it was miles from a big city or town. My older brother Burton was a professional musician, but when I was 10 or 11 years old my neighbor that lived about a quarter mile down the road was in a band, and they would get together on weekends and jam. When I first heard them, I jumped on my bike and rode over there. Their band was set up on their patio and rockin’ out on the Allman Bros One Way Out! That was the first spark that set fire to my burning interest in music. I picked up a funky acoustic guitar one of my other brothers owned and my journey began. My first gig was at a church. And that set everything in motion. I was 13 years old!
What are your earliest memories of music growing up in Louisiana? Relating to that, how do you feel each state (including Texas) has influenced you musically in different ways?
John: Radio was huge in my life. It was my connection to the world. I also have early memories of a local country and western music show that aired locally/weekly. The band leader/singer and his band played all original songs and wore Nudie Suits, sweet! The bandleader also owned a Mobile Home Company that was the sole advertiser for his show. So he played and sang AND sold mobile homes, crazy!
My geographical location had everything to do with my musical development. Louisiana’s cultural styles and taste – which are many – was an amazing environment to grow up in. Texas also is a cultural smorgasbord. So just between those two places, there was diversity unlike anywhere else.
I love that your new single and music video for “Roll Like That,” is shot in two infamous Texan bars. Can you share with us why you decided to feature these places in your music video?
John: We decided to use both Riley’s Tavern in Hunter, TX and The Saxon Pub in Austin for aesthetics and convenience. Joel Hoffman, owner of Riley’s Tavern contacted us while we were searching for locations and offered his late 50’s model Oldsmobile Station Wagon that had been totally restored – the type of car we really wanted for the video – and the locations on his properties were all connected to Riley’s Tavern which made it easy for us to get all of our exterior shots done in one area and in one day.
Then, The Saxon Pub, because it’s where I’ve had the privilege of playing a weekly residency gig there for over 7 years. They have great lights, sound, and play back capabilities too. We were also able to invite lots of folks to join us for the filming. So all in all a win-win on both accounts and both with lots of back-stories and history, and great people willing to help us out!
Speaking of your music video, what was the vision behind it, and what was it like working with Robby Stevens and Lucas Hathaway?
John: Robby Stevens and Lucas Hathaway are two of the most talented young directors making their mark in the business! I met them on set in Nashville shooting a product placement video of my song “Memphis” at Omni Sound Studios in March of this year for Warm Audio. Warm makes studio microphones and pre-amps. After shooting the video, I knew I had to have their talents shooting my first video from my new record release. I gave them the freedom to come up with their vision of how they interpreted the song. So with these directors on board, a video producer with vision, and contacts within the great actors community in Austin, we were off and running!
Who would you most like to collaborate with guitar-wise and/or musically overall in the industry?
John: Wow, that’s a great question! There are a couple of cats. I would love to play and sing with Louisiana native singer-songwriter Marc Broussard, keyboard vocalist Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles, and Derek Trucks – those guys would all be a blast to work with!