Austin Artists September 21, 2018

Preserving What Makes Austin

Getting to know my community continues to be one of the major perks I enjoy as a Realtor. This blog allows me to share conversations I’ve had with local business owners and individuals regarding their desired impact on the community and their hopes for the city.  

When I explain my love of Austin, there are attributes of this city that have become a mantra for me: Swimming holes, breweries, iconic venues, local live music. Ownership of what makes Austin unique comes out in our every day conversation. Often it’s only partial ownership. The reciprocal relationship between fans and artists, patrons and venues, is necessary for the survival of Austin’s appealing music culture. While we like to point to job growth and the explosion of the tech industry as proof of Austin’s growing success, it’s easy to forget what makes Austin such a desirable destination and home for so many.

An hour before their show at Slow Pokes Brisket Shack, I had the chance to chat with  Guy and Jeska Forsyth. While we started off talking about life in general, we ended up on the subject of Austin’s appeal as a music destination and whether it’s a sustainable culture in this time of great economic growth.


The Forsyth Family: Guy, Mary Mae, Bella Jane and Jeska

A Little About Guy and Jeska

Guy Forsyth was born in Denver, CO, but grew up in Kansas City, MO. Guy moved here in 1990 after traveling here as a stuntman with the Renaissance Festival. In his words, “I fell in love with this town, with the music scene.” Soon after, he became an Austin staple, winning several Austin Music Awards as well as the hearts of the locals.

I asked Guy whether his parents supported him as a musician.

“My folks were not musicians but rather fans and record collectors. They taught my brother and I as toddlers how to drop records while other kids were learning how to stack blocks. My mom now lives in Ingram and she comes to my shows.”

Jeska Forsyth is a recent transplant to Austin, TX. She grew up in San Angelo singing and acting at a young age. While a singer-songwriter, like many musicians she pursues other artistic ventures such as acting and voice-over work. Jeska plays a few saved voice-overs for me off her phone. She plays a ‘sexy’ shampoo commercial voice on one recording. She then plays the voice of a child from a cartoon, showing her wide range.

I asked Jeska what it was like singing the National Anthem for NASCAR.

“I was extremely nervous. Because when you have jets flying in at a certain time in the song you have to be very accurate. You have to sing with consistency. You have to time the fighter jets because they were flying from Maryland. So they had me sing the National Anthem 5 times, then they took an average of the time it took me to sing the song. And that was how they timed the jets to leave the base.”

Jeska and Guy’s Wedding

Jeska formerly owned a blues club in San Angelo, TX called Sealy Flats where she originally met Guy. The two were married earlier this year. They make for an incredibly adorable couple.

I asked Jeska what her impression was of Guy the first time they met.

“I thought ‘Yay, he showed up for work’ and then he sang awesome, and I was blown away. I usually didn’t have time to pay attention to the shows, but I remember the exact post I was leaning on. He stopped me in my tracks, and I had to listen… and he had a terrible haircut. A mohawk… and a Hot Wheels button-down shirt.”

Guy Meeting Bella Jane


What We Were

Recently, Austin’s long-time music icon Dale Watson moved to Memphis, Tennessee seemingly in search for what Austin was. In an article by the Texas Standard, Dale is quoted as saying, “I just really feel the city has sold itself. Just because you’re going to get $45 million for a company to come to town – if it’s not in the best interest of the town, I don’t think they should do it. This city was never about money. It was about quality of life.”

I asked Guy what his thoughts are on Austin and the changes he sees as a musician.

“Music and art and culture in general are hard to monetize. I think of Austin in 1990. I think of how it was portrayed by Richard Linklater, who directed ‘Slacker‘. What makes him such a good director is he gave voice to strange and unusual people. He would find unique voices and then put them on film. He had a story to tell. The term ‘slacker’ suggests someone who doesn’t work very hard. But it was all about people who were just obsessed with what they love.”

“Unless Austin takes some action to protect the culture that makes it different, makes it special, it will end up being Houston, Dallas, or San Antonio. And that makes Austin uncompetitive based on the scale of those markets. We can’t lose touch with why people come here.”

“Money is a solvent, it will dissolve things that can’t defend themselves in the market place. I’m one of those things. As musicians, we could make a lot more money doing something else. The value of music is hard to monetize. Nietzsche said ‘Without music, life would be a mistake’ and he’s the biggest pessimist there is.”

The Future of Austin’s Music Scene

The Nietzsche quote resonates with me. What will Austin be without music and art but a colossal, unintended mistake? We can start with supporting the venues that house our artists. We can go further by participating in Austin’s rich music scene, getting out and attending concerts. But we can go one step further by paying attention to issues directly affecting our Austin artists, such as affordable healthcare and housing. By keeping our talent local and our long time venues open, maybe we can preserve that little spark that’s flickering in the heart of Austin, TX.

There is no replacement, no quick fix if we lose what makes us genuine, lovely, exotic, comfortable and damn original. We can talk about how awesome our funky iconic venues are, but if we don’t frequent them they will die. We can proudly tout that we’re the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ but if we don’t care about the issues that keep our musicians local, we may see more falling in the steps of Dale Watson, leaving in search of what Austin was.

What we have can’t be recreated like a theme park. It can’t be thought up in a board room and pushed out in a nice, clean package. It’s rough around the edges, there’s a well earned rind, it’s seasoned with time, and it’s valuable beyond measure. We as Austinites need to recognize the value now while we can still remember who we are and why we stay. We can embrace the change and the growth as long as we strive to preserve what made us special in the first place.

See Guy’s upcoming shows by clicking here: