Some might say that Stoney LaRue is part of what’s right about the bloated South By Southwest music and film festival. The fest used to be about the little acts that could. Sure, they’re still there, but these days it can be difficult to see past the glare of the Jay Z/Kanye West bill, which attracted considerable attention last week in Austin.
The charismatic LaRue, who will play the Cotillion in Wichita on Friday, performed last week at the Saxon Pub in the capital city of Texas. The latest gritty artist out of Stillwater, Okla., remains a dynamic singer-songwriter, who has a nice touch with an amalgam of rootsy-country and hook-laden rock.
“I just write what I enjoy,” LaRue said. “I just want to have an opportunity to do what I love. It’s a dream to be able to do this every day.”
LaRue has been at it for a decade. He made some noise with 2005’s “The Red Dirt Album.” It’s filled with gritty, compelling and catchy songs, such as the anthemic “Down in Flames” and the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”
“That was a start for me,” LaRue said. “I just went for it.”
Being an independent artist isn’t easy. Everything isn’t automatic for LaRue, who took six years to make the follow-up release, 2011’s “Velvet.”
“I just wanted to make the best record that I could with ‘Velvet,’ ” LaRue said. “I’m happy with it.”
Thanks to a bunch of well-written songs, particularly “Travelin’ Kind” and “Look at Me Fly,” and featuring some of the finest Nashville session players, LaRue succeeded with “Velvet.” He mixes powerful red dirt tunes with some melancholy numbers.
“I think ‘Velvet’ is deeper than what I did on the first album,” LaRue said. “I think it shows that I’m growing as a recording artist. I didn’t want to do the same thing. I wanted to challenge myself and take it to another level.”
LaRue certainly sticks out in the red dirt scene, which is also inhabited by Jason Boland, Cody Canada and Mike McClure. “A lot of talented people are from where I am,” LaRue said. “That’s great that I’m part of that. I root for everybody. There’s no reason that we can’t all do good.”
Judging by the reaction LaRue received at South By Southwest, good things appear to be on the horizon.
“I hope things go all right,” LaRue said. “I’m happy as long as I’m able to continue writing, recording and touring. I don’t need much except the chance to do what I love.”