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"I didn't want to be Poi Dog Jr.," Garza says. "The reason I didn't get any respect was because I was 18 years old and I went out on the university campus and I did something really bold and pretentious--which is play my music in broad daylight with no microphones, no amplifiers, and no stage. I went to the people instead of making the people come to me."
A hard worker and never less than a prolific songwriter, Garza dropped out of UT and spent the next six years recording and touring. His independent catalog boasts five CDs (including 4-Track) and three limited-issue cassettes. Hitting the road under the group name Dah-veed, Garza set about building a regional following. By last year, his efforts had caused enough of a stir that he landed a deal with Lava/Atlantic. The people at Lava have, in essence, given Garza the green light to do just about anything he wants: His proper Atlantic Records debut, titled This Euphoria, is due in stores April 7.
"I just keep sending them tapes," says Garza. "I've recorded around 50 songs in the last year and a half. To this day, I still don't know what's going to be on the album."
In the meantime, Lava/Atlantic has heartily condoned The 4-Track Manifesto, which was released on Garza's own Wide Open Records and is available only at live appearances and on the Internet. For his most recent whistle-stop tour of the East and West coasts, Garza temporarily abandoned his backup band--drummer Michael Hale, bassist John Thomasson, and guitarist-keyboardist Jacob Schultz--in favor of Austin DJMark McCain, for an offbeat two-man show that's somewhat akin to coffeehouse performance art.
"This is totally low-key," Garza says. "I'm selling the CD from the stage for five bucks just because I want people to have it. I want to stay in the underground, in the trenches, in the clubs. Because as soon as you try to come out, either you'll get shot or you'll get a medal of honor and wind up on CNN like Ollie North."
Regardless, there comes a time when an artist has to risk exposure to the elements. And it's quite possible that the so-called underground has had its fill of Dah-veed's shenanigans. No matter, says Garza, he'll just take his missionary work elsewhere--most likely to the next level.
"I go across the country and run into other rock and roll fanatics like myself," he says. "We're like vampires; we're this secret sect. And it is a religion. I get God, rock and roll, and love mixed up all the time. To me, they're all different words for the same thing.