“When we got started, we played at this place called Naomis and it was just this tiny, tiny little beer joint, a honky-tonk if there ever was one. The kind of place you can by a six pack to go from, the walls are falling apart, the dirt is probably one of the only things that’s holding the place up. It’s closed now, but that’s where the ugly people went to drink and tell their stories and they had a good time. Everybody was welcome and nobody had an ego or any kind of agenda and if they did, no body wanted to hear about it.

What’s important to guys like us about it is that it’s a real place for you to go and, okey, I go and play music but it’s not a live music venue. It’s a beer joint, a honky-tonk, it’s some place where you gonna walk of the stage and into the bar. It’s not even a stage or if there is a stage it’s six inches high, you know! It’s a platform, that’s not a a stage, there’s no sound system. It’s a place where you go without any kind of pretention.

Y’all the same! Any body that walks through the door is the same. Nobody get’s treated with any special kind of treatment. We’ll, I guess I get some because I play the songs or what ever, but it’s the same kind of treatment that any body would get if you’re a cool guy walking into a cool place trying to hang out with your friends. They’re happy to see you and they hope to see you again and when you do, you pick up where you left off. That’s it!

We still play at these kind of places, I mean, that’s one thing I like about the fact we’re where we’s at. When we’re about to go and do a show it’s just really at a bar and a honky-tonk. We’re able to do that and now a days, more then ever, it seems like the human experience and talking to people is really where it’s at.

I mean, that’s what people wants. It’s not that they want to buy a cd, nobody cares about buying a cd anymore. They don’t care about that! Nobody buys a cd! They can get it for free if they really want to and they have a computer. If they buy a cd it’s because they wanna talk to you, and they wanna have an experience and they wanna take something away from a bigger experience than just watching some body play music that they enjoy. So it’s not really about the product or the cd. It’s about shaking hands and having a good time.

We played places like Billy Bobs, live music venues. And they call Billy Bobs the biggest honky-tonk in the world, and it is, because the people that work there are like family to us. We try to treat a place like that the same way that we would treat a place like the Happy Cow Bar here in Hunter. It’s really just about hanging out with family and friends. The expierence is diffrent, just a little bit, you know. Sometimes when there’s a bigger venue it’s a diffrent vibe but generally we’re going to interact with people the same way any where we go.

Ernest Tubb, you can talk to all kinds of different people, there’s a thousand stories about how he would do a show and he wouldn’t leave until everybody had left. He would shake everybody’s hand and talk to everybody until they where all gone. Shaking hands and talking to people, meeting folks and country music is the thing.

It’s a long, long chain of events that, if you been in it long enough and you start to peel back the layers and learn a little bit more about what they call Texas music, or country music, you start to realize exactly how involved you really are. And how close to the people that you looked up to when you’re growing up, guy’s like Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings or Jerry Jeff Walker you are. If you stay at it long enough you can really start to play degrees of seperation with all these folks. And there aren’t as many as you think that there would be because it’s a family affair.

There’s a lot of good music that comes from all around the world but Texas music is a whole different bowl of wax because this was a place where so many cultures came too to make this melting pot of what goes on so then, when it comes across, it’s a whole different flavour.”

Posted by:Charlie Ekstrom

In 2009, photographer C.C. Ekström and writer Olle Florstam set out a collaboration under the label of AOG to capture the spirit of Texas honky-tonks. On their journeys together they have soaked up atmosphere, swirled in saw dust and spilt out beer at more honky-tonks then they could ever dreamt of.

3 thoughts on “ Matt Hillyer of Eleven Hundred Springs Talks about Honky-Tonks ”

  1. I enjoyed Matt’s knowledgeable comments and insights regarding Texas music. He has obviously paid close attention throughout his honky tonk journeys…

    J Mills (Joe’s twin)

  2. A couple of comments from an outsider who goes to Texas for music three or four times a year-

    Texas music IMO is great because Texas audiences support the music. I love the fact that audiences are mixed-age; Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad and the kids all together. Also the blend of cultures that Matt mentions.

    Also, Texas does unpretentious very well. I’m not one for big venues and large crowds. A crossroads honky-tonk with a little stage in the corner and a couple of local heroes with guitars singing their original songs is what I love.

    1. Thanks for reading Craigh, and you are right. The Texas scene does unpretencious very well.

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