Q&A with Brandon Stallard of Cryin’ Out Loud, a dynamic blues band, built a loyal following of fans in the North East

"I miss the honesty of music’s past. I miss great albums, where 8 out of the 10 songs were hits. I miss putting on a record and walking across the room to sit down, because you were invested, and you knew you were in good hands for the next 45 minutes, or so. Nowadays, it seems everyone is chasing that 1 hit. And the album is just the vessel to hold it. I miss really great records."

Cryin’ Out Loud: Play Loud, Smoke Often

Cryin’ Out Loud is a dynamic blues band their new album titled ‘Play Loud, Smoke Often’ (2024). Produced by Grammy award winner Paul Nelson and recorded in Bangor, Maine, their debut release is highly anticipated and inspired by the likes of The Band, The Allman Brothers Band, Little Feat, and of course all the blues greats. There is something for everyone! This album is full of brand new originals and features guest appearances from Erik Lawrence of Little Feat, Paul Nelson of The Paul Nelson Band, and Ana Popovic’s renowned keyboardist, Michele Papadia. Brandon Stallard, Ben Chute, and Jim Fratini are Cryin' Out Loud—a high-energy blues band from Maine. 

(Photo: Cryin' Out Loud - Brandon Stallard & Ben Chute)

Cryin’ Out Loud has built a loyal following of fans in the North East and is currently booking multiple tours. Their blend of traditional blues with their innovative and modern original material has made them the band to see in Maine. They play old classics and heavy blues. Music you 'feel'. The band started jamming together at an open mic and now tour all around New England together.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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

The most obvious answer is that it has surrounded me with musicians. Those are the bulk of my friends and relationships. And those relationships tend to, and have always tended to, transcend just about everything else. Most musicians don’t care who you voted for, or where you stand on this issue, or that. All they care about is can you groove? Can you play? Can you give us something to latch onto and make great music! I think music and musicians have always led the way to change, because most of the time, the music comes first. That’s what matters most. All the other stuff is distraction. I’d much rather jam.

How do you describe Cryin’ Out Loud sound and music philosophy? What is the story behind band’s name: Cryin’ Out Loud?

Our sound and music philosophy is simple: We put everything we have into the music. We do our absolute best, and always tell the truth, flaws and all. And then we go do it again and again and again!

The story behind our band name is a good one. We originally were called “Wheelhouse.” I live near Bar Harbor and the fishing industry is definitely part of what Maine is known for. The name “Wheelhouse” seemed to go with all the boats and lighthouses and lobsters that Maine is known for. On our very first gig we showed up to play as “Wheelhouse” and there was a group of guys in the audience that came up to me while we were setting up . One of them informed me that they were a band, and they were called Wheelhouse (the “original Wheelhouse” is how one of them put it). It was kinda one of those “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us” moments. The venue owner was standing right there when it all went down, and he threw up his hands and said “For Cryin’ Out Loud!” I looked over at him and said “Introduce us as Cryin’ Out Loud! That’s the new name of the band!” And from that night on, we’ve been Cryin’ Out Loud.

"When I was younger, I would have said that music was important because it makes you feel better. It takes you to better places and better times. It lifts you up and even when the music is sad, the sadness is somehow cleansing and pure. Now that I’m older, I believe music is above all, about memories." (Photo: Cryin' Out Loud - Brandon Stallard, Ben Chute, and Jim Fratini)

Currently you’ve one more release with the late great Paul Nelson. How did that relationship come about? Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album “Play Loud, Smoke Often”?

Making this record with Paul Nelson was one of the best experiences of my life. We became very close friends. He was my mentor, my producer, my buddy, and he was involved in every aspect of this band. This album has his fingerprints all over it. So much so, that it has become hard for me to listen to it, because every part of every song is filled with so many memories of him. His passing is still very fresh at the time of this interview, and I hope to someday listen to this record and smile instead of tear up. I miss him every single day. I still reach for my phone to call him when I have questions. Stories?? Yeah, I got a hundred Paul Nelson stories..

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

I miss the honesty of music’s past. I miss great albums, where 8 out of the 10 songs were hits. I miss putting on a record and walking across the room to sit down, because you were invested, and you knew you were in good hands for the next 45 minutes, or so. Nowadays, it seems everyone is chasing that 1 hit. And the album is just the vessel to hold it. I miss really great records. I hope to make records that do that. I hope ‘Play Loud and Smoke Often’ is one of those. It sure was meant to be.

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

When I was much younger, there was this awesome band that played in a lot of clubs outside of Washington DC. I mean these guys were really good, the real deal. All older guys that had been doing this together for longer than I had been alive. They were tight, they were talented, and they knew it. They could have played with anyone. I mean anyone! I was at the club one night and was talking to the harmonica player at the bar, during a break. He was very boisterous and approachable. I remember he had this schtick where he would take a deep draw from his cigar, right before his harmonica solo, and then he would blow through the harmonica and huge plumes of smoke would gush out while he was laying down some of the sickest harp you’ve ever heard! He probably went through a harmonica a night doing that, but to this day, it’s still the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Anyway, we were talking at the bar and it came up that I played guitar and he immediately invited me up on stage with the band. The guitar player handed me his axe and said “Count it off” and walked off stage. I looked back at the band and said “12 Bar slow blues in C, with a quick 4…One, Two, three,” and laid into ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman.’ The crowd loved it and I had held my own, for the first time, in a band of what I would call “champions.” It showed me that I could do this. I could do this with great players. That’s why I’ve always been quick to let someone jump in with us if they can play. If I can pay it forward, so be it!                       (Photo: Brandon Stallard)

"Our sound and music philosophy is simple: We put everything we have into the music. We do our absolute best, and always tell the truth, flaws and all. And then we go do it again and again and again!"

What would you say characterizes Maine blues rock scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?

The main thing I find different up here is that the distances are vast and the numbers are small. You certainly travel if you wanna play up here. There are a finite number of clubs and you better be good, and not burn your bridges if you wanna keep playing. There is also a infinite number of musicians. Drummers and bass players are like living Gods up here (especially the good ones). They usually vet you, and are playing in 12 different bands. Again, you better be good if wanna keep them.

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

The single most important thing I have learned from this musical path is that we are ALL connected. From the “open mic” player that’s just getting started, all the way up to Paul McCartney and everyone in between. It’s all the same battles, the same highs, the same lows, the same obstacles, the same losses and rewards, the same drunks, the same bars, the same demons. We all do it because we absolutely love it and could never imagine not doing it. We chase a high more powerful than any other feeling we’ve ever had. From the very first time you have a crowd of people genuinely clapping and cheering for you, or dancing to your music, or above all, singing a song that you wrote, you will be forever hooked and forever lost to anything else.

Why is it important to we preserve and spread the blues? What is the role of music in today’s society?

When I was younger, I would have said that music was important because it makes you feel better. It takes you to better places and better times. It lifts you up and even when the music is sad, the sadness is somehow cleansing and pure. Now that I’m older, I believe music is above all, about memories. There isn’t a person out there that thinks back to the best summer of their lives and doesn’t know the soundtrack to that period in time. My music is about me showing whoever wants to listen exactly who I am, or more importantly, who I was. It’s all about memories. Now and forever…that’s what Paul Nelson always said.

Cryin' Out Loud - Home

(Photo: Cryin' Out Loud, a high-energy blues band from Maine)

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