Songwriter Turned Sports Writer Levi Weaver Will Play His Last Show to Benefit Refugees in Texas

Levi Weaver's musician days were behind him. Until he decided he could help refugees.EXPAND
Levi Weaver's musician days were behind him. Until he decided he could help refugees.
Heather Weaver
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For the last four years, Levi Weaver has been a name that fans of the Texas Rangers have become keenly familiar with. As the Rangers beat writer for The Athletic, the 40-year-old Weaver has been praised for his ability to offer insightful columns on even the most mundane games over the grueling course of the Major League Baseball season.

Weaver isn’t one of the grizzled, lifelong citizens of the press box that many readers picture when thinking of their favorite sports reporters. Before 2016, he wasn’t even a journalist of any kind, let alone a trusted source of information in one of the nation’s largest media markets. From 2005 until 2015, Weaver was a roving musician, traveling the world as what Performing Songwriter once called “a musical wunderkind with grand ambitions.”

Releasing eight records, the Rio Vista native Weaver lived in London, Nashville, and for a year, out of a cross-country traveling RV, before he and his wife, Heather, moved back to Texas with their son Lincoln and daughter Holland in 2015, landing in Dallas. It was following the move to Dallas when Weaver lost touch with music.

In a letter to his followers in February 2016, he wrote, “I don’t know why music and I aren’t speaking to one another,” adding that he felt “no more capable of writing a song than I do engineering a bridge. It’s a foreign concept to me. I don’t know what happened.”

Oh yeah, in the same note he also let readers know that he had accepted a full-time job as the Texas Rangers beat reporter for WFAA in Dallas. It might've seemed like quite the curveball on the outside, but for those who followed him on Twitter, Weaver had long been a vocal, knowledgeable fan of the team. In 2018, Weaver joined The Athletic when the surging national sports site began covering the various sporting efforts of the North Texas region.

Oddly enough, Weaver doesn’t remember when or where the last gig he performed was, though that question will soon have a firm answer. On Friday, Jan. 24, he will perform what he calls a “one off” show at Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum. After all these years, had he and music began speaking to one another again? Well, sort of.

“I’m the oldest son of a preacher,” Weaver says over the phone. “So, the concept of guilt and obligation weigh very heavily on me, even when it shouldn’t. My friend, Brandon [Yates] has kept asking me when I was going to play another show, and my answer was always, ‘Never, I’m happy where I am, I’m out of shape, I don’t even have callouses on my hands anymore.’”

But Weaver’s buddy “kept prodding,” he says, and one night last February, that prodding aligned with some warm, fuzzy vibes he felt following a Lucy Dacus concert at Ruins.

“It was a great show,” Weaver says. “And with around 250 to 300 people there, it was the kind of crowd I might’ve played for on a really good night during my music career. The kind of shows I really missed were a lot like that one. I played somewhere between 800 and 1,000 shows most likely and it could sometimes be kind of rote and feel like work, but you could just see that night had to be a really special night for her and the crowd sang along and I felt myself really missing that feeling.”

Yates had offered to handle all the details of planning a concert, so his friend could focus on performing it, though Weaver had two rules for Yates to mind. The concert would have to take place during the baseball offseason, and that it would need to benefit a charity. With that conversation happening a mere few weeks before the 2019 Rangers season, the show was scheduled for almost a year later. The choice for the charity partner was also an easy one.

Since his guitar went into storage over four years ago, any proceeds from Weaver’s online music sales have gone to benefit Refugee Services of Texas. Since 1978, the Dallas-based social service agency has supported refugees as they integrate into their new communities. Weaver admits there was a time years ago he wasn’t fully aware “of what a refugee really was,” but the immigration debate surrounding the 2016 presidential election and the subsequent travel ban [Executive Order 13769] of early 2017 led him into greater awareness and action.

“I began talking to the people at Refugee Services of Texas,” he says. “And learning about the process refugees go through. It can be a five- or six-year process. Globally, there are just so many refugees from war-torn areas and areas where gangs and organized crime is running wild. The first protest I ever took part in was at DFW Airport when the travel ban was placed.”

Weaver produced a video documenting not only the protest but his views on the issue at hand. According to the International Rescue Committee, a refugee “is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home because of war, violence or persecution often without warning.”

A concert benefiting a Texas organization devoted to assisting refugees is arguably even more urgent now than in 2017.

Last week, a federal judge blocked a Trump administration policy clearing the way for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to prevent any more refugees from settling in the state, an intention the governor publicly announced on Jan. 10, that Weaver describes as “an utterly craven and cowardly move.”

“Refugees are often the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable,” Weaver says. “Women, children and the elderly, often leaving everything behind. It would mean so much to me to have an advocate in that situation. That’s where the anger part comes in, because you see politicians use flat-out falsehoods and fear-mongering just to get votes.”

In October, following yet another disappointing Texas Rangers season, Weaver grabbed his guitar out of storage and began rebuilding his pedal board. As rehearsals began and those missing callouses began to reappear, there were times the songs came back with ease, and other moments where he “stumbled through it.”

Weaver says he's noticed that his 40-year-old voice is deeper than it was last time he sang his own songs, and along the same lines, his kids have now grown old enough to understand what their dad is attempting to do. Doing right by those seeking refuge in America makes Weaver far more nervous than the other matters — like whether he can still hit the higher notes of his younger days.

“Going back to that preacher’s son mentality ... there’s a window in my brain where I’ve gone from ‘I don’t want to disappoint my parents’ to now ‘I hope I don’t disappoint my kids because some of their friends will be at the show,'” he says. "To them, I’m not Levi Weaver, the singer, or Levi Weaver, the baseball writer, I’m Lincoln’s dad. That’s added pressure I didn’t expect.”

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