“To develop Grit, stay in the game, stay in your lane”, With Abbey Road & Phil Laboon

Stay in the game. Stay in your lane. I book Texas Music and largely Country music. I felt for a minute I needed to dip into an alternative demographic. It didn’t work. It’s because my heart wasn’t in it. I couldn’t promote to that demographic with passion. I missed the mark because I got out […]

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Credit: Brent Humphreys
Credit: Brent Humphreys

Stay in the game. Stay in your lane. I book Texas Music and largely Country music. I felt for a minute I needed to dip into an alternative demographic. It didn’t work. It’s because my heart wasn’t in it. I couldn’t promote to that demographic with passion. I missed the mark because I got out of my lane. I learned that lesson.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Abbey Road; proprietor, Talent Buyer, Pit Mistress and Keeper of the Spirits of two Legendary Central Texas Music Venues — Coupland Dancehall and The Devil’s Backbone Tavern.Abbey Road has been living her dive bar and dancehall dreams for the last two decades, managing and operating some of the most iconic venues in the state of Texas. Abbey’s passion for music and legendary roadhouses and dancehalls landed her first in Luckenbach, Texas as a talent buyer, bringing a new energy to a venue that needed to find its musical roots again. She found similar roles later in Austin at Threadgill’s and now she is the owner and purveyor of the turn of the century dancehall and brothel, Old Coupland Inn & Dancehall. She is a champion of artists and the means for them to bring their music to new and established fans.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

Thanks for inviting me to be part of your Grit and Success series. Life has a way of twisting and turning. I feel like I’ve always been on my way to where I am. I don’t think I ever knew exactly what it looked like. I just know that I am where I am supposed to be. Doing what I was meant to do. My puzzle sort of pieced itself together on its own. Everything I’ve ever done in my life has culminated into what I do and who I am. I feel like I’ve been in training for this moment my entire adult life. Maybe even before then.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Grit and Success. Two words I have taken time to understand and comprehend. I think they are different things to different people. For me, I can never play victim or place blame. I inherently must take responsibility for my actions, my thoughts and my words. I am extremely hard on myself in that way. I am over the top independent. When you ask about hard times I faced when first starting my journey, it’s hard to explain. I think I created my hardest times! For me, getting up every day is like having a blank canvas. I get to design, paint or draw whatever I want. I know that I am generally capable of doing anything I set my mind to. What I ran into this past 18 months with Coupland Dancehall was a need to rely and depend on other people to help me achieve my dream and ultimately my success, and theirs. So, asking for help and understanding how to embrace that has been a huge learning curve for me, personally. I feel like most people who put themselves out there and take a risk, might have a hard time asking for help. It’s that grit and independence that drives us. It’s uncomfortable to be vulnerable. I shield myself from a lot of outside distraction, on purpose. Asking for help goes against that very thought process. I’m proud to say, I’ve come a long way in my journey of being able to ask for help in a productive way.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Drive, with a CAPITAL D! It’s passion, pure and simple. And not having a safety net. If you can’t swim, you will drown. Simple as that. Nobody can save you. At some point in my life I learned this lesson. I can’t say when it was. I have always just got up every day and dealt with whatever came my way. In the Music business, everyday is different and you deal with so many personalities. And, as they say, the show must go on. Improvisation plays a big role in my life. Every day, every hour, every minute. Being able to make informed decisions on the fly is something I have always been able to do. Thinking on your feet. Not second guessing yourself. Being confident. What’s the worst that can happen? Life is definitely not a game, but it helps to sort of think of it in more lighthearted terms. Humor has always been a motivating and driving force in my life as well.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit or commitment, without fail, has led me to a place where I can manage my people in a positive way. Grit, even on days when I felt I was surely going to die of physical and mental exhaustion, kept me going. One thing my people know about me is that we will get through whatever shows itself to us. We will make a decision, we will plow through and we will come out on the other side. I always say, we can’t go around it, we just have to go through it. Not making excuses, just being real about everything allows us as a team to always know we will win. When I say win I mean we will accomplish our goals. I am competitive with myself. Not aggressively so or towards others. It’s just a healthy way of always pushing to do our best…individually and as a team. When WE win, everybody wins. It’s very important that my customers, the musicians and my staff feel they’ve all won on any given day and in every situation.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Things are GREAT! We’ve seemingly beat the odds in the restaurant/bar and live music business. It’s because we keep our hearts and minds pure and focused on the right things. We absolutely love what we do. Everything else takes care of itself when you are in that sort of magical state of mind.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?

1. Stay in the game. Stay in your lane. I book Texas Music and largely Country music. I felt for a minute I needed to dip into an alternative demographic. It didn’t work. It’s because my heart wasn’t in it. I couldn’t promote to that demographic with passion. I missed the mark because I got out of my lane. I learned that lesson.

2. Understand going in that you ARE the end of the line. You can’t call in sick, you will miss holidays and family time etc. If you are going to build something that you believe in with all of your being, you have to be present…in it and of it. Make sure you are not compromising in any way. If the only answer is “I’m in” there’s no question J

3. I’m lucky in that what I do happens to matter historically and culturally. I create memories and experiences for people. It’s really easy for my love bucket to be FILLED to the brim, in every way. Make sure you are drinking the kool aid. You will go through hell and back for it, without fail.

4. Pray! Hard and Every day. You will find grace if you ask for it.

5. Cut yourself some slack. It’s hard, I know. I am my worst critic. I have learned to step away. Distance myself and look in from the outside. I ask hard questions about why I’m doing what I’m doing. How is it coming across? If my answers, my reasons are not pure, I get myself back on track. Acting out of desperation, greed or competiveness is never a good platform. You can’t build anything sustainable without mutual benefit to others. The universe will not support it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Many people have supported me my entire life. I always want to learn. I am generally curious about everything and I just do what I am compelled to do. I think that draws incredible people to me. I genuinely want other people to succeed and do well. That being said, I do have one person in my life who has been a mentor, a friend, an inspiration, a teacher and just a general light in my life. His name is Deryl Dodd. He is an accomplished Country music singer/songwriter. We have incredible respect for each other. We teach each other continuously. We ebb and flow and let each other be. We help each other in non tangible ways, just communicating. Deryl is a very spiritual person and has a unique way of connecting with every person he comes in contact with. I admire his self discipline and the way he stays focused, relevant and true to who he is and what he does with his music. Very often, we are walking the same path at the same time, just in different roles and of course, circumstances. He is on one side of the music business while I’m on the opposite side. We are able to share our different perspectives and work through our trials and sometimes get really creative in doing that. Our relationship is one of my most cherished things in this life. Having that unconditional support, without judgment, just knowing it’s there to tap when needed has been a great comfort to this self prescribed loner.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I hope that my love for music and sharing/connecting artists with people brings great joy to the listeners and the musicians. I hope that sharing these classic and storied Venue spaces with people gives them a moment of reflection and a sense of nostalgia. I’m not saving the world or curing Cancer, but I can fill a heart, move a person to tears or laughter. I can make a human connection with my gifts.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I just purchased one of the most famous and oldest Dive Bars in Texas, The Devil’s Backbone Tavern. I partnered with two of my dearest friends in this adventure. Between us, we have the grit and stamina to take on anything. This old Tavern has a dancehall that hasn’t been opened in over 30 years. We just finished renovations. We are providing quality entertainment to a growing area and making sure it stays family friendly. We embrace a community spirit in everything we do. As is with Coupland, this space is also about connection. We hope everyone that walks through those doors feels welcomed, loved and free to just be who they are.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love for every person to be able to spend at least 3 to 6 months learning an instrument. Any instrument. The joy of knowing and understanding, just having that little bit of knowledge about music and how it’s made can change a person forever. It would cause a world wide SMILE! And…Connection.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It’s about connection, not perfection” Deryl Dodd

We are people. We need to connect with other people. Music is the greatest connector of all, isn’t it? Music and Love. There are no language barriers. I get to live in somewhat of a fantasy state of mind. When I was younger, I was one of those OCD people where every little thing had to be in its place and perfect. I’ve learned through music, and living life, that imperfection is perfection.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook —

Twitter — AbbeyRd2

Instagram — Abbeyrd2

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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