With an intellectual and political climate as contentious as Austin’s, it is no small feat that music critic Christopher Gray is widely accepted as a credit to the community. In his role as music columnist for the Austin Chronicle, his work reaches to broader social concerns of music that are of interest to a general readership.
“I think that because of the Chronicle, Austin is the one city in Texas where it’s not entirely about the money. Austin is the one place where other things enter the equation, like art and music. People recognize that. . . . that’s why they stick around, that in turn creates a very nurturing environment for those opportunities.” Originally from Friendswood, Texas, Gray’s interest in music began as a member of his high school orchestra. Upon moving to Austin to attend the University of Texas, he re-channeled his obsession from performance to writing. Finding his way into the pages of the Daily Texan’s entertainment section, he was soon noticed by an editor from the Chronicle and shortly thereafter received a job offer, making him one of the scene’s youngest critics ever.
“I think it definitely helps to have been there, to just understand some of the things musician’s value and what they’re thinking about when they’re creating their art,” Gray comments on his insider’s perspective. “There are plenty of good writers who have never played a note in their life. Really, it just comes down to if you love music and if you understand it and why it’s so important to people.”
As a bridge between musicians and the public, Gray has played a vital role galvanizing the community while attending “as many shows as I can, because that’s where I get my leads, tips and information.” His passion for artists who write with originality leads him to look for those acts with the best live performances and best crowd interaction. A “do-it-yourself” ethos also doesn’t hurt. “Being indie is like a badge of honor. In my estimation, I would say that being indie is only answering to yourself when it comes to your art and not necessarily trying to make music that will sell.” In his writing, he uses a similar philosophy to develop “journalism that doesn’t really have an agenda to advance. Just writing about bands, musicians, things that you think are compelling and interesting.”
“(The Chronicle) always hope people will read what we write and be moved to go check out a show. Hopefully we’ll be able to help out the musicians spiritually and financially. It’s a real important part of Austin’s music and reputation.”