Do you listen to contemporary country? MH: I try not to listen to contemporary country or that Red Dirt shit.
What is Red Dirt? CR: Didn't it start when Stoney LaRue came down from Oklahoma? MH: Those jam kinda country bands. CR: Look at Stoney La Rue's top ten on MySpace. That'll tell you.
So what's your cutoff point, the mid-'80s? MH: I'm really into that late-'80s/early-'90s stuff. CR: That's the last of the good country.
What about Garth Brooks? Garth's kind of a guilty pleasure. MH: I think you have to feel guilty. CR: I used to be a huge Garth Brooks fan. MH: Garth Brooks is tainted for me because my parents were so opposed to him. It's not true to country roots.
I'll listen to it when nobody's looking. I was eight when No Fences came out. I didn't know better. MH: If I'm singing along to Garth Brooks, I'm generally smiling. At one bar in Dallas, we got told if we played "Friends In Low Places" one more time, we would never play there again. The owner was like, "You're not gonna play that." He's one of those people who makes everybody feel guilty about listening to Garth Brooks.The whole bar was into it, but he just wasn't having it.
Let's talk about actual influences. You've mentioned Gary Stewart, George Strait, Mickey Gilley. What about Jerry Jeff Walker? MH: I like the Gonzos and stuff like that. I like the songwriting, I like the band. I don't listen to them as much as I used to. I've kind of gotten away from that whole '70s Austin scene thing and getting more into straight traditional honky-tonk, and back to late-'70s Nashville country a little bit. Like Waylon and Merle.
You play a lot of Hank Jr. MH: We play a little bit. We'd like to play some more. I get on big Hank Jr. kicks. I'll just listen to that for a while. Something about the attitude of that I really like. It's pretty hardass. A bunch of friends were posting on Facebook about him being a bigot during that festival thing he had recently, going, "I'm never listening to Hank Jr. again." And I'm like, "What are you talking about? Maybe he's an asshole but you can't deny it: these are awesome songs."
You play every weekend in Bandera, Texas. What's in Bandera? MH: Bandera is the cowboy capitol of the world. It's nothing but antique shops and bars and they have a rodeo arena. It's a big tourist town. Everybody wants to go and see the cowboys. I would move there if I didn't want to be centrally located [in Austin]. When we played last at Bandera, there was this couple there from London and they were doing a tour of Texas.They loved us. I talked to them for a long time, they danced. CR: Nigel and Ginger.
Did they wear cowboy boots? CR: Oh, they dressed the part. It's like this corporate event we did. Mostly people from maybe China or something. They brought somebody else to teach them how to line dance. No matter if it's a waltz or a fast country song, they're out there line dancing.
You frequently cover Gary Stewart. MH: Gary Stewart's the king of honky-tonk. The lifestyle and everything all rolled into one. We play "Out of Hand" and usually close with "Empty Glass." Once I played a wedding with his band.
How was that? MH: That was awesome, playing Gary Stewart songs with the guys who were backing Gary for twenty years. Of course they've got stories. They were saying that he did have this lifestyle where he drank a lot, and he was kind of a sad person in general, but the character that he was made out to be wasn't really him. They told a story of him coming off the bus with a jug of water. People would come up and say, "What's Gary got? Is that moonshine? He's got moonshine, he's a Kentucky boy." And somebody's like, "No, I think it's just water," and [Gary] is like, "Don't tell them that!" People wanted to see Gary Stewart as they envisioned him, just falling down drunk. So Gary told the band all the time, "Let them think what they want. I can be sober as a judge but if people need to have this image of me, that's fine."