Q&A with Brothers Brown (fronted by two musicians named Paul Brown) - a dynamic presence in American roots music

"I’d like to believe there’s a lot more Love and racial equality now because of how the Blues and American roots scene has evolved and brought us all a little closer over the past 50 years."

Brothers Brown: American Roots Road

Two Grammy-winning and nominated frontmen — both named Paul Brown — and an all-star rhythm section create the eclectic and soulful Dusty Road, under the name BROTHERS BROWN distributed by Larry Carlton’s 335 Records. The debut album by the Brothers Brown unveils a dynamic new presence in American roots music released March 2016. Its dozen songs, buoyed by superb songwriting and musicianship, recall the work of such seminal groups as the Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival in their ability to create a sense of place and time, or, rather, timelessness, as well as emotional depth. The band even enlisted Paul Barrere, who for four decades has played guitar with the legendary blues-infused rock group Little Feat, to contribute slide guitar to one track on Dusty Road.                         Brothers Brown / Photo courtesy of Alex Brown

The Brothers Brown are fronted by two musicians named Paul Brown. One is a double Grammy-winning producer, guitarist, singer and songwriter from Los Angeles. The other (Brother Paul Brown) is a Grammy-nominated producer, keyboardist and songwriter based in Nashville. The band is completed by a virtuosic rhythm section that also calls Nashville home: bassist David Santos, who has worked with Billy Joel, Elton John, John Fogerty and other superstars; and drummer Peter Young, who has toured with Loretta Lynn, The Burrito Brothers and other major artists. Santos and Young are also accomplished producers.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What did you learn about yourself and what touched you (emotionally) from the Rock n’ Blues culture and music?

Brother Paul Brown (keyboards): Man this is such a cool question and one I don’t think I’ve ever been asked quite in this way so you may want to grab you a cup of tea before you dive into this answer cause it’s about to get deep…But first, to give you a super clear picture of my answer I must broaden your musical scope to Rock N Roll, Metal, Funk, Soul, Gospel, Americana, Bluegrass, Jazz (Fusion, Bebop, Smooth) World and New Age and of course… Blues. So as I sincerely dig deep in my Soul for this answer I will tell you that I learned and experienced many levels of self-evolution through each and every one of these musical landscapes. When I was between 8 and 12 years old my mom had fallen victim to an ultimately fatal addiction to Demerol which drastically weakened her discipline skills as a parent. Couple that with the fact that I idolized and tried desperately to follow in my oldest brother’s drug induced footsteps I ended up completely out of control. During that time I only knew and loved either whatever album my brother turned me onto or whatever played on the local Rock/Pop Station. This was ’72 to ’75 so that should give you some idea of where we’re at musically here -Zeppelin (Immigrant song/Houses of the Holy), Black Oak Arkansas (High on the Hog album), Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon). Aside from the more musically broadened albums my mom played when she was straight enough to operate the turntable, this about the scope of my musical landscape. 

Then she died…Overdosed…My Stepdad bolted…About a month later human service was sent to check on us because we were missing so much school…  We were separated… Three of us were sent to a homeless school in Nashville…Music in my life got darker…Way darker…Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and KISS’s Destroyer albums and anything remotely close to them were really resonating with me. There was def much more white coursing my veins than any other color, that’s for sure. But then…I ran away for what I thought was to see a KISS Concert that turned out to be a Parliament Funkadelic Concert. Holy Shit….Man all in the short the span of that 3+ hour concert I was raised, leveled, learned, enlightened and with an extra “contact” push from some serious free floating Green Goddess I evolved…My Soul evolved…The color in my Veins evolved…By this crazy twist of fate, I was seeing and feeling music for the very first time in Color and it was the most insanely incredible feeling Ladies and Gentlemen! Every musical and personal evolution I’ve experienced since then has happened the same way -with some crazy beautiful twist of fate I would’ve never seen coming.

Paul Brown (guitar): I dig the pathos and pure energy of music. It’s always been my safe place, to express myself and just enjoy life.

How do you describe BROTHERS BROWN sound and songbook? What characterizes your music philosophy?

Brother Paul Brown: A very true and very sincere sonic glimpse of what all us four brothers by choice have collectively come through both musically and personally... Every unconventional road I’ve dared to take both musically and personally…

Paul Brown: We all have influences that overlap and converge. Blues, rock, jazz, jam band, Americana roots. We feel that combining musical genres is natural and shouldn’t keep us from the mainstream musical world. If it’s good, and we love it, hopefully others will as well.

"I miss the earthiness and honesty from groups like The Band and The Grateful Dead. I don’t like the pop music that is all about the hook. Of course it’s important to have a hook, but I need more to keep my interest and to be moved by a song." (Brother Paul & Paul Brown / Photo by Alex Brown)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Brother Paul Brown: Most unquestionably country artist and still one of my dearest friends Louise Mandrell who not only signed on as my big Sister at one of the lowest times during my life in a school for the homeless but also took me out on my 1st tour ever. Both had and continue to have this ongoing-ever evolving lifelong impact.

Man I got super fortunate to get this totally wacky, zaney but most brilliant Symphony pianist Mr. Jerry Pickle as a music teacher for a couple of seasons during my final high school years in my homeless school. Mr. Pickle would sometimes show up to class in a clown suit -He was an early musical version of Patch Adams if you will. One day he comes into class with a stack of Vinyl and first he drops the needle on the Aerosmith album Toys in the Attic. But then…. He drops the needle on the ‘73 Funkladelic album Cosmic Slop and then spent the rest of that class showing us ways to connect the two genres! At the end of that session one of the last things he so passionately articulated that stays with me to this day was; “Always keep your Mind and Soul open to ALL shapes and colors of Music as they are ALL connected by virtue of the Spirit”.

Paul Brown: Living in LA and being the son of two professional musicians had a big effect on my musical journey. I grew up in the studio with them and observed the way music was put together and realized everyday. I witnessed the production, engineering, arranging, playing, sweetening, mixing and everything in between. 

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Brother Paul Brown: Musical Milestone: I was a mere 3 minutes from taking the stage with Rock/Blues artist Sean Chambers when I looked down at my phone to see that an album I produced, engineered, Mixed and Played Keys on for Blues Legend Bobby Rush in a small Studio we built here in Nashville was Nominated for a Grammy for Best Blues album.

Recording – There are three actually: Playing Hammond B3 on a session w/ Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford mere inches to my left and Nugent’s Derek St. Holmes mere inches to my right! Recording a tune I wrote for Ann Peebles titled; When I’m Over You with Mavis Staple, Shirley Brown and Ann Peebles in the same room on the same mic sing Bgvs. Recording a Beautiful New age album with my Beloved wife April Brown.

Live: Man there are so many of these but the most recent would have to be Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford and I playing a super special duet together as a tribute to the late Rock guitar legend Dick Wagner.

Paul Brown: When I was an assistant engineer at Warner Brothers, I would do multiple sessions on many occasions. For two months in a row, I did Van Halen’s first album from noon to 6, then at night in another room, Michael McDonalds first solo album. Everyday it was amazing seeing those cats play in the daytime, then studio musicians like Gregg Philingaines, Chuck Rainy, Steve Lukather at night. Very inspiring to say the least. Different genres but just GREAT music and players. Great learning experience.

"We all have influences that overlap and converge. Blues, rock, jazz, jam band, Americana roots. We feel that combining musical genres is natural and shouldn’t keep us from the mainstream musical world. If it’s good, and we love it, hopefully others will as well."

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Brother Paul Brown: I miss the way Rock N Roll used to dress. Outside of just a small handful of bands out there like Aerosmith and KISS I miss the time when cats put just as much passion in the look as they put into the music. I miss when Rock N Roll wasn’t tired and seriously overweight. Again, outside of the few like Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Paul Stanley, Mike Scott (The Waterboys), Peter Frampton and by all means Iggy Pop there are so many Artists and Musicians who were and are my heroes who have totally let themselves go. My personal Solution: I leave the junk off my personal Ryder man and I'll have some healthy soup after the shows instead of a loaf of bread and a truckload of other fat foods before I go to bed. (Epic hats off to Mike Scott for that ingenious Soup Concept!) Even something as small as taking the stairs at hotels helps keep me in shape. Hopes: To hear Steve Perry sing ANYTHING again. To see Lou Gramm with Foreigner again -who by the way, is looking seriously great again and singing his ass off man! Epic hats off! To see my dear Brother Bobby Rush win a Grammy this year and with my other brother Scott Billington at the helm of his next album and his Boxset I’m placing all bets on BR! Fears: Climate Change…

Paul Brown: I miss the earthiness and honesty from groups like The Band and The Grateful Dead. I don’t like the pop music that is all about the hook. Of course it’s important to have a hook, but I need more to keep my interest and to be moved by a song.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Brother Paul Brown: To breathe life back into all my fallen musical heroes.

Paul Brown: I'd go back to Analog. I think the digital recording process has had a horrible effect on music and it seems to be getting worse. We accept MP3 and worse quality on a daily basis. I hate that shit!

"Man I miss the way Rock N Roll used to dress. Outside of just a small handful of bands out there like Aerosmith and KISS it seems like all I’m seeing now are the same dark drabby ass drive-through long sleeve shirts with the same predictable patterns on the front or the sleeves and all designed by the same cat." (Brothers Brown on stage / Photo courtesy of Alex Brown)

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Roots music from Blues to Americana and from Jazz to Rock, and R&B?

Brother Paul Brown: All the beautiful cats who created those lines man. We continue to pull from, connect and create new ones from all the original lines. Just a short list would be: Dizzy, Miles, W.C. Handy, Jaco, Little Walter, Willie Mitchell, Bobby Rush, BB, Muddy, Nat, Sammy Davis, Mr. Bennett and or course Fury.

Paul Brown: It all has blues as a base. I do like a bit more harmonic depth and lyrical structure than any one format has to offer. That’s the kind of music I listened to growing up, and that is what I aspire to create.

What is the impact of American Roots music to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Brother Paul Brown: I’d like to believe there’s a lot more Love and racial equality now because of how the Blues and American roots scene has evolved and brought us all a little closer over the past 50 years.

Paul Brown: It’s about the music and being moved by it. From the heart more than the brain for me.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Brother Paul Brown: Me? I’d take a trip back in that homeless school I was once in and spend my day sharing all the crazy roads I’ve been down to arrive where I’m at mentally and spiritually today. I’d be on a mission to make a difference man.

Paul Brown: I’d always thought it would be cool to play with The Dead on the Europe 72 tour.

Photo courtesy of Alex Brown

 

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