The soon-to-be graduate reflects on his time at Texas Tech University and his evolving career as a country musician.
Country music is to Texas as wine is to France. There's no way around it. It's ingrained in the culture. To some, it's a way of life. To Reid Dillon, a Texas Tech University chemical engineering major graduating this May, it was an opportunity to live out his dream of being a musician.
Dillon picked up the guitar a bit later than most kids and, at the time, country music wasn't even on his radar.
“I started playing guitar when I was 14,” Dillon said. “My dad had an acoustic guitar, and I would mess around on it every now and then. I started listening to music that had a lot of guitar in it. John Mayer was probably my biggest influence. He's the one who kind of transitioned me to the electric guitar, and I just fell in love with the blues and classic rock stuff.
“I grew up in Farmersville, which is a pretty rural town. All my friends listened to the Texas country scene, so I knew about all the bands in the scene, but I never really listened to them on my own.”
Texas Tech and a country music band
Like most young adults starting their college careers, Dillon was undecided about his future. He didn't know which major to declare until his sophomore year.
“When I first got to Texas Tech, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he said. “I was undecided my freshman year, and I actually dropped the first chemistry class I took. Then, I got into chemical engineering my sophomore year and tried it again. I actually tried. I learned how to study. And then I found out I was actually pretty good at it, so I went with it.”
With his degree plan on a clear trajectory, his musical plans also came into focus. Almost four years ago, Dillon joined Cleto Cordero (founder, lead vocals/guitar), Laura Jane (fiddle), Jonathan Saenz (bass) and Jason Albers (drums) to form the country music group Flatland Cavalry.
“The band started while I was in school,” Dillon said. “Once I joined the band, I started listening to country music more. I realized there are a lot of talented people on the scene, so I kind of got into it. I listen to country music all the time. I really enjoy it now.”
Flatland Cavalry released their debut EP “Come May” in the spring of 2015, followed by their first, full-length album, “Humble Folks,” in April 2016.
The success of, “Come May” and “Humble Folks” lead to a busy tour schedule, but Dillon was able to balance his musical commitments with his schoolwork.
“Most of the time, we're touring on the weekends during the semester, and I get all my schoolwork done during the week,” he said. “I don't really even try to study on the road anymore. It's just doesn't work. It's pretty much like living a double life.”
Once Dillon obtains his degree, he and the rest of Flatland Cavalry plan to travel the U.S. on a wider scale.
“I'm the last one to finish school, so everyone is kind of waiting on me,” Dillon said. “We'll be able to go out of state a lot more. We're also planning on putting out a new album this year, and we'd like to, one day, tour internationally, too.”
Though Dillon has enjoyed success in the music industry, he knew completing his degree was something he had to do.
“What's kept me motivated to finish my degree is that, being so close to finished, I think I would regret it if I didn't finish and I was this close,” Dillon said. “And I want to finish for my parents. They invested a lot in this, so I want to get my degree for them, too.”
As for his future, Dillon is staying the country course.
“I've decided to do music and pursue music full time,” he said. “If I can find something part-time to keep my engineering knowledge and skills up, then I will. But, I've wanted to focus on music since I picked up my first guitar, so it's pretty awesome. The sky's the limit.”