Detroit Country Rock City: Kicking It With Craig Brown Band
Detroit is rightfully considered one of America’s great music cities, counting Motown, MC5, Iggy & the Stooges, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper and The White Stripes among its notable exports.
Now go ahead and add Craig Brown Band to Motor City’s roster. Their effortless and ragged mix of classic rock’n’roll, honky-skronk and garage rock follows a proud lineage, and Brown and his band have naturally found a home at Jack White’s Third Man Records.
Craig Brown is no newcomer to the scene, having played in various Motor City punk bands through the years, most notably the trashy electro-punk outfit Terrible Twos. But with Craig Brown Band he’s adding some country/folk twang into the blue-collar rock mix, described by the Detroit Metro-Times as “straightforward without being boring; as composed as it is relaxed; a touch of folk and heartland rock, just enough to remind us a little bit of Tom Petty here and a dash of Nashville Skyline-Dylan there…”– and we have to add for the record that Craig Brown Band also shares a similar raucous barroom feel to, say, The Replacements or Danny & Dusty.
Recorded by Warren Defever (Thurston Moore, Yoko Ono, Iggy & the Stooges) and loaded with classic songwriting and wry and humorous observations on fishing, baseball and drinking, their new album The Lucky Ones Forget is a one helluva debut. We had the opportunity to chat with Craig Brown about his new album.
Who is Craig Brown Band – can you please introduce yourself?
My band consists of Jeff Perry on drums. He is one of my oldest friends. We’ve been playing together since 6th grade. Eric Allen on rhythm guitars. He is a great front man and I’ve played guitar in his band throughout the years. He’s a great friend and player to have around. Andrew Hecker is on the bass. He’s the youngest member by a handful of years. Bass is in his blood. His dad is an incredible player as well. Andrew has all the talent in the world and is just as much a total knuckle head… I’ll leave that at that.
Lastly, I have been graced with The Drinkard Sisters. Bonnie and Caitlin Drinkard singing on backup harmonies. Being sisters they’ve been singing together their whole lives and it really shows in their almost effortless work ethic. They’re just great!
I’m Craig and I play all of the bendy guitars and just about everything else you hear on the record: all the acoustics, some harmonica, some organ, some percussion, bells, etc.
Congratulations with a great album. What do we get and what’s it about?
Thank you! Well… about that… You get an album that is basically mixed of some songs I’ve had for over 5 years, and some really new ones. It’s hard for me to label it myself in any sort of category. Some people say country. Some say just rock ‘n’ roll. I’m fine with either.
The record is a lot about relationships, insecurities, and basic wonder about past and future endeavors.
Can you share the story behind the album cover?
[Laughing] Sure, I guess. The album cover was just a shoot with my friend Zak and me in the middle of this field at this old school in Detroit. It was actually a shot for the gatefold in the inside. Which it still is. He wanted to try me hiding under it. So we kept that as the inside and that was supposed to be that.
We had a completely different idea originally for the cover. One day I was showing the fotos to my friend Dan Clark and he had the idea for the cover being just a zoomed in version of the inside. I liked it, Third Man loved it. And there you go.
What inspired you the most when you started writing the songs that ended up on The Lucky Ones Forget?
What can you share about the recording process and working with this material in the studio?
We recorded with Warren Defever. He’s just fantastic! He’s brilliant and he has been doing it for a very long time. He knows what he’s doing and he’s also open to suggestions, which is usually a very hard combination to come by these days. We recorded it all as the four guys live. Then I came in and did all the extra little things and lead vocals. Then the Drinkard sisters came in and sang their parts with brief run-throughs before every one of their takes with me on a baby grand piano and us just singing. I wish there was some recordings of that actually.
The final sessions was just Warren and me mixing the record together. The record was mastered for vinyl down in Nashville. We recorded the album at Warren’s studio here in Detroit.
Did you have a clear idea or vision on how the album should be from the get-go, or did it develop along the way?
Yes I did. I did because I recorded over half of the record by myself in a little 4-track studio at my house throughout the years playing all the instruments. I never really dreamed I would land a band as good as mine and these were just songs I’d make and record sort of as a hobby. Basically, I knew what I wanted because I already did what I wanted. Just not with a totally pro sound.
What kind of feelings or sentiment do you wish leaving for the listener after hearing it?
Man… Hopefully a whirlwind of emotions. Or maybe just makes you hungry. I dunno…
Please describe a preferred setting to ultimately enjoy the album?
Driving, or loud as fuck in the other room while taking a shower I guess.
What’s the best debut album ever made and why?
Well, three really come to mind and I feel I can list all of them because they are all from different worlds:
Ready to Die by Biggie. It’s just my favorite rap album. It makes me feel cooler than I am when I listen to it. It really set the bar so much higher for rap and it all stopped being cute at that point forward. He was just so damn smart lyrically. He’s truly inspired me in being funny and dead serious at the same time.
Kill ‘em All by Metallica. It is just incredible from start to finish. It was such a life-changer for me growing up. So powerful! Also, I just can’t believe it’s the same band now. Wow!
Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. by Dwight Yoakam. This album is just perfect sounding and written. Every aspect seems nothing of a debut. This guy and his band really had their shit together from the very start. Pete Anderson (fellow Detroiter) who produced and played lead guitar for Dwight’s band for years has really inspired me in playing country guitar. It’s just so fun to do once you “get it.”
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