I wrote an article for The Hub of NTX September 2018 issue featuring local band Deep In It, and the story mentioned a collaboration with Austin singer Malford Milligan. I had never met Malford, so I asked him if I could have an interview with him. This eight time Vocalist Of The Year winner by the Austin Music Awards granted my request and gave me an insight to who he is.
Malford says that he came from humble beginnings. “I grew up in Elgin and Lubbock, Texas. I spent time in both places. We grew up poor. I chopped cotton as a kid, working 10 hours a day when I was 12 years old. I never thought I was going to get out of Elgin. I’m an albino, and people would look at me strange on the street. Some people would even spit at me and laugh at me. So I wanted to have a way to relate to folks that they could understand. I wanted to sing. I didn’t get into music until I was 29, and when I started singing, I learned that I could scream on stage and nobody would tell me to shut up. It was fantastic, it was a real release for me.”
He made his way to Austin and was quickly recognized as a strong vocal talent, singing on albums with people like Eric Johnson and Greg Koch. “I did a record with a guy by the name of Stephen Bruton. Stephen used to play with Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, and other big name artists. He was the go-to guy for many folks. He knew every great musician in town, and just about every great player in town played on that record, including Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon (Stevie Ray Vaughn’s rhythm section).”
It was through this association that led to the formation of Storyville. “Storyville was the name of a prominent band out of Austin (1992-1999),” he says. Along with Chris and Tommy, it featured guitarists David Holt, who had been with the Mavericks, and David Grissom who had just finished playing with John Mellencamp’s band. “David decided to put a band around me, so it worked out well,” he continues. “We played together about six years and did four albums. It was a good experience for me. All those guys are top players. I didn’t really have a lot of experience being a front man until I got in that band. I had to learn how because if I didn’t do it, they would run all over my ass, bottom line.”
Since then Malford has made an appearance on the TV show The Voice. “They were very good to me,” he said. “I didn’t get a chair to turn around, but I didn’t mind. I was too old to be on that show. It’s for young kids and I’m just an old guy doing my thing.”
But for a guy that thought he would never be able to get out of Elgin, he told me he has seen about half of Europe. “I have a new record out in Europe called Life Will Humble You. I recorded it in Holland on Royal Family Records. It looks like it’s doing well, and I’m going back in February to tour. You can get it here in the states on iTunes and all that kind of stuff. It’s a different kind of album than I’ve done before. I’ve been doing rock albums for a while, and this is more of a guy looking back on his life after 60 years. 60’s are pushing me, I’m not pushing it. I get to sing a little bit different. I’ve been a singer from a lot of pain and anger, I’ve sung from a place of joy and from a place of wanting to make people happy. When you’re playing in clubs you want to get the people drinking, get them happy and get them dancing. Over the years it’s kind of mellowed. I’ve just mellowed out. I can sing the rock and roll stuff pretty well, but this is a quieter album, more introspective.”
Currently residing in Austin, Malford has plans to move to Wichita Falls in the very near future. “I have a fiancé that lives here so I’m moving here,” he says. “I’ve been seeing Vickie Milam (The Hub of NTX December 2016 cover story) off and on for the past 14 years. I’ve been playing the Iron Horse Pub for years and I would see her and we would talk. Finally, I asked for an appointment to talk with her, we had a long talk, and we’ve been together ever since.”
And since he has been spending more time here it was inevitable that he would hook up with some local musicians. The local band Deep In It asked him to sit in with them on one of their shows, and the connection was made. He asked them if they would be interested in playing with him performing the songs of Storyville, and they jumped at the opportunity. It will be called “Malford Milligan and Deep In It does the songs of Storyville. It’s a long name, but I want to make sure that these good guys are mentioned and that we will be doing the songs of Storyville.
That’s pretty important that people know that. And that’s the music we’re going to be playing at the Saxon Pub (in Austin). I’ve been trying to find a band that can reproduce that, and these guys are killing it. They’ve done me a favor by learning these tunes. They’re hard tunes to learn. Deep In It has their own following and they don’t really need me. These guys are doing great.”
Malford’s plans for the group is to play some downtown festivals and summer shows with the Iron Horse Pub, “And if I could get us into Dallas and Austin, that would be great,” he adds. “Just to do the Storyville stuff. Storyville’s 2008 album Live at Antone’s is still selling. People are still hungry for that music.”
After the November 30 debut of the new band at the Iron Horse Pub, Malford will be packing up his stuff in Austin and moving to Wichita Falls, getting married in January, and then touring Europe in February and March. That’s a pretty busy schedule for a guy that thought he would never get out of Small-town, Texas.