Dylan Meek at age 14 would dedicate every spare minute to practicing the piano, every minute until his mom begged him to go play outside. His brother Buck would spend his weekends playing guitar in the background of local restaurants, not for sport, but for the audience.
As they reflect on those sparkling moments, they recognize that their obsession and passion for music was nurtured by the Wimberley community. Now, both Texas brothers are shining bright with Grammy nominations.
Dylan Meek co-wrote the song “Invincible” with rapper Aminé, which was featured on the movie “Into the Spider-Verse.” Buck’s band, “Big Thief” new album “U.F.O.F.” is nominated for Best Alternative Album alongside other nominees like Bon Iver and Thom Yorke.
They have played on national television, for sold out venues with thousands of people, but still believe Wimberley is the best place to perform. Wimberley’s community has a history of supporting big names like Sarah Jarosz, who has won two Grammy awards.
While working as a dishwasher at Juan Enrique’s restaurant, Buck got his first mentor at age 14. The bartender Brandon Gist noticed Buck with the guitar and taught him to play blues.
Eventually, Jiff gave him his first gig at the Woodcreek Tavern. At Katherine Anne Porter School, Buck met Django Porter who invited him to Blue Grass nights at Charlie’s where he met Mike Bond, Mike Fowler and Slim Richey.
“They just took me in and gave me my first performances. They would just let me play rhythm in the background or a solo too here and there. They really just threw me into the fire, but they treated me like a peer, which at that time was so impactful. Music was such a social thing, it was a celebratory, almost ceremonial thing for them. It was inspiring to be brought into that fold,” Buck Meek said.
His brother Dylan went from piano student to piano prodigy after being mentored by jazz piano legend Jimmy Neeley, who played with Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and knew Louis Armstrong. Neeley took Dylan, at age 14, under his wing and completely changed the game in Dylan’s growth as a musician.
“It was like a karate kid situation where he never charged me for lessons, but I had to do the work. He gave me a lesson, showed me something that I needed to get down the next time I showed up. If I didn’t have it down, he wouldn’t teach me. He was like don’t come back to me until you have mastered that thing,” Dylan Meek said.
Dylan would practice 8 to 14 hours a day, depending if he was in school or not. If Dylan wasn’t practicing, he was thinking about his next chance to practice.
“I actually found this piece of paper from when I was 14, that had every hour and minute of the day that I had time to practice. I got home at 3 p.m. from school then I ate for 15 minutes and then I would practice until dinner at 6:30 p.m., for 45 minute. It was almost like a handwritten spreadsheet of every hour of the day that I had time to practice,” he said.
After graduating from Katherine Anne Porter School, they both moved to New York.
In New York Dylan befriended Ray Angry, a keyboardist with The Roots, who eventually linked him up with producer Om’Mas Keith.
The day Dylan moved to Los Angeles, he got a call out of the blue from Keith asking if Dylan was available to work in the studio with rapper Aminé. Dylan agreed and they made four songs within a few hours.
Those recordings remained dormant for years, which is normal in the music industry.
Out of the blue, Dylan got a call saying the song would be used in the movie “Into the Spider-Verse.”
His childhood fantasies were finally taking shape.
“It feels really surreal, especially at the end when I see my name’s on the credits. I used to go to the Starplex or the Corral Allen movie theater and I remember thinking ‘I would like to be a part of music and movies. I would like to have the song on the big screen,’” Dylan Meek said.
While Dylan was traveling the world, Buck was touring out of a busted 1987 van with Adrianne, singer for Big Thief. The pair met in New York and would play anywhere from Brooklyn stoops, subway stations and at bars. Over the years, they expanded to finally establish Big Thief.
The Grammy nominated album “U.F.O.F” was created much slower and patiently than their three other albums, Buck said.
For “Jenni,” Meek created distortion by striking a guitar that he had hung on a rope from the ceiling of a barn and had surrounded with amplifiers.
“For this record, we wanted to record the sound as transparently as possible and as delicately as possible. We wanted to really reveal the breadth and depth of the instruments and our voices, represent the entire frequency spectrum,” Meek said. “Playing at the songwriter festival taught me to appreciate song writing. How do I best honor this song? How do I stay out of the way and just shed light around the narrative?”
Dylan said Buck is a total rock star.
“I remember seeing them playing little showcases in Brooklyn where it’s literally the only people in the audience were like 3 people and now seeing them play Coachella or sold out like at a thousand-person venue,” Dylan said.
After traveling the country, they thank their roots, Wimberley, for the foundation that shaped their dreams.
“I started doing my concerts and hundreds of people would come out and be super supportive. They would say they believed in me and I’m going far and they would do the same with my brother,” Dylan said. “Since I’ve gone to like New York and I lived in L.A. in different places and travel the world like my other peers that way and travel the world a lot of them come from some kind of community for them heavily so I think it’s a very valuable asset.”
Both brothers have upcoming personal projects, so stay tuned.
The 2020 Grammy Awards will be presented Jan. 26.