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Martin Zellar's new album marks 25 years of music for Austin singer

Martin Zellar and The Hardways, from left Scott Wenum, drums, Nick Ciola, bass, Martin Zellar, guitar/vocals. Photo taken at the Zone Studio in Dripping Springs, Texas.

It's been 25 years since Martin Zellar 's first band, the Gear Daddies, released its first album, and 10 years since Zellar has put out an album of all new material. So it's with much anticipation that fans of Zellar's country-tinged portraits of life — "I Wanna Drive the Zamboni," "Stupid Boy" and "She's Happy" —  await his new album.

"Roosters Crow" is set to be released Feb. 7 on Owen Lee Recordings. The album features Zellar’s longtime band, The Hardways — Nick Ciola on bass and drummer Scott Wenum –  as well as several Austin, Texas-based musicians.

Here's what Zellar had to say about where life has taken him and the music along the way.

It's been 10 years since you released a full-length studio album of new material, and you've been living in Mexico much of that time. How has that affected your music?

I think I'll need a couple of years hindsight before I can figure that out. I can tell you that you won't hear any mariachi instruments.


Moving here was definitely a big part of the 10-year delay. It took me a couple of years just to learn the language and adjust to the culture. Then we built a house. Then we had a surprise baby. The last five years have been equal parts crazy and amazing.

Your songs are each a story of their own. What's the story behind this album and these songs?

A lot of these songs were written when things in my life were more crazy than amazing. I worked through some tough issues over the course of writing this album. I think the next album will reflect more of the amazing and less of the crazy.

This CD coincides with the 25-year anniversary of the Gear Daddies debut, so it's the perfect time to reflect on your career.

I've decided to save all reflection for the 28th anniversary.

What's been the best part so far?

Every time I release a new album, I feel the same excitement that I felt with the first. The best parts just keep repeating themselves.

Is there anything that you would change?


Yes. The length of that list would be quite something.

What about your stint as chairman of the Mower County DFL Party in 2004?

I learned that you can be subjected to some serious ugliness for acting on your sincere beliefs.

You were among Minnesota's pioneering alt-country musicians. What drew you to that sound and what do you think about how the genre has grown and captured new listeners?

Growing up in Austin, chances were good that either KAUS or KROC were playing somewhere in the background. Neither gained sway. I became the musical son of Hank Williams and Styx.

I think it's great that Americana, or alt-country, or whatever you want to call it, has developed a wider audience. When it's sincere and well done, it's as good as anything out there.

Where do you hope the next 25 years leads you?

I try to keep my expectations modest. Maybe to a nice, sit-down restaurant in Des Moines?


What's life like for you and your family in Mexico? Lots of crowing roosters?

Since the birth of our daughter, and especially now that she's now in her terrible twos, we don't go out a lot, so right now it's probably not terribly unlike the life we would be living back in the states.

Yes, there are a lot of crowing roosters, bleating sheep, braying burros and barking dogs. We sincerely love all of the noise here.

Can we expect some songs in Spanish soon?

Probablemente no, pero ¿Quién sabe?

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