El Paso musician Billy Townes contributes to new film "The Line that Divides"

Billy Townes

He's El Paso's piano man.

Billy Townes has been fixture at local live-music venues for more than two decades - a journeyman musician who continues to find new ways to create.

“If all goes well, you know, the old Buddy Rich thing, you know, before I die, I want to have a gig the night before," he said. "You just want to keep it going as much as possible.”

Born in New York, Townes is an Irvin High School grad. He started playing in local bands while in college.

“We played music in our dorms," Townes said. "We had so much fun playing to other students in our dorms and that’s where it kind of generated and revived itself.”

This year, Townes is celebrating the release of his 16th solo record.

“With the band, believe it or not, that’s still with me now after all these years,” he said.

Jazz is a love that runs deep with Townes, but it doesn't stop there.

Townes is also a filmmaker, having written and directed "Border Lords 1 and 2," low-budget, high energy crime-dramas set here along the border.

“I look back at what we did for 'Border Lords,' which we ended in 2008, it was a lot of fun," he said. "We worked our butts off but it was a lot of fun.”

And now Townes is expanding his cinematic endeavors. Townes is the sound designer for the independent film “The Line the Divides,” which opens in El Paso this week.

“And what I did is basically I worked with the audio, with the audio tracks," he said. "I helped them record some of the talent in my studio.”

“The Line that Divides” was directed by native El Pasoan Cesar Alejandro. It tells the story of families divided along the US Mexico border. Townes didn't do any of the music. In this case, is role was strictly technical.

“It was all audio with dialogue and effects or just the ambiance," he said. "The whole soundscape but not the music on it because he had his ideas and that was fine.”

Townes, who is also an instructor at El Paso Community College, said he'll continue to draw inspiration from film and music.

“I open myself up to an array of styles of music which gives me inspiration to turn it into my own playing,” he said.

"The Line that Divides" opens this Friday at Premiere Cinema at El Paso's Bassett Place, located at 6101 Gateway West.

Click here for info and showtimes.

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