Meet Lainey Gonzales on the streets of Austin and you probably wouldn’t think she had political experience under her belt.
While the current presidential candidates may not dress up as a Teletubby and pass out roses to strangers, Lainey’s campaign strategy worked in the University of Texas sophomore’s favor last year as she was voted the second annual mayor of Austin City Limits. Her civic duties included two free weekends at the famed music festival and a stipend for all the snacks and swag she wanted. But as Gonzales’ time as mayor came to an end, her career in music was just beginning.
A Highland Park High School graduate, Gonzales always had a passion for music—one that has gotten her to ACL every year since she was 16—wasn’t sure how she could turn her hobby into a full-time job.
“Music has always been in the back of my mind and pursuing a career in music was always a dream,” she said. “But recently, I’ve realized life is short and I need to try, especially since I’ve been blessed with the opportunity and means.”
So after meeting with many of the producers and organizers for ACL at a one-on-one lunch in Austin late last year, the chance to turn her passion and dream of performing on the Zilker Park stage herself seemed much more attainable. So Gonzales locked herself in her room, wrote five songs, and set out to find a path to producing those songs.
Where did she find that path? The Burger House on Hillcrest, of all spots.
“I saw Steve Boyd’s poster for his Bass Dog Studio on a trip back home to Highland Park and noticed he was offering songwriting lessons. I contacted him and worked with him over my Christmas break,” she said.
Enter the aforementioned Boyd, who opened a recording studio in his garage last year. Working together to produce Gonzales’ first album, the duo went through the process from start to finish, bringing in other musicians (including a group of Highland Park orchestra alumni and students), and finalizing the tracks.
“He was so patient with me, showing me the ropes of the process, letting me work through trial and error,” Gonzales said. “I had never really understood how much time and energy goes into recording an EP. It’s just like painting a picture or preforming in a play, it takes so much focus.”
For Boyd, Gonzales’ dedication and creativity makes her songs on her first release that much more powerful.
“She comes from such an original place and doesn’t lean on conventional song structure. She’s a bit of a mix of Joni Mitchell and Lisa Loeb: poetic, personal, an whimsical,” Boyd explained.
Now, her first songs have been released on She(EP), and can be found on Soundcloud. Gonzalez hopes that it is eventually uploaded to popular streaming service Spotify so her peers can listen in on the way to class.
“For me, growing up in Highland Park, it was easy to stand out when I was just being myself. But that allowed me to leave my own mark and define my individuality pretty early,” Gonzales said. “Now in college, I feel so comfortable walking to the beat of my own drum.”