Featured Music: Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Ready for their hillbilly heartthrob close-up? Hardly. The Stephen Pointer Band is all bid’ness.
The Stephen Pointer Band
Thu with Steve Tenpenny at the White Elephant Saloon, 106 E Exchange Av, FW. 817-624-9712.
Life of the Party

From heel-kicking to contemplative, countrified singer-songwriter Stephen Pointer meets change head-on.


Though he’s been singing, playing the guitar, and writing songs for more than a dozen years, Stephen Pointer admits it’s only been since 2003 that he’s worked as a serious musician — that is, toward the goal of doing this thing full-time, wherever it takes him. The Fort Worth native and self-described “Texas country artist” is aware of the irony that he decided to go professional — in his own mind, anyway — in the midst of regular gigs on the TCU fraternity circuit.

“It can get annoying, but mostly it’s fun,” the 25-year-old said of gigs like 2004’s homecoming parade. “They don’t want to hear your artistic side, that’s for sure. Mostly, they want covers — familiar tunes so the frat guys can get drunk and try to pick up the sorority girls. They ask for Lynyrd Skynyrd and AC/DC. I do ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,’ but I drop it an octave and give it a country twist.”

Pointer himself is a TCU graduate; he earned his degree in criminal justice last year. (“Honestly, I never had any ambitions to be a cop or a lawyer or anything,” he said. “I just picked the major that interested me most.”) But somewhere amid the classic rock chords and puddles of stale brew, he felt he’d hit his stride with his own material, which is a fairly traditional mix of love songs and loser-crying-in-his-beer tunes. Though he’s already released a couple of e.p.’s that he’s not particularly proud of, The Stephen Pointer Band is currently mixing its debut album, Sixes and Sevens, produced by First Street Audio’s Bart Rose, with an eye toward a Jan. 19 release show at Billy Bob’s Texas.

Though an upstart, Pointer has already applied for citizenship in what he calls “The Texas Country Nation,” a self-supporting scene of regional stars that includes idols like Pat Green, Reckless Kelly (by far his favorite band at the moment), and Stony LaRue, whose voice astounds him. Pointer got his precocity through many, many hours logged as a guitarist in mess-around bands since he was in junior high school, where he once performed at a school dance with his buddies. That show was so out-of-tune and arrhythmic, “it was more like a train wreck, but we were having so much fun we didn’t care.”

Pointer considers himself a songwriter first, and the artist who taught him the fruits of verse-chorus-bridge discipline lives more than a few miles from the Fort. The Australian folk-country musician Kasey Chambers — especially on her 2000 album The Captain — offered a vivid, energizing model for helping him come into his own as a composer. Right now, Pointer calls Ryan Adams “the best songwriter in the business,” in large part because of the sheer variety of melodies in Adams’ repertoire. Pointer freely concedes that one of the shortcomings of his beloved Texas country music is the claustrophobic sameness in much of the material. He’s determined to avoid the hayseed homogeneity that passes for tradition.

“Every time I start writing a new song, I’m conscious of trying to make it sound different from the last one,” he said. “I’ll start songs and then drop them if they’re not going anywhere. It’s not an easy process for me.”

He’s comfortable with chatting about the creative side of music; it’s the business dynamics, especially from what he calls “the Nashville machine,” that baffle him. He admits he doesn’t know much about major labels, and the stuff he has heard is mostly negative. Commercial country radio is, as far as he’s concerned, a wasteland dominated by pencil-pushing corporate songwriters who compose not with a particular artist’s strengths in mind but in imitation of the big hits of the moment. The colossally expensive marketing campaigns that push the singers who in turn peddle the product also amuse him, although he’s been made aware of his own potential in that area: A recent article in the TCU campus paper observed that Pointer, strolling around stage casually and confidently in torn jeans and bare feet, has the raw stuff to be turned into a multi-platinum hillbilly heartthrob if the right major label wants to seize the opportunity. He says that friends and band members have given him some grief about that article, but he doesn’t flail around in false modesty while discussing the subject.

“I don’t know how to say this without sounding obnoxious, but, yeah, I think we’re an attractive band,” he said. “I’ve got good-looking guys behind me, and we’re young. Some of the same girls come back to our shows. The girls bring the guys out, and the guys buy the alcohol, so most of the bars we’ve played seem happy.”

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