The odds are, if you live in Texas, you know Justin Frazell, or at least you know his voice! As the morning host of 95.9 The Ranch and host of Texas Red Dirt Roads, he is the beloved voice behind some of Texas’ favourite radio shows. Last year he came over to England as the compere and host of the Texas Music Takeover, something which he’ll be doing again next month for the 2018 edition. On top of his radio duties, Justin is heavily involved with charity work in the States. We were lucky enough to catch up with Justin for a chat ahead of the annual Takeover event.
First off, for anyone reading this who might not know who you are, can you tell us a little bit about what you do back home in Texas?
Yes sir, I started doing radio in 1996 in Dallas, Texas for a sports station and a country station there. In 2009 I moved my radio career over to Fort Worth, Texas and I’m there every Monday through Friday 6am-10am doing the morning show for 95.9 The Ranch. Also, in 2009 I continued a Texas music show that I’d been behind the mic for since 2001 called Texas Red Dirt Roads, it’s a nationally syndicated show on about 26 or 27 stations here in America. It focuses on the independent Texas singer-songwriters, that show airs live on Sunday and is syndicated around the world through the miracle of internet and streaming throughout the rest of the week. I try to be a part of as many charities as I can, whether that be by invitation or not, the one we love so much is the one that my wife and I started in 2005. Our daughter was born two months premature in 2004, when she was born she weighed four pounds and half an ounce. The following years we started a benefit concert with a bunch of our Texas singer-songwriter friends called ‘Pickin’ for Preemies’. That event took place in 2005 and 2006, then in 2007 our son was born three months early, if you can believe that! I guess the good lord saw it that we needed to have premature babies and continue that good work! He was three pounds and ten ounces when he was born! Of course now our daughter is fifteen and is a freshman in high school and our son is eleven and in the fifth grade. This past August marked our fourteenth year of ‘Pickin’ for Preemies’ and we raised almost $400,000 for the local children’s hospital here and their new anti-natal intensive care unit, which is of course the prime care for premature children right after they’re born. Over fourteen years it’s exciting that we’ve got a great community of singer-songwriters and fans here in the North Texas area and we’ve raised over $2 million for that facility! So we’re really proud of that!
That’s amazing! Well done! It’s great to hear that your kids are now living a normal life but you’re helping so many other people…
It’s one of those things, Mark. We said that when a facility like a children’s medical centre is directly responsible for saving the lives of your kiddos, there’s no way ever that you could possibly repay that debt. We do the best that we can every year to try and chip into it, even though we know that we’ll never repay it in full. Just to have a little part to say thank you to those folks and just try to get them as many funds as we can so that they can continue that miraculous work day in and day out.
It’s interesting that you talk about that amazing community of Texan songwriters, I guess that’s where the Takeover comes from, this group of people who get on so well together and wanting to share that love?
Absolutely. You know Mark, Texas has always been known for having a very independent spirit. As much as we love being a part of those fifty states of America, Texas has always kind of done its own thing. That goes for our music as well, it goes way back into history as far as Texas music has been around. That kind of continues today with an independent spirit of guys and girls who stick together. It’s across all formats as well, it’s not just based on country music, it’s rock, pop, country, depending on what part of Texas you’re in there could be some Louisiana Cajun flair to it, some rockabilly, hip hop. That’s what we do, we have our own scene with many different branches. The one thing that has sustained itself in the Texas music scene is that it’s based out of that country/rockabilly attitude. There are so many things from its own chart to award shows, a strong fan base. We’ve kind of locked on to that thing and we can see it grow, there’s festivals and concerts throughout the year. Now we’ve got this opportunity to share it with you guys! It’s always one of the more marquee moments of our year to pick up and take what we do and bring it over there to you guys. One thing that I tell folks when we’re getting ready for this trip and the Texas Music Takeover is that it is very exciting! We get to go to London, England and not only see what a gorgeous town it is, the beautiful people that you’ve got there, all of the history but you guys get just as excited to see us! It makes for a great brother and sisterhood in the name of music and in the spirit of camaraderie. I hope that you guys are as excited as we are, we just love the opportunity to come and play some music and hang out for a couple of weeks!
Absolutely, it works perfectly. Over here in England we have a rich songwriting history with the likes of The Beatles. In Texas you have a similar history of songwriting. It’s a great chance to swap stories almost…
It is! The Beatles are obviously a big talking point when it comes to what you guys have brought to the entire world of music. Now my fifteen year old daughter would say that the biggest thing that you guys have ever offered up would be One Direction! I fight with her on that quite a bit!
It’s hard to understand that as you get older!
Exactly! There would be no One Direction if it wasn’t for The Beatles, Honey!
There are so many Texans coming over here now, last week I was sat with Aaron Watson during his UK tour and Wade Bowen has been over too. Do you think that the love for coming over here is really spreading throughout the Texan music scene?
Absolutely. I hear so many stories from so many of our singer-songwriters. Wade Bowen and Aaron Watson who you just mentioned, several others that have taken the trip tell me how exciting it is and how reinvigorating it can be. Not that touring the United States ever gets boring or matter of fact, but when you’re getting to a fanbase that might not be familiar with you on a personal one on one level and you’re certainly not familiar with, to see that excitement at energy, it really puts a whole new lightning bolt of life into them. It’s exciting to see our guys and girls get over there and it’s even more exciting to see how receptive the crowds are. Believe me, every opportunity I get, I always tell these folks ‘if you get an opportunity to go and play for these folks, you really should take it because they have a passion and excitement for it’.
You host a lot of the shows during the week, do you notice a difference between the crowds over here and back home in the States?
The similarities are there as far as there’s a real appreciation for the music. Almost to a fault we’re selfish with this music scene but at the same time we love sharing it with other people. That’s what we love from you guys over there, you have a real appreciation for this independent music that may not see much air play or commercialism to it over there. When you see something new coming, especially when it’s wrapped around the framework of Texas, you get very excited. Absolutely there’s a lot of similarities in the fan base. You guys see it as a very unique opportunity and we see it as a very proud opportunity.
You’ve done a couple of these Takeovers now. Have you got any special memories from Texas Music Takeover that always make you smile?
Oh absolutely, Mark! Last year was my first year to make the trip and I have memories in several categories that just bring a smile to my face. The first is just being in London and standing amongst all that history. You guys hear so much about the Texas music scene but we hear so much about your history and the royalty. To stand there in the middle of it was just like a storybook come to life for me, it was a real catch your breath kind of moment. I really look forward to being able to do that again and having my feet underneath me a little bit. The traffic! I’d never be able to drive there! It’s crazy and chaotic! We get some crazy traffic here in Texas, especially around the Fort Worth and Dallas areas but nothing like what I saw in London! Another great memory of course is when you get to the shows. Again, I go back to the camaraderie, I really didn’t know what to expect getting over there and the fans in London! We knew you guys were excited but didn’t know if you were going to look at us cross-eyed but there was such a great reception from you folks in London and all over the UK! That was really cool because sometimes, in the world we live in, you kind of have a mark against you when you’re from America and sometimes that mark is a little deeper when you’re from Texas. Let me tell you, we saw absolutely zero of that whilst we were there! It was a more than positive experience and that’s one of the many reasons I can’t wait to get back! My final moment that makes me smile is kind of a funny moment. The first night we were there, we were at a venue and there was a gentleman there who goes by the name of ‘Dublin Joe’ and came over from Ireland to be part of the Takeover. Dublin Joe also listens to my show on the internet, I was familiar with him by name and obviously he knew me. That night, we finally got to meet and me being from Texas and him Ireland, the first five minutes of the conversation, neither of us understood what the other one was saying! It was such a thrill to meet him and I look forward to meeting more people in a month or so!
How excited are you getting now?
I was talking to Amy Smith, one of the leaders of our group, yesterday and she’s starting to trickle out the information about our flight. When you start talking about that and making preparations to go to the airport and get on the plane, the excitement ramps up a whole lot! There’s still a while to go but I’m really excited!
As a DJ over in Texas, is there anyone in particular on the tour that you think is just going to blow the fans away this year?
Oh my goodness! First of all, we’re bringing some of our rock side over this year, there’s a band based out of Fort Worth called The Toadies and they had some national exposure. The leader of that band, Vaden Todd Lewis, is coming with us this year. That’ll be a little bit of a twist on what we had last year, we really didn’t have any true rockers with us. There’s a young lady that I’m really excited for everybody to hear, I’ve been a fan of hers for years and her name is Kylie Rae Harris. Look her up online and check out some of her videos! She’s a true Texan through and through and has some beautiful songs, I’m excited for the crowd to be entertained by her. Again, some of our old favourites like Luke Wade and Austin Allsup will make the return trip. Brandon Rhyder is new this year. It’s going to be a really exciting time! Koe Wetzel is a new name that you guys will get to see and when you talk about a guy who will bring a party like you have never seen! He’s been selling out shows all over and draws a really exciting crowd, I’m almost afraid to see what’ll happen when we turn him loose on London! Somebody is going to have to keep an eye on, if not a leash!
I’m very excited for Sam Riggs too, what a songwriter…
He’s done some really great things here in the Texas music scene and he continues to just get outside the box and do some things that are maybe a little uncomfortable to him but does nothing but stir up great things. Sam Riggs is another guy that I think folks are going to be excited about. He’s a great guy and a super entertainer, he puts on a very high energy show!
Well, we are all really looking forward to the tour now!
I cannot wait to jump into a plate of fish and chips and have another pint with you guys!
You can listen to Justin on 95.9 The Ranch and on Texas Red Dirt Roads.
The Texas Music Takeover is in London between 9th and 14th October!