Texas born and raised singer, songwriter, musician, entertainer Michael Ballew is no stranger to music business. In 1967, he signed his first 'major lable' recording contract with White Wale Records and later went on to record for Columbia, Warner Brother, Pentagram, Liberty and EMI America.
After making it into Hot 100 charts a few times with rock and rool groups in California, and opening shows for top acts such as loggins & Messina, Country Joe and the Fish, Steppenwolf, and Eric Burton and the Animals, he yearned to return home to Texas and get back to his roots in country music.
Several Austin artists were already recording Ballew's songs, so Austin seemed like the best bet and it was. The Austin Music scene opened its arms wide to Ballew, and it has remained his home base since 1976.
Playing throughout Texas, he has performed with Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Michael Martin Murphy, John Conlee, B. W. Stevenson, Doc Watson, Alan Jackson, Johnny Gimble, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ray Price, Johnny Bush, Bonnie Raitt, The Drifters, The Coasters, The Platters, Jimmy Reed, Big Joe Turner, Johnny with Mac Dais, David Wills and Leroy Parnell, and had his material recorded and performed by many top country and western artists. Hissongs have been heard on TV in the Dolly Parton Christmas Special and on movie soundtracks, including 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure', and 'Grave Secrets'.
Since 1992, Ballew has had fourteen successful tours in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, and Denmark. In January, 1995 he played the Frank Erwin Center in Austin for the Inauguration of Governor George Bush and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock of Texas. June 1995, Ballew played in Budapest, Hungary where he was summoned by Salt Lake City's 2002 Olympic Bid Committee. Salt Lake City won the Olympic Bid and the winter Olympics will be held in 2002 in Utah.
Ballew returned from Europe in June of this year from a successful tour of Germany, Holland, & Switzerland where he discovered his third C.D. "You Better Hold On" was the second highest seller on the Bear Family Records label, and his latest "Live At Gruene Hall" is making ground.
Ballew currently plays all over the Texas hill country and his music can be heard regularly at Ego's and Saxon Pub in Austin, Gruene Hall outside New Braunfels and Cypress Creek in Wimberley.
Texas singer/songwriter Kim Miller used half a dozen different studios, from Nashville to Santa Fe, to record her new album, “Risk of the Roar.” But the physical space she covered to get it done was nothing compared to the space in time it took. Eleven years have flown by since Miller released her debut album, 1996’s “Child of the Big Sky.” Her explanation for the intermission is simple: “Life intervened. Sometimes we get called off one path for another. This album is the fruit of my diversions.” Of course, the events themselves were far more than “diversions.” Not long after that album’s release, she chose to put aside her budding music career (which included performing at venues from the Cactus Café in Austin Texas to the main-stage of the Kerrville Wine & Music Festival) to take on “a beautiful responsibility to somebody I loved dearly who needed me.” That was her aging grandmother, whose image as a young girl on horseback graced the cover of Miller’s first album. Then she faced her own health issue: a life-threatening illness from which she has since recovered. “It jolted me into realizing how important it was to return to my music,” Miller says of that experience. “It couldn’t be on hold any longer.” So she cashed in her retirement, rearranged her priorities and took a leap of faith. “Risk of the Roar’s” title song, and thematic center, comes from that courageous plunge. Miller says of the song, “It’s about the risk of reclaiming yourself from a cornered existence of suppressed creativity and expired love…it’s about trading safety for the opportunity of that risk.” The music Miller creates is ethereal, but not lost in the clouds. Her melodies are sensuous, playful, haunting, and laced with stirring detail like the “Last Light” interlude between Nashville player Josh Dubin’s pining pedal steel and Austin/Nashville music vet Cam King’s aching Gretsch guitar. The rich tones of each instrument and the sterling quality of Miller’s voice create lush textures on which she imprints her deeply intimate lyrics. In “I Still Believe,” she sings, “Hope dies hard for fools like me/I always pay a price/So much tragic comedy/It’s my virtue, it’s my vice./OK, I fly but I don’t run/Show me where’s the harm/If I wanna curl up like a question mark/Underneath your arm.” Immaculately co-produced by Marvin Dykhuis (Tish Hinojosa), Miller and Cam King (Roky Erickson, The Explosives), “Risk of the Roar” features a dozen of Miller’s original compositions, sung in her finely-nuanced voice and supported by a rich ensemble of Austin, Nashville and New Mexico musicians. They include Dykhuis and King, Glenn Fukunaga, Paul Pearcy, Warren Hood, Andrew Hardin, Tammy Rogers, Josh Dubin and Jeff Taylor. Miller traveled to New Mexico to record backing vocals from two of her favorite singer/songwriters: Tommy Elskes and Vince Bell. Mark Hallman mixed and mastered the album at Congress House Studios. Miller’s own musical influences range from Joni Mitchell (“if Joni had been raised in West Texas,” one critic said), the Finn Brothers, Kate Bush and Patty Larkin to Mary Hopkins and Marty Robbins; her non-musical inspirations include poet Pablo Neruda, novelist Gustave Flaubert and famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. (The Gulf Coast-born Miller, a dive master since 1980, used to escort diving tours to some of the world’s most remote and exotic destinations. She once considered a career as a SCUBA instructor before her muse won out.) “I’ve enjoyed a number of passionate pursuits in my life, but none so close to the bone as writing and performing. It’s enthralling to be back on stage,” says Miller. “When your music is as intimate and revealing as mine, the spotlight can be a risky place. But it’s a rewarding risk” Just like all the others she took to get here.
This band does cover classic rock in Texas! Some typical influences include, but are not limited to : Beatles, Stones, Lynard Skynard, ZZ Top, Credence, BTO, Bad Co., Steppenwolf, Bad Finger, Pink Floyd, Steve Miller Band, Eagles, Romantics, Georgia Satellites, Clapton, Vaughn, Orbison, Kingsmen, Sam the Sham, Van Morrison, Palmer, Berry, Holly, Dylan, Yokum, Haley, McCoys, Coasters, Spirit, Mellencamp, Segar, Rivers, Springstein, Buffett, ... and much more!!
Look closely at the photos hanging on the walls of La Palapa, a dim but well-kept cantina in Austin, Texas, and you'll see the recurring image of a tall, strapping young man with flashing dark eyes and a smile as wide as the room, he and his guitar surrounded by admiring fans in every frame. Pete Benz launched his career here 6 years ago, serving up a unique brand of traditional country music, and as his ever-growing audiences enthusiastically eat it up, his star continues to rise. The self-taught singer/songwriter has combined an uncanny talent for storytelling with an innate musical gift to create powerful, traditional country songs and deliver them straight from the heart'with a heap of charisma that keeps audiences coming back for another helping. For as long as he can remember, Pete Benz has been playing with words, writing poetry and songs. As Benz grew and matured into a 6'4", 230-pound athlete, football took precedence over the songs and led him to college in San Marcos, Texas. That is, until the day he and his roommate bought guitars and began teaching themselves how to play. As he learned to express himself musically, the songs came flooding back, and Benz knew he was hooked. While still in college, Benz was storing up valuable lessons about winning over audiences that still inspire the high-energy, participatory shows he wows crowds with today. On the weekends, he worked as a bouncer at Ivory Cats, a popular sing-along piano bar smack in the middle of Austin's vibrant Sixth Street music scene. Although already an avid songwriter, the aspiring musician had never sung in front of an audience before, until that fateful night when the boss called him off the door to come up front and sing a verse of "Friends in Low Places"'made famous by another well-known former bouncer, Garth Brooks. Benz didn't hesitate to get up in front of the crowd. "Ultimately, I knew that I'd have to sing," says Benz. "I was writing all these songs, and if nobody else would sing them, I knew I'd have to do it myself." The handsome football player was a natural on stage. His magnetic charisma and rough-velvet voice made up for his singing inexperience, and his spontaneous performance resonated with the audience to the point where he soon became a regular on stage, singing eight or nine songs a night to enthusiastic crowds and getting better and better with every performance. "The main thing I learned at Ivory Cats was how to connect with the audience," he chuckles, remembering the Battles of the Sexes he mischievously incited to spark crowd participation. "I may not have been the most experienced singer, but once I got the crowd with me, it didn't matter. In the end, it was all about good music and everyone having fun." Shortly thereafter, Benz took the first steps towards his dream career in country music. He left college and returned home to South Texas to work, write songs and continue learning as much as he could about country music. Any information he could get his hands on'how to write music, guitar and singing techniques, tips on the business side of music'Benz studied thirstily. And when big-name acts came to town, Pete Benz was right up front, talking his way through to the stars to try and glean any words of advice they would offer on how to reach the top. After a year, a determined Benz had honed his skills and knowledge, and built enough of a repertoire to return to Austin and take the next step in following his dream. Working as a driver's education instructor, the routes he established for students led'not surprisingly'to potential venues all over Austin as he sought out places that didn't have live music and convinced the owners to let him play for tips. He already had a couple of regular gigs under his belt the day a student drove him to La Palapa, the same venue that had launched Rick Trevino's musical career. Leaving his students in the car, Benz stepped out, swapped the baseball cap for his cowboy hat, took a deep breath and walked in to talk to the owner. He walked out with a Thursday night gig and within a few months had quit teaching driver's ed to become a full-time musician. A few short years later, this self-taught singer/songwriter has grown into both his talent and desire. With a smooth, rich voice and a dynamic stage presence to showcase his heartfelt, hard-hitting songs, Pete Benz has truly come into his own. He has earned a base of loyal fans who have made him one of the most requested artists on Austin's hottest country stations. People outside of Austin have started to take notice of Benz, too. He has shared the stage with such notable acts as Rick Trevino, Joe Diffie, Ty Herndon, James Bonamy and Delbert McClinton. And he recently signed with Sonic Sorbet, a label formed by two industry heavyweights, Beeb Birtles and Bill Cuomo, who together have combined record sales of over 100 million. Pete Benz is on his way up. With insight far beyond his years, this young musician observes and explores slices of life in his songs that resonate deep within each and every listener, delivering an emotional wallop that will take your breath away. He's riding the crest of music that is distinctly his own, created in the tradition of the greatest country singer/songwriters, but stamped with the unmistakable flair of his own extraordinary talent.