Second only to the mainstream country music industry itself located in Nashville, the music scene comprised of regional artists from Texas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere often referred to as “Red Dirt” or “Texas/Red Dirt” is the most vibrant and supported scene in country, comprising its own touring circuit, festivals, venues, radio stations, playlists, charts, awards, booking agencies and managers, as well as songwriting communities, and outright arena-packing superstars.
But for years a persistent issue has dogged the music and kept a somewhat low ceiling above these artists, and relegated their efforts to an influence that despite its big impact, is distinctly regional. The strength of close bonds and the community atmosphere that is so special to Texas/Red Dirt is also what has kept the music a mostly regional phenomenon. Sure, there’s always been fans far outside the region in the greater United States, and even in Europe and other locales. But expanding beyond Texas, Oklahoma, and the neighboring states has always been the greatest hurdle for many Texas country and Red Dirt acts.
But over the last few years a phenomenon has taken root outside of the Texoma region which is helping to give support to these artists in enclaves well outside of their traditional tour circuits. And it’s not being operated by paid promoters or others that are part of the music industry. It’s everyday citizens and super fans who just sort of selfishly want to see more of the music in their home states that are willing to step up and help support it.
What we’re talking about is the Red Dirt music chapters that have cropped up across the United States that are turning people’s passion for the music into palpable and important support for musicians who may draw hundreds or thousands in Texas, but may only draw a smattering of fans in other locations, or may not play certain locations at all due to the lack of support, and it’s helping to make Texas/Red Dirt a more national phenomenon.
“Far too often we would attend shows wearing some form of band merch and someone would comment on how they ‘love [insert band name] and wish they would tour here’ only for us to tell them the band they were referring to had just performed in North Carolina,” say Tonya and Brandon Scott, who started Red Dirt NC in early 2018, which operates a calendar of local shows for those who want to keep up with cool artists from Texas, Oklahoma, and beyond who are touring through the region.
“Our goal is to spread the love for Red Dirt & Americana music throughout North Carolina,” say Tonya and Brandon. “We are building a community of fans who are eager to support these artists, so they continue coming back through NC playing to bigger crowds and in larger venues. In addition, promoting North Carolina’s own set of talented musicians to those inside and outside the state also remains an important part of our mission.”
Some important artists in the Texas/Red Dirt movement are from North Carolina, namely American Aquarium. Regularly touring and collaborating with Texoma artists has caused a deep cross pollination between the two regions, which is now seeing more and more artists finding tour support in North Carolina, and North Carolina artists finding more support when they tour in Oklahoma and Texas.
And that’s just the beginning. There are others running regionally-focused Red Dirt accounts in Georgia, Illinois, Idaho, Montana, Virginia, and in the Northeast, all doing what they can to promote the music on a local and regional level. Florida has two such groups—the Palm Beach Red Dirt Club, and the Florida Red Dirt Country Club.
“I do this strictly as a hobby, not for profit,” says Mark Eveld of the Florida Red Dirt Country Club, who started the social media-based effort in early 2017. “I wanted a place with like-minded people to discover great music, share videos & pictures, and to share thoughts, complaints, etc. I also wanted to help these great artists decide that Florida is a good place to play live shows. A lot of artists have expressed their gratitude to me. Social media and word of mouth is what gets their music to people outside of their region and enables artists to go to new places like Florida and play in front of large crowds.”
Mark Eveld is originally from Texas and moved to Florida in the 80’s for his job, but kept close ties to the music. Along with helping to promote the artists and their shows, he’s also thrown some house concerts for smaller artists touring through the region. Since the Florida peninsula is out of the way for some touring artists, it takes a bit more enticement for them to take a right at Georgia instead of a left.
“I can’t count the number of times people of all ages have thanked me for helping them find a certain song or artist,” says Mark Eveld. “Florida venues are starting to realize that they are going to get the best music and a great show from Texas/Red Dirt artists. Each time the artist comes back, the crowd more or less doubles. As a result, venue DJ’s are starting to play this music on a more regular basis.”
What’s interesting about this network of regional supporters across the United States is that just like the Texas/Red Dirt movement itself, the focus for these groups remains at the state/regional level. This keeps the grassroots element of the movement in tact, while still allowing it to expand.
“As you might expect Red Dirt is a tough sell in our region,” says Red Dirt Northeast, which touts knowing more about Texas and Red Dirt than most Texans (and probably does). “But I do the best I can to keep my small group of followers informed about the genre.”
There are many other factors that are helping to spread the word about Texas and Red Dirt music beyond its native environs, including venues like Joes on Weed Street in Chicago, and Knuckleheads in Kansas City that cater to the music, radio programs on local stations beyond the Texas-based stations like KOKE in Austin, 95.9 The Ranch in Fort Worth, and KHYI The Range out of Dallas that people stream online, playlists that cater to Texas/Red Dirt music, as well as blogs like the long-running Galleywinter.
But it’s these ground-level hobbyists that sometimes help push an artist over the top to being able to tour through a region the may have never found support in before. And so these music supporters deserve their own support and appreciation as well.
List of Regional Red Dirt Chapters Outside of Texas / Oklahoma
Red Dirt NC (North Carolina) – Website – Twitter – Facebook – Instagram
Florida Red Dirt Country Club – Twitter – Facebook
Georgia Red Dirt Music – Twitter – Instagram
Red Dirt Northeast – Twitter
Red Dirt Illinois – Facebook – Instagram – Website
Red Dirt Idaho / Montana – Facebook
Commonwealth Country (Virginia) – Facebook Group
Palm Beach Red Dirt Club – Private Facebook Group
Other Red Dirt Promoters: Red Dirt Roots – Red Dirt Live
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(Editor’s note: If you’re running a local Texas/Red Dirt chapter and are not on this list, please reach out and you’ll be added. Nobody was purposely overlooked or excluded.)