When he talks about helping to launch the new live music show Texas Music Scene, country music legend Ray Benson can’t help but reference another iconic music program and the cradle of country music, both with a bit of a tweak to the nose.
“I tried to get Austin City Limits to do this type of show for years, something that’s all about Texas,” Benson said over the phone recently. “The talent here is unlike anywhere else and we’ve got a lot of it, even if Nashville hasn’t figured that out yet.”
Benson works as the host and public face of the regional weekly cable show, which is available in all but one of Texas' television markets as well as on channels in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado. As its name implies, Texas Music Scene (TMS) showcases musicians from all over the Lone Star State performing live with a focus on country, Americana, folks and blues artists.
“Whether it’s someone new or a long-running band like The Gourds, it’s good to turn on the TV and see there’s someone dedicated to putting Texas artists on a show like this.” — Cody Canada
Recent tapings for the hour-long shows have featured Cody Canada and The Departed, Junior Brown, Seth Walker, Whiskey Myers and Roger Creager.
Unlike ACL and many other live music programs, TMS presents artists performing in a closed studio — taping at the stately Texas Music Theatre in San Marcos – along with short interviews to let audiences learn about the performers and, in a way, meet them.
“I wanted to give the viewers an experience that’s not like what you see when you’re going out and seeing someone play at a concert,” said Tom Hoitsma, a producer of the show. “You can’t get up close and personal with these acts when you’re seeing them at a show, so we’re making it feel like VH1 Storytellers. The concert DVD is dead and music videos are dead and radio certainly isn’t helping, so this [show] is one of the only ways for some of these artists to be seen by a wider audience.”
Since its large-scale debut in October, TMS has grown its viewership to more than 300,000 viewers per episode (and an additional 125,000 monthly YouTube views) coming in first or second in its time slot in many markets and putting up impressive showings against long-running network shows like “Saturday Night Live.”
Benson said he’d been approached many times over the years about hosting or in some way helping to produce a Texas-focused music program, but Hoitsma and his team showed the commitment to capture the sound quality needed to do justice to artists coming in to record for free, with the hope of getting their music heard by more music lovers.
“We’re finally giving acts who have only had the live performance side of things covered, and we’re opening them up to a larger audience,” he said. “It gets their face and their sound way out there.”
The show’s success in Texas and surrounding states gives Hoitsma and Benson hopes of securing a larger distribution deal that would put Texas artists in living rooms from coast to coast.
That platform helps everybody, be it a regional star like Carolyn Wonderland or roots artist Cody Canada, who used his recent taping to show off new original songs audiences have been clamoring for ahead of a new record.
“Whether it’s someone new or a long-running band like The Gourds, it’s good to turn on the TV and see there’s someone dedicated to putting Texas artists on a show like this,” Canada said. “I’m beside myself with how well the show has lined everything up, and it’s only getting better. It out to be mandatory for an artist to do that show.”
In Austin you can catch Texas Music Scene on KEYE-TV (CBS) on Saturday 12:00 - 12:30 p.m. & 5:00 - 5:30 p.m. and again Sunday 11:00 - 11:30 a.m.