I never thought I’d say this, but Collin Herring is now an elder statesman of the Texas music scene. When the Fort Worth native was just starting out, circa the early aughts, he was wheels-off enough to make Mötley Crüe look like a bunch of choirboys. Running around town with another madman, singer-songwriter John Price, and a vast crew of drug dealers, drug doers, trust fund babies, TCU kids, an exotic dancer or two (or five), fellow musicians, and some outwardly upstanding professional types who shall remain nameless, Herring drank, smoked, snorted, fought, and played his way through life, all in equal measure. No matter what condition he may have been in, he still managed to pump out three solid albums. (At a show at The Wreck Room one time, Herring paused in between songs to heckle a heckler, a musician from an at-the-time underground indie-rock band. “This song’s from my next album,” Herring said, tuning his guitar. “It has more than three songs on it.”)
In 2007, Herring got the heck out of Dodge, relocating to sunny Austin, where he has remained –– happily, productively, and, since 2010, sober. “That’s the thing I’m most excited about,” he said. “Without that, I wouldn’t have much. I’d have a lot of music, but I wouldn’t have a lot of functionality.”
He put out his first Austin-based album in 2009. Produced by Centro-matic’s Will Johnson, Ocho was a dour affair, Herring’s once-indomitable swing slowed to a crawl, his once-colorful sense of melody reduced to black and white. The material that would become his new album, Some Knives, came together slowly, after Ocho had receded into the past and after Herring had fallen in love, started working more than 40 hours a week at a café, and kicked his bad habits.
“I think the bottom line is, I was ready to grow in a way that I’d never grown before,” he said. “I think the time I spent from Ocho ’til now has been the hardest … . Life just started happening in a way, on a mature level, that has never happened before. I feel like the past five years have been a long stretch of necessary living. It gave me plenty of time to sit back and not stress about writing. … Now I finish [new songs] when I finish them.”
Part of what made the past five years so difficult for the mid-thirtysomething singer-songwriter was his 65-year-old father’s battle with prostate cancer. Ben Roi Herring, Collin’s longtime collaborator, who contributes pedal steel and keys to Some Knives (and who also plays in Fort Worth cowpunks Holy Moly), is now in full remission. “It’s unbelievable how well he’s doing,” Collin said.
Some Knives swings as well his non-Ocho stuff does, and it’s vibrant, gritty, and poetic. The album also has a Centro-matic connection –– drummer Matt Pence played on and produced Some Knives at his studio, The Echo Lab, in Denton. “I felt like it was time to do a record that was going to be less strenuous on my dad and mom, because I love the way [Ben Roi] plays, and I love his backing vocals,” Herring said. “I figured I’d go to him … and do it with [Pence], whom I love. I felt it worked out for the best.”
Herring’s CD release show Friday at The Aardvark with Alejandro Escovedo will mark the first time Herring’s played his hometown since 2010 and his first time back at The Aardvark since his hell-raisin’ days.
“I don’t feel like I play Fort Worth enough,” he said. “I want to play there more. I love Fort Worth, and I’ll always love Fort Worth. Friday will be like old times.”
Well, kind of.
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