Texas Voices: The South Austin Moonlighters Latest Album, From Here to Home, Speaks About Their Musical Journey and More

by Bob Valleau on August 16, 2023 in Entertainment,

The South Austin Moonlighters are a unique band that combines elements of rock, country, and Americana to create their own sound. Based out of Austin, Texas, The Moonlighters have been a fixture on the local music scene for years and are now starting to gain national recognition. Formed in 2011, The Moonlighters consist of four members: Phil Hurley on guitar and vocals, Chris Beall on guitar and mandolin, Lonnie Trevino Jr. on bass and vocals, and Daniel James on drums and vocals. Each member brings their own unique style to the band, creating a sound that is both catchy and original. We had a chance to talk to two of the band members recently, Chris Beall and Lonnie Trevino, Jr.

Tell us how the band began and how you came up with the name.

Chris: “I joined in 2014, so Lonnie and I have worked closely for nine years! That’s hard to believe sometimes! Our music is what we like to call roots music––everything we do has organic/classic qualities to it. We really like doing things the way our heroes did things. We’ve been compared to Little Feat, The Eagles, The Heartbreakers, etc. and those are the sounds we love. We focus on songs, harmonies, guitars, and groove. If it doesn’t have all that, you probably won’t be hearing us do it.”

Lonnie:The band was formed in April of 2011 when six hired guns from other bands decided we wanted to play music together and sing songs just for the joy of it. The name came about because we were all moonlighting from our proper gigs, and we played a weekly Happy Hour show at The Saxon Pub in South Austin, Texas. It’s that simple. I, Lonnie Trevino Jr (Bassist, Vocalist, Songwriter), am the sole original founding member. Chris (Guitar, Vocalist, Songwriter) joined in 2014. Daniel James (Drummer and BG Vocals) joined in 2018. And our newest member, Hunter St. Marie (Slide and Lead Guitar), joined in November of 2020, and we couldn’t be happier.”

Chris: “I think at different stages in life we are motivated by different things. At first though, it was the love of music that inspired me to pick up an instrument. As far back as I can remember, I have loved music—as a little kid singing along to the radio with mom in the station wagon. I found out later (as a young man) that girls really dug music, too, so that was pretty motivating as well. After my stint in Nashville, and the associated heartbreak, I tried to quit playing all together. So there was sort of a re-birth period after that where I re-discovered the real reason I play music: the song and what the associated story can do for us all.”

Lonnie: “To say I love what I do just seems like an understatement. Of course, I love what I do. It’s all I know how to do. Truly. I just wanted to be in a band like Little Feat and travel the world making music with my friends. And I’ve been successful I would say.”

The South Austin Moonlighters got their start playing weekly gigs at The Saxon Pub in Austin. Courtesy photo.

What other interests or hobbies do you guys have? 

Chris: “I am a motorcycle and car enthusiast, so I have plenty of old and broken stuff like that I work on; a 1970 Mustang, that ultimately is my son’s car, the 1966 BSA Lightning a65, the 1974 Triumph Bonneville T140, 1969 Honda Mintrail, etc. Lots of stuff to try and keep running! I also dabble in instrument repair and electronics. I have a bunch of instruments that I was either given or bought cheaply because they were broken. Those are generally what I fix. Some of those stay around and turn into working instruments. It’s helpful to be able to step away from the music business for a moment.”

Lonnie: “I drink wine. I’m a wino. It is my wife’s and my biggest and most expensive extravagances. I am tempted to start a YouTube channel of finding good bottles of wine for $12 or less. There are some great wines that won’t break the bank out there, but when you drink a bottle with dinner every night, it can get costly. Thank God for Costco!” 

The successsful band was founded in 2011 as a moonlighting side-gig. Photo Mark Del Castillo.

Talk about your latest album, From Here to Home.

Chris:Well, originally we knew we needed to put out some material and we had an opportunity with Steve Berlin waiting for us, so we got to work. (Steve Berlin is an American saxophonist, keyboardist and record producer, best known as a member of the rock group Los Lobos.) It was the process of working on the material that really re-ignited the band during the pandemic, so we ultimately created an album that is more about rebirth than anything. We are always writing what we know––from the perspective we know. That’s what keeps us honest. From Here to Home is an album that is a great reflection of all that and that time period, too.” 

Lonnie:In 2019, our last album Travel Light went to number three on the Alternative Country Charts for a week…our trajectory was on a steady climb. In 2020, we were due to play a festival in the UK, a week through Europe, and end in a festival in Spain with Los Lobos. Of course, we all know what happened next. We, like every other musician in the world, wrote nonstop during the pandemic. We had been speaking with Steve Berlin about producing our next album in 2019, and we had just done several demos in March of 2020 to give to Steve Berlin to choose from. My songs focus on death and wanting to get back on the road and performing in front of people again. Chris’s songs talk about devastation, past loves, and getting back on the road again and performing in front of people again. So, in the end we made a Covid album, but it’s not a blatant Covid album. There is an underlying joy that permeates from these songs that is undeniable.  It is true Americana in that we hit upon all of the American music influences from our lives. We are very proud of this album and of working with Steve Berlin.”

The Moonlighters new album was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. Courtesy photo.

What do you like about living in Texas, and what do you hope the future holds for you as a group?

Chris:I like the heritage I have in Texas. I’ve lived here most of my life; as my family before me, and the ones before them. And Texas allows me to make a living in the music business, and for that I’m grateful––we have a lot of really appreciative music fans that dig our style of music in Texas! I hope the friendliness and helpfulness of the folks in Texas never goes away. I love the spaciousness of Texas. The sky in Texas. Not so much the heat, though.”

Lonnie:Well, for the past five years, I’ve lived in New Orleans. I love New Orleans. It’s home to me. And as for the future, who knows. The least amount of expectation, the least amount of disappointment. I just hope people like what we do, they keep on listening, and keep coming out to shows. I can’t ask for anything more than that. We’ll see what happens.”

Do you have any advice for young musicians starting in today’s industry?

Chris:I’d say, first, enjoy yourself. Then later find out “why”. When you know “why” you’re involved in music, then you can make informed decisions that are helpful in your career/life instead of detrimental. For instance, I love to play guitar. BUT, the real reason I love to play guitar is because I love good songs/music. The guitar is no fun for me if it’s not connecting me to a great song. So, I make decisions based on what I know about myself. Along with that, there are a lot of young artists that think they have to make albums early on––a lot of them don’t really know who/what they are just yet. Take your time.”

Lonnie:Have fun. Don’t quit. And make art no matter if anyone else likes it, make your art and put it out in the world. It will find its audience. Never stop creating. And be kind to each other.”






Cover photo Mark Del Castillo

Bob Valleau is a regular entertainment contributor for Texas Lifestyle Magazine.