It’s a classic Austin story. Every night, unsuspecting tourists stumble onto the Saxon Pub on North Lamar in the “Live Music Capitol of the World.” Some have heard about the venue’s reputation for showcasing the best local talent for almost three decades. Some are just thirsty. But any that come on a Monday night, maybe for the big weekly Bob Schneider show, will find themselves treated to one of the best up and coming singer-songwriters in town, Brian Pounds. “This is my favorite song I’ve ever written,” Brian says ruefully, leaning into the mic.
As the night progresses, you’ll hear that phrase several more times. It’s an inside joke. The truth is that any one of Brian’s songs could be his favorite, and yours too. Those outside the world of Austin songwriters may know of Brian from his appearance on Season 5 of NBC’s “The Voice,” where the young artist was handpicked by Blake Shelton. Brian’s voice is unmistakably strong; landing somewhere between the stylings of James Taylor and Chris Stapleton. It’s the kind of voice that gets strangers to perk up from behind their drinks at the bar. But his secret weapon is his songwriting. After the initial impact of hearing that voice for the first time, it starts to dawn on you that the songs themselves are really, really good.
That secret weapon may not stay so secret for long. In addition to being an official selection for the 2016 Dripping Springs Songwriter Festival, Brian was just named as a finalist for this year’s Kerrville New Folk contest, one of the longest-running and most prestigious songwriting contests in the world. Hundreds of songwriters from multiple continents submit their best work every year in the hopes of being chosen. Only a few join the ranks of Steve Earle, James McMurtry, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, and other storied songwriters. Brian’s being singled out is a clear hallmark of his future.
A new father and already an industry veteran, Brian is no stranger to the trials and tribulations of the life a touring songwriter. He’s spent years on the road, playing countless venues across the country, occasionally opening for the likes of Blake Shelton, Sam Hunt, Bob Schneider, Hayes Carll, and John Fullbright. With a debut release and EP already under his belt (2010’s “After You’re Gone” and 2014’s “Strikes and Gutters,” produced by Brian Douglas Phillips), Brian will soon be releasing a full-length album showcasing his depth as an artist.
Self-produced and tracked to tape in Nashville, the album is titled “Southern Writer” in honor of Brian’s Texas upbringing. Acoustic guitars and vocals are at the forefront on songs like “Odessa,” which tells of a complicated love affair with a West Texas town and “Death of Me,” a stark and unsuspecting gem, wrestling with coming of age and the loss of a close friend. The production of “Southern Writer” marks a musical as well as a geographic return to roots. Like a classic Ryan Adams or James Taylor record, the spotlight never veers away from the singer and the song. Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, fueled by scores of devout fans from Brian’s near decade of touring, and hard on the heels of this summer’s Kerrville New Folk graduating class, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
Photographer: Nicola Gell
Musician: Brian Pounds