People often say life is like a country song, and that is certainly true for Tye Phelps ’90, whose life revolves around country music.
For almost 20 years, Phelps was co-owner of the Love and War in Texas restaurant and music venue in Plano, an eatery known for helping award-winning country artist Miranda Lambert launch her career.
“At the time, Miranda was only 16 years old, and Texas has laws that prevent minors from performing in bars and clubs. But because we were a restaurant, and the majority of our sales were food purchases, she could perform at Love and War,” Phelps said.
His restaurant was the perfect place for a young and talented country music artist to get her boot in the door. Phelps introduced Miranda to Rusty Wier, a Texas music legend, and the duo sang at Love and War until she started performing solo.
In 2003, she performed on “Nashville Star,” a nationwide televised singing competition. Phelps and Miranda’s father, Rick, hosted watch parties for friends and fans. Miranda placed third in the competition and signed with Epic/Sony Records.
Miranda is one of many talented artists who have crossed Phelps’ stage during his restaurant career. He is now starting another endeavor that he hopes will prove to be music to his ears — literally.
After years of helping young artists break into the music industry and sign with other entities, Phelps has opened a recording and management company of his own, Texas Music City Records. This venture comes on the heels of a partnership with the City of Lindale and the Lambert family to rejuvenate downtown Lindale, the Lambert family’s hometown.
In 2016, local builders and Lindale City Council members contacted Miranda and her family about moving her store, The Pink Pistol, from Oklahoma to downtown Lindale.
According to the weekly publication Dallas Observer, “when city officials asked if the country music superstar and her family would relocate the store and use it to anchor the rehabilitation of downtown Lindale, the Lamberts’ answer was simple: ‘Only if Love and War in Texas comes with us.’”
A Texas-size passion
Born in Laredo and raised in Kerrville, Phelps fell in love with everything Texas after watching his father serve on tourism boards and chambers of commerce throughout the state, and through helping his parents run their restaurant located on the banks of the Guadalupe River.
“At 9 years old, I was washing dishes and busing tables, and I cooked when the main cooks went home,” Phelps said.
Unlike his father, Phelps “was the music guy,” he laughed. “I was the kid who had on headphones playing drums and singing aloud every night.”
During high school, his family moved to Sulphur Springs, where he joined the marching and jazz bands and enrolled in music courses. He played the drums and trumpet and remembers being named Best Trumpet and Best Trap Set for a Drummer at a University Interscholastic League state competition.
After a stint at Schreiner University, Phelps transferred to SFA to study management and marketing in an attempt to “get away from the restaurant business.”
However, Phelps couldn’t escape the restaurant scene. After graduating from SFA, he worked as a manager for Mr. Gatti’s Pizza and later in purchasing, where he quickly discovered a desk job wasn’t his cup of sweet tea.
“I realized I’m a restaurant guy. I love food, restaurants, the music business and everything about Texas,” he said.
Soon, Phelps began planning for his own place. “I would come home every night and work on the blueprint for Love and War in Texas,” he said. “The menu was everything I grew up eating and what people in Texas love to eat.”
Life in Lindale
Fast forward 20 years, and Phelps’ new Texas Music City, formerly Love and War in Texas, holds true to his original vision of creating “a place I wanted to hang out” with “good food and music.”
From the Texas-inspired entrées and historical decor to autographed posters, it’s evident Phelps has poured his heart and soul into his new establishment.
Situated a few miles off Interstate 20, Texas Music City and The Pink Pistol are key to Lindale’s development project, The Cannery, which is giving new life to the downtown area, according to city manager Carolyn Caldwell.
“Texas Music City and The Pink Pistol are the anchor tenants in The Cannery development,” Caldwell said. “Tye has brought a continuous array of entertainment to Lindale for the first time. The Cannery has proven to be a success, as the downtown area’s spark has now turned into a flame.”
A room inside the restaurant is one of six performance areas in The Cannery, and musicians play here Tuesday through Sunday. Inside The Pink Pistol, the Hemingway Room provides an intimate space for songwriters. Across from the restaurant is Pickers Pavilion, a 100-year-old cannery turned event facility and three outside areas that can host larger concerts.
Phelps’ dream was to “do it big” and draw talent and audiences from the region and state, which is exactly what he’s accomplished. Featured artists include Stoney Larue, Mike Ryan, The Powell Brothers, Billy Bob Thornton, Aaron Watson and Whiskey Myers.
The Texas Music Office recently certified Lindale as a Music Friendly Community. This certification means Lindale provides a network for fostering music development and sends a clear message to industry professionals that it is serious about attracting and developing music industry growth.
“I’ve taken it a step further because that’s how I like to do things,” Phelps said. “We call ourselves a Texas Music City. Our goal is to make Lindale a one-stop shop for performances, recordings, artist management and training.”
Texas Music City Records
To make his vision a reality, Phelps began a recording and artist management company, Texas Music City Records.
“I respect artists and songwriters,” Phelps said. “Songwriting is such an awesome gift, and I wish I could do it. Being around songwriters, enjoying their craft and helping them when I can with the talents I have is something I’m passionate about.”
Working together with his staff members, Phelps identifies young artists, provides performance venues and involves artists in songwriting circles.
“East Texas has a ridiculous amount of talent; it’s like it’s in the water,” he said.
Recently, Texas Music City Records signed its first artist, Billie Jo Sewell, a young mother who is working hard to have her dream of becoming a country artist come true.
“We are trying to help artists along the way and cut down the time it takes for them to make it in the business,” Phelps said. “We want to help them get an opportunity they thought they might never have.”
Phelps also is utilizing his facilities as a training center for students studying commercial music at a local community college. The community college’s instructors teach classes at Texas Music City on how to perform and record live music.
Although his hands are full juggling a restaurant, music venue and recording studio, Phelps continues to stay true to his passions. And if you happen to find yourself in Lindale one evening when an artist takes the stage, you’ll likely find him sitting front and center in the audience, living his dream and working to make the dreams of others come true.