Festival Fast Talk with Jason Galaz, founder of Muddy Roots Records

Growing up in Southern California, the most obvious answer to “music that defines you” certainly goes to good ole’ American folk, country, and blues…right? Seems to be true if you base your study on Jason Galaz.

Upon moving to Tennessee, Galaz created the Muddy Roots Festival—a live event dedicated to the blues, folk, honky tonk, punk rock, tattoos, cars, and pin-up girls. As if it wasn’t enough to expand the festival outside of Tennessee—and the States—to Waardamme, Belgium, Galaz also founded Muddy Roots Records, a label established to provide vinyl editions of the music that defines the sound of the festival itself. I got to talk to Jason a few weeks before this year’s Muddy Roots Festival.

What was the catalyst that created Muddy Roots Music Festival?

It was as simple as me wanting my favorite bands in town and then wanting them there all at once. I was, and always will be, evolving and looking for new music to carry me on. I felt the best music in the world wasn’t getting the support it needed. These bands are 10 times better than anything on the radio and mostly ended up on the side stage of other festivals. I wanted a place for the bands that didn’t fit in a genre.

How has the festival evolved over the years?

It doubles each year. We don’t want it getting too big, so we start other events to deter that. The music is meant to be intimate.

When and how was the decision made to expand Muddy Roots overseas?

I made that decision when we had more people from Europe than local Nashvillians buy tickets to the Muddy Roots Music Festival the first two years. I figured they deserved a party of their own. Now some Europeans come to both. I am the type of guy  who would drive 1,000 miles to see my favorite band, so I totally get it. We are all the same that way. It is a festival of bands with cult followings coming together to form one big one.

It seems there is a market for this worldwide—would you ever consider expanding Muddy Roots to other places around the world? Any already within consideration?

I am all about building bridges. I’ll bring the party anywhere people will come out. It is hard being independent and doing all these events, but with the help of friends and other music lovers, it is possible. We are scouting locations all over right now. If you are a hardworking and honest music lover who wants to team up, let us know.

Could you tell me about the documentary Hard Soil?

Slowboat Films in Germany is putting together a film about this movement. It is filmed at Muddy Roots Music Festival, Muddy Roots Europe, and throughout the South. We shot in Belgium and will continue at MRMF. It is filmed at Muddy Roots but is not about the event.

They want to tell the story of the Muddy Roots of American Music. It will show how some music came to America and how it evolved over time to what it is now. This is about the real music of America. The music of the people and not that crap packaged up at the big chain stores and sold to us. Early mountain music, bluegrass, country and blues, all the way up to punk rock. All organic music movements.

When did the record label start-up?

We kicked off the record label a few months ago and just released our first CD from The Tillers. We put out a 7″ monthly and will do an occasional full-length until the ball gets rolling.

Could you explain the details to your 7″ series?

Sure, it breaks down into two parts. Every month we put out a 7″ as part of a limited edition, one time only pressing. Sometimes they’re autographed and numbered. We will never repress these special items. Once they are gone, they are gone. Folks can subscribe for three months at a time for $27 plus shipping, which gets you three 45 rpm records. We release the same songs on standard black vinyl as well, sold as singles for $6-$8 each, depending on who it is. Collector’s item versus standard pressing.

Is there a particular release that is special to you?

The first one, as it symbolized the growth needed to build stronger roots in our family. It was a childhood dream of my brother and I to have a record label and be a part of music. Sean and Zander [Sean Wheeler of Throwrag and Zander Schloss of Circle Jerks, The Weirdos, and Joe Strummer’s band] are our friends and strong Muddy Roots supporters. It was an honor to have punk rock vets trust us with their name and music. We have some doozies in the works. People are really coming together to push this label. A lot of rare tracks, unreleased music, and collaborations of artists from multiple bands for fun side project releases.

The Rambler was “formed in the Spring of 2011 to promote the Muddy Roots lifestyle.” What content does this include, and how does this relate to (or expand upon) the label and festival?

We wanted a publication to highlight all the things we love. Not just the music, but antiques, old guy wisdom, pics of descendants, old fashion, old cars….You get it. Old stuff. Our writers like to tell the stories of musicians who changed the face of music but are long forgotten. They like to find distilleries that closed during prohibition and tell that story. We are interested in where we come from.

The Muddy Roots brand has expanded rapidly. Any other ambitions or goals on your radar?

I don’t like to sit still. You can expect Muddy Roots Music seeds sprouting in your back yard soon.

You can keep up with Jason Galaz’s work at the Muddy Roots website.

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