INTERVIEW: Brady Brock
Musician, Label Owner, Musician (Feel Records)
By: Alex Steininger
Musician Brady Brock knows the ropes is just another musician with a day job and a dream? Or is he?
While working on his debut solo album, I Will Live In You Where Your Heart Used To Be, Brock realized that he could self-release his album and build a dream into a reality in the process. Partnering up with Eric Wong, the two set out to start a label, Feel Records, and used Brock's debut solo album as the launching pad.
Now with a record under their belts and a better idea of what it takes to put out a record, Feel is gearing up for an exciting 2002.
Also playing into the equation is Brock's plans for his own solo album, which was recently re-released on a national level.
IMWT: Your debut solo album is called "I Will Live In You Where Your Heart Used To Be" and you've been working on it for awhile, at least the songs have been around for a while. What made you want to record a solo record?
Brady: I left Texas in the mid 90s to attend college in New York City. I left a band behind that was to start recording our second record. It was a pretty hard decision to make being that the band's following was growing and our material was getting better and better. We were really growing as an outfit. I knew that the right choice to make was to carry on with my studies, even though the better half of me was wanting to stay in Texas and carry on with the band. So, I quickly found myself young and alone in New York City without much more than some records, a bag of clothes and an acoustic guitar that I failed to return to a friend's father (sorry mr. Thompson). For the first few months of college, messing around with that acoustic kind of saved me from either dropping out or going insane. New York City is the biggest city in the world with no one to talk to. Fortunately, I started to find people in my school that I could relate to and we began to be close friends. Most of the songs on "I Will Live" are in some shape or form based on those friends and what was going on in their lives through the next four years. I originally wrote those songs as fun little gifts for them because I was too chickenshit to actually write about what I was going through. In the end, all of my confusion and feelings filtered through naturally. Ultimately, the songs are just as much about me as they are about them. So, the songs sort of became slivers of my own life through my friend's issues. I really had no plans on recording the songs. The plan was always to finish my studies and go back to Texas and start back with the band. After playing all of the songs for my friends, they basically said that I should record them and that I should start playing shows. I started to really look at the material, and realized that I did have a record on my hands and went into the studio.
IMWT: You released your solo album on your own label, Feel Records, yet had bigger indie labels interested. What made you want to start your own label and be the one responsible for everything rather than leaving it someone else's hands?
Brady: Wasn't it albini that said "never trust someone to do something that you can do yourself?"
Growing up, I always admired labels like touch and go, sub pop, merge, matador etc. Labels with an indie aesthetic and total quality music. Those labels kind of changed my whole life because it made me realize that great stuff was all around me, I just had to find it. After seeing what amazing bands were coming from all of these labels, I started to daydream about starting my own. What music fan doesn't really? It was always a pipe dream though. When the record was recorded I sent it out to a few different labels that I had really respected growing up. A couple of them came calling a few weeks later and we started talking about what they were going to do surrounding the release. After literally months of talking to each other, I started to get the picture that the labels had huge rosters, little capital and I felt that maybe my record would kind of slip through the cracks and just sit on the shelves with little to no promotion behind it. The record isn't gimmicky and it is really sincere, so it could easily go unnoticed. At the time, I just kind of came to terms with everything and looked at my situation. I was working and making decent money so I just realized that now was the time to start the label. I figured it would be better to do it myself and if it failed, I could only blame it on myself...Not some people who were just like me. I guess I just took complete responsibility for what was to happen so I couldn't blame failure on anyone but myself. And I met an incredible friend in Eric wong who also really knew the business of music and was a true music fan. I told him my situation, and he basically said that he had always wanted to start a label and management company, so we naturally started feel together in the middle of 2001. Feel also has a management company run by Eric. My record kind of became the guinea pig for feel so we could learn the ropes and the right way to release a record and not screw with someone else's career and livelihood...
IMWT: How has your expectations of "I Will Live In You Where Your Heart Used To Be" (sales and the public's reaction) and reality lined up so far?
Brady: I don't think I will ever really get used to someone I don't know connecting with my record. It really is the strangest and most fulfilling thing in the world. You grow up listening to records and quite a few move you in a really personal way, and it just kind of freaks me out that someone is out there that may look at my record in the way I looked at some growing up. (Hell, I still find records that touch me in a heavy, really personal way...Like the new Appleseed Cast Low Level Owl records or the new Matt Pond PA record) it is by far the most flattering and strange thing in the world. I never expected that magazines that I read growing up would take notice and write about my record. It still feels like I played a joke on someone and they just haven't figured it out yet. I am just a huge music freak. I am so used to talking about bands that I love, and turning people onto other bands...It still feels weird talking about a record that I actually made. We released the record on november 2oth 2001 to pretty impressive sales. We then landed an exclusive distribution deal, so the company is re-releasing the record nationwide on march 12th.
At the end of the day, I could care less if we make any money with the record. People have taken notice of the label, we got a really great distribution deal out of our efforts thus far (which will help out all of the bands that we love that have signed with feel), and people are connecting with my songs. I really couldn't't ask for more than that. Well, maybe enough money to buy a kiss pinball machine.
IMWT: You have a residency at a local club in New York, but other than that, how often do you play out? And, do you have plans to tour?
Brady: I just finished the residency last week with an amazing songwriter by the name of david clement. It was probably one of the best times for me as a songwriter so far...To be able to go to this one club every other week and play my songs and see the crowd's attendance grow. It was also a good excuse to see david play a couple of times a month. He totally inspires me to be a better songwriter. I try to play as often as I can. I could never play too many shows. I do plan to tour this summer at some point, but I would like to go out with a band I really respect and admire. Being that I have a pretty stressful and busy day job, I can't get away too often, but I am definitely trying to organize an opening slot on a summer outing.
IMWT: You have a day job, your own record label, and now a solo album. How do you balance it all?
Brady: Very little sleep and many, many favors asked. We have so many incredible people helping out with the label. We totally wouldn't be able to get things done if we didn't have such amazing friends who really cared about what Eric and I are trying to do. I also have an amazingly understanding girlfriend who sees me turned around looking at a computer screen at all hours of the night. The great ladies at Dunkin Donuts should get their "mad props" as well.
IMWT: You recently told me you were writing a lot of new material for your next record, and playing some of the new material live. Do you feel the songs on "I Will Live In You Where Your Heart Used To Be" are old to you? If so, how do you find yourself refreshing the songs so you can play them each night live like they were brand new, for the audience?
Brady: Some of the songs on the record do feel old to me, but I am beginning to grasp the concept that all of them are new to other people. This is something that happens with all musicians. I know it sounds really cliche, but if one person is in the audience that hasn't seen me play before, I want to try and give them something that is new to them and something that is entertaining and not tired or boring. I get really excited when I play because it is such an intimate setting, I really look around the room and try to connect with everyone who is allowing me to play for them. Then I realize that I am onstage by myself, get really nervous, and feel like puking...But my stage fright is calming down a bit.
I am writing a ton of new material and have been playing some of it live to feel out the audience reactions. Fortunately I didn't write "you're tearing up my heart" or something like that...I could probably get sick of playing that every night...But it's not like my songs are being played every 3 minutes on pop radio getting crammed down people's throats. That would probably be gross.
IMWT: What is "I Will Live In You Where Your Heart Used To Be" all about? It is a very emotional, personal record. What was going on inside you, what were you feeling, that made the record turn out the way it did?
Brady: Total and complete confusion. I was in a relationship that freaked me out so much because I had never experienced love in such an intense way, and my friends were pretty much experiencing the same things. I think the record sounds a lot like growing up throughout the whole thing. The beginning sort of sounds like someone is trying to find themselves and what they are about, and trying to make the right decisions for themselves. In the middle, things get pretty confusing because naturally, you will make mistakes when you are maturing into an adult. The end just really ends on a hopeful note...Acceptance of whatever happens, happens for a reason and you really don't have control over anything and you should just live your life and end up where you are supposed to.
IMWT: If someone puts the album on and listens to it for the first time, what would you want them to say about it?
Brady: "Man, this is the best record I have ever heard! This dude is a fucking genius!" No, I am just kidding. I would hope people would just realize that the record is a really sincere one that has a lot of substance to it. And I would hope they could connect to it on a personal level instead of a materialistic one. I would hope they would really listen to what is going on in every song.
IMWT: What do you want fans to say about the album the 20th time they listen to it?
Brady: "Hey, wanna make out?" Kidding again. Ultimately I would like people to think that it only gets better each time they listen to it and connect with something new that they didn't hear on the listen before. I would like it to be a record they kept on going back to.
IMWT: Are there any songs on the album that you don't like anymore or are so tired of you wish you hadn't put them on the album?
Brady: That depends. Some of the songs make me somewhat uncomfortable at times because I think I let a little bit too much of myself leak into them. But the feelings were sincere and earnest, so it doesn't bother me too terribly much. Besides, I know that my feelings aren't too different from the listeners. We are all fucked up about love, and we are all fucked up generally...But we are just good at hiding it. I never really listen to the record. But when I do, I always find a new song that I like and one that really sticks out that didn't before.
IMWT: Are there moments when you listen to the album when you hear something and still get blown away that you were able to put this on your album? A line you thought you could never write, a melody that reminds you of your favorite record, a guitar tone, a feeling - anything?
Brady: I really like the fact that a full on pop song like walk, don't walk can co-exist with a somber one like corpus christi on the same record and not sound forced or out of place. I also like the general atmosphere of everything going on in goodbye to the goodyear 1942. It almost sounds like a boat rocking back and forth. You can also hear my dog push whining when she was a puppy at the very end of the record. That always kind of puts a smile on my face because that dog is the best dog in the world.
IMWT: What shall we expect next from Brady Brock?
Brady: I am recording demos for the next record. I would like to start talking with someone about doing a co-release with feel so I can concentrate a bit more on our other artists. (It is so much more fun being able to concentrate on our bands and their activity rather than if artwork got to the printer in time). Hopefully the next record will be coming out in spring of 2003, if all goes well. Also, expect to see me on tour sometime this summer.
IMWT: What is coming out next on your label? What are your plans for 2002 with the label?
Brady: We will be releasing the us debut of this amazing german band by the name of miles. The record is called "structure vs happiness" and it will be released on june 18th. We are also releasing a cdep in the fall and a full length by this amazing atmospheric Texas band called *mytwilightpilot* in the spring. We are also talking to two other artists about joining the feel roster. The year is going to be a busy one, but we are thrilled to be able to put out such amazing records in the next year.
IMWT: Anything I left out you'd like to cover?
Brady: Feel records is named after a big star song. If you do an internet search on my name, a ton of items on a Texas pro rodeo champion named Brady Brock comes up. I assure you that I am certainly not that guy. And Diet Dr. Pepper tastes nothing like regular Dr. Pepper.