An Interview With BLAKE BROWN About His Ensemble BLAKE BROWN & THE AMERICAN DUST CHOIR And Their Forthcoming Album ‘Long Way Home’!
Posted On 27 Feb 2018
Blake Brown is an American singer-songwriter from Denver, Colorado. After participating in many collaborative projects, he started Blake Brown & The American Dust Choir in 2013. The idea was to have the flexibility of playing solo, but to also include a revolving cast of musician friends when they were able to join him.
Part of the cast includes close friends and musicians of groups, The Fray, The Films, and Tennis. After 3 EP’s, countless shows, and a debut full length, Long Way Home, to be released this March, Brown has found mainstay players. His wife, Tiffany Brown and longtime friends Jason Legler, Adam Blake and Trent Nelson make up The American Dust Choir, creating a blend of indie-rock and Americana. Brown’s music is rooted in acoustic sounds, and characterized by his seemingly simple, yet complex melodies and heartfelt lyrics. Marked by a strangely captivating subtleness, Brown’s music and haunting stage presence leaves bystanders with something to think about and wanting more.
Learn more about Blake Brown & The American Dust Choir in the following All Access interview:
So where does this interview find you today? At home in Denver, Colorado taking inventory count of my new record, “Long Way Home,” and prepping for our release show and trip to SXSW.
Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career? What are you most excited about for this year? What is one big goal you have for 2018? 2017 was great. There was a lot of prep work and pre-production and making of “Long Way Home.” It was a highly focused year and hoping 2018 shows some results of that focus. I have to say, I’m just excited to get the new record out. I’m also excited to be an official performer at SXSW. I’m originally from Texas, so there’s the whole “Holy Grail” component for me about SXSW. Being from there and having the opportunity to play with and be a part of such a fantastic festival. It’s bucket list material. My goal for 2018 is to continue backing the record, and I’m currently writing and in pre-production for a follow up EP.
Growing up, did you ever think that this would be the kind of life that you would have? Has music always been a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience? Yes, music has always been a huge part of my life. My first concert was the Beach Boys, and I was in kindergarten at the time. My dad always had cool taste in music and I was subjected to it at a very young age. I’ll never forget that concert. As a performer, my first memories are of having to sneak into the back of clubs/bars that we were performing at because we weren’t legally allowed to be there. They’d sneak us in, we’d play to packed house, sell all our merchandise, and then have to immediately leave. It was such a cool experience at such a young age, and it left a lasting impression on me. It was something I wanted to keep pursuing for reasons I’m still trying to figure out.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city has influenced them as an artist. How do you think your home has affected you and your music?
I started dabbling with music when I was growing up in El Paso, Texas. I moved from Texas to Colorado in my teen years. As one knows, those are formative years. Texas was all I knew. All my family and friends were there, so when I moved away from that life, my introverted self really dove into the music side, and I became highly focused on it. I never really learned how to play music though. And by that, I mean technical components, or learning how to read music. I’m self-taught and learned by starting a punk band with my best friend. From there, my skills grew, my ear got more trained, and I’ve just kept at it. Although I started punk bands in my teens, I quickly evolved into more rock-centric bands while always writing for my solo endeavor on the side, and now the music I write seems to incorporate rock and folk and all the things I grew up with.
I would love to know more about creating The American Dust Choir in 2013. How did you go about selecting the musician that would be a part of this group? It was a fairly non-calculated move. One of my bands had recently broken up. After a bit of a breather from playing out, I was contacted to support one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, Hayden Desser. I didn’t think twice about it and said “Yes.” From there, I called upon my closest friends and emailed them songs to learn some parts, so I didn’t have to go on stage completely alone. I had a few weeks to put a band together and get some rehearsals going. Long story short, the show was a success and the feedback from the audience was great. So, I booked some studio time and we made an EP the following week. From there, it’s been kind of snowballing. I’ve had some lineup changes here and there. The members I have in place now are the real deal. It took a little time for some things to fall in place, but I try to be best prepared for any lineup changes or curve balls that come my way. For the moment, the band is rock solid and we’re looking forward to a strong 2018.
What is it like being in this band with your wife and long-time friends now?
It’s the best. She and I played music together before we were ever together. In 2013 I asked her to join me on stage and sing harmonies, and like the band evolved, so did our relationship. I’ve known the other guys for quite some time too. For example, my bass player recorded my first solo record ever. I think that was in 2001, so that’s how ingrained my relationships are with the people I play music with. As cheesy as it may sound, music is my heart and soul. I choose to share that with people I care about deeply. It creates a mutual respect between all of us and frankly, I’m at a place in my life where if I’m going to do this, it must be with people I deeply care about and have connections to outside of music as well.
Let’s talk about your new album called “Long Way Home” that you will be releasing next month. What was it like putting together this collection? How differently did you approach making this album as opposed to past ones? Putting together these songs was a very introspective time for me. As you know, I recently got married. With that, comes a bit of different head space, and all the adult things that come with growing up and considering your partner in every move. There was a lot of reflection on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I want to go. I approached the record differently by opening communication with my band. I asked for their input on the songs and took a new approach by involving them. I’ve always written songs and come to the table with nearly all the parts written or at least hashed out in my mind. But this time, I wasn’t writing all the parts and communicating all the ideas. We tried tunes out in different ways, different rhythm patterns, etc. I also worked with a Producer this time around who really helped guide the recording process. Another important thing was that I wasn’t on a time frame this time around. We took our time on the record, which can be a blessing and curse, but I’m organized and driven just enough to keep things moving along. So, all of that to say, it was a combination of these things and really coming full circle on my songwriting. It’s been a long road and calling it “Long Way Home” felt appropriate.
What was the inspiration for your first released track, “Stop Shakin”? Generally, how do you go about writing songs? Do you follow a set process when it comes to songwriting?
I do and I don’t have a set process. At one point, I used to sit down and essentially write a song from start to finish. The idea was to capture the emotion/feelings I had at that exact moment in time. Now, I’ll typically start a verse with some chords and some words and try to just put ideas together. I’ll digest it a bit and get a little perspective and ask myself what I’m trying to say, or articulate. Then I ‘ll circle back to it a few hours or days or months later and add a chorus and refine the idea. A lot of people use technology these days. Tons of musicians have studios in their home, or laptops they record every idea on, etc. I haven’t really caught up to that. I still use a pen and paper and toss things out when I ‘m not feeling them. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but that’s my process. I do however record those initial ideas on my phone as a working document and something I reference through the process. As far as “Stop Shakin'”
Stop Shakin’ – is about living in the moment. It’s about deciding to stand up for yourself and to move on, no matter how terrifying the situation may seem. Whether it’s a relationship, days that passed you by, or regrets that keep you up all night. You have to face your fears and struggles at some point or another. That said, the chorus is a note to myself from the eyes of someone else. “Please Stop Shakin’”….almost as if to remind me that we all face those demons. The kicker is finding a way to being ok with the result and possibly admitting defeat, or at least acknowledging that an honest try was given and the result is that we have to take chances, and hopefully we’re better off for doing so.
Do you have any upcoming tour dates that you would like to share with our readers? What can fans expect from one of your shows?
I have a record release show here in Denver on March 9th at Hi Dive and then off to SXSW for an official showcase. I have some others in the works. My shows are centered around the music. We try to play back to back songs with little talking in-between, but I also like to keep it personal and make connections with my audience.
We are living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? How do you think that music is going to reflect these challenging times? Yes, it is indeed a very trying time. I feel sad about the state of our country and the “leadership.” The one positive I see is that people are truly standing up and speaking out. It’s only a matter of time before things get on track, or at least I hope, and even still, it seems like its taking forever to get our sense of unity back, or at least less divided. The joy in being a musician can’t be stripped by some prick in the white house. It makes me want to unite with my fellow creatives and make change. It feesl like NOW is the time and our voices are more important now than ever.
You have collaborated with so many incredible artists so I am curious to know which one stands out the most to you so far? Honestly, I can’ t pick one favorite person I’ve had the pleasure of playing and/or collaborating with. They are all unique relationships. I can tell you the ones that have been most challenging. Haha. Just kidding. But I do have the pleasure of playing with high caliber musicians. It turns out that they’re my friends too and the relationship and respect is something that means a lot to me. Even in writing this, I couldn’t or wouldn’t single one of them out based on that respect alone. I’ve learned so many different things from each one of them. Singling one of them out just couldn’t be possible. I will say though, I now run many ideas by my wife. For better or worse, she’ become my sounding board. She’s hears the initial scrap of an idea all the way through song completion. So, I’m grateful to her and for her patience. And grateful to her when she offers suggestions.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
I’d love to work with Producer Dave Cobb. I love his work and artists he’s worked with. Artists that continue to inspire me are writers like Ryan Adams and Jason Isbell. They keep evolving and seem unafraid to take risks. They’ve built their careers on the foundation of the craft of songwriting, and now have the ability to take it to new places. Gotta respect that. I’d love to work with those guys someday, but for the moment, I’ll try and live in reality. I also love Jim James and My Morning Jacket. Talk about risks. It doesn’t get any more creative than that as far as I’m concerned. Love it.
What do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I hope they take away the sincerity and honesty I strive articulate. I don’t have a lot of tricks and things up my sleeve. Like I said, I’m not trained on the technicalities of music. Not that knowing technicalities is bad, it’s just the only voice/tool I feel I can really offer is songwriting from the heart. And usually people can connect to raw emotion. Or, I’m hoping they do.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself or your music?
I think I’ve said it all!
Thanks so much for listening and I hope you all enjoy Long Way Home.