|COVER STORY: Fallon Franklin: Beautiful, Talented, and Candid
As the editor and owner of Texas Music Times I have received numerous inquiries over the months to cover more women in the magazine. The problem is that I have not found that many women who really interest me enough to cover in the magazine from a musical standpoint, or from an industry standpoint.
We have covered a few women in these pages like Susan Gibson and Stephanie Briggs, but there are not enough women in Texas music to be perfectly honest. It is a simple fact, and the women that are in Texas music are not very influential or have large fan bases. In far too many cases, women are marginalized with venues, fans, and even other musicians and players. It is unfortunate and diminishes Texas music. Actually, there are numerous women who are in Texas music but they don’t have the pull or relevance that they deserve.
There are some well-financed projects by women who make country records in Texas and attempt to use the Texas music scene to break something on a national level with music that is less than genuine or, in reality, very good. These acts pay the promotion dollars to get on the charts and make the media runs but at the end of the day, the music is just not very real or put together with much soul or authenticity. No amount of promotion dollars can make bad records into good ones. There are also several wonderful women players, songwriters, and performers in the Americana world of Texas music, but even there the numbers are small. However, the Americana music scene and industry is much more accepting of women performers.
Even in my desire to find the appropriate “Woman” or “Female” act to make the first “girl cover” of the magazine I found myself with a tremendous challenge. I wanted to find someone who I thought had a cool story to tell, and someone that makes music that I really like.
However, I did not want to look toward the one or two major female acts in Texas that are largely just pop “girl power” country music acts without much substance or soul.
In my interview with Fallon Franklin, it became apparent to me that she has the credibility and stature to be that first female cover story. Fallon has been performing for people all over Texas for almost 12 years. She started in her teens, and now in her mid-twenties she has earned the right to be heard and have some of her story told. In a candid hour interview with her I was convinced that her honesty and talent is important to Texas music and her views are something everyone should consider. She and her band “Blake and Fallon” are an important and talented act and they deserve as much exposure as they can get.
Fallon’s views on Texas music are strong and thoughtful. Her perspective on the entire industry is that the system is structured with “good ole boys” at both the venue and artist level. In discussing the state of the industry, Fallon was candid about the struggle with venues to get gigs. “We have been told numerous times by venues that they really love us but they already have a girl act that month and rarely have women artists anyway, so they can not book us” Fallon explained. The same phenomenon happens with festivals where 30 bands might be performing, but only one band with women in it and that is all the promoter or talent buyer will accept if any at all.
Fallon thinks some of it may be the southern mentality that girls can’t play guitar, and that many of the guys don’t want to share the stage with girls. However, she was candid to mention some of the guys who have been good to her. Among the names of male artists who have supported her include Cory Morrow, Brandon Rhyder, and Bart Crow. However, some other male artists have told venues they don’t want to share the stage with a woman on the show that night. It is a fact that has angered her male band mates as well. “I can’t tell you the number of times we have been turned down for gigs because the other act that night on a co-bill did not like the idea of playing a show with a girl in the other band. It is definitely a good ole boy system that it seems some of the guys sometimes think it is less cool to have a girl enter the room,” related Fallon.
The prevailing attitude has caused the industry to become a bit presumptuous about women artists from Fallon’s point of view. When asked about the realities of the market and music venues needing to book safe acts that they know will draw a crowd that spend money Fallon responded. “I think they discount the fans with that view. I can’t tell you the number of times I have people, especially girls, come up to me after the show and say how cool it was to have a girl on stage and that they never see that at shows” she said.
Even the staff at some of the shows and venues has certain stereotypes about women who are there.
“It has not happened to me in a while, but used to happen all the time that I would go outside to get something from the van and when I would try to get back in the door guy would stop me and not let me back in. When I would tell him I was with the band I would be told that groupies were not “with” the band. Far too many times I would have to call Blake to have him come down to prove that I was in the band.”
Fallon was also very candid about the times that male artists who did not recognize her would make groupie or sexual related comments in green room or backstage settings.
“I went in the green room at one venue and was confronted with the comment that the room was for “blow jobs” only by one of the band members from the other band on the bill that night. I just got my beer from the artist’s cooler and left.” It was obvious that they had no idea that I was a performer just like they were, they thought I was just a groupie,” Fallon said.
Fortunately, Fallon admits, most of these issues are behind her now, as she is better known and the mistakes of ignorance are no longer common. However, the discrimination for gigs still occurs on a regular basis and in a way suggests that we have farther to go with industry and fan acceptance of women. In her view, it has to do with opportunity for women to be heard and seen. The venues have to take a chance and the fans will respond. It is clear that she has struggled in her journey through the back roads of Texas music. However, it is also clear that she and her band mates have something worth keeping and they continue to play a full schedule and bring music to their ever growing fan base. In addition, Fallon has a major opportunity on the horizon that may exposure her and her band to millions of music fans nation wide. The opportunity might make her the envy of many in Texas music.
Fallon was concerned that her candid approach and stories that she related to me would be misconstrued, and that she would be viewed as just disgruntled and bitchy. Some may read this that way and there is really nothing I can do about that other than to say she was not. She was sincere and honest and I have nothing but respect for her and her band. They make great music and their latest CD titled “Wasted Day” is a fabulous record.
The reality is that Fallon’s experiences in Texas music are likely not very rare and there is a statement to be made about it. Who knows if it is the fans, the male artists, the venues, or the male dominated good ole boy system that is at fault? Likely, there is enough blame to go around. However, on a national level, Texas music is not often taken very seriously outside of Texas, and maybe one of those reasons is that it looks too much like a redneck scene dominated by over-drinking fans with no class.
It is a fair question and issue that we all should all sit back and look at in a thoughtful way. If we don’t, the music will suffer and we will never grow past the bias that many already accuse us of. I hope Fallon and her band continue to grow and do it their way. She is a great person and is part of a great band. The rest of us need to catch up and realize it.
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