Ellis Bullard is a name bubbling for a breakout in Texas and beyond with his throwback honky-tonk sound. He took a trip through our classic 20 questions survey for you to get to know him better and promote his Galleywinter River Jam Show on Sat July 8 at Billy's Ice with Jade Marie Patek. Learn what he grabs at the gas station in the middle of a run, his own kick out the footlights moment in Biloxi, where he gets those badass vintage threads and how running a band is like running a AAA baseball team...and more!
1. What’s new and exciting in the world of Ellis Bullard?
Answer: Man, everyday has something going on. We're wrapping our second 10 track LP Honky Tonk Ain’t Noise Pollution. Really excited to get that out, we also just announced we are playing the ACL festival in October this year. As a musician, especially based in Austin, It's a huge deal for us!
2. You sprung from an Austin scene that while still vibrant is always changing and much different than it was back in the day. What are the pros and cons of being based out of Austin in 2023?
Being centrally located is awesome for bands that are constantly playing out of town. We're the same distance down to Houston as we are up to Dallas, so it makes us pretty available to take gigs all over. Aside from location, there are a ton of players and movers and shakers that live here, so I think it helps being closer to those folks. When you're ready to be seen, it can happen.
3. Favorite touring memory of the following cities:
-Lubbock- The hangover breakfast at Pancake House
-College Station- Duke Ryan and I from Drug Store Gypsies had a wild acoustic show at Poet’s I think. “ That's about all I have to say about that” , Forrest Gump voice (laughs)
-Oklahoma City- OKC is awesome, Oklahoma loves music and musicians. Love that scene.
-New Braunfels- Played some cool shows there. One that sticks out was my residency songwriters night. I had some killer talent come out. Austin Meade, Eric Middleton, Jason Allen, David Lee and a ton of other killers at Gruene Grove. Great time.
-Corpus Christi- Wyatt and I should be in jail! (laughs)
-New Orleans- Only been for a bachelor party, my older brother's andyou’re not getting anything out of me! (laughs)
-Little Rock- I think we’ve only played Texarkana and Fayetville so far. Those folks love them some country music.
-Denver- Haven't played here yet, but I'm guessing it will be the weed. Because it for damn sure ain't the BBQ! (laughs)
-Tulsa- Mercury Lounge, Bobby Dean Orcutt is great dude...well, and of course the weed. You may be sensing a pattern. (laughs)
4. You’ve been featured on the Joe Rogan podcast several times. Explain what that experience was like. How did he find you? How did it impact your career?
It was crazy how it happened. We were hurting bad for cash, it was the winter time, after the holidays and we were all broke broke. We happened to have two shows cancelled on us that same day due to a major ice storm. The Whitehorse was the only club that stayed open and paid us to come out even though we knew we were going to be playing for ourselves that night. The show had started and there was literally 4 people there aside from the staff. With about 30 minutes left in our set, we noticed a crew of people walking in. Then I can start to realize who is coming in. It was Joe Rogan, Tony Hinchcliffe, Gordon Ryan, George St. Pierre and their entourage of professional fighters and comedians. I whipped my head around to the band and told them what was going on and that we had kill. We played 25 min over our set time and closed down the Horse after hours with Joe and his people.
Since that night I have run into him here and there over at the Vulcan Comedy Club when they were doing the KT show there. He’s a real dude. Like one of the bros, but he’s very present and really smart. I think he saw us and asked around, and heard that we were one of the hardest working bands in the city...I think that’s why he likes us. We hustle. We put in the hours. I think if you have talent and you work hard, he’s a fan of it no matter what it is. Since he has mentioned us on his podcast it has opened us up to a ton of new listeners and put us on the radar of major entities.
5. You have a very distinct style. I once said you sounded like Sturgill fronting the Moonpies. A statement I still stand by. What types of music did you grow up listening to?
I loved all kinds of music growing up. My dad played in bands and my mom was a studio artist and sang in bands around the Bama Muscle Shoals scene in its peak. When I was young, I was into it all...death metal, grunge, hip-hop, and country. I kind of put country music on the back burner when I was younger because I couldn’t really identify with a lot of the music. As you get older, and start going through it, it all starts to make more sense...and that's when I fell in love again with country music.
6. If you were to make a Mt. Rushmore of country music, who would you put on it?
In no particular order that would have to be Roger Miller, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Buck Owens.
7. Stories behind the following songs:
-Chasing Numbers- I was getting burned out, tired of searching for validation behind fake shit like number of streams and charts etc. Whether you’re chasing money or likes on social media, were all out here just chasing numbers that really don’t mean shit.
-Biloxi By Two: Had a funny happening at a shitty casino gig in Louisiana on our way to a show in Biloxi. We had a load in time we had to make that was near impossible because of the night we had before. The gig house will go unnamed but I essentially had a kick out the footlights moment and it all went to hell from there. Gotta love those! (laughs)
-Rock Bottom Again- Wrote this about three months into “ 2 weeks just to stop the spread. Morale was low and my vices were getting the best of me.
-Roller Coaster- Just a fun song, this life we live is full of ups and downs just like a roller coaster!
-Stubborn Man- I actually didn’t write this one, my buddy and lead player at the time, Adam Duran who is currently touring with Kyle Nix and Kaitlin Butts wrote it. I heard a demo of it and when I found out he wasn’t gonna release it, I wanted it.
-Back to My Roots- I was practicing guitar, root notes in particular, and kind of wrote a funky little riff just screwing around and it was on! This song was kind of me stepping out and saying I’m gonna do me, be myself and stay true to myself doing, getting back to my roots.
-Since You’ve Been Gone, I’ve Been Doing Wrong- Wrote most of this in the Cotton Court Hotel suite in Lubbock. Song is mostly about a man and a lady in toxic relationship. He’s a mess and she's checking out.
8. When writing songs do you typically start with a melody or lyric? Or does it vary?
I'd say it varies. I usually write while I'm driving around. I’ll move around in silence with nothing but the music in my head and try to get to a point where I can express what's going on in there.
9. What’s your favorite vintage store? Where do you find your clothes?
I love Pavement in Austin, but in all honesty the Mexican western stores have all the drip. I get a lot of my stuff at Tiny's off 183 or Gomez Boot Barn. Also, the Style Station outside of Waco goes hard!
10. Does your band van have a nickname? And if so, what is it and why?
Honk Wagon. Self explanatory.
11. Talk a bit about your band. Who’s playing with you and how long have you had this lineup?
Running a band is like AAA baseball. Talent everywhere but like the athletes, you gotta follow the money. Who can blame them though right? I originally started with Wyatt Lankford, Adam Duran as anchor members with a revolving door of players.
The last two years I have been blessed with consistency, Cole Beddingfield on Bass, Kyle Ponder on Drums, Sam Norris on Steel Guitar and Austin Roach on Lead Guitar. If you’ve seen us in the last year and a half to two years this is probably the line up you saw.
12. What do you notice about audiences outside of Texas versus playing around home?
Hate to say it, but I’ve found some of my favorite crowds outside of Texas. There are a ton of talented bands in Texas and sometimes you can get lost in the sauce or written off unless you're being pushed by major movers and shakers.
13. You roll into a gas station in the midst of a long run…what are you buying?
Backwood Honey Cigarillos and more than likely a cold brew and chicharones. I've also been known to house some Roller Dogs though.
14. What elements make a good honky tonk in your opinion?
Need a stage and a dance floor...and no TV’s. If you have sports on or some stupid CHIVEtv type sitch going on...that's super lame!
15. If you could take a time machine to some place and time, where would you go and why?
I'd have to go back in time and write all those hits before Dean Dillon.
16. Name association:
-Charley Crockett- Authentic
-Paul Cauthen- Polarizing
-Kevin Fowler- My favorite uncle...just kidding, but the dude is a bonafide rock star.
-Koe Wetzel- Nice dude.
-Jason Boland- Parking my Hyundai next to his bus when I was opening one night. (laughs)
-Willie Nelson- Weed
17. If they made a movie about your life and career to this point, who would you want to play you?
18. Rapid fire:
-Salsa, Queso or Guac?- Order all three if possible...but queso over everything!
-Favorite shot?- Tequila..would of loved to say Juan Lobo Tequila but he hasn’t broke out the check book quite yet. (laughs)
-Smoky and the Bandit or Dukes of Hazzard?- Smoky and the Bandit...Jerry M'fN Reed all day long!
19. Favorite George Strait song and why?
I love all his early stuff pretty much up until the late 90’s then things start getting weird for me. I'd say the melody and arrangement of “Fool Hearted Memory “ is probably my favorite.
20. What do you think distinguishes your music from all the other music out there?
I think a lot of it is raw, not so polished and we're okay with it. I think above all, folks can tell that we are having the best time with it and it's contagious.