John Congleton and the Joule Hotel Trying to Make Dallas a Session City

Grammy winning producer John Congleton is at the center of new plans to attract artists to Dallas via the Joule Hotel.
Grammy winning producer John Congleton is at the center of new plans to attract artists to Dallas via the Joule Hotel.
John Congleton on Facebook

Ariel Saldivar was planning her birthday party last year when she hit on an idea. At the time, friend and record producer John Congleton was recording an album with Montreal band SUUNS at his Elmwood Recording studio. Saldivar asked them to play at Texas Theatre for the party, and when 200 people showed up to the free show, she realized she was onto something.

"[Bands] are always looking for places to stay while they make their records here," Saldivar says. She had just started working as a creative consultant for Headington Companies, which owns the Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas, and decided to make an offer: "I asked John if it would help him bring musicians to Dallas if he could offer a hotel incentive to his clients, and he said of course."

One year later and Saldivar, Congleton and the Joule are ready to test the new program out for the first time. Congleton, who won a Grammy last year for his work on St. Vincent's self-titled album and was recently in the studio with Blondie, will bring his clients exclusively to the Joule. The first, British electronic duo Goldfrapp, arrive next month.

"Every penny counts in [music] production. If John were working 15 years ago he would be a millionaire, but that's just not the environment anymore," says Saldivar. She hopes that offering to host artists at the Joule will not only save on productions costs but also help lure more artists to Dallas: "Hopefully the band has an amazing experience at the Joule and will spread the word to their friends."

Ariel Saldivar hatched the plan to work with Congleton after she started working for the Joule last year.
Ariel Saldivar hatched the plan to work with Congleton after she started working for the Joule last year.
Can Turkylimaz

Saldivar, a long-time facilitator in Dallas' art community, previously served as associate director of the Goss-Michael Foundation and currently works as a commissioner for the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. Having seen how hotels like the Ace and Standard attract programming in cities like New York and Los Angeles, she felt a similar concept — even including podcasts and live performances — could be carried over here as well.

"I believe providing a platform, support and an environment for things like this to take place are absolutely essential," Saldivar says. "Obviously, the arrangements will change depending on each artist, because some may not want to participate at all. But Alison [Goldfrapp] and Andrew [Gregory] of Goldfrapp have graciously agreed to doing a Q&A interview, make social media posts on their account and make a curated playlist for the hotel and blog."

Saldivar says she was also inspired to think outside the box by Leon Bridges, who's known to pop up busking on the street or onstage at his friends' shows whenever he's in town. "That kid doesn’t need a fancy place or band to start singing," Saldivar marvels. "He just does it and it's an awesome thing to be a part of."

But the new plans with the Joule ultimately hinge on the participation of Congleton, who Saldivar calls one of Dallas' "unique cultural assets."

"He could work anywhere and bands try and get him to go to New York or L.A., but he stays here," Saldivar says. Of course, that could be for less-than-selfish reasons: "It's probably because he is madly in love with his cats, Malachi and Epstein, and doesn’t want to uproot them. I am dead serious about that. He is completely cat obsessed and the only person I know that subscribes to Cat Fancy magazine."

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