Young but acclaimed musician Hayden Pedigo composes ode to Amarillo's 'hard-earned beauty'
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By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
"It's almost like a small piece of infinity to be in a field where you can't see the end. There's something perfect about that."
Guitarist and composer Hayden Pedigo can wax poetic about his hometown, but he lets his music do the talking on his upcoming album, Greetings from Amarillo.
The instrumental/ambient album, due out June 9, also accompanies a video project by Chip Lord, the California-based artist and co-founder of the Ant Farm, the art collective that installed the Cadillac Ranch in 1974. (In deference to the release strategy of Pedigo's label, Driftless Records, we won't post a link to Lord's video.)
"I reached out to him," said Pedigo, 23. "I had been a fan for a long time. Locally, he's pretty significant, even though he's not from here. He definitely has been a big part of Amarillo because of Cadillac Ranch."
Lord shot new footage inspired by Pedigo's music, which draws its inspiration from the vast, rolling plains in which Amarillo is situated.
"It's a hard-earned beauty," Pedigo said. "It's not the easiest thing to walk into and go, 'This is beautiful.' But it's beautiful in its own way. Even the flatness I love.
"It makes you breathe a little bit better when you feel like you can see that far," he continued. "There's something comforting about it."
Though still ensconced in his hometown, Pedigo has been making waves among the musical cognoscenti since the 2013 release of debut album Seven Years Late.
In 2014, The Fader's Duncan Cooper profiled Pedigo and his sophomore album, Five Steps, which he made in collaboration with avant-garde musicians around the world, including Charles Hayward, founder of English punk band The Heat. Soon after, Texas Monthly's Michael Hall called Pedigo "altogether original," saying that one of his rare hometown performances "could have been Manhattan, 1966, with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. But it was Amarillo, 2014, Hayden Pedigo."
In his glowing profile, Hall struggled to understand why Pedigo would stay in Amarillo, discounting the city's musical legacy (mentioning J.D. Souther, ignoring Joe Ely and Susan Gibson). But it's clear to Pedigo — and to others with a similarly complicated affection for the city — why he stays.
"You have to look at Amarillo in the right way to see what's going on," Pedigo said. "It's sometimes a tough place to love, but I think that's what makes it better."
Greetings from Amarillo has already begun attracting attention.
NPR's Lars Gotrich highlighted the title track late last month: "(The song) blooms like a field of Texas bluebonnets swaying on the side of the highway. Over four minutes, the delicate and lilting melody dips in and out of major and minor keys, swirling sand into a dancing dust devil."
Texas Monthly's Max Marshall says the album "is a collection of ten instrumental and ambient tracks that vibrate intimately, ring out expansively, and resoundingly justify his staying put" in Amarillo.
Since the breakup of garage band Western Plaza, which Pedigo joined around the time it signed with Burger Records, he doesn't perform much around town (though we filmed a 2015 performance at Amarillo Museum of Art, below).
"L'Hannah," Hayden Pedigo
He said he's considering doing a CD release party of some sort, but otherwise, he doesn't feel like he, with his American Primitive and avant-garde leanings, truly fits into the Amarillo music scene.
"I really don't — not, like, in a negative way," Pedigo said. "I've always been out there anyways. I've done some stuff locally that's been pretty out there, but it's definitely been a mixed bag on how it's received.
"But that's part of the fun. There's not a lot of experimental music or noise here, and I think that makes it even more fun to do."
As Greetings from Amarillo shows, though, Pedigo's music isn't always abrasive, and he's proud of his ability to flow between styles.
"To me, it all fits in together, even the stuff I do that's melodic," he said. "(Noise) makes the sweet taste sweeter, makes the pretty sound prettier when you put it side by side.
"(Greetings from Amarillo) is probably the most melodic (example of his music), more sentimental because of the subject matter," he said.