A Conversation with the Founder of Old Digs

 
Omero Leon and his dog, Kujo

Omero Leon and his dog, Kujo

Tucked away in the sleepy town of Gholson, down a winding road that mirrors the Brazos River, is a little known venue that goes by the catchy name: Old Digs. What was formerly an auto repair shop has been transformed into a budding and fruitful art space that beckons and dares any artist wanting to create something out of thin air. This fruit that is being beared is something for the folks in the area that may not fit into the well worn glove of Wacos’ Country and Singer/Song Writer scene. It has an entirely different vibe than those scenes, and it is curated by a very thoughtful music lover named Omero Leon. Omero sat down with us after we were guided by his Park Ranker friend, Nestor Leon, fellow bandmate in Peaches N’ Gravy, Sammy Chavez Jr., and trusty K9 sidekick, Kujo, on an exhausting (and a lot of fun) hike to a scenic spot that gave us a perspective on Waco not just from a geographical standpoint, but a metaphorical one as well.

KWL:
Okay, I want to first start by saying I am on top of a peak, in the middle of the woods, in Cameron Park. I'm sitting down with Omero from Old Digs over-looking the beautiful Brazos River.
So, you seem to have a passion for music. When did it start?

Omero:
Pretty early on. I'm sure five, six, seven, eight years old, but as far as really being aware of sounds, like feelings and music and the way all that gives you, probably like 12 or 13. I guess that's really, like, puberty kicks in right? It sounds like everything comes in now. Yeah, I guess around there.  My parents, they were immigrants, so growing up and coming into Texas, we listened to a lot of Hispanic music.
Music was the escape to get away from whatever it was that we were going through at the time. It was always there.
So, it was kind of like the output for any emotion we had and then going into middle school and really growing through there, and developing and understanding the American culture and everything really played out a different way. It really tied into the music that I was listening to at the time. Just really captured emotion and passion and all that.

KWL:
So, you are the curator, the owner, of Old Digs. Which is a venue out in Gholson. What made you want to open up a venue and why in Gholson? In that order.

Omero:
The venue idea, I think a lot of people want to do a band or have a music, or create a space to have an outlet to do something, to just be able to create, to have a space to create. To have it to where it was free, to be able to create freely and not to be judged for what you created, where you can present it in the light you saw it in without it having to be shut down or without being worried about any judgment over it. A lot of open mics, everything like that, kind of drove the idea. Meeting a lot of people in the area. There's a spot for that, there's a niche for different minds, where they could meet. That was really a good reason why. There was a lot of people that really helped out, that a lot of people that kind of had a lot of influence here and there and pushed. That was a good reason as to why.

KWL:
What made you choose Gholson?

Omero:
It was just a little outside of Waco. We'd always go through Gholson or visited growing up in this area, and it was just the way, it ended up playing that way. Just to be towards Gholson. It kind of played out well because it's like you drive out there and you don't even realize where you're at. You're just like, I just know that I'm here and its music and there's art here, and this is why I'm here now.

KWL:
It's like a safe bubble.

Omero:
Yeah, exactly.

KWL:
Okay, cool. I dig that. So before Old Digs, what was your favorite venue here in Waco?

Omero:
If not Spin Connection, which isn't really a venue, more of a record store, Spin Connection is definitely one of the top places. I really like the Backyard. The Backyard Stage and Grill played a big influence. I believe their open mics and what they did with that really opened a big outlet for musicians here in the area because they let MCC students and then local people and then people from outside the area. Gatesville, McGregor, Riesel, Lorena. People would drive up all over. Aleman, even West, would drive to the Backyard on Tuesdays and do open mics. They had the right idea with letting us use their big stage and not just perform in a corner, but perform on an actual stage. It kind of presents that, you kind of get that energy and feel that this is exactly what it's kind of like. So it was really nice.

KWL:
Who would be your dream band to have play at Old Digs?

Omero:
Can I have multiple?

KWL:
Absolutly. Dead too.

Omero:
Oh wow! That's a big question. I don't know if I can answer that one. It's like what band would I not have there, I think.

KWL:
Who would you like that you're listening to now to play there? If you had a shot. Let's poll the room. Which band should play at Old Digs?

Sammy:
Foo Fighters.

KWL:
Foo Fighters, good answer.

Nestor:
It can be anybody?

Omero:
Anybody.

Nestor:
I would love to see My Morning Jacket up on stage.

KWL:
Oh dope, good answer. Okay. That would be dope.

Omero:
I'm going to say Tedeschi Trucks Band. They're great.

KWL:
Great, okay. Favorite band in Waco?

Omero:
In Waco? Man, oh god. All of them I think.

KWL:
You're in love with the bands of Waco.

Omero:
All of them.

KWL:

But what would you say, what's the mission statement for Old Digs? What do you want Old Digs to say to people when they come see a show there?


Omero:
Wow. “Wow, I can't believe that just happened” or “This is in Waco?” Maybe “this just happened in Waco?”
”I'm here now, I'm in the right spot.” 

We want to in a nut shell say “We support genuine joy, earnest honesty, and eclectic avenues of exploring our creativity."

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KWL:
So what’s your future plans with Old Digs? Near future, distant future?

Omero:
Near future, probably May 31st, will probably be our last day. We'll have a show then. The reason for that being is that we set out to do something and I think a lot of times people set up and they go out and do something and they set themselves up to really look at it and they set themselves up to fail. They set themselves up to progress, but sometimes you forget that when you do progress and you do end up making it you still have to continue to do it. I don't think a lot of people look at it that way. A lot of people see it and they're like, "Okay, if I fail I know I have to get back up. But if I succeed, what then?"
So I think we succeeded at what we wanted to do, or at least tried to get to it to do it. I believe there's a better way to do things and a better environment. I think there's something more to it and I believe there's another chapter to it.

KWL:
Chapter one for you as an individual working in music, working to bring music and art to the Waco area.

Omero:
Yeah.

KWL:
Great. What about in the future?

Omero:
As far as future, so we do have a ... there's a couple plans that personally I have and then there's also plans that we have as groups of certain things. I believe the next chapter for Old Digs is not necessarily a small venue, but I'd like to do a larger scale thing. There's sort of a residency for artists, as well. There's a scale to it that we've kind of been talking about. There's something a little bit bigger than Old Digs that we can get to that we're going to be able to support artists in the area, or not just in the area, but through all of Texas I believe. There's something that Texas needs that we're on and I think I'm close to it, and I think that's going to be the next thing. Whether it gets started towards the end of this year, beginning next year, I believe that's when we'll probably start really grinding to get it going.

KWL:
Amazing. So amazing things to come from Mr. Omero.

Omero:
I gained a lot of influence and passion from other people in the area. I see the way “Rewound” with Frank or Zack or even “Rad Dragon” and Josh and all those guys. Any of the local bands, like DiMaggio's or Knuckleball, anyone that's pushing themselves to do something that inspires all of us and gets us going. Even Uncle / Brother, you all came in and Keep Waco Loud. Passion of people coming in to do passionate work for something that they're really feeling and that's the drive behind it. As long as that continues I think not having a location for a venue like this, I think it will be okay pulling it away because it gave flame to everybody in the Waco area to now everyone's going to come into Waco and it's going to destroy a whole barrier down. I believe Old Digs was kind of like that, stepping stone to knock everything else down in the area. Whether I can even get it going in Waco or not, we'll see what happens. If I can't get it going here I'm going to find another spot or another place to do it. I feel like Waco is ready for something and if it's not a venue then it's this whole wave of art and creative drive, I think. It's ready for it. It's ripe.

KWL:
Amazing. What a great answer. I fucking love that.


Make sure to catch the last show at Old Dig’s location in Gholson this Friday night.
You can find more details on their Instagram page
@olddigs

 
Jacob Green