The thing about our reality is that so much has happened before us. History books try to cover it, but when all else fails – turn to those around you. People like C M Talkington, those who admire days past, are always there to give a lesson in what was. His March 2023 release, ‘Texas Radio’ is an homage to just that, Texas Radio. Not a native to the Lone Star State, I had to inquire about it. That was on the table as well as working with his pal Renée Zellweger, and more texcellence in this back-and-forth exchange.
Kendra: An aspect of your story I really loved was your admiration for Texas Radio. This thing dates back to the ‘30s, you made it a band name with your buddy, Scott Mathews, some years ago and even though it seemed to take a break due to distance and life – Texas Radio is back, and the name of your March 2023 release. What about the foundations of Texas Radio’s history do you feel best represents your outlook on making music?
C M Talkington: The history of Texas Radio covers pretty much everything I dig; music, magic, radio, Texas, Mexico, outlaws, borders, singin’ cowboys, Snake Oil Salesmen, alcoholic evangelists, mysterious mystic, The Temple of the Golden Dawn, rock & roll, Country, Gospel, Soul, Tejano, and Rockabilly.
You could hear it all on the Texas Radio, as it lit up the airwaves with purple glowin’ desert magic. The story of Outlaw Radio is the story of my life, metaphorically speaking, so I’d say “everything” about Texas Radio’s history best represents my outlook on music.
Texas Radio is Spirit Radio for me. It’s magical. I’m a transmitter and receiver. You are. We all are. I’m a transformer too. Radio can travel anywhere and transform anything. Invisible signals travelin’ through the aether, delivering messages to the world. Radio is magic. That’s why it’s the perfect name for our ‘thang.”
Kendra: Let’s talk about that album. You spent a lot of time deep in music while you were going through cancer treatments. My partner had cancer back in 2017 so I know that mentally, it can be a whirlwind. How much of ‘Texas Radio’ came about during your treatment, and how did you manage to mentally focus on art during that time?
C M Talkington: “Mental whirlwind” is very accurate. It was a crucible. A cancer crucible. A dream within a dream — in the aether between this world and the spirit world. It marked me. I learned that I’m nothing and connected to everything. “Mitakuye oyasin,” that’s Lakota for “we’re all related.” I’m closer to the spirit world now, which is exactly where I need to be.
I started chemo a few months after completing my debut record ‘Not Exactly Nashville.’ Making that record was tough. I was very anemic and had a mass the size of a watermelon in my stomach. I credit being a devoted practitioner of the Five Tibetan Rites for getting me through.
I hardly picked up my guitar during chemo because my hands were so numb. I couldn’t play a chord. It was truly terrifying. When I asked my doctor if I’d ever be able to feel my hands again — she told me that some patients never do — only time would tell. It wasn’t a reassuring answer. No one had mentioned that I risked being able to play the guitar by undergoing chemo. I might have refused had I known that. I can’t imagine not being able to play my guitar. That would be hell. It’s the most important thing in my life. My nourishment and salvation. It gets me through. So I banished that thought from my head and bought some Chinese Baoding Balls and started training with them religiously. I could barely hold them at first, but I trained hard and have finally restored most of the sensation in my hands. I still train with them every day. Very good for playing my Martin HD-28. My feet are still numb from chemo, but I can deal with that.
I started “stalking” Paul Leary while I was recovering from being cut in half. I literally used every means at my disposal to get to him. Culminating with David Mabry and me playing the whole record for him on his kitchen table in Austin. Mabry was playing percussion with his hands on a piece of magical cardboard. I was almost levitating. It was like a scene out of “The Buddy Holly Story” on acid, just texcellent beyond words.
But here’s the real kicker.
The whole time I was “stalking” Paul, on a divine mission to convince him to produce our record. I always just assumed he was enduring me cuz he knew I made “Love & A . 45.” But when I mentioned to him that my pal Renée Zellweger might be singin’ with me on “Two Steps,” he said, “Cool”.
Then he did a double-take.
“Wait. How do you know Renée Zellweger?”
I couldn’t believe it. This whole time I thought he was putting up with me cuz the Butthole Surfers are featured in my film — but he didn’t even know I was associated with it.
I think that sealed the deal.
Actually, now that I think about it, the final seal was when Paul’s rock & roll kitty Milo jumped into my lap and started purring. Paul just looked at me with this amazed expression on his face. I asked him why he was looking at me like that.
He told me Milo never does that with strangers. He usually runs away. He was grinnin’. I gave Milo many texcellent pets. Thank you, Milo! You were the icin’ on the cake. That’s when I really knew we were in. Paul agreed to produce the whole thing!!!
Kendra: So when it came to “Two Steps” I couldn’t help but smile because it reminded me a lot of one of my favorite scenes from ‘The Office.’ For those who don’t know, it’s when Dwight and his family are on the front porch singing together and there’s this romantic feeling in the air between him and a potential love interest. I’d love to know if you had anyone in mind when penning this one?
C M Talkington: My Angel.
Kendra: You also worked with Renée Zellweger on this one. Being a Texan herself, did she immediately fall in line with the overall vibe of the track?
C M Talkington: She definitely didn’t have to “fall in line” with the vibe, because she was born with it. Renee IS THAT VIBE. Renée is “texcellence unleashed”.
Kendra: You met Renée when you worked together on a film you wrote and directed back in the ‘90s. What aspects of filmmaking would you say mirror the album-making process?
C M Talkington: They’re similar yet different. I prefer the immediacy and simplicity of music, but recording is the most intense thing I’ve ever done. Bar none. There’s just nothing like it. Total crucible. Deeply intense. Spiritual. I love them both.
Kendra: As a fan though, what do you find more cathartic to take in – movies or music?
C M Talkington: Music.
Kendra: Time for a side note – We’d love to know when you perform, do you have any sort of lucky charms you take with you on stage, or do you have any sort of pre-show traditions you do to ensure you have a great show?
C M Talkington: So funny you asked that. I used to have a “good luck charm” that I was obsessed with, three beautiful black and gold Flicker feathers. One of them was given to me by my friend Chief Philip Whiteman JR. The other two magically showed up at my doorstep. So they had a very powerful mystical meaning for me. I kept them under my seat when I recorded both Nashville and Texas Radio. I would’ve fought someone to the death to protect them. They were that important to me.
I gave them to my Cherokee Witch Aunt in the hospital to protect and comfort her as she was dying. The nurses accidentally threw them away. I knew I was taking that risk when I gave them to her, but it was still a difficult beautiful lesson to learn.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Texas Radio’ out on March 17th, what else can the world expect as we focus on spring and soon enough, summer?
C M Talkington: Bee Magic!