On the DownBeat: Gilleland making mark in music

Left: Contributed. 16-year-old Bertram resident Trey Gilleland puts his heart and soul into his music, adding in a little “twang” reminiscent of his inspiration, Merle Haggard. Gilleland had the opportunity to perform and record his new album in Nashville, Tennessee in June 2018, and plans to continue doing so once he graduates from Quest High School in Burnet.
Right: Savanna Gregg/Burnet Bulletin. Gilleland (left) and his drummer/manager, Randy Jarvis, stop by the Burnet Bulletin office to discuss the legacy of traditional country music and how they are keeping it alive.








By Savanna Gregg

Staff Writer

Burnet Bulletin

Since he was a child, 16-year-old Burnet resident Trey Gilleland has recognized the greatness of traditional country music, and when he is not doing homework, he spends his time paying tribute to those who came before him, ensuring their lyrics and style live on through his generation.

Gilleland recently acquired a band through musician Randy Jarvis, who owns Bertram's DownBeat Music and acts as Gilleland's manager. Since then, he has had opportunities not all young men his age are given.

“I started out doing solo gigs for a while, and when Randy opened his store last year, I went in there and said I need a band,” Gilleland said. “Randy said 'but I'm retired,' and I said not anymore you're not.”

Gilleland and his DownBeat Band started playing together, and soon brought their music to various parts of the Hill Country, showcasing each members' talents and putting Gilleland's voice and music into the spotlight.

“To see a 16-year-old be able to play guitar like he does and sing at the same time is unbelievable,” said Jarvis. “I guarantee there is no other 16-year-old like him out there.”

Gilleland's inspiration comes from artists such as the late Merle Haggard, as well as T.G. Sheppard and newcomer Mo Pitney, but the first nudge into the music scene came from his grandmother.

“When I was really little and my grandma was still living, she bought me my first guitar,” Gilleland said. “She had stage four cancer, and before she passed away, she said 'I want you to take this career and go with it.'”

In June 2018, Gilleland and his band had the opportunity to travel to Nashville to record their first album and he was able to experience America's Music City for the first time.

“I dedicated my first gig in Nashville to my grandma,” Gilleland added. “She is who inspired me to get out there and do it.”

Growing up listening to the music of Merle Haggard, Gilleland bases his sound off Haggard's traditional style; he even has the famous “twang” the late singer once had. Gilleland was in the seventh grade with Haggard passed away in 2016, and learned of his passing through his coach at Burnet High School.

“That night I went home and wrote a song called 'Ol' Merle Went to Heaven Today' in 20 minutes,” Gilleland said. “That was the very first song I tried to write and ever since then I've been writing songs with Randy and everyone left and right.”

During his time in Nashville, Gilleland had the opportunity to meet and work with country legends like Ronnie Milsap and T.G. Sheppard, who turned into mentors, helping him build his skill set and confidence. One experience, though, holds a special place in his heart.

“I was in the studio in Nashville cutting songs and my producer said he needed to talk to me for a second, and a lady walked in and introduced herself,” Gilleland said. “She said, 'My name is Leona Williams, and I was married to Merle Haggard.' She also wrote a lot of Merle's songs, and she listened to my song after my producer sent it to her.

“She put her arms around me and said that song is going number one.”

Another song on Gilleland's new record is titled “I Don't Care What You Say,” which he wrote as a message to those in his life who tried to stop him from following his dreams.

“I have a lot of people tell me I can't do it, but it goes in one ear and out the other,” Gilleland said. “A lot of people just have stuff given to them, and they don't have to go into the real world and work for what they have.

“I'm not going to let anyone hold me back, and I think that helps make me better as a person,” Gilleland added.

When talking about his traditional style, Gilleland refers to the George Jones classic “Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes.”

“My music is true country,” Gilleland said. “I'm trying to keep true country alive, because we're losing so many great singers; it's like the George Jones song — I want to be the one to fill their shoes.”

Trey Gilleland and the DownBeat Band have performed at many local shows and others throughout the Hill Country. Among many other shows, they will have the opportunity to play at this year's Bluebonnet Festival, which will take place Friday through Sunday, April 12-13. Gilleland is a current student at Quest High School; he plans on finishing his courses and then headed to Nashville where he will chase his dreams full-time.

Gilleland and his crew are currently working on a website on which visitors will find information about him and his band, and where to find his music. For now, Gilleland's album may be purchased at DownBeat Music, 100 West Farm-To-Market 243, Suite A, Bertram, and at any of his various local shows.

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