Aug. 05--Singer and songwriter Jesse Woods, who is releasing an impressive new album, "Get Your Burdens Lifted" (Guns in the Sun), this week, traveled a long, strange road to get to be one of Austin's most promising and talented acts.
It's a road that starts in a fairly uneventful way, with a kid in Bakersfield, Calif., dreaming about being a country singer. When he was in junior high, Woods' family moved to Katy, where he played baritone sax in the school band. There was some musical heritage in the family: Woods' father worked as a touring jazz musician before settling down in one place.
Then, in high school, Woods traded music for a more popular pastime -- football. It was a good move, one that earned him a scholarship to Texas A&M as a wide receiver. That experience, which he downplays a bit but isn't negative about ("it was fun, it was something different"), didn't afford him any time to work on writing songs. "I didn't really know what I was getting into," Woods said. "I always knew I was supposed to write songs. I was into football; you don't have a choice."
Injuries put an end to his athletic career, and by the time he finished school, Woods was ready to find a new place where he could focus on music. "It's kind of like being in the military when you're on scholarship at a university; you're in this kind of protective bubble," he said.
He moved to Colorado ("little mountain towns, like a whole other universe" compared to Katy) and then to Grass Valley, Calif., a small, historic gold mining town in the northeastern part of the state. "I wanted to get away from everything, familiar faces, familiar places," Woods said. "I wanted that experience of something new that I couldn't really have in college."
During this time he wrote the songs for his first, self-titled release, a collection of hazy, self-recorded, pop-influenced folk. Even with a demo-level production quality, songs including "Hounds of Heaven" and "Ugly Dress" have a surreal sound, music that feels like it was born in some untouched part of the forest.
"I pictured myself being a country singer -- having a twangy band behind me, singing about drinking beer and dogs dying -- but the folky stuff kind of came out. You can't fight it," Woods said.
Before long, Woods moved to Los Angeles in search of an audience, but Austin seemed more in line with what he was doing and he moved again, back to Texas. He began recording with friends at Bill Baird's Baby Blue Studio, where he and Baird recorded "Get Your Burdens Lifted" in five days.
The new album maintains Woods' dream-like approach, adding a bigger, more pop-influenced production than his earlier work. "I wanted to make the album more full, not have the bedroom feel. I just wanted more energy," Woods said.
"Burdens" has already earned attention from national media including Spin, something that Woods said is a bit weird. "Austin is such a do-it-yourself city, and I like that, I think that's what draws people to this place," he said. "Acts want more people to hear their music, but it's more just people making music just to do it."
That is set to change for Woods with the new album, an upcoming tour and what will likely be a higher profile.
Jesse Woods performs Aug. 15 at Waterloo Records.
Fun Fun Fun, now with more fun. Jack Black and Kyle Gass' music/comedy duo Tenacious D, Patton Oswalt, Craig Robinson ("The Office") and Rob Delaney will all perform as part of Fun Fun Fun Fest's comedy lineup, the festival announced Saturday. A live version of the Eric Andre Show, Kyle Kinane, New York comedian and writer Hari Kondabolu and Kyle Dunnigan (Professor Blastoff) will also appear when the festival comes to Auditorium Shores from Nov. 8 to 10.
The acts on the comedy lineup join the already announced music portion of the fest, which includes M.I.A, Slayer, Jurassic 5, FLAG and Television.
The announcement came in conjunction with Saturday's Fun Fun Fun Fest Aqua Olympics, an afternoon of paddleboard jousting, tug-o-war and other activities at Fiesta Gardens (see a photo gallery at austin360.com). The festival also announced it is selling a new version of its VIP pass, the Ultimate Smooth Pass, on sale now. Three-day passes are also on sale now; single-day tickets go on sale in September.
Also on the comedy lineup: Jonah Ray, the Altercation Punk Rock Comedy Hour, the New Movement Sketch Comedy Troupe, Air Sex Championship, Anarchy Championship Wrestling, and Veggie Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Sir Elton, live. Elton John will perform at the annual Andy Roddick Foundation gala at ACL Live on Thursday, Oct. 17. This year, the foundation will sell concert-only tickets on the mezzanine and balcony levels of the theater starting at $80 and going up to $350. Tickets will go on sale through acl-live.com at 10 a.m Friday.
Neutral Milk Hotel to play Austin. Following a solo appearance by Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum at ACL Live last year, Mangum, Scott Spillane, Julian Koster and Jeremy Barnes return as part of a tour that begins in October and now extends through 2014. The band, who are best known for their 1998 album "In The Aeroplane Over the Sea," will play Feb. 17 and 18 at ACL Live.
In brief: Harry Connick Jr. plays the Bass Concert Hall on Nov. 10 ... Patty Griffin's unreleased album, "Silver Bell," which was recorded in 2000, will be released Oct. 8.
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