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SXSW Filmmaker Spotlight: Austin's Journey to Live Music Capital in 'Road to Austin'

If there’s one thing Austinites love – it’s hearing people talk about how great Austin is. The film “The Road to Austin” features a lot of that. It premiered at South by Southwest Film.

"The Road to Austin" is part documentary, part concert and features a lot of well-known voices – from Kris Kristofferson and Joe Ely to a couple of KUTX DJs – all talking about what makes the Austin music scene so special and how it became the live music capital of the world.   

KUT talked with "The Road to Austin" producer/director Gary Fortin:

On Austin's Title as Live Music Capital of the World:

“The story of how Austin became the Live Music Capital of the World really goes back a lot further than most people believe. And then there are some that believe that it's just a chamber of commerce marketing moniker  – and it's not. It truly is a fascinating story and it really does go back to the mid 1800's."

On Telling the History of Austin's Musical Journey:

"We tried to get through the story of how Austin became the Live Musical Capital of the world quickly. When you get down with some of the old guard here in Austin who've seen the film, 'Hey, you left out this and you left out that and what about this.' My response to that is, 'Yes, I know.' And, two, if we put all of that in here this thing would be a nine night mini-series on PBS. So we tried to get through all the highlights and go through the eras and the larger inflection points and just kind of give the viewers a sense of, 'Wow, this place is special.' Every town has music in it. Austin’s not that. There’s something in the water, there’s something in the DNA here – to quote Eddie Wilson from the movie.”

On the Concert the Film is Based on:

"Originally, back in 2007... Stephen (Bruton) and I were sitting around his music room one day and he said, 'You know, I've always wanted to pay tribute to Kris Kristofferson.' For your listeners who don't know, Kris and Stephen had a 45 plus year relationship. Stephen was his guitarist and one of his closest friends... And that's kind of where the riff started of 'What if, what if, what if.' And it eventually turned into "The Road to Austin" because I came back with, 'Well, hey, we should probably bring in Bonnie (Raitt) and, hey, if we're going to bring in Bonnie then we could bring in' – and then the list just kept getting bigger and bigger. None of us knew at the time that this would end up doing a 180 and end up being a celebration of Stephen's life. And that's what it turned out to be."

On the Film's Call to Action:

"We really wanted to do something in Stephen (Bruton)'s name that would move the needle, make a difference. And it had to be measurable. And we came up with the Artist Wellness Program... We're going to be offering some testing for the early prevention and detection of life-threatening diseases including cancer, heart disease, type two diabetes - which are really the three major threats to the human condition right now. And this will all be afforded free to the artists."

There's more information on the program at

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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