PR Newman on his origin, staying original, and the journey of pursuing music in America’s live music capital

PR Newman's Spencer Garland showcases his Texas roots with a modern kick in his fused debut album 'Turn Out'.

All photos by Ryan Rose
Originating from Austin, TX, PR Newman is the moniker and solo project of Spencer Garland. From Texas Country to Indie Rock; you’ll hear a beautifully intertwined mix of genres incorporated into his sound. With the release of his debut record ‘Turn Out‘, Garland has been immersed in his career, completing his first international European tour in the Fall and scheduled for his second across Italy in April.

[WtMM] So, what does PR Newman stand for? Where did the name originate from?
[SPENCER] PR Newman stands for Punkrock Randy Newman. I’ve never been wild about performing under my given name, so when thinking up monikers I could go by I thought a few years back, to a club in Nashville called the Basement, owned by Kevin Grimes, where an old band of mine played a handful of times. Kevin was fond of our band and at the end of the night, after a few beers, would always come jeer at us but simultaneously with praise. Once he looked, pointed at me and yelled, “..and you! you’re like a punk rock Randy Newman or something!” So I shortened it obviously so It could disguise a dumb name with a faux-pretentiousness.

When did you get your start in music and what inspired you to full fill it indefinitely? 
I started playing drums at 13. I wanted to replace my friend on drums in his Rage Against the Machine cover band. And then some other kids in my neighborhood started taking tips from the freshman kids playing in clubs downtown and so we started our own band. Got an email address and started booking ourselves too, at only 14 years old. After about a year into college I think I finally accepted all I thought about was making records, and that college was probably a waste of time for me.I moved back to Dallas and a year later to Austin and been doing it ever since. 

Your music is awfully unique, which is hard to come across. How do you manage to keep it original?
I’ve never known if I’m actually creative or just competitive. In the way that many millennials are (I hate to generalize, but…), I get bored easily so I feel compelled to change a lot about what’s going on from song to song and idea to idea, just to keep myself entertained. My intention is almost to make a PR record or show feel like a playlist of your favorite songs, all very different from each other but bounded together stylistically. 

How does pursuing a music career in a city filled with other bands and musicians doing the same thing impact your music and the way you go about it? 
Well, not everybody goes about it the same way of course but I can speak for myself and many others in the scene that have grown tremendously just by being given so many opportunities to get on a stage and play for an audience and with so many other great musicians. Austin is still a layer back town though, which can be relaxing and good for the spirit, but also conducive to getting stuck in a rut. Everyone, for the most part, is really supportive of each other though, and it definitely doesn’t have a competitive atmosphere like maybe LA or Nashville.

Almost every, or possibly every musician and band are inspired by other musicians. Is there something other than music or people that inspire your songwriting? 
A lot of my songs are inspired by perspectives and the enormous changes in life caused by the slightest change in perspective. Maybe that qualifies as “people”, but more generally existence.

Do you have a favorite song of yours? What’s the story behind it?
I have a new song I’ve written titled Who Swept the Jungle. After hearing it so many times I’ve discovered a thousand meanings but lines like “Who Swept the Jungle, Who Sanitized the Compost, Who Dusted the Branches of the Tress, Unplug the Sun, To Save on the Electric bill. “ are some of my proudest lines so far in a never-ending quest to confuse and get a laugh at the same time. It’s a song I wrote to remind myself that you can’t always keep up with life and its ok every now and then to take a break. Haha.

You’re going on tour soon in Italy, are you excited or nervous about anything on tour?
All of the above! I have no idea what to expect but I’m just excited to play and see a new part of the world!

What are your plans for the future?
Well, I’m finishing up a record right now, got some cool tours on the books for this first part of the year, and we’ll take it from there! I’m really enjoying writing and recording with other artists these days too, so hopefully, some other projects will get some attention this year too.

What’s your Spirit Animal?
My girlfriends Husky, Sage. 🙂

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