By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Melott knew right away he wanted her in the band. "Just the way the voices blended, it was such a neat sound," he says. "It was obvious that she had tremendous talent and was a great writer with a great voice."
Once the band and singer joined forces, it added to whatever cachet they had in the tenuous Amarillo music scene. "We had a little bit of a following in Amarillo already, and Susan had a bit of a following too. So right off the bat when we did our first show, all of her fans came out to see her new band, and all of our fans came out to see our new singer," says Melott. "There was some crossover between the two, but still, all of a sudden, at our first show, we were a very popular Amarillo band. Right off the bat we were playing to 100 to 150 people."
"Wide Open Spaces" first appeared on the band's next self-released CD, Wayside, which Maines produced. The song's later chart success for the Dixie Chicks helped The Groobees win a deal with Blix Street Records, a Los Angeles-based Celtic-music label looking to expand its range. "We shopped for quite a while," explains Melott, "but we didn't get anything big that wouldn't have required us to give up our publishing or something like that. We already knew we could make a career of this. We don't have to have a label."
The new eponymous Groobees disc, released late last year, is also produced by Maines, and again features the original version of "Wide Open Spaces," which sounds like a fairly true blueprint for the eventual hit. However, what the album doesn't capture is the organic charm and creative interplay of the genuine band sound that The Groobees deliver live, in spades as a matter of fact. Though Maines has helmed superb album recordings for everyone from Terry Allen to Terri Hendrix, somehow he fails to bottle the particular and rare magic this group can generate on the stage of a club.
But that's OK, because he's been their angel in other ways just as vital. And the band is ready and willing, they say, to go out and work their way from the road into their own musical niche after being lucky enough to get this big windfall. "We're in the best position ever, because we've got the best of both worlds," says Gibson. "It affords us to play wherever and play in front of however many people, and not stress out about stuff like, are we gonna make $300 tonight, because there are only 15 people here? It's really been a luxury for us to do both."
Indeed, it seems like The Groobees are blessed, at least in Melott's view. "So many things that have happened with the Groobees I feel like are being in the right place at the right time. I mean, how many coincidences can you have? How much luck can you have," he wonders. "I feel like some of it has just been destined to happen."