by DJ Mätthew Griffin
Indie rock/alt-country singer/songwriter Brad Byrd’s debut album The Ever Changing Picture was met with critical acclaim. He charted on ArtistDirect.com, with the single “Never Came Back” claiming the #1 download from the site, an unheard- of occurrence for an artist on an indie label back in 2005. Popular indie rock radio station WBER Rochester, NY, favored another single off that record “Weird Enough,” charting at #145 amidst some other major label talent. Other various radio stations, both non-commercial and commercial, have spun some tracks over the years such as The River (92.5 FM) which has showcased Brad’s music several times. Brad’s debut album also landed a national in-store distribution deal.
Since the release in 2005, Brad has toured across the country and parts of Canada, mainly focusing on developing his core following in Los Angeles, New York City, and New England.
Various tracks have been licensed for use by major film/TV networks and music supervisors. Here is a little Q & A with Brad, discussing what he’s done so far and what he’s up to now.
Noise: Brad, your 2005 debut album The Ever Changing Picture received a lot of critical acclaim and exposure. What was that success like for you, being your freshman effort?
Brad: Thanks for saying so, yeah it was pretty surreal to make a my very fist “professional” record and then hear the songs on TV shows and radio and be offered unique support slots for big touring bands. It was scary and overwhelming at times. All in all, it was a great learning experience.
Noise: That album’s single “Never Came Back” claimed the #1 downloaded track title edging out Jewel, Damien Rice, and Jason Mraz on ArtistDirect.com.
Brad: Yeah when a buddy told me that my song was the #1 downloaded song on artistdirect.com I pretty much almost fainted. It was all too strange and didn’t make sense to me. I’m not sure how real or valid that site is/was but I hear it was pretty legit.
Noise: You have been given a lot of airplay nationally and internationally.
Brad: I wouldn’t say “a lot” but yeah some radio stations and ASCAP have reported some pockets of radio play in decent markets worldwide. I do get email from people in China and Sweden so I know it’s out there.
Noise: After touring the United States and parts of Canada, tell me about the most interesting show you’ve had.
Brad: There was this show in Montreal at a really cool venue . We (myself, Joe Klompus, Steve Scully, and Matt Pynn) played at this venue called Le Va Viente (or something like that) the night before it closed it’s doors for good. It was just the coolest most magical experience. No one was speaking English. All French, and I love French and Montreal. Hard to explain in words, but there was a vibe that night that has stuck in my mind since. It’s fun to go to Montreal, you feel like you’re truly in Europe and you’re five or six hours from Boston.
Noise: You also landed a national in-store distribution deal through Navarre/ADA at major retail stores from Best Buy to Newbury Comics.
Brad: Yes, I was on a small indie label but they were able to secure some decent physical distribution in 2005 to all major retail stores and even some end-cap placement. When I walked into Tower Records (RIP) on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles (right before it got tore down) and actually “saw” my album/CD on the end cap sitting next to Linkin Park, Eminem, Foo Fighters, etc., I bugged. I think I was actually dumb enough to not even take a picture of it ’cause I was in shock. I can’t seem to find any pics of this in my archives!
Noise: The 2011 followup album Mental Photograph was met with notoriety after a popular European music website Melodic.net voted the album as the “Best singer/songwriter album of 2011,” beating out heavyweights such as Bon Iver and Ryan Adams!?
Brad: Yeah, that was another slightly surreal thing to see. They (melodic.net) have been huge fans of my debut The Ever Changing Picture and have stuck by me throughout the years. I really need to do some touring in Europe! That, with my fan base rallying with some electronic votes, made it happen.
Noise: One of the most recognized Los Angeles-based film and television placement licensing companies, Aperture Music, heard the album and quickly offered you a deal representing the 11 tracks to a major Hollywood film and television community.
Brad: Yes, fortunately there are some really great music supervisors that have taken an interest in my music over the years. I’m very lucky to have my music on their radar screen and pitched for potential film/TV projects. I’m up against some steep competition, but I’ve been able to do pretty well with that and pay the bills. Music IS a huge part of film, and I really feel like my catalog to date is much more catered towards indie films. But I will try and write a pop rock hit every now and again!
Noise: You have an extensive list of television and film placements (MTV’s College Life; Road Rules; Teen Mom; 16 & Pregnant, E! Entertainment’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and ESPN’s Winter Games, to name just a few) and more recently landing two new songs on ABC’s hit comedy Happy Endings. What’s it like?
Brad: It’s really exciting to get an email from the producers of MTV or E! or from a music supervisor with those relationships saying “Hey Brad, we got these tunes in this upcoming series, are you cool with this?” It’s hard to say no, even if you don’t think the show is that cool, because it’s huge exposure and sell a lot of records/downloads, besides getting a nice royalty check.
Noise: All of this early buzz generated the interest of Los Angeles-based film company Mind Venture Pictures, who recently flew out to Cape Ann, MA, to shoot a video for the first single off your new record Zero to the 101.
Brad: Yes, director Brandon Rose of Mind Venture Pictures is a friend of a Joe Brancaleone (CEO of Hemoglobin Long-boards in Gloucester/Magnolia) and Joe gave Brandon my new record. Brandon fell in love with it and has been eager to shoot videos for the new album. I couldn’t be happier. It’s such a joy to make your songs even more realized through video.
Noise: In what kind of environment do you prefer creating music?
Brad: All kinds—keeps me fresh. Mainly though I like living outside of cities near the ocean. I feel more free, and I’ve discovered that helps my writing to be “out of the maze” and static of the city.
Noise: Do you have any collaborative projects planned?
Brad: I’m currently producing a great new band from Ohio that’s got me excited. I’m working on the record with Tony Goddess in Gloucester. It’s coming along great. I’m always up for musical collaborations with cool/humble people. Unfortunately I meet a lot of people with massive ego’s around here and that’s just a huge turn-off for me. But my eye is always looking.
Noise: Parting words?
Brad: Thanks kindly Mätthew for the questions and opportunity to be featured in a great Boston music magazine that’s been around for 30+ years!. Thanks to T Max and everyone involved. Much luv to Boston, hope to connect with some new fans/readers in Massachusetts!
VINTAGE CAPE ANN
by Peter Van Ness
Where’s the Live Music Capital of the World? That’s the official motto of Austin TX, due to what city officials claim is the largest number of live music venues per capita. Well, if that’s the measure, the title rightfully belongs to Gloucester, MA, which has twice as many live music venues per capita as Austin. Gloucester has over 50 artists with top quality recordings, over 800 cover bands and 68 live music venues—all on an island with fewer than 30,000 people. Add Rockport with its new, acoustically spectacular Shalin Liu Performance Center, along with top artists like Paula Cole and Brad Byrd and you’d have to give Cape Ann a fighting chance for the title of Live Music Capital of the World.
But Cape Ann has more than mere quantity. This tiny island produces top quality musicians and they make some of the best music you can hear anywhere on earth. Perhaps that’s why T Max chose to move here.
How do we explain the quality? There are lots of possibilities: An abundance of comfortable venues with good food and drink that never charge a cover. Fans, of all ages, who thrive on local live music – you can see people from 18 to 81 in the same venue enjoying the same performers on the same night. And these fans support more than the usual cover bands playing danceable favorites. They also attend listening venues, where local artists perform for people who have come (and often paid) solely for the music. You’ll find these venues in unusual places, too – museums, churches, parks, schooners, the middle of Main St.—even private homes. Some venues promote truly acoustic music – no mics, no amps, no speakers. You know you’re getting top musicianship when there’s literally nothing between you and the sound of voices and instruments.
But artists, fans and venues alone cannot account for Cape Ann’s unique musical character. I believe it’s this: Cape Ann has attracted just the right mix of artists, studios, engineers, fans, venues, producers, poets, painters, designers, writers, bloggers, film makers, instrument makers, music teachers—all of whom nurture and support extraordinary talent every day.
We have several legends among us. Here are a mere few: Allen Estes, who’s hit Next To You rose to the top 40 when Tammy Wynette recorded it, also wrote Where’d They Go, the official song of the City of Gloucester. Allen’s writing style transcends genre, but includes pop, rock, folk, blue-grass, country. Alen has written over 2,000 songs (four in the last month), which is why Fly Amero, another Gloucester legend, calls him “Gloucester’s best and most prolific songwriter.” Fly’s bluesy sound has taken him from the Newport Folk Festival performing with Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells as a teen, to venues all over the world touring with Orleans (remember Dance With Me & Still The One?). On a few rare occasions (such as Celebrate Gloucester 2007 and 2010) you can see Fly and Allen perform together with their good friend, Dave Brown—Billy Joel’s longtime guitarist who is on several platinum albums and has toured and recorded with Paul McCartney, Phoebe Snow, Dr. John, Peter, Paul & Mary, Julian Lennon, Paul Simon, Graham Parker, Bob James, Garland Jefferies… the list just goes on and on.
Amazingly, you can see Fly Amero every Wednesday (when he’s not touring) at the Rhumb Line, Gloucester’s most famous club, which has featured Cape Ann’s finest musicians since Allen Estes began performing there in 1978. And you can see Dave Brown every Tuesday at Jalapeños—an award-winning authentic Mexican restaurant—with an un-plugged KBMG (who rock when they are plugged in), led by Dan King with Wolf Ginandes and Dave Mattacks—founding member of Fairport Convention, who has also recorded and toured with some of the greatest names in modern music, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, George Harrison, Jimmy Page, Jethro Tull, Joan Armatrading, Brian Eno, Cat Stevens, Loudon Wainwright… another list that goes on and on. Sometimes Fly’s brother, J.B., sits in. He’s called J.B. for James Brown and there’s a very good reason for that.
What’s even more amazing is that the Rhumb Line and Jalapeños don’t charge a cover for music of this caliber. In fact, top quality music is free at all restaurants and clubs on Cape Ann almost all the time. When there is a charge, it’s usually a fundraiser for a very good cause, like sending YMCA teens to New Orleans to help rebuild the city. And while we’re on the subject of New Orleans, we’ve got to mention Henri Smith, who moved to Cape Ann when Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home. A stellar bandleader and charismatic vocalist, Henri brings his extraordinarily talented friends (like Charles Neville, Amadee Castenell, and Stanton Davis) to Gloucester as ambassadors of New Orleans music and culture and even sold out a benefit on Mardi Gras, which, until last year, was ignored by most of us—just another Tuesday in the dead of winter.
But I digress. Back to Cape Ann Legends for a bit and Dan King, leader of KMBG, who is founder of some of Gloucester’s most distinctive bands, including Safety (a very popular ’80s cover band) and the Bandit Kings, who’s original songs sound so unique that I’m ready to go out on a limb right here and call it the Gloucester Sound. Local radio legend, Meg Griffin, recently said the Bandit Kings, “are some hep cats and kitties!” on her Sirius XM Radio show. No doubt, “kitties” refers to Ann Marie and Renee Depuis, who front the band with a distinct musical flair.
Dan has a brother, Brian King (also in Safety) who fronts What Time Is It Mr. Fox?—perhaps Gloucester’s most unusual sound of all that completely defies description. You just have to see them. Brian’s Cold Rain, was recently covered by New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas, who appears in the HBO hit series Treme—with Amadee Castenell (from Henri Smith’s band) on sax—small world, isn’t it!
Of course, no treatment of Cape Ann Legends would be complete without revealing that the Godfather of Punk, Willie “Loco” Alexander (of Velvet Underground fame) lives in Gloucester! You can sometimes catch him at local clubs (he’s performed with T Max) as well as Gloucester’s tremendously popular block parties, which began in 2008 and continue this year transforming Main Street into one giant music/food/entertainment venue on the third Saturday of July, August and September. You guessed it; block parties are also FREE!
And then there’s T Max, in whose legendary publication, these humble words are printed. I must admit I didn’t listen to T Max’s music much before the Noise 30th anniversary concerts—both of which were held in Gloucester. But I’ve become a fan over the last year or so and although he’s new to Cape Ann, he’s certainly not new to music or the music scene and his thematic albums are as entertaining as they are thought provoking. Plus T Max introduces Gloucester to great musicians from Boston and from right in our own back yard through monthly shows he presents at the Dog Bar, another excellent music venue. In June he featured Tom Hauck, founding member of the Atlantics, who happens to live in Gloucester. When T Max produces a show, you should go.
Surrounded by these and other legends, you’d expect Cape Ann to produce plenty of prodigious young stars—and you’d be right. Again, here are a mere few: Singer/songwriter Chelsea Berry came to Cape Ann from Alaska by way of Montana, Nashville, and Chicago just three years ago and has taken the place by storm. Livingston Taylor says it all, “A voice of remarkable power and control with a joyous soul. Brave and bright, Chelsea Berry is the real thing.”
Inge Berge came to Cape Ann from Norway by way of Berklee School of Music in the late 1990s. Not quite old enough to be a legend, Inge has nevertheless made a legendary impression on Cape Ann’s music scene with his brilliant songwriting, acerbic wit, captivating performance and extremely high production values. Those of us who like to write are all humbled when we realize that English is Inge’s second language and his command of it is better than ours.
Be sure to read the article in this issue of the Noise on critically acclaimed indie rocker Brad Byrd. Brad tours regularly, but if you get a chance to catch him performing for a home town crowd, don’t pass it up.
Pete Lindberg is hard to pin down. One day you think he’s folk, the next day country, bluegrass, classic rock—sort of depends on the length of his beard and whether he’s wearing a hat. You could safely call his music Americana and you don’t want to miss his shows. His originals will make you laugh and cry and his voice will keep you riveted. Pete’s also got excellent taste in music, so if he’s brought someone to the stage, you should stick around and listen. That’s how I discovered Tristen, (featured young artist at SXSW). See, I didn’t have to go to Austin. She came to Gloucester to see Pete Lindberg and their shows at Minglewood Tavern were spectacular! I bought Tristen’s CD. Pete’s still working on his.
And Pete also plays drums with Marina Evans, a Rockport native with an enchanting voice and another musical style that is hard to pin down—sometimes jazz, folk, pop, but always intriguing. Marina performs with her band, solo and sometimes as a duo with Charlee Bianchini, another angelic voice who also performs solo and with other local guests.
Carlos Menezes, Jr. is everywhere. Carlos is founder and trombone player for the Runaround Sound, who list punk, ska and soul as three of their genres (another hard to pin down sound). If you see this band on the bill be sure to check them out and be prepared for the highest energy night you’ve ever had. Carlos is also founder of Cape Ann Big Band, who are playing at Rockport’s Shalin Liu Performance Center on July 27. You may see Carlos play Coltrane on tenor sax with the Brewers or bass with Marina Evans or Charlee Bianchini.
Recent Rockport High graduate Alek Razdan would be a person to watch even if his senior recital wasn’t at Shalin Liu. He performs with his father, Rikki, as well as his own jazz band, A-Train. Plus you may well see Alek with Willie “Loco” Alexander and other local favorites—not only on the same stage, but on the same song.
Perhaps you see a pattern here. Cape Ann is a community of musicians who share the stage, their instruments, their music, their passion—even their songwriting ideas (Allen Estes & Fly Amero recently wrote a gorgeous Christmas song together called I Wish I Could Fly).
Many people think of Cape Ann as only a summer scene. To be sure, there are more music venues open in the summer – especially waterfront venues, such as the legendary Captain Carlos where Whoopi Goldberg used to hang out and Madfish Grille where you can tie up your boat, eat dinner and dance. But most music venues are open year round. I’ve mentioned many of them already. Here are some others:
The Annie (in the Blackburn Building), recently taken over by musician, writer, producer Henry Allen, who thinks bigger than perhaps anyone else in Gloucester and has something going on every night of the week—all year long. Giuseppe’s, in the same “Blackburn” building but around the corner, with a piano bar, open mic nights and residencies. Cape Ann Brewing Co (a.k.a. the Brewery) with homemade beer and a waterfront deck. Catch 22 pub featuring open mic with local favorite Steve Caraway. The Franklin, an upscale restaurant that features Linda Amero (yup, Fly’s sister—it’s a talented family) singing Jazz standards on Friday nights.
Music isn’t just for Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Here’s a typical Sunday:
jazz brunch at Seaward Inn, Rockport; bluegrass brunch at Alchemy Café and Bistro, Gloucester; a family concert at Captain Carlos at 3pm; piano bar at Giuseppe’s at 4pm; jazz supper at the Brewery at 5pm; a Celtic music sail aboard the Schooner Thomas E. Lannon featuring Michael O’Leary at 6pm; Will Hunt open mic at the Landing in Manchester; Cabaret at the Annie at 7pm and six or seven other shows throughout the evening at venues already mentioned.
You can get a complete live music schedule every day at Gloucester.gimmesound.com (plus music and videos from local artists).
Yes, it’s summer and this is a summer issue, so I’ll encourage you to come enjoy Cape Ann’s burgeoning summer music scene. Sit on a waterfront deck and soak in the sun, gaze at the stars and revel in the sounds. But don’t forget that when it’s dead of winter, it’s not dead on Cape Ann. There’s plenty of live music all year round.