Local Music 'Mericans: Cindy Chaffin

Welcome to Local Music'Mericans, where we'll be meeting some people behind the local music scene who aren't musicians, but more behind-the-scenes folk.

Once upon a time, Cindy Chaffin was the mastermind behind Texas Gigs, a blog and database that was eventually acquired by Pegasus News. Later, she launched FineLineLive, a music- and arts-centric blog effort she still works on. These days, she's honing her craft as a videographer, working for the likes of KERA's Art & Seek, among other outlets.

So, suffice it to say, Chaffin's been immersed up to her ears in DFW and Deep Ellum's music scene for some time now -- 11 years by her count. And she credits a long line of former Observer music journalists and editors (Zac Crain, Sarah Hepola and Sam Machkovech) for helping to cut her teeth on the finest that our music scene has had to offer. Her fandom continues today, too, as Chaffin remains an avid follower of the likes of Sarah Jaffe, Telegraph Canyon, Doug Burr and, oh, about a million more. Her fandom panned out, too: At one point, it even landed her a gig with the Food Network, picking bands out for placement Bobby Flay's show, Food Nation.

Before all this, she was an airline stewardess, hanging out in "foo-foo bars" like the Starck Club, Surf Club, Beau Nash, and Highland Park Yacht Club.  At one point, she and her ex-husband purchased a sprawling, scenic campground in Glen Rose, site to many a fine music festival, like the country-music shindig  "Raz on The Braz" and the accompanying Texas Nation Music Festival. More recently, the campgrounds played hose to the second annual Dia De Los Toadies, just last year.

So, was it on this gorgeous chunk of Texas soil that she was bitten by (among other species) the music bug? We'll get to the muddy bottom of that in our Q&A with Chaffin after the jump.

I know, in the beginning of your local music enthusiasm, you weren't a fan of country music. Nonetheless, was the (largely-country music-based) festival in Glen Rose responsible for putting Texas music into your bloodstream?
The second year, about day three, I had had my fill of country music and was just about to climb back up the hill to the little cabin where we stayed. Then a really cute, hip-looking band took the stage. The band was Doug Burr and The Lonelies. They played this incredible mix of roots, alt-country and Americana, each song written absolutely beautifully. I was smitten. I was also just tipsy enough to stumble up to the band afterwards and offer my assistance in anything they might need. They took me up on that and asked me to book for them, which I did for a little over two years.

So, you just dove into booking for the Lonelies with not only no booking experience, but no real industry experience at all?
At the time, I'd only been to one show in DFW, and it was years before. I didn't know the venues, nor the right people to contact. I basically just started knocking on doors and asking for gigs, while also trying to search out other local bands who were performing regularly. When I started to search out information about bookings, marketing, venues, other bands, etc., I found there to be very little information out there.  

And this lead you to want to provide information via your blog?
Yes. That's when I started It was going to initially be a site meant to assist bands and musicians with information about the types of things I listed above. But it quickly became a place where I listed venues and their concert calendars, began writing about bands that I was finding along the way, and anything else related to the local music community. A couple of years in, my ex-husband built me a server and I started doing live audio streams at clubs, and a live weekly podcast in which I played the music I loved from the local bands and musicians.

At what point did your site become not just appreciated, but essentially needed?
In about 2005, Pegasus News approached me about merging with them so as to launch their bells and whistles site with my content, podcasts, etc. So was relaunched, chock full of live performance audio, interviews, calendar information, and all else local. I eventually sold the name and content to Pegsaus News, and shortly thereafter launched With The Fine Line, I added lots more media, like live video streaming, video performances and interviews and started to branch out in support of local artists, galleries, arts and cultural events and the like. It was people like Zac Crain, Sarah Hepola, Sam Machkovech and Hunter Hauk who really helped me learn more about the local music community and some of the best bands.

Obviously, you have a lot of memorable live-music moments. Please, elaborate to your heart's content.
For about the entire first year that I booked/managed The Lonelies, I attended every single performance and never, ever got tired of the songs. I still listen to their first EP over and over (going on 11 years) and never tire of it. Another great moment was the first time I heard/saw Sarah Jaffe perform. I think she was about 16 years old and was playing at Tom Prejean's Open Mic Night at Club Dada. I actually chased Sarah and her parents down Elm Street and told them to not let her stop performing. She was, and still is, one of the most amazing artists I've heard. Another really awesome experience was the year I was a judge at the B.W. Stevenson Contest at Poor David's Pub. It was the first time I heard Kristy Kruger perform and she blew me away. I think it was writer Tom Geddie who was sitting next to me, and he turned to me after Kristy's performance and said, "Close your mouth, my dear." I also fell madly in love with Mount Righteous the first time I saw/heard them, as well as Mom (now Sleep Whale), and the fantastic Collin Herring, Deadman and Opie Hendrix. Obviously I could go on and on.   

Surely you've witnessed great amusement in the audience portion of the shows as well, yes?
One very cool moment was at Dan's Silverleaf several years ago at at the Spune Christmas show. The place was packed and noisy, but the moment that Bosque Brown hit the stage, you could have heard a pin drop. It almost brought me to tears to see such respect and clear love of the band's music, enough to quiet a packed room. I always loved the bands that were booked at the Cavern, but it was my least favorite place to do live video/audio streaming. It's got to be the drunkest live music venue in town. The patrons were always smashed and always insisted on setting their drinks down on my mixer, or even on my laptop!  

How about music in general? Where do the first glimpses of light point back to , in regards to your enthusiasm for music?
If anything or anyone shaped me in my younger days, that would have had to have been my mom. She was a concert pianist, but also had a passion for so many genres. I used to listen to anything from the Everly Brothers, to the Beatles to Chopin to George Gershwin. It was then that I began a long love of almost any kind of good music, no matter the genre. I'm ready for the pointing and laughter, but the last concert I went to before that campground performance a decade ago, was the Backstreet Boys at Reunion Arena. Now, mind you, I did have a 5th grade daughter in tow, but I screamed and nearly fainted like the rest of those girls. I wasn't really aware of the local music scene in my younger days, but I have great memories of concerts I did attend like Elvis Costello, Stray Cats, The Cars, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and even Frank Sinatra. One really cool concert was when a date took me to see Tina Turner at the Fairmount Hotel. It was a really amazingly intimate setting, one that I'll never forget. When I was a flight attendant for American Airlines, a friend managed to wrangle two backstage passes to INXS, one of my favorite bands at the time. However, I was on call that night and scheduling wouldn't release me to go. I was so upset, until they assigned me a flight to Houston the next morning and who do you think walked on and plopped down in my first class section? INXS. It was amazing.