When invited to play at the very first SXSW conference, they initially balked because of lack of payment. Fortunately they got off their high horses and ended up having a great show at the Hole in the Wall with The Wagoneers. And then, as if in a dream, Two Nice Girls was signed by Rough Trade Records as a result of that first SXSW.
Rough Trade was good to Two Nice Girls and their first of three albums spawned a couple of college radio “hits.” One was their cover of Lou Reed’s Sweet Janesmashed up with Joan Armatrading’s Love and Affectionand the other was Gretchen’s original country song of remorse, I Spent My Last $10 (On Birth Control and Beer). They toured the US, Canada and England a lot and got to share the stage with many other wonderful bands. They also won more Austin Chronicle Music Awards as well as the prestigious GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) media award. Things were great, then things got hard, and the cliché of “musical differences” tore Two Nice Girls asunder.
One of the differences was Gretchen’s desire for an even more experimental approach to music. After a brief tenure and tour with Girls in the Nose (who had been flourishing nationally) in the early 90s, Gretchen began her solo career. Welcome To My World was her first release, an unclassifiable cassette (back in the days when that was a very viable format) of spoken word ruminations on sin and excess set to the music of the beloved Casio. She then formed the Gretchen Phillips Xperience with such Austin luminaries as Jo Walston (Meat Purveyors), John Paul Keenon (Cibo Matto, Sean Lennon), Andy Loomis (Craig Ross), and Thor (Bill Callahan, Shearwater, Swans). Always aided by gorgeous go-go dancers, GPX was a live experience not to be missed. They played all over and had a lot of fun and then Gretchen got it in her head to move to San Francisco in the mid-90s and broke the band up.
While in SF she began the terrifying project of performing solo. She asked herself, “What are the merits of stripping a song of its ornate arrangement and presenting the bare bones of lyrics and melody?” She then answered herself, “Well, potentially having an even stronger grasp on songwriting and enhancing the performance of raw, vulnerable emotion.”