by Jordyn Smith
As if there wasn’t already enough hype for the Top 10 Division Rivalry between Texas A&M and Alabama coming up at Kyle Field on October 17, the tailgating scene promises to be epic – a huge tailgate concert with have Aggie fans lined up at center stage well before kickoff to catch a performance by Texas A&M Former Student Rich O’Toole. The Beyer Cook and Deuce Tailgate Party in tailgate party will be located Lot 65 behind the Kleberg Center, and O’Toole will kick-off the party at 12:00 p.m. O’Toole has showcased his Aggie pride with frequent trips back to BCS as well as releasing “How Bout Them Aggies.”
O’Toole graduated from Texas A&M in 2006 and has been bringing his own style to the Texas music scene ever since. He has found great success here in Texas, including more than a dozen Top 10 hits on Texas radio. However, like many of his fellow Texas country artists, his dedication to his music has led him to opportunities outside of the state. He has opened for huge acts like Willie Nelson and Dierks Bentley, as well as the Josh Abbott Band, and many more.
His last album, “Jaded,” was released in 2014. He took a different route into creating the album. He rooted himself in Los Angeles to perfect his country-rock sound. This change of scenery allowed him to really dig-deep for this album. With a heavy influence of Springsteen, the album shines and brings a new perspective to Texas country. The richness of the album lies in the songwriting. The album captures O’Toole’s great sense of honesty and transparency.
Outside of music, O’Toole has found success in collaborating with “Sorry I’m Texan” to create TexMoji. A collection of smartphone emojis based on Texas favorites. O’Toole and company saw a gap in emojis and a demand for Texas-related icons. By creating this app, he has given his fans and Texans everywhere a way to show-off their Texas pride even more. He has also started his own clothing line, 17 Army. 17 Army is not just about selling his brand, it is about helping artists.
We sat down with Rich to discuss the tailgate concert, his predictions for the game, coming back to Texas A&M, and his involvement with TexMoji and 17 Army.
MW: First off, this tailgate concert is bound to be a party; what goes into prepping for something like this?
RO: Uh lots of gear hahaha, just kidding. It’s definitely a party you know, it’s one of those things where it’s a tailgate and people are getting psyched and pumped up for the game. It’s going to be a concert and kind of a celebration for how well the Aggies are doing. I’ll play a lot of my older stuff that I wrote when I was in school at Texas A&M.
MW: Alumni love to come back to campus, very few have the chance to perform for a crowd at an event like this; how special is it for you to play at your alma mater?
RO: Oh it’s so great! It’s one of those things where the guys want me to do it, they’ll call me. I’ll do it for so cheap because I want to come back and do it. We got tickets to the game and our whole team is coming down for this. It’s just so special, I’m dying to be there. It’s A&M versus Alabama. It just worked out perfectly to come to the game and play. The Aggies are doing so well, you know when I was in school from 2001 to 2006, we weren’t that great.
MW: This game is a Top 10 division rivalry; predictions for the outcome?
RO: We looked decent versus Arkansas, versus Mississippi State we looked really good. I’m just hoping we practice really hard and if we show up, I think we have a great shot at beating Alabama. Alabama is especially no one to joke with but at the same time, I believe in Sumlin and the team. They’ve been working so hard and I think we can do it. Hopefully we can do it by two touchdowns. I hope we can show the whole country that we’re here.
MW: You’ve played with some major talent, from Dierks Bentley and Willie Nelson to Josh Abbott; what are some of your favorite memories out on the road? Anyone you’d love to play with?
RO: Josh and I grew up playing music together in college while he was at Tech and during my A&M days. I just played with him last Saturday. Bucket list was definitely Willie Nelson. I’m a giant Bruce Springsteen fan and I would love one day, to have the opportunity to open for Bruce Springsteen. The next record that we’re doing is like our “Born In The USA” type album, he’s been a big influence on what I’m doing right now.
MW: You partnered with “Sorry I’m Texan” to create TexMoji, and it’s been wildly successful. Any plans for more Tex-Mojis? Maybe one of Kyle Field or the Dixie Chicken?
RO: For sure, I want to get more Aggie stuff in there. We have to dance around copyright issues because they are all kind of knock-offs, so we don’t want to get sued. There are definitely meetings that are going to happen. I’d love to do the Aggie Ring and the Dixie Chicken. I own half the company so I have a lot of say and Aggies, in my eyes, come first. You’re going to see a lot more updates, we had to play it safe when we first released it, but as it continues to grow of course you’re going to see more Aggie stuff in there.
MW: Let’s talk about your clothing line, 17 Army. You’ve brought a great product to your fans and have introduced an interesting way to give back to artists. What was the concept behind giving 10% to artists supported by the company?
RO: In this economy, it’s so hard for people to go out and create art, it’s so expensive. If you’re a painter, dancer, musician, or songwriter, it is expensive; guitar strings, touring, gas, all of that. It’s getting sad to see that people with rich parents are doing well versus talent doing well. So it’s a way that we can sell a lot t-shirts, hats, and other merchandise that allows us to give a chunk of money back to people that are locally trying to be artists.