The 254

Chris Ermoian

By Jen Naylor Gesick

Making music in Waco

Maybe it all started when he traded a three-legged hamster for a snare drum in high school or well before that when his father taught him and his brothers to sing barbershop quartet, but Chris Ermoian has dedicated his life to music. After more than two decades of helping other musicians get the attention and airplay they deserve, he’s going back to his first love — writing and performing original songs.

As executive producer of Texas Music Café, a live music TV show mostly featuring Texas and Central Texas musicians, Ermoian put his performing career on hold to make a show to help other musicians get more exposure.

Now, he and the three other guys with TMC have formed the band Dirty Echoes. They have two albums out — the band is signed by SteadyBoy Records out of Austin — and after a 10-day tour, they’ve headed into the studio again with Chris Godbey, a Baylor graduate and TMC alum who has worked with Beyonce and Justin Timberlake.

Ermoian said playing again helped him rediscover the joy of performing. Band members include Ermoian, vocals and guitar; Casey Pittman, vocals and guitar; Jeremy Gautier, vocals and drums; and Beau Green, bass. Their roles at TMC are Pittman, audio engineer; Gautier, video director; Green, video editor; and Ermoian, executive producer. “I’ve learned a lot about songwriting and everything by being close and working with musicians like Ruthie Foster, Ian Moore, Slaid Cleaves,” Ermoian said.

And even though Waco’s live music scene seems to be growing and attitudes toward local artists playing original music are improving, many still face hurdles.

“I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but I could not get a gig for this band in this town,” Ermoian said. They told him people don’t want to hear original music. But after landing a last-minute gig at La Fiesta, that theory was shot. He said the night Dirty Echoes played, La Fiesta saw sales double, and they now have a monthly gig at the restaurant with regular customers who know and love their power-popstyle original music.

And he’s optimistic about the future of Waco’s live music scene, with new energy from young Wacoans, the creation of organizations like Keep Waco Loud and local workshops with the Texas Music Office.

“People in Waco are just now realizing that music is important,” Ermoian said. “I’ve always believed Waco could be the next Seattle or the next Austin.”

Though he has some big ideas for how to make it even better, after more than 20 years of contributing to Waco’s scene in various ways, he’s happy with what he, his team and supporters have accomplished.

“Now I look back, and we have these [supporters] who are old Wacoans who have an affinity and who love Waco and love the history of it. And you know we believed in [Waco] back then and we planted these seeds that really we are just now starting to see some of the fruits of that.”

Texas Music Cafe

New Season, Waco Focused

Chris Ermoian started Texas Music Café in 1997 in Waco, and it quickly grew, landing on PBS to be broadcast nationwide. He took the show on the road for a few years before coming back to Waco for the current season that started August 31.

Ermoian has since cut ties with PBS, and viewers can now catch every episode (old and new) on YouTube. Check out 20 years of episodes for some Texas music history lessons, plus discover new bands each month as more episodes are released.