Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Q & A With Brandy Zdan

Brandy Zdan's self-titled debut album was one of my favorite records of 2015. The current Nashville residing, Canadian born Zdan recently took the time to answer a few questions.

We discussed her disdain for cymbals, love of toques, thrifting and some music stuff.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this.
My pleasure.

On your album, Brandy Zdan, I read that there are only 31 cymbal crashes on the entire record. Is that true? And if it is, was that a conscious decision, or just something that happened organically?
That is true. My friends, The Somebody’s Darling band sent me a text one night telling me they counted the cymbal when they played the album in the van. In fact, you don’t hear a cymbal until song 5 and most of the cymbals are in only two songs, "Only the Sad Songs" and "Courtship of Wild Horses".
And yes, this is a conscious decision. I will openly admit that I dislike cymbals, like REALLY dislike them. Most drummers don’t know how to use them properly. In fact, I will tell my drummers to fight the instinct to keep time on a high hat, or elsewhere.
I LOVE the simplicity of a great sounding snare and kick, as you hear on the first half of the album.

I’m a washed-up, hack bass player. But when I was playing, my influences weren’t necessarily other bass players. I got a lot of inspiration from killer rhythm guitarists. Who or what inspires you that might surprise some people?
I’m on a constant search for things that get me excited musically. I am obsessed with the steel guitar and guitar in general, … I listen to a lot of instrumental stuff like Daniel Lanois’ solo material & Bill Frisell, and I just recently discovered a band called A Winged Victory for the Sullen, which is cinematic lush strings and piano and guitar. It makes my heart feel crazy things.

How many toque’s do you own and how often do get to utilize them living in Nashville?
I own too many. I just got a fake wolf fur toque that is now my favorite. I don’t use them very often, but I like to save on heat bills so you would catch me at home wearing one for sure in the winter.

Let’s play a quick game of “Overrated, Underrated or Properly Rated” using Canadian artists. Feel free to expound upon any answer.

Rush - Properly Rated, but way to busy musically for me.

Celine Dion - Properly Rated but you wouldn’t find me putting on a record of hers.

Loverboy - What are their hits? Pass. haha.

Justin Bieber - Pass. I’ve never even heard a song of his.

Bryan Adams - Properly Rated. I love the F out of him. I remember making a lip sync video in all demin when I was 10 singing “Everything I do, I do it for you”. I loved that song. That song was from the Robin Hood flick with Kevin Costner and funny enough I got to sing backups on Kevin’s most recent record. Full circle.

Outside of music, what is Brandy Zdan passionate about?
I LOVE thrifting. SO much. You’ll catch me doing that in just about every town I travel to.
I also do a lot of leatherwork, I make things out of deerskin. I enjoy working with my hands in that way. I also love the outdoors. I don’t get out camping near enough since I’ve been gone from Canada but I always feel the pull to get out of the city.

From Canada to Austin to Nashville. Not the normal route, but how did it work for you?
I had been touring the USA with my old band Twilight Hotel and we were noticing the reception was a lot better than in our home country. We had a list of cities that we were thinking of moving to and Austin won out. We moved onto a commune in south Austin when we first moved there. It was all the hippie Austin things you would expect it to be. I have fond memories of that time.
After that band broke up and I spent two years with The Trishas, and as that was ending I was moving full speed ahead with the solo project. I knew I wasn’t gonna do it in Austin. Nashville just made sense. I’ve been spending time there since 2007 when I made the second Twilight Hotel record there. It was the right move for sure. I won’t be there forever, but for now, I love the community I’m becoming a part of and how the town makes me feel like less of an alien.

I’ve been finding some really cool music coming out of Nashville right now. Who are some artists that you really like in your adopted home?
I love Lilly Hiatt and Angel Snow. They are doing some of the coolest female singer/songwriter stuff. I also love William Tyler, Joe Pisapia and Colin Linden.

I’ve described the music on your album as Grace Potter meets early Sheryl Crow with goth undertones. And in my mind, those are all positive comparisons. Is that fair, accurate and/or way off base?
I hear those a lot. It’s fair I think. I don’t take too much stock in comparisions. I just let people say what they want try to let it not affect me…
I like to live in the creative space where I’m not defining myself. It’s the only way I can really be myself.

What is your gear set up? Guitar, amp, effects, etc? And how much does it differ from studio to stage?
I love this question.
I play a custom Gamble Guitar Works telecaster.
I was never a tele girl until a couple years ago.
I have flat wound 12’s on it which gives it a wide thick tone and play that through a 79 Princeton Reverb. This is my favorite combo right now.
My pedal board is simple but super important.
I love my Strymon El Capistan Tape Echo as well as the Eventide Space Rever pedal.
I also, have a Malekko Tremelo and Black Stone Overdrive pedal.
Sometimes I run my vocals through a Memory Man deluxe.
This is the same rig I use in the studio except I use a bunch of different guitars. It all depends on what the song calls for.
I’m always on the search for new exciting ways to fuck with my tone.
I probably derive the most joy out of new little tone discoveries.

Do you write alone, or do you collaborate on some stuff? And which do you prefer?
The last album I wrote completely by myself. I like co-writing but I tend to get songs for others and not for myself. They are both fine. It’s always changing.

Stranded on a deserted island, what three albums do you want with you?
The Beatles- White Album
Blake Mills- Break Mirrors
Daniel Lanois- Belladonna
My answer as of Jan. 28. It changes daily.

The music industry is at a crossroads right now. It has to figure out how to deal with streaming services, the decline of physical sales and the fact that mainstream radio only plays crap (ok, that’s just my opinion). It is easier to get music out to the dumb masses right now, but harder to get noticed. How do you navigate in this world?
The only way to succeed, in my eyes, at least in my genre world, is to find your unique voice, nurture that, and put the best version of yourself forward. If you cater to anyone or sacrifice the artistry, people can see through that. You just need to get good enough so people won’t ignore you. I’m not worried about the industry, musicians have always been but the music industry is just a blip in time. It’ll all get figured out.
I see the connection one makes to music listeners at shows, I see the organic build. THAT will never go away.

The floor is yours. What do you want everyone to know about Brandy Zdan going forward?
It's only the beginning.

For more from Brandy Zdan:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Q and A With The Bass Player (Daisy Dead) Of The Dead Deads

recently had the opportunity to conduct a question and answer interview via email with the bass player in the Dead Deads. We joked "who the hell wants to hear what the bass player has to say?"

Being a bass player myself, I do. So if you are interested in what the bass player has to say (and you should be), what follows is my interview with Daisy Dead, bassist for the Dead Deads.

What got you started into this musical journey that you're on? Not necessarily your current band, but what influences did you have that made you want to pick up an instrument and play?
I've been playing music since I got a little Casio keyboard for Christmas when I was 7 or 8 years old, then got into playing piano and then trumpet in the school band. But I grew up listening to the college station in Nashville and all the different stuff they'd play, from local punk bands to industrial to surf guitar to metal to Velvet Underground to house music to 80's pop to 90's alternative to world music. My parents also listened to a lot of pop and rock music, and we'd play it loud and us kids would dance around the house. In the case of the electric bass, Meta told me to pick it up and try to see if I could play it, and lo and behold I could! So just worked on it from there. For me, when you plug in and turn the volume up, rock is just what wants to come out, so I feel as inspired by the gear - bass and amp - as I do by any particular style of music.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Kara Clark

If you like any combination of Saraya, Cinderella, Miranda Lambert, Molly Hatchet, Halestorm, Whiskey Myers, 4 Non Blondes, Lita Ford and Alice Cooper, then I have the artist for you. And if you have to google or youtube any of the artists mentioned, thank me later and you're welcome.

Her name is Kara Clark and she will kick your ass. Musically, that is. And maybe physically. I don't know.

I have known this for a long time, but it's really become apparent while writing this blog: I don't really like a genre of music as much as I like a style of music. It needs to have real instruments played by real people. It needs to be gritty, dirty, swampy; not too slick, not too polished.

There should be more of Kara Clark here. But in the interim, enjoy this from her 2013 self titled album:

You can purchase music, including her new EP at and hear new music at KaraClark.com.

Friday, January 8, 2016

New Single From Jessica Meuse - "Rio Grande"

I have been following the career of Jessica Meuse ever since she was on some season of some music competition show. Enough being coy, Jessica Meuse finished fourth on American Idol and was the only finalist to perform an original song in the finals.

"Rio Grande" is her second single release post Idol following "Done" in the summer of 2015. "Rio Grande" shows another step in the progression of this singer/songwriter. Listen to the song she did on American Idol, "Blue Eyed Lie", and then "Done". Both decent songs and you can hear the growth. Then listen to "Rio Grande". Jessica Meuse is coming into her own as a viable artist.

Lyrically and musically, this is her best effort yet. While "Rio Grande" should fit comfortably into the country genre, it doesn't have near enough EDM beats, pseudo rap sequences, 80's rock guitar or shallow lyrics to be played on country radio.

Here is an acoustic live version. Judge for yourself.

You can get the studio version on itunes here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Guns N' Roses

Given that Appetite For Destruction is one my favorite albums of all time, the Guns N' Roses "reunion" should excite me much more than it does. But I just get a big feeling of meh.

A little history first.

The first Guns song I heard was "Paradise City" on Z-Rock. This was before Guns N' Roses was a thing. I bought the cassette (yes, the cassette) and took it back to college with me. I played it for everyone I knew. Most didn't get it until......"Sweet Child O' Mine" hit MTV. Then, boom! Guns N' Roses was everywhere.

From start to finish, Appetite is one of the best hard rock albums of all time. You can argue it's placement, but not that is belongs.

The five people that made that record - Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler - are what Guns N' Roses will always be to me. Those five guys made magic on that album.

Rumors swirl. Who's in, who's out. So far, from what I've heard, it's Axl, Slash and Duff confirmed. Which is great, but I'm just really not interested unless Izzy and Adler are there. And no one else. No offense to Matt Sorum, Gilby Clarke, Dizzy Reed or any of the numerous musicians to play in whatever version of Guns N' Roses Axl chose to put together, but those five are Guns N' Roses.

Personally, I wouldn't want to see a Guns N' Roses all-star cast. It's those five original members or nothing for me.

Anyone who chooses to go to the shows, more power to you. Especially those of you who never knew the original Guns. It will be great. And you'll enjoy it. Just not for me.

Now, if in the next few days/weeks/months it turns out that it is Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy and Adler? I'm all in. But until that is confirmed.......

Now let's enjoy something from Appetite For Destruction:

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Discovery: The Amorettes

The Amorettes are a Scottish three piece rock and roll outfit that has cut out everything extraneous and just plain rocks. Just the basics: guitar, bass, drums and attitude.

Stripped down, raw, loud, no frills rock. They remind me of early 80's Fastway with their second record Game On that came out early in 2015.

The Amorettes are Gill Montgomery on guitar and lead vocals, and sisters Heather and Hannah McKay on bass/backing vocals and drums/backing vocals respectively.

Here is "Fire At Will" from Game On:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Discovery - Crimson Calamity

Self-described as an Alt Country/Americana duo, Crimson Calamity showed up on my radar late in 2015 despite releasing their debut EP All In The Cards in March of 2015.

Here is "Dead Man's Hand":

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 Spotify Playlist

Here's a Spotify playlist featuring songs from all of the albums in my Top 10 and Honorable Mentions lists plus a few extras.


Monday, December 28, 2015

My Top Ten Albums of 2015

At this point, I'm sure everyone has been inundated with top whatever lists for any and everything. Mine is about...music. Imagine that. My list is different than any other list you've read. That doesn't make it better (or worse), right or wrong, just different.

Music is subjective and personal. To me there are only two types of music: music I like and music I don't. And just because I don't like it, doesn't mean it's not good, just not to my taste. Conversely, just because I like it doesn't necessarily mean it's good. I'll be the first to admit that I like a lot of crap.

If you've read this blog before, thank you, and you know that I'm not genre-specific. That would make things so much easier. You also know that I am mainstream-phobic, so there are not going to be any mega hits on my list.

This is by no means a "Best of" list. It is not a comprehensive list. I'm sure there are several albums that were released in 2015 that would make my list had I heard them. These are the albums that I have listened to numerous times. Albums I would and have listened to again and again. Music that has resonated with me. Music that I will be listening to in 2016 and beyond.

I listen to albums, not songs. I'm not immune to making playlists of songs, but I'm happier when I can put on an album and listen from start to finish without having to skip songs. That's what my list is about.

Here is my top ten with my favorite song from the album (where available, where not, just a song from the album). Links in artist's names are to my posts explaining my picks. Other links are obvious.

10) Brandy Zdan - Brandy Zdan

Website    Twitter      Amazon

9) Delta Rae - After It All

Website     Twitter     Amazon

8) Chaser Eight - Chaser Eight

Website     Twitter     Amazon

7) William Clark Green - Ringling Road

Website   Twitter   Amazon

6) Houndmouth - Little Neon Limelight

Website    Twitter    Amazon 

5) Halestorm - Into The Wildlife

Website   Twitter   Amazon

4) Elle King - Love Stuff

Website   Twitter    Amazon

3) Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Website   Twitter    Amazon

2) Blackberry Smoke - Holding All The Roses

Website  Twitter    Amazon

1) Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct

Website   Twitter   Amazon

Hope something there resonates with you. If not, oh well, it's my list. Here's to a fantastic 2016.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Number One Album of the Year

I will post a full top 10 list at the end. In the meantime, I am going to explore each record in my top 10 and why I selected them. Again, this is not a "Best of". It is the albums that I've heard and resonated with me personally. There is some really good stuff out there that doesn't make my list because, well, it's my list. There's a lot of stuff I haven't even heard. Maybe you'll like some of it.

When I was listening to my list of 2015 albums, my number one surprised even me. By July I was pretty sure I had my top three. This was not one of them.

I grew up listening to classic rock and southern rock. I grew up during the popularity of hair metal/80s hard rock. The music that you grew up listening to stays with you to varying extents, no matter who you are. Though as I've gotten older and expanded my musical horizons, I still love guitar driven, melodic hard rock.

Black Star Riders grew out of the band touring as the remnants of Thin Lizzy. Out of respect for Phil Lynott and the other original members, when they decided to record new material, they chose to do it under a new name.

2015's The Killer Instinct is pure rock gold. It's what you would hope Thin Lizzy would sound like today. Classic without sounding dated.

Hope your Christmas was merry and your new year will be happy. There will be a post containing the full top ten list coming out before the new year.