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Welch Jam: Kevin & Dustin

Father/son Sunday residency at Strange Brew drops jaws

By William Harries Graham, 3:50PM, Thu. Apr. 10

Welch men: (l-r) Dustin and Kevin  at Strange Brew
Welch men: (l-r) Dustin and Kevin at Strange Brew
photo by John Grubbs

I first saw Dustin Welch play several years ago during a day party at the former Momo’s for South by Southwest. I sat on the steps of the rooftop deck, captivated. I’ve seen him since, but the first time I saw him perform with his father, Kevin Welch, was at Strange Brew for the “Legacies and Legends” show last month.

In fact, I was jaw-dropped for their entire performance. The chemistry between them is powerful and the sense of kinship deep. The Welchs have a residency at Strange Brew every Sunday 4pm.

Austin Chronicle: Tell me about “Letter to Dustin,” which your dad wrote for you.

Dustin Welch: That’s really interesting. My dad wrote that song when I was 4 years old. He traveled a lot when I was growing up. There were a lot of times that he would be gone for weeks on end. I guess growing up I just figured that’s how families work, and that sometimes you have to be apart from each other. It was hard for us, but I think it was harder on him having to be apart from us.

AC: Travel and distance can bring people closer, right?

DW: It’s really hard to keep a family together when you’re having to spend that much time apart, but we’re all a really close family. I think it’s because we had to try harder and and make sure that we knew how much we loved each other. In that song he’s saying to, “Keep an eye on your mom and your sister for me and I’ll be back just as soon as I can.” Now the two of us get to go out and travel together so we don’t have to say goodbye quite as much. Later this year we’re going to Europe to play all over the place. We’re really fortunate that we get to play music together now.

AC: How did your Strange Brew residency come about?

DW: We’ve been kicking around the idea for a while of making an album together where it’s a full-on collaboration. And we’ve been writing a lot together. That’s the beauty of having a residency: being able to use it as a way to test songs out. It’s a lot better than having a rehearsal. You can count on it every week and see how songs work in a live setting and see what the audience responds to. Then you know pretty quick if the song’s going to work or not. And it’s a good excuse to play at Strange Brew, because we love to play that place.

AC: I really like playing as a duo with my dad Jon Dee Graham. What’s it like for you and your father, playing together?

DW: We’ve been playing together on and off since I was 17. He’d say, “Why not come out and play a couple of shows with me?” And sometimes he’d be the guitar player in my band. These days we’ve been enjoying that so much. It’s so great to play together and know each other so well. We have all these instincts, like wanting to take the song somewhere and just barely indicating it to the other guy and them knowing to follow along. That’s what we have. There are times where I’m singing and I think I’m hearing him sing along and I’ll look over and he’s not. He’s not even singing at all, but I’m hearing his voice coming out of my mouth. That’s a really weird thing. It’s nice to spend time together.

AC: What was it like growing up in Nashville?

DW: I grew up working in publishing companies and mail rooms. Then I was doing more tech work in studios. And I worked at the Bluebird Cafe for about seven years. I started washing dishes there and ended up managing the place. And of course everyone we knew was in the music business somehow. They run things different in Nashville. It’s definitely an industry town rather than a live music town like Austin. It was an usual way to grow up, but very valuable for me.

AC: Tell me about the Bluebird?

DW: I’ve been going there since I was very young. Some of my earliest memories listening to music are from there. We’d see all of our old friends. I’d grown up with their kids. I ran sound when I was 18 years old. It taught me what not to do on stage. Sometimes you’d see these total amateurs, then there would also be a handful of those folks that would just completely knock you out, and had their own really original thing they do. It was a beautiful thing to be able to see. It encouraged me to develop my own sound. And while it didn’t get me very far in Nashville, hell, once I moved to Texas it sure worked.

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