From Waxahachie to Fort Worth, Canaan Bryce Mullinax is trying to bridge the gap between his two homes. That’s why he named his most recent album “HWY 287.”
Performing throughout Ellis and Tarrant County for the better part of the past four years, Mullinax said he formed a full-band, the Canaan Bryce Band, for the first time just a few months ago. The group is releasing their debut album Oct. 4 and holding a release party Oct. 6 at the Rockett Café & Club.
“We moved faster than we thought,” said Mullinax, a 2012 Waxahachie High graduate. “In the last five months, we’ve made some pretty big steps.”
When he was performing his solo act, Mullinax said he was playing three to five acoustic shows a week. He opened up for one of the hottest Texas country bands, Koe Wetzel and the Konvicts, in February and, in March, swapped songs with Lubbock artist Red Shahan at Blind Horse Saloon in Weatherford.
“That’s a huge thing,” Mullinax said. “Red Shahan is a legendary songwriter in our state.”
Two years ago he met his future drummer, Julian Lopez, at an acoustic show he was performing at in Big Al’s in Waxahachie. After the performance, Lopez told Bryce to let him know when he was ready to get a band together because he wants to be the drummer.
“For a year and a half, I didn’t have any full band shows and he was getting offers to go play with a couple other bands,” Mullinax said. “He was like “Nah, I’m sticking with Canaan whenever he’s ready.”
Throughout the year, Mullinax recruited several other musicians for his band, including bass player Adam Carrillo, fiddle player Brent Querry and lead guitarist Zach Hawkins, who joined the group two weeks ago.
One of the Canaan Bryce Band’s first big performances was at the Revival of the Bands show in April in San Antonio, where nine other bands were competing alongside Canaan Bryce.
Mullinax said his band practiced for only a couple of hours for two days prior to their performance.
“I wasn’t expecting to win,” Mullinax said. “I was expecting to cheer somebody on.”
To his surprise, the Canaan Bryce Band finished third in the competition. Mullinax said he was shocked when they called his band’s name.
“It was just as much a surprise to me as it was to my band and everybody else,” Mullinax said. “We were just going to do it and have the experience. Then we end up beating some guys that have been playing for two, three, eight years.”
“It was crazy just to know that I practiced twice with my band and we got third,” Mullinax followed up.
The third-place prize was an oversized “Happy Gilmore” check with Mullinax's name on it. He chuckled as he said the check is hanging in his garage.
“It was huge,” he remarked. “It was probably a six-foot check.”
One thing Mullinax likes about his band is they don’t limit themselves to one type of genre. He said they tried to cover a variety of styles on the new album.
“If they want to play rock, we’ll play rock,” Mullinax said. “They want to play blues, we can play blues. They wanna be down-home country, we’ll be down-home country. I really kind of took that to heart.”
Mullinax said if he had to classify their music, it would be red dirt. But he feels that their music goes wherever the lyrics take them.
“On the album we have coming up, we have rock songs,” he said. “We have true Texas country songs. We have down-home red dirt. We have Americana. We have Appalachian music.”
One theme the band explored on the album was finding home wherever you see it. Constantly traveling between Waxahachie and Fort Worth, Mullinax said he grew a connection with U.S. Highway 287 and related his travels to his music. He even recalled a time where he wrote one of his songs on the side of the road.
“Waxahachie is my home, but if you drive 45 minutes to an hour north, you hit Fort Worth,” he said. “I caught myself in the last four years traveling that road constantly because I was either building my fan base in my hometown or going to my second hometown in Fort Worth.”
The opening act for the Canaan Bryce Band’s release party is New Braunfels band, The Lawless, and they take the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Rockett Café. Presales for the album can be purchased now on iTunes or Spotify.
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX