Austinites get introduced to new music all the time, but there are usually only a special few artists we connect with personally, who make a big impact on our lives as listeners. One of those lucky few, for many Austinites, is guitarist, songwriter, and soul singer Julian Acosta, a musician from Queretaro, Mexico with a degree in marketing, with a concentration on music, from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Acosta made his debut in 2014 with the song “This Town,” a love letter to the city of Austin if there ever was one. After releasing the High 5 EP last year, featuring “This Town,” he began working on another single, “Cinnamon,” which we are proud to preview here exclusively (seen below). It’s a gritty, passionate track that encapsulates all the reasons why Acosta has become so popular in Austin.
We met up with Acosta at Radio Coffee and Beer recently for a chat about his passion for music, how he got started, and his new music. Right off the bat, Acosta denied possessing any genre limitations, saying he loves rock, fun, and even polka, provided it’s played with skill. Van Morrison, Ben Harper, The Meters, and The Faces also at the top of Acosta’s inspiration list — Van being one of those rare artists that he consistently listens to.
“He’s one of the greatest songwriters and performers that exists, no one comes close to Van Morrison,” Acosta said. “Stevie Ray Vaughan is another one, since I grew up listening to a lot of rock and roll. I had no idea how important he was to Austin and Texas in general. I had a lot of friends and family who were fans, so they all turned me on to a lot of rock and roll. When you’re a teenager you tend to fall down the rabbit hole and say, ‘Well, I don’t really like this music or that music,’ but once you get older you tend to look at music from a marketing perspective and see what’s out there. I would describe my music as rock, soul, and blues. I don’t get out of that.”
And he’s been describing his music, when he’s not playing it, since age 16 when he bought his first guitar. “My sister had a guitar but she would never let me play it,” Acosta explained. “I saved up money for about a month. I was working with my dad doing general labor and I saved up about $130 bucks and got a guitar at a pawn shop. It was nothing serious, just me and a group of friends, we were a bunch of wannabe rockers. I didn’t take it that seriously.”
That didn’t last long, though. Once Acosta got several years into his degree path studying international business, he realized that it was the wrong direction for him. “I was like ‘man this is unfortunate, I’m not happy with what I’m doing.’ I loved my family, I loved my friends, and I am happy that I was able to explore the culture that is mine. I was born in Mexico so I was able to explore my roots further and listen to new music, and that’s when I started playing again. I had this speech class where you had to get up and perform for a grade in front of 400+ people. It could be someone else’s song, but all you had to do what get up there and perform. I decided that I was going to learn Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower.’ [That’s when I] said that I really wanted to do music. I knew coming back to Texas was the right thing to. After all I had been raised and proud to be a Texan. I don’t see boundaries or borders, just amazing people that I have been lucky enough to have relationships with ”
After his friend told him that he should start performing music immediately instead of waiting, Acosta knew he needed to take performing to a professional level. Shortly after this discussion, Acosta received his college transcripts and moved to Texas, where he’d spent numerous weekends as a student. Then, UT slapped him on the homepage of their business school website, right in the entrepreneur section. They were right, too: Today, he’s the founder of Capitol City Records, which currently promotes several local acts, in addition to his own.
“I majored in marketing and at one point I was working at a marketing agency, so I gathered a lot of entrepreneurship abilities along with a lot of business development skills,” Acosta explained. “I didn’t have the skills to go and talk to people within the music business, so I decided to do it on my own. I would love to work with a bigger label at some point as long as it feels right.”
That’s probably going to happen at some point, if the quality of his work is anything to go by. With his new single “Cinnamon,” Acosta illustrates that he has the chops to perform outside of Austin and be successful at it.
“I was in this funky relationship, and I was thinking, ‘What ever happened to love?’ he explained, musing about the song’s inspiration. “Then you start thinking about what you want, and the passion that you want. Especially when you’re a teenager, there’s a passion. But it may not be [for] the right person, but I know it when I feel it. So with ‘Cinnamon,’ it doesn’t matter what you’re tasting, if you look at the condiment cinnamon you know what it is. You can’t really explain the feeling since it’s got you googly eyed, but you know it when it’s there. So, [that’s what the song is] about. It’s about love, and the purest form of love.”
Soulful and expressive as always, Acosta seems like he really knows how to move his fans and create a bond with his fans that every musician strives for. “Cinnamon” only cements that impression. “I have to pay my respects my team,” he said. “We’re a small but passionate engine. Especially Antonio Romero, he has always been there with me. It was such a fun and learning experience to sit next to him in the producer chair and see him lead sound engineer during the process.”
Acosta will debut “Cinnamon” at Empire Control Room & Garage Nov. 18th, and tickets + pre-orders are available now (but if you buy the ticket, the single is free). He also says he’s working with local partners to provide a VIP section and complimentary beverages. So, from all appearances, this is going to be a heck of a party.
Supporting or playing alongside Acosta that same night are the artists Swimming with Bears, Daniel Eyes & The Vibes, and Eric Burton, plus appearances by some special guests and friends.
“I’m really excited to play with these artists,” Acosta said. “I’ve either met them or seen them play personally. I know they are perfect for the show. They have great people supporting them and happy I get get to work with them. Empire is also special to me because those guys are friends and that was the club that first gave me support when no one would. We plan to show you rock and roll.”
Photos: Courtesy, Julian Acosta
If you would like to read more of Lauren Gribble’s interviews, you can head to her website Listen Here Reviews.