Josh Abbott is a Texas country artist, a graduate of Texas Tech University, and a proud alum of the Texas Epsilon chapter of Phi Delta Theta. He accredits much of his musical success to Lubbock, Texas and time spent with his Phi Delt brothers. I was given the pleasure of asking him some questions.
You released Small Town Family Dream in April. Talk about this album, and for those who haven’t listened to it yet, what can they expect when they do listen to it.
Feels a lot like a sequel to “She’s Like Texas” album; just a little more grown up. It’s kind of a concept album that pays attention to the small town rural life. Songs pay attention to the hardships of agriculture as well as the community aspects of being from a little town. And of course there are the typical JAB love songs like “Touch”, “She Will Be Free”, and “Dallas Love”.
On the heels of a great album in She’s Like Texas, did you feel the ante had been upped regarding the quality of your music?
Definitely. Our first album “Scapegoat” was such a raw product, so the bar really elevated with “She’s Like Texas.” We knew we wanted to use the same studio and producer/engineer (Erik Herbst, Panhandle House Studio, Denton, TX). Also, since the last album, we got a new bassist and electric guitar player that really upgraded our abilities creatively. Lastly, Austin re-joining the band with his banjo gave us that last piece to really make this the band I’ve always wanted. I think that shows in this new album.
Very sorry about your Red Raiders this past weekend. I honestly thought they’d win this one. Lubbock is a tough road game for any team.
Yeah it used to be anyway. We gotta get back to being a tough place to play. The players have that swagger back…now it’s time for the fans to get it back too. OU has a solid team though. It’s always tough to beat them.
Do you miss Mike Leach?
I’m a Tech guy no matter what so it’s hard to say. I miss Leach’s outside-the-box thinking, his quirkiness, and his offense. But in the same sense, Tuberville has done such a good job at getting us faster and bigger w/ more emphasis on defense. I know last year we were awful at that but injuries and inexperience really were behind that. Tuberville is a stand-up guy and a great leader. We’ll be fine moving forward and I expect big things from this program!
Who’s taking down a sixer quicker, you or Leach?
Ha, I have no idea. I can chug pretty fast.
Speaking of Texas Tech football, it looks like you came through Phi Delta Theta right after Wes Welker. We’ve heard a pretty outlandish tale or two about Welker’s time there. Were there any Welker stories or legends passed on to the younger guys that you can share?
Haha, well honestly Welker and I were never roommates or close friends so I don’t know any really. I’ve heard some doozies but I think they are best told by those who experienced them! I always thought Wes was a nice guy though, and still love watching the guy play.
What about Josh Abbott? What kind of fraternity man were you? Any wild stories about yourself that you can share?
I think my experience was a lot different than most. I went to a juco right after high school, and then to SFA for a year where I pledged and joined PDT. Then I transferred to Tech and lost hours so I was older than the guys I came up with in Tech PDT. Not having pledge brothers is tough because those are your guys all through college. It took a year or so but the chapter really opened up to me once I showed I could contribute and lead in my own ways. I had fun at parties and tailgates, but I was focused at the time on a Christian organization for Greeks that I co-founded called GreekWide. It’s still going strong today, so I feel good about that.
As far as wild stories go, who doesn’t have them?! I can’t get into specifics but during my year at SFA, my brothers spiked my drink with Ex-Lax and Viagra. I’m sure you can imagine how conflicting that was. Hahaha…One time at Tech at a toga party, I was buzzed pretty good and saw a couple guys getting into it. I had just affiliated and recognized one as a brother so I walked up and started hitting the other guy. Turns out he was a brother too. Oops…haha one time on a ski trip to Colorado, I had way too much Crown and bold chex mix. I ran to the back of the bus and threw up all over the restroom. I opened the door and the looks that I got from all those tri-delt girls back there still to this day makes me laugh! TFM.
Favorite thing about being in a fraternity?
The camaraderie of it all. Two of my best friends were my pledge brothers at SFA, but I’m pretty close to a bunch of guys from Tech. We play in fantasy football leagues, and when I’m on tour it seems like one of them is coming out every night. It’s great catching up over dinner and getting to see their wife and kids. It’s honestly my favorite part of touring: getting to see my fraternity brothers. Seems like most graduate and it may be years before they see some of the guys whereas I get to see a bunch of them a couple times a year.
Can you bring us back to the beginning? Talk about the experiences of four fraternity brothers getting together and starting a band.
I started this thing with Austin (banjo), Neel (bass), and Drew (drums). Our first real gig was a Pi Phi party (coincidently my wife was there but I didn’t know her then). Getting to practice with them and play every week at The Blue Light was a really fun experience. I remember one time we were playing up there and through the windows facing the street we could see a big fight break out between our brothers and some other guys. Neel immediately quit playing, ran out there, and started whacking people! It was awesome. I went out there, brought him back in, and we started playing again. TFM. One time a few of us did body shots off this chick at the bar. We were loving it; just four young brothers having a great time. Lots of memories from those couple of years and we were pretty close. Our first road gig was ironically in Nacogdoches (SFA) so we piled in Neel’s Tahoe and hit the road. I was sad to see Neel and Drew leave but I knew the road just wasn’t for them. I was confident that Austin and I could find some guys that would work out.
Are you a believer in the adage, “It’s not the grades you make, but the hands you shake”? Keep in mind when answering that many impressionable college students will be reading this…
Absolutely! That doesn’t mean you can get by on C’s and D’s. There are some professions that require post-graduate degrees, so in order to get those you have to make good grades…but no one working in the oil business cares if you made an A in history or some elective. They want to know the type of person you are. Shaking those hands in college gets you the job later on.
Talk about going to college in Texas and the great Texas country music that is so available to us, and many times just right down the street.
I think it’s a huge part of what makes up the Texas college experience, especially for Greeks who tend to flock towards Texas music. Now that I’m on the other side of it I see how a lot of college kids take it for granted. They just show up to a concert to say they were there and be seen whereas if you go to other states, they show up to LISTEN like it’s an actual concert. Texas country has become as much of a social event as it is a concert…but that’s okay! What we have down here is incredible and unique. I’m glad the college kids continue to take pride in our scene. I can remember countless nights of going to Texas country concerts with my brothers and sorority friends. I can also not remember countless nights because of them!
What does Lubbock mean to you? How different would your life be now without your experiences there?
It terrifies me to imagine my life if I hadn’t come back to Lubbock. Transferring to Tech and affiliating with the best chapter in the country was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Without that experience, I don’t have a band. Without that experience, I don’t go to grad school and without that experience I don’t meet my wife most likely! I have thought about this hundreds of times. I am forever indebted to the Texas Epsilon chapter of Phi Delta Theta. I love them more than I’ll ever be able to explain.
Do you have a single favorite moment as a Phi Delt member at Texas Tech?
My last year in Phi Delt, I got to speak at a big alumni and chapter banquet. I was the chaplain so I had to give a quick message and say a prayer. I talked about the bond between all of us and how it relates to brothers in the scriptures. It was well-received and still to this day, I have people come up to me about that speech.
Also, right before we graduate we have a get together in which all the graduating seniors get to reflect on their time in the chapter and address brothers in particular. It was always one of my favorite events. We all use the same closing line to end our speeches and it’s kind of our closure for being an active. I still remember that room when I gave mine and how accepted I felt with those guys. I miss ’em all.
While we were in school in central Texas, a talented guy trying to spread his music would play at our fraternity parties for very cheap. That was Ryan Bingham. Are there any artists you remember seeing play in college, just trying to make a name for themselves, that ended up making it big?
Wade Bowen comes to mind. I saw him play at Blue Light early in his career. Same for Randy Rogers Band and Eli Young Band. It’s fun to look back on watching those guys start out and then now they’re not only successful, but I call them friends. Crazy how life ends up!
Did you play at fraternity parties? Did it make you miss the good ole days?
Yeah and we still do when we can. It definitely brings back a sense of nostalgia when you play for the Greeks. I remember being that age. Best time of my life.
Did your decision to pursue music have anything to do with wanting to keep the party going after college?
I’ve never thought of it like that but yeah maybe subconsciously it kind of was. We formed the band right after I graduated so that makes sense; but then I went to grad school and was pretty content pursuing a masters and getting a real job somewhere. So yeah I guess I did do it for fun until it became apparent we might actually have a decent shot at making it.
Are any of your songs about, or influenced by, your time as a Phi Delt?
“Road Trippin” is for sure all about my experiences in Phi Delt. The line “Call my brothers to be my pallbearers” in “Buried Me” is a reflection on it as well.
You can only listen to one album the rest of your life, excluding your own. Which is it?
80’s party mix! Haha, honestly I don’t know. I think any one album the rest of your life would grow pretty old!
Tell me a little bit about the JAB Sorority Contest, and how the conversation went with your wife when you told her part of your job would require you to look at photos of sorority girls.
Hahaha! She was a sorority girl (Pi Phi) so she knows how important they are to what I do. We have always tried to market towards and write songs for sorority girls. That contest was huge for us and I think this fall’s contest will be three times bigger. It’s a tough job.
What’s next for you?
Just going to continue touring, write songs, and look at photos of sorority girls! Haha…I hope to do this for the next 10 years and then limit how many shows we play and focus on politics. I’d like to be the governor of Texas one day.
Any last words for the TFM readers?
It’s cheesy to say, but always cherish these times you have right now. You’re all going to grow older, have kids, get stressed at work, and encounter all sorts of real-world problems. So while you’re in college, dress crazy for parties, take road-trips, and be involved in your chapter. These literally are the years you will always reflect back on. Don’t get caught up on one-night stands and backstabbing friends. None of those will matter later on. Focus on being a good person, a good brother/sister, and having fun. God bless.
You can pick up the newest Josh Abbott Band album Small Town Family Dream on iTunes. And for the sorority girls interested in the JAB Sorority Contest, you can sign up here. JAB is set to donate $10,000 in philanthropy cash for this contest. Finally, let’s see if I can talk corporate into funding a company-wide trip to see JAB perform at the Nutty Brown Cafe for the final stop on their JABFest tour on October 27.