Life on the road suits Geoffrey Muller, the multifaceted musician who fans may know as @CajunBanjo on Instagram. He is currently on tour with the Houston Gulf Coast soul band The Suffers, so he talked with OutSmart from his hotel in Wyoming.
With a career influenced by a wide range of music, a personal style that caught GQ’s eye, and a penchant for creating unique, one-of-a-kind crafts (his Instagram features his incredible embroidery skills) Muller is an eclectic Houston artist worth watching.
“Music has been my full-time job since my mid-20s,” the 43-year-old musician says. “I’ve played guitar since I was 12 or 13. My dad had mentioned that he always wanted to play the banjo. I don’t know if I’d ever even heard one before then, but I asked for one and got it for Christmas. I’m self-taught, mainly by books. I’d pore over them.”
Pursuing music full-time was a no-brainer for Muller. “After college, I did some voice and stage acting in Houston and I would play music at night. After a year, I realized I wanted to do it full-time,” he says. “I made my own schedule, met cool people, and traveled the world. There’s a lot of perks to the job. You don’t get paid much at first, but it’s fun.”
He really made his stamp on Houston starting in 2002 at the Montrose bar and event space Avant Garden, where he played to large crowds of locals for four years. “I met a lot of people through that weekly gig. It was a crazy night in Montrose every Monday night. There would be 200 people inside for those shows.”
Eventually lending his talents to artists including Robert Ellis, Joshua Ray Walker, and Ethiopian pop musician Gili Yalo, to name a few, Muller, who identifies as queer, became recognizable to audiences near and far. “I travel the world now, and people ask me if I’m Cajun Banjo,” Muller says with laughter as he describes people recognizing his Instagram handle. “When I was starting, I didn’t know I could [also] tour and do all the things I’m doing now. I thought you just did bar gigs until you died,” the Houston native with deep familial roots in Louisiana says jokingly. “My world expanded when Robert Ellis started getting around a bit.”
The hustle is always top of mind for Muller as he makes sure to continue full-steam ahead. “We aren’t touring 365 days a year. I have to find other artists to work with to keep myself moving and working.” He’s slated to play bass for Houston legend Kam Franklin’s upcoming new solo project. Networking is the name of the game when it comes to finding his next gig. “A lot of times, I see the same people out at music festivals and we become friends. They’ll call me up and ask me to do two-week runs, or record on an album. It’s old-school shaking hands and networking.”
While he’s typically hired to play guitar or bass, Muller uses social media to display his banjo skills. “I started doing banjo videos on TikTok. People don’t usually associate the banjo with the house and ’90s songs I cover.”
He also dazzles crowds with his own band, Geoffrey’s Electric Banjo Band. “When I go out and play my shows, there are a lot of queer people in the audience. They hit me up online and tell me they play banjo,” he says. “I had quit playing banjo because some of the environments [for that music] are a little more conservative and not as accepting, and that’s not a place where I want to be. [But now that I’m] playing banjo again in public, I’ve noticed things have changed a lot.”
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Muller’s fashion sense has also won him some acclaim. “I was featured on GQ’s website when they were profiling the Trans-Pecos Festival in Marfa,” he recalls. “Early on, I was really into The Golden Girls, so I would find Bea Arthur-esque robes and rocked those for a while. I found a red jumpsuit like my grandpa would wear, and it was so comfortable. That evolved into overalls, and I collected them everywhere I’d go. Soon enough, I started making bolo ties and wearing cowboy hats. I didn’t like country music growing up, but my parents always joked that I’d come around to it eventually. I don’t consider myself a cowboy, though—I grew up in Missouri City!”
The multitalented musician and maker is paving the way for other queer artists, and he encourages them to make their voices and influence known. “I wish there were more out, queer voices in the country and Americana music worlds I find myself in,” he notes.
Muller is hopeful that being true to himself will ultimately create more space at the table. “There are a lot of people in the queer community who love country music, and I want there to be more space for them.”
Geoffrey Muller performs at Axelrad on August 6. Keep up with him on Instagram @cajunbanjo.
This article appears in the August 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.