Shakey Graves clearly follows his own advice. “Make music for yourself,” Graves said while calling from Santa Ana, California. “Don’t worry about making hits.”
The Austin native has no problem making idiosyncratic bluesy folk-rock. “I do what I want to do,” Graves said. “That’s the only way I know how to do it.”
That was evident a decade ago when Graves emerged from the live music capital of the world with a one-man band approach. The inventive songsmith grabbed ears with melodic but challenging lo-fi tunes.
Graves, 35, has built on his earnest but at times hypnotic Americana. His latest batch of left of center tunes will be showcased Saturday at the Knitting Factory. Expect a preview of some unusual songs. Graves was working on a soundtrack for a film and the project was junked. However, Graves was compelled to keep the work alive.
“I talked to some of my crazier musician friends in Austin about making a soundtrack for a movie that doesn’t exist,” Graves said. “Some of it is instrumental and some of it isn’t but it’s something that I just had to complete.”
It’s not surprising that Graves is committed to such a project since he was born and raised in the city with the slogan “Keep Austin Weird.”
“That’s what Austin is called, but can you still call Austin weird?” Graves asked. That’s a great question since Austin isn’t as strange as it was a generation ago when it was a unique music Mecca. The Austin skyline is constantly changing since it’s the corporate hub for such multinational companies as Tesla, Dell and Google. The once sleepy city, which lacked traffic 20 years ago, is in perpetual gridlock.
“It’s sad since so many landmarks have been knocked down,” Graves said. Such iconic establishments as the breakfast bistro Las Manitas and the concert hall Liberty Lunch were bulldozed in the name of progress.
The saddest part of the most progressive Texas town is that many local musicians, such as Graves, can’t afford to live there anymore. When Graves returned to Austin from Los Angeles two years ago, he found himself renting a house a half-hour south of Austin. “That’s the way it went,” Graves said. “It’s not just me. It’s a lot of established musicians. It’s depressing.”
Austin inspired Graves’ early work. “The city does move you,” Graves said. “It definitely has had an impact on me but fortunately so does music. I listen to a lot of weird instrumental stuff that I love. I would love to make a space Western album. I’m always looking for more musical space.”
The road inspires Graves, who was moved after his last appearance at the storied Colorado venue Red Rocks. Graves was also recently inspired by Los Angeles, which moved him to craft some new tunes.
“We have a song called “Century City,” which is a place in LA that sounds so amazing,” Graves said. “It sounds so futuristic but it really isn’t. It used to be a movie lot but they knocked all of that down for a parking lot and offices for CEOs. A song came to me, which is all about Century City.”
Spokane has re-charged Graves battery. “I can’t express how beautiful Spokane is,” Graves said. “I feel a burst of energy when I get back to Spokane and I have some cool memories. I found something cool there a few years ago at a vintage store. I bought an old marquee sign that I used for a tour a few years ago. I would put up messages like, “Goth Night,” when I would perform. That hidden treasure is in my recording studio now.”
Speaking of hidden treasure, Graves planted one in Spokane during a pre-pandemic visit. “I buried a box full of joints under a rock in Spokane,” Graves said. “We were on our way to Canada after our show there and I thought, “Maybe we’ll pass back here. I buried the legal marijuana but we never made it back. I buried it by the river. I won’t say exactly where since maybe I’ll try to dig it up when I return.”