Former Brownwood man making ‘music with its own little twist’
You might say Brownwood native Garrett Doyal is a wannabe — and that’s not a bad thing.
The 23-year-old Doyal, who lives in the Taylor County community of Potosi and works as a horticulturist in Abilene, plunged into music a few years ago after buying an acoustic guitar — which he didn’t know how to play — from an Abilene pawn shop.
“I got a late start,” Doyal said of his musical career. “I was a little bit of a late bloomer."
Doyal, a former football player, graduated from Brownwood High School in 2016 and from Abilene's Hardin-Simmons University in 2020 with a business degree.
Into the studio
Last spring, Doyal returned to his hometown and recorded a four-song EP in the Brownwood Music recording studio on Baker Street. Titled WannaBe, the EP is available at no charge on social media outlets including YouTube and Spotify.
An EP, Doyal said, is “typically something that just consists of three or four songs, almost like a showcase for an artist, to see what they’ve got.”
Doyal described his genre as “music with its own little twist on it. If I had to pick, I would say outlaw country, maybe a little closer to red dirt country.”
The tunes feature Doyal’s listenable voice, accompanied only by his lively guitar playing.
Doyal’s girlfriend, Kayci Peak, and a sound engineer went with the singer-songwriter into the Brownwood Music studio on April 13. Accompanying himself on his acoustic guitar — which he’d taught himself to play just a few years earlier — Doyal recorded the four originals in a single take.
‘A wannabe with my own music’
Doyal explained the meaning of the title WannaBe.
“It sort of came from me looking up to my favorite musicians so much,” Doyal said.
“I hear the sounds they can produce and feel the emotions they can convey, and it made me almost feel like a wannabe with my own music. So it’s almost as a homage to the musicians I look up to.”
‘Have a go at it’
Doyal said he initially took up music as a student at Hardin-Simmons University, seeking an outlet after deciding to quit playing football. “I actually picked up guitar just to see if I could fool around with it and have a go at it,” Doyal said.
“And it ended up just becoming a huge outlet for me. It was something that I was starting to look forward to when I would get off of work and it was something that I would think about when I would wake up, and then I said, ‘OK, I may have something here.’”
Growing up in Brownwood, Doyal occasionally played around with his father’s guitar without really learning to play the instrument.
At Brownwood High School, Doyal played defensive end and outside linebacker for the Lions football program.
And, he went to work at Sliger’s Market, then located in Early.
“I had never, not a single day, messed with flowers or anything,” Doyal said.
Working in the greenhouse, Doyal initially viewed the job as nothing more than a paycheck.
“But the more I was there, the more I realized, this almost isn’t like a job,” Doyal said. “ I said ‘I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this. I get to be around plants all day, I get to get complimented on how beautiful they are and I think the plants are beautiful.’
“Now it’s my hobby, and music’s my passion. I love plants. If music wasn’t my number one thing, plants definitely would be.”
‘Eighty-seven bucks and some change’
Doyal briefly played football as a Hardin-Simmons student.
No longer playing football, Doyal was still a student at Hardin-Simmons when his father gave him $100 as a birthday present.
“He said ‘don’t save this, don’t spend it on bills, go spend this on something you want to spend it on,’” Doyal recalled.
The next day, Doyal walked into Wild Bill’s Pawn Shop in Abilene and saw the Hohner acoustic guitar with a deep blue —almost black — finish.
“It was $87 bucks and some change sitting on the shelf, and I told them ‘I think I want this,’” Doyal said. “I took it home and I tried it out, and it ended up becoming something I love doing. I do it every day now.”
Looking up the chords
It wasn’t quite that simple. There was the matter of learning to play the instrument, which he did on his own.
“I just looked up the major chords, and after that, kind of started trying to pick out my first song,” Doyal said.
“And then it just kind of took off like wildfire. I couldn’t quit practicing. I was practicing for like four to six hours a day and I just couldn’t stop.”
‘Just me and my guitar’
When Doyal decided to record, one of his first tasks was choosing a studio.
“Obviously you need to find a studio that suits you best, find one that you’re comfortable in,” Doyal said. “I was in Brownwood Music. I decided to go with that studio, and they do charge by the hour.
“It was just me and my guitar. Going into it, I asked myself if I was going to try and do backing tracks, if I wanted to have drum fills or anything like that. My girlfriend was encouraging enough that it made me feel that just me and my guitar would be good enough — just that pure sound of a voice on a bar stool with an acoustic guitar and six strings, just that real raw feeling, that raw emotion.”
‘A little more relaxed’
Doyal said he’d been nervous before starting the recording, but several factors helped calm him down.
“With my girlfriend being there, and being back in my hometown, I was a little more relaxed than what I could’ve been,” Doyal said. “I was very familiar with the area.”
Brownwood Music owner Jodie Armstrong and the staff “made me feel very welcome and I wasn’t as nervous as I could’ve been,” Doyal said.
Doyal explained to the sound engineer that he was a first-timer at recording.
“He made me feel really comfortable,” Doyal said. “He was really able to walk me through and show me how it all gets done. He was the one that ended up doing all the mixing and mastering, and then he goes back and kind of adds his own personal touch to them.”
‘We’ve got to keep that in there’
The sensitive recording microphone had picked up an unintended sound — which the sound engineer insisted on leaving on the recording.
“On the third track of that EP, in the very beginning, you can actually hear me take a big old slug of water,” Doyal said. “After we got finished, I went out to where he was doing the mixing. He said ‘did you do that on purpose?’ And I said ‘no, I didn’t.’
"And he said ‘man, that’s too good. We’ve got to keep that in there.’”
Doyal plans to record a second EP at Brownwood Music, and as for the thought of some day having a full-time music career — well, he doesn’t hate the idea.
“If I could do it for a job, I’d be the most blessed man on the planet,” Doyal said. "But right now I do it just because I absolutely love doing it.”