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Libbi Bosworth finds her home

By Joel Bernstein, September 2001

Libbi Bosworth has lived in a lot of places - New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, even Boston, but she's settled on Austin as her home. The reason being that Austin is the best place for playing music. "It's the audiences in Austin that make it special. Singers are drawn here because audiences are so appreciative of all different styles."

Bosworth is a woman with a great sense of humor, both in her music and out, and she has a trailer full of interesting stories to tell, but she's also a trouper. Not many artists would do an interview from their hospital room on the day before being scheduled to give birth.

But her new self-released album of solid country music, "Libbiville," has to get promoted somehow.

Growing up in Galveston, Bosworth spent a lot of time in honky tonks with her dad, dropping quarters into the jukebox to hear favorite country songs. But she still wasn't quite sure what she wanted to be when she grew up - an actress or a singer. "My attention span is like a mosquito. I'm bad at structured environments. I'm good at fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants situations."

Trying to figure out what was right for her, young Bosworth spent time in New York "trying to shed my Texas image." as she puts it. "I worked typing, hostessing in restaurants and also took voice lessons."

The band she found herself in up there was "a quasi-punk band. We didn't have enough anger. We had five band names and two gigs. We were more interested in our image. Then, I went to Boston (Berklee School of Music, where she studied jazz.) for a while, but my mother convinced me to come out to Los Angeles and try out for summer stock. I couldn't act worth a hoot, but I could sing so they put me in the chorus."

Bosworth was starting to realize where her talent lied. "I couldn't act my way out of a bag, but I loved the attention. I hadn't taken music seriously because it was so prevalent growing up. Then I joined a band in L.A. singing harmony. This was during the big 'Town South of Bakersfield' scene. Playing in bars and trying to learn how to sing and write songs, I realized that's what I was supposed to be doing because it's fun."

Then she moved to Austin with guitar player Bill Dwyer, whom she married. "That's when I started developing a (musical) identity - what I liked, what I didn't like. After two or three years, we moved to Nashville. I started cutting my first album with (Dwyer). I got divorced, came back to Texas, finished the record ("Outskirts Of You," released in 1996). I was on Austin City Limits and got to do a duet with Dale Watson. I met my new husband, who's not a musician. I swore off musicians - someone in the family has to be normal and grounded."

Before her first album got released, one of the songs she had written for it, "Up All Night," made its initial appearance on Kelly Willis' final MCA album. "I was playing at the Black Cat in Austin. She and (husband) Bruce (Robison) were there. She said she loved the song and asked if she could record it. It's just such a compliment. I don't really think of myself as a songwriter, more as a singer."

Other Austin performers are also Bosworth fans. The Hollisters did one of her songs on their debut, and "Libbiville" includes duets with local stalwarts Don Walser and Toni Price.

Austin is full of country musicians with similar influences. In an odd coincidence, the lead track on both Bosworth's first album and Wallace's second is an obscure '50's song called "Ain't Gonna Waste My Time." "Roger and I have similar tastes." Bosworth says. "I also used to play 'First Train Headin' South'" (a Johnny Horton song on Wallace's latest album.)

Bosworth writes most of her own songs now. The one person she sometimes writes with is John Sieger, who also has a solo composition on "Libbiville." "He's unbelievably talented. He's had songs recorded by Dwight Yoakam and Etta James. He's got songs falling out of his pocket. He's in Milwaukee now, but he lived in Nashville for a long time. He's a little left of center, so he's never had any big Nashville cuts."

"The first time I co-wrote with him, I was 'Help me fix this.' The second one, I had more ideas myself. I don't like to co-write. I really wanted to see if I could bring myself out. I'm always cracking jokes, making people laugh. Sometimes I put my foot in my mouth. I've got a big mouth. Sometimes I put both feet in. I'm trying to be honest and write straight from the heart and say what I want to say."

Another reason to like Austin is that there isn't any pressure to be commercial. "I'm not in that (radio) game. I just want to write things I'm proud of. I'm starting to think of myself as a songwriter more."

Although several songs on the album seem to be ex-husband material, Bosworth says only one song "South Texas Highway" actually is. "Some songs like 'Straight To The Heart' and 'Back Home In Texas' are inspired by my current husband. Others are inspired by friends' (situations)."

Bosworth didn't feel that she fit in Nashville. "In Nashville, when you played, you had to set up a showcase. Everything seems rehearsed, and tight and the element of surprise is missing. In Austin, you play to have fun. In Nashville, that wasn't there, and it was kind of depressing. Music is so joyful."