Q&A with bluesy Americana jam band of Brothers Brown, a rainbow of eclectic and dynamic musical styles

"To keep gratitude and humility at the forefront of my paths in life and music."

Brothers Brown: Nowhere Left To Go

The cliché “Don’t judge a book by the cover” does and does not apply to the cosmically colorful artwork that adorns the new sophomore album, “Nowhere Left To Go” (2024) from Brothers Brown. The thirteen songs written and produced by the bluesy Americana jam band are a rainbow of musical styles. Both the cover and the songs on the Woodward Avenue Records collection are vividly imaginative and vibrant. While the vintage Volkswagen van on the cover symbolizes the carefree era of the psychedelic 1960s, the eclectic blend heard on the album is far from retro. It’s a distinctly modern - perhaps even a futuristic set - reflecting the amalgam of art and culture of the present day. The cartoonish illustration on the album cover accurately captures the spirited personality and wildly stylish character of Grammy nominee Brother Paul Brown (The Waterboys), the band’s vivacious keyboardist. He co-founded the group with his two-time Grammy-winning namesake, guitarist and singer-songwriter Paul Brown, who has produced more than sixty No.1 singles for a galaxy of contemporary jazz stars including George Benson, Norman Brown, Boney James and Al Jarreau.

(Brothers Brown / Photo by Alex Brown - Cover artwork by HD Interactive)

The Nashville-based Brother Paul Brown met the Los Angeles-based Paul Brown at the Grammy Awards in 2014. The four-piece band is completed in equal measure by a taut rhythm section comprised of bassist David Santos (Billy Joel, John Fogerty, Elton John) and drummer-percussionist Peter Young (Loretta Lynn, The Burrito Brothers). Both Nashville-based musicians add vocals and guitar parts to Brothers Brown’s first new album since their 2016 debut, “Dusty Road.” While the members of Brothers Brown are decorated veterans, “Nowhere Left To Go” is only their second outing as a band thus they’re considered newcomers again, which they find invigorating. The album’s title track features blues legend Bobby Rush, who has been collaborating with Brother Paul Brown for over twenty years. Their fruitful history together spans four albums, three Blues Music Awards, one Grammy nomination for the album “Down in Louisiana,” and many miles traveled during multiple concert tours.  

 

Interview by Michael Limnios              Archive: Brothers Brown, 2016 Interview

How has the Roots music and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Bro Paul: As a young kid musician starting in a school for the homeless in 1975, the music felt very segregated, you either accepted rock, soul, or disco. Seeing Parliment Funkadelic on an evening I thought I was going to see KISS completely changed the way I viewed music and musical genres. Since then, I've grown to make music in almost every genre in one way or another. The longer I stayed in the music business, the more I've grown to shed musical boundaries and become a free musical spirit. It has and still serves me incredibly well.

LA Paul: I'm not a religious man, but music has been the driving force of my life. All genres of music have something to offer. Everyday I'm either writing, producing, mixing, arranging or playing music. Music is all things.

Currently you’ve one more release with Brothers Brown. How did the idea of a band come about? How do you want the band to affect people?

Bro Paul: LA Paul Brown and I met at the Grammys when we both had albums up for a nomination. We became fast friends and came up with the wild idea of putting a band together and calling it Brothers Brown. It stuck, and here we are two albums later!

LA Paul: This band is a result of four people who have been making music for decades, and helping artists realize their potential in many areas of the business. We play off each other and that synergy will hopefully be felt by the listeners.

"I'm not a religious man, but music has been the driving force of my life. All genres of music have something to offer. Everyday I'm either writing, producing, mixing, arranging or playing music. Music is all things." (The four-piece band of Brothers Brown are Nashville-based Brother Paul Brown; Los Angeles-based Paul Brown; David Santos; and Peter Young / Photo by Alex Brown)

Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album Nowhere Left To Go?

Bro Paul: It was the day David Santos sent me the track for Junior's Back In Town. I was sitting in my Ocean Soul Studios here in Nashville listening and already pretty loan away with the track without any keys yet. I knew I was going to play Hammond B3 and then a solo section came up, and out of nowhere, without any contemplation or debate as to whether or not it was appropriate for a roots blues Americana band, I launched into a bonkers Moog solo. This was done in one pass, and at the end of the solo, I remember feeling so blown away by how perfectly this fit the vibe of the song and how I'd managed to anchor the melodies around a plethora of prog rock chord changes in one take! Haha!

LA Paul: One of the most unique things about our collaboration is that we've never all been in the same room while recording. not even the same state. But somehow, we dance around each other in a beautiful way.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

Bro Paul: There was a point in my musical life when I thought I was born and destined to be a singer. I actually fronted a rock band called Big Life, sported a chain mic stand, and recorded a handful of demos. Then, I got a gig playing behind Stax Soul legend, Shirley Brown (Woman To Woman), and it was then that I realized just how beautiful it could feel to play real soul and support one of the greatest female voices in soul music. From that time on, I realized my real strength and passion became not singing, but rather producing great vocals for great singers and playing behind great singers like Shirley Brown, Ann Peebles, Don Bryant, Mike Scott, Bobby Rush, Mark Farner, Jimi Jamison, Rufus Thomas, and the list goes on. To create music and keep an open approach to my playing that reflects my love of all styles, and comes without prejudice for any genre. And, to make, engineer, and Mix records for FEEL!

LA Paul: Working with some of the greatest musicians in the world on a daily basis has a huge influence on a person. I've recorded Luther Vandross, George Benson, Al Jarreau and countless others. They've all made me a better musician. Trying to create an environment where artists feel inspired and comfortable is important to me, and has been a major contributor to my success.

"This band is a result of four people who have been making music for decades, and helping artists realize their potential in many areas of the business. We play off each other and that synergy will hopefully be felt by the listeners." (Photo: Brother Paul Brown and LA Paul Brown)

What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

Bro Paul: I was living in Nashville at a school for the homeless. I went AWOL one evening to see a KISS concert. As I walked up to purchase my ticket, I discovered I was surrounded by mostly black folks. I went in, took my seat, and while copping a serious contact buzz off the weed being smoked, the lights went down, and all I heard at first was a kick drum and a high hat. Then, as I was expecting Gene Simmons, Paul, Ace, and Peter to come barreling out with fireworks, a guy with a diaper came out instead, and it was Parliament Funkadelic. At that very moment, my musical life and how I viewed music changed forever.

Hands down, scoring a Grammy Nomination for an album I co-produced, engineered, and mixed for Bobby Rush. That, along with having a gospel album I played Hammond B3/Keys on for soul legend, Gloria Gaynor winning a Grammy, is among the very top.

LA Paul: When I was 23, I got married, at that time, I was a drummer. My brother-in-law Lee Herschberg reached out to me and asked how I was going to support my wife. I answered, "drumming of course". He insisted that, I start working for him at Amigo studios. He hired me at Warner Brothers, and I started engineering and eventually producing. dramatic shift in my life …Thanks Lee!!!!!

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Bro Paul: To keep gratitude and humility at the forefront of my paths in life and music.

LA Paul: Learn how to do everything involved in music. I record, write, arrange, play, mix, master and do live shows. more possibilities to survive that way.

(Brothers Brown: LA Paul Brown on guitars and vocals; Brother Paul Brown on keyboards; David M Santos on bass and additional vocals; and Pete Young on percussion, drums and vocals / Photo by Alex Brown)

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