Rayland Baxter learned to play guitar from one of the best steel guitarists in the business: his dad, Bucky Baxter.
The elder Baxter toured with Bob Dylan, was a founding member of Steve Earle’s backing band The Dukes and played on albums for artists like Kacey Musgraves, Old Crow Medicine Show and several others. Bucky Baxter died at age 65 in 2020.
The younger Baxter is now making a name for himself in the music scene with an eclectic and evolving mix of indie, rock and folk sounds.
Rayland is touring in support of his recent album, “If I Were a Butterfly,” and will perform April 7 at Tulips FTW.
But his career path didn’t follow a straight line.
If you go
What: Rayland Baxter concert with Liz Cooper
Time: Doors open at 7 p.m.
Date: April 7
Location: Tulips FTW
112 St. Louis Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76104
During a motorcycle trip when Rayland was in second grade, he and his dad purchased a blue electric guitar at a pawn shop.
Rayland recalls learning to play “Old MacDonald” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” with his father, but, as Rayland got older, he began to focus on sports instead.
“(My guitar) kind of got pushed under my bed,” he explained. “But the interest in music came back around when I was pretty much disabled from playing lacrosse because of my knee injury.”
The injury ended Rayland’s collegiate lacrosse career, but healed well enough for him to be able to teach snowboarding lessons in Colorado. His dad encouraged him to pick up the guitar again, and Rayland started performing at open mic nights in Breckenridge.
Eventually, he moved to Nashville and started performing there as well.
“(My dad) played every show with me in Nashville in the first couple of years, and after the shows (he’d) give some pointers,” Rayland said. “(I’d say) tell me how Bob did it or Steve Earle … He was always telling me how to listen to musicians, which is like, you’d think it’s an easy thing to do, but it’s not.”
Rayland said he is still working on being a better listener on stage, stepping back and allowing the other musicians to improvise the way great jazz bands are able to give soloists a wide berth without losing their cohesiveness.
“I kind of get into puppy mode where somebody throws a ball and I just chase it. But there’s, like, the times where I stopped playing the guitar and let the other guys in the band do what they do very well, then we all kind of did what Bucky was talking about. We clicked,” he said.
Rayland and his band let a performance unfold on stage, rather than trying to recreate what they did the previous nights or weeks before.
The performances where everything clicks can’t be duplicated, but in his view that’s OK.
“There’s a billion different ways it can hit on any given day or night, you know?” he said. “As long as you’re aiming at the right target with the right arrow and the right bow, the target’s pretty damn big. It’s the broadside of a barn.”
Off stage, he still practices listening. His phone is full of recordings, coded with times, dates and locations of interesting sounds — train horns, bird calls and a wind chime at his mom’s house — that he’ll comb through after touring to compose new songs.
He finds inspiration everywhere. He lists Nas, Leonard Cohen and the Grateful Dead as a handful of his musical influences.
And his father, of course.
“I would like for people to hear the record and say, ‘Good job, Bucky.’”
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.