10 Songs About Austin

Austin and music always went together like peanut butter and jelly. With a wealth of local talent and tons of festivals which draw amazing national acts and hosts dozens of music festivals each year, the city has certainly inspired a lot of ballads. Songs about Austin range from funny to disturbing to sweet and cover every aspect of Austin's diverse musical canvas from hip-hop to Tejano to rockabilly. Austin's unique flavor will always live on in a sweetly strummed six-string, a catchy back beat, and a heart-felt high note.

"A-Town Blues" Wayne "The Train" Hancock

Originally from Denton, Texas (where he currently resides once more), Wayne Hancock came to roost in Austin, Texas in 1995 and never left—well, at least part of him never did. "A-Town Blues" is a fantastic little blues/honky-tonk stomper about a man on the road pining for the girl and the city he left behind. You can almost see the neon marquees of the Austin Motel on Congress as he pulls away from downtown, heading off to gigs unknown.

"Devil Town" Daniel Johnston

Although Bright Eyes recorded a savory cover of "Devil Town," Daniel Johnston — ATX's favorite oddball crooner — originally wrote and recorded the definitive version of this creepy little ballad/tribute to Austin on his aptly titled 1990 album "1990." The schizophrenic songster delivers his own tribute to the dark side of the city – one where all his friends are vampires, and he himself is a vampire. Okay, maybe not exactly a tribute. Whether Austin is an angel or devil town, it's a home to all sorts of eclectic folk heroes like Johnston. In fact, his mural, painted on the wall at 21st and Guadalupe Street, was recently lacquered and commemorated with a plaque.

"Texas on a Saturday Night" Willie Nelson

If there's anyone who personifies Austin as a musical and socially aware city, it's Willie Nelson. Heck, the man had a statue erected to him on the corner of Willie Nelson Boulevard (formerly Second Street). His song, "Texas on a Saturday Night," although never mentioning Austin by name, might as well be about Austin because there are few places in Texas with weekends (and weeknights) as musically and culturally active as Austin. There aren't any other cities that scream "Willie Nelson" like the one he calls home.

"Travis County" Gary Clark, Jr.

An Austin original, Gary Clark, Jr. is a guitar wizard on the rise. With sonic influences spanning jazz, blues, hip hop, garage, and soul, he's one of rock's rising stars. In 2012, he first lit up the stage at ACL with this smart little jumper. Referencing not just the county but the jail, this rock and roller tells the story of a run-in with the law and a stint in Travis County jail. It also hints at the social injustices beneath the fabric of every modern cosmopolitan wonderland.

"Texas Flood" Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan made his bones on the Austin City Limits stage, so his song "Texas Flood" is especially poignant in the wake of 2015's horrendous flooding. With talent forged in the emerging Austin music scene of the early 80s, Stevie Ray Vaughan was local guitar hero until David Bowie scooped him up for his Let's Dance album. After that, Vaughan's elevator was headed straight up to the top floor. "Texas Flood" represents the sound of Austin City Limits in the 1980s, and Stevie is still a quintessential Austin musician. In fact, his statue welcomes tourists to Lady Bird Lake trail.

"Lost in Austin" The Mystery Jets

Although the gist of the song really has more to do with an insecure lover than central Texas, the title and sound are fitting, especially for the way they recorded it. After playing South By Southwest, the English pop rock group settled in Westlake, Texas to record this album out of a home studio. From that session came their fifth studio album, Radlands, which included this twangy little ditty. From the lyrical hook about losing yourself to the night, it's likely they were probably on the north side of town, where the street names change at random.

"Anything You Want" Spoon

Local and now national indie-psyche darlings Spoon have been crafting catchy tunes since the early 1990s. This melodic little number touches on the old favorite artistic topic of sticking to your independent ways or selling out to make a living. Music may be a job to some, but it's a religion in ATX, with its cornucopia of clubs and band culture. Even if there is a measure of bitterness (and irony in light of their success) to the song, it still speaks volumes about the heart of Austin – of musicians trying to hit the big time while toiling on the local circuit. The tune even includes a reference to an Austin favorite, the now defunct record store, Sound Exchange.

"Gimme Some" Grupo Fantasma

Although this song never actually refers to the city by name, it's all Austin. If any band represents the fusion sound of this diverse city, it's Grupo Fantasma. This nine- to ten-piece Tejano, funk, soul, jazz fusion combo has been shaking butts in Austin since 1990. Not only does "Gimme Some" characterize the city's cultural blend, but with its off-beat humor, it acts as the flip side to Spoon's "Anything You Want." Their comical video, lampooning the PBS pledge drives, was shot on renowned local theater group Rude Mechanical's stage.

"City to City" Magna Carda

Magna Carda is one of the freshest hip hop/neo-soul acts to come out of Austin in a long time, despite ATX's long history of fantastic flows. The core of this talented assemblage met at Austin's artsy St. Edward's University and embody the all-inclusive vibe of Austin's progressive culture. While "City to City" references numerous locales, it always brings it back to Austin — the positivity and possibilities this town, at the literal and figurative crossroads of the new American frontier — represents.

"Screw You, We're From Texas" Ray Wylie Hubbard

If there's any song that covers the devil-may-care attitude that characterizes old Austin (and to a lesser extent, new Austin), it's Ray Wylie Hubbard's offbeat "Screw You..." Active in the cow punk, blues, outlaw country, and roots rock scene, Hubbard's snarky song gets to the nub of Austin's weirdo vibe, discussing the eclectic style of dress (cowboy boots, jeans, Hawaiian shirt, and mirrored sunglasses) that once characterized the town. He also gives a shout out to classic local venues like Stubbs, John T Floore's Country Store, and scores of local musicians.

Andy L. Kubai is a freelance writer, weather nerd, and transplanted Austinite who's been exploring the internal and external wonders of his new home for the last 5 years. Visit Andy on his home turf.