8 Ball Aitken has been getting parties started in various parts of the world for at least a dozen years now. But with the Feb. 26, 2016, arrival of 8 Ball Aitken, his first official stateside release, and the same-day launch of his monthlong Texas tour, the newly minted U.S. citizen and Austin resident is about to amp the good-time level up to the proverbial 11.
Aitken’s bluesified, swampified, countrified southern rock, long a hit in his native Australia, is tailor-made for Texas music lovers. In fact, two of his earliest influences were Lone Star guitar-slingers Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. “I’ve loved Texas music my whole life,” says the 28-year-old slide virtuoso. “I just happened to be born in Australia.”
Texans, of course, love guitarists and singers with a talent for clever songwriting, from Willie Nelson to Ray Wylie Hubbard — who’s already declared himself an 8 Ball fan. Aitken fits right in with that tradition; he loves nothing better than making music with “a lot of attitude” — and fun. For evidence, just consider these song titles: “Witness Protection,” “Outback Booty Call,” and the single, “She’s Going To Mexico, I’m Going To Jail” — which already hit No. 1 on Australia’s country radio chart and goes to Texas stations on Friday, Jan. 22.
Whether sharing the stage with trusted players or working all the angles as a one-man band (including kazoo), Aitken’s main goal is getting listeners to have a great time. “If the girls don’t dance, it ain’t rock ’n’ roll,” he insists.
His methods of getting those girls — and their guys — out on the floor include playing a variety of axes crafted from recycled objects. One of his favorites is his diddley-bow-style three-stringer made from a Nivea wrinkle cream can he picked up for 75 cents. “It’s a chick magnet,” he says with a laugh. “It makes you look 20 years younger.”
The “junk guitar” bit has become such a popular part of his show, fans now turn up with homemade offerings for him to try. And 12 dedicated fans even pitched in to have flame-shaped guitar custom-made for him. That’s how beloved he’s become — and how far he’s come from his days as a Far North Queensland fruit-picker.
“One of my happiest achievements is having over a thousand people say to me, ‘That’s the most fun I’ve ever had at a show,’” Aitken says. “To make people happy comes above everything else.”
Once you catch him in action, you’ll get behind 8 Ball, too.
8 Ball Aitken Texas tour
Feb. 26 – Red Brick Tavern, Conroe
Feb. 27 – Old Texas Brewing Co., Burleson
Feb. 28 – Live Oak, Fort Worth
March 1 – PD’s Place, Gainesville
March 2 – Moore’s Store, Ben Wheeler
March 4 - Woodshed Smokehouse, Fort Worth
March 5 – Old Post Office, Caldwell
March 6 – Fred’s, Fort Worth
March 10 – The Grotto, Fort Worth
March 11 – Edge Of Town Saloon, Pflugerville
March 12 – Hays County Bar-B-Que, San Marcos
March 15 – The Continental Club, Houston
March 16-20 – SXSW, Austin
March 24 – The Forge, Ben Wheeler
March 25 – Red Brick Tavern, Conroe
March 26 – Old Texas Brewing Co., Burleson