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SXSW 2018 Interview: Allman Brown

 
By on Thursday, 31st May 2018 at 11:00 am
 

My first interview at SXSW 2018 was with English singer/songwriter Allman Brown, who I met before his very first SXSW showcase on the Tuesday night of the music festival, at Austin’s Seven Grand. We had already featured Brown as one of our Bands to Watch leading into SXSW, and he kindly answered our Quickfire Questions ahead of the festival, but this interview was a nice chance to chat with Brown one-on-one, and to get quick preview of what I was about to hear from him on stage.

Brown had already had a bit of an adventure leading into the music festival, which he related to me in the beginning of our chat. “We flew to Dallas, and we were supposed to have a gig in Dallas but I had to cancel that, sadly [due to illness]. So, then we drove, we got the Greyhound, because we’re English, so we thought we had to hit that American stereotype and get the bus to Austin.” It turned out that the 4-hour bus trip from Dallas to Austin was less than scenic, but being an avid reader, Brown took the opportunity indulge his favourite hobby. “I was reading ‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill,” he explained. “It came out, I think, like two years ago. It was a big hit in the States. It was brilliant. It’s all centered around a lady who abandons her son. And it’s the back story of her through like, the 1968 Chicago riots, and why she did it. It was quite intriguing.” He further described the story as a “multigenerational family drama, but also quite funny, and (it) dealt with pop culture as well.”

I mentioned that we don’t always get such detailed book recommendations at There Goes the Fear, and Brown smiled a bit sheepishly. “Reading is breathing, I live to read. I just read today, actually, the novel of the new Joaquin Phoenix movie, ‘You Were Never Really Here’. I just read the novella it’s based on. It was pretty savage.”

Brown’s readling list recommendations naturally led the conversation into possible literary influences in his music. When I asked him if he has consciously introduced his reading into his songwriting, he demurred a bit. “I think if I read a book that I really like, that gives me a certain feeling, I might take that feeling and try and put it into a song. But I try not to imitate anyone because it doesn’t feel organic to me.”

From there, the discussion turned to Brown’s own repertoire, which at this point includes his 2017 album ‘A Thousand Years’ and his most recent EP release ‘Bury My Heart’, which came out on the Friday of SXSW. In discussing the EP, Brown mentioned, rather casually, that it was his first release as a full-time musician. “I was always working in restaurants and bars and stuff for like 10 years, but I managed to go full-time music just after my daughter was born, actually.” Like any proud father, Brown was clearly eager to talk about his family, and I expressed surprise that he would choose to turn to music full-time just after having a baby. “She brought all the good luck,” he beamed. “She’s now 15 months. But it was okay, I didn’t rush into it. It happened gradually, but I felt secure to make the change.”

Brown was away from his family for only eight days on his trip to Austin, but he jokingly described it as being “horrible.” I told him that, based on my own experience, eight days at SXSW would go by quickly, and he agreed. “Honestly, eight days in Austin is not the worst place to be,” he admitted, “it’s a beautiful city, nice people.” But getting back to his wife and daughter, he says, “I did a tour [once] for about 10 days, and that’s kind of my limit. Anything longer, I’ll just bring them with me.”

The background music and chatter at the Seven Grand got gradually louder as the start time for the evening’s showcase approached, and I took that cue to ask Brown about his set list for the show. “It will be a bit of a selection really, because it’s just me,” he confided. “I don’t have the band, which I quite like sometimes, because it’s good to sort of keep your chops. I spent years just playing by myself. So, a couple of new songs, and some old favourites from the album. I mean, they’re my old favourites,” he laughed.

“But you kind of have to gauge,” he continued. “South by Southwest seems quite quite rowdy and upbeat so far. You know what I mean, like the crowds are quite energetic. So, if there’s no space for the really, really delicate fingerpicking songs, I won’t play those. I’ll just try and read the room.” Talking about gauging the audience, I asked him how familiar he thought the crowd might be with his songs. “I have no idea,” he confessed. “There’s a couple of songs off the album which are doing well on Spotify, I think they’ll probably be well known. I’m guessing it’s the newer stuff that they won’t have any idea about. I try and imagine that every gig I play, I have to convince the audience that these are songs that they should enjoy. I try not to take it for granted, like I’ve got to do my best every time and that’s all I can do.”

Following his Tuesday night show, Brown played a handful more shows during his time in Austin, including a second official showcase at the Barracuda on the Saturday night and a potential Sofar Sounds show, which was yet to be confirmed at the time of the interview. I haven’t yet found any evidence of that show online, but Brown is a Sofar Sounds veteran, having performed shows in London, New York, and Paris in the past. Just below, you can watch a vintage clip of his 2012 NYC performance, courtesy of Sofar Sounds.

Brown did a brief tour of North America at the start of May, following on the success of his SXSW appearance, and played a short string of shows in the UK at the end of the month. His new EP ‘Bury My Heart’ is available now.

 

SXSW 2018: Tuesday night with a mix of American, English and Scottish artists – 13th March 2018

 
By on Monday, 2nd April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Tuesday evening at SXSW 2018 was a bit of a mixed bag, but as often happens with mixed bags, there were treasures waiting to be discovered within. I started my night session at the Seven Grand, which played host to the Killing Moon x ReverbNation showcase. The UK indie record label and the American artist development company had joined forces to create a strong lineup representing both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. I arrived early for an interview with London singer/songwriter Allman Brown (watch for that article to post in the coming days), but the action on stage started with Massachusetts rock band Lux Deluxe.

Lux Deluxe internal

I had never heard of Lux Deluxe before that Tuesday night, but they had a handful of devoted fans in the small crowd at the Seven Grand, as evidenced by the cheering and dancing that broke out as soon as the band hit the stage. To my ear, there was nothing particularly remarkable about their generic rock ‘n’ roll, but it was unquestionably energetic and there was nothing really offensive about it either. Unfortunately, my main impression was that lead singer Ned King, for all his enthusiasm, looked like Rick Moranis doing a bad Mick Jagger impersonation, and that mental image, once formed, was one that I couldn’t unsee.

Lux Deluxe 2

Unlike the exuberant band before him, Allman Brown came on stage alone and with a distinctly unassuming air about him. His banter with the gathering crowd was engaging, even to the point of distraction, until he mildly admonished an enthusiastic woman dressed in a panda suit [Amanda Panda – Ed.], “We’ll talk later, I’m kind of in the middle of something now.” Luckily, his impassioned singing soon had the crowd’s full attention. TGTF featured Brown’s track ‘Sons and Daughters’ in collaboration with Liz Lawrence in our (SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #397, but his solo acoustic performance at the Seven Grand was more powerful, and his latest ballad ‘Moonlight’ took on an even more delicate beauty.

Allman Brown internal

The remainder of the  Killing Moon x ReverbNation docket included UK bands Francobollo, Flyte, and Otzeki, but after Allman Brown’s lovely interlude, I excused myself and headed for the Driskill Hotel, whose Victorian Room is a sure bet if you want to hear singer/songwriters at SXSW. I was excited to see Chloe Foy, whom we also previewed ahead of her appearance in Austin, but I arrived early enough to catch the act on before her, Brooklyn folk duo The Brother Brothers.

Brother Brothers internal

As with Lux Deluxe, I hadn’t acquainted myself with The Brother Brothers, who are actually twins Adam and David Moss. My ears were greeted with their graceful Americana sound as soon as I walked into the otherwise quiet Victorian Room, and I was immediately fascinated when I noticed that one of the brothers was plucking and strumming his violin in the style of a guitar. He would switch to the more traditional method as their set went on, and the instrumental harmonies between the violin and guitar were as simple and sweet as their vocal counterparts. Click here to watch The Brother Brothers perform their song ‘Tugboats’, and on an actual tugboat!

Chloe Foy internal

In the interim after The Brother Brothers’ set, I took a seat on the carpeted floor, as is customary in the Victorian Room, to get a better vantage point for Chloe Foy. When I next looked up, I found myself sitting cross-legged next to NPR’s Bob Boilen. He and I have crossed paths before at SXSW, most memorably in 2016 when we both covered Brighton singer/songwriter Holly Macve. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see him, as Foy and Macve have similarly enchanting alt-folk overtones, though Foy’s influences lean more toward the delicate beauty of the English art song tradition. Foy played a mesmerising set at the Driskill, including the darkly dramatic ‘Fire and Flood’.

Coln Macleod internal

Scottish songwriter Colin Macleod might be considered an exception to the Driskill’s standard singer/songwriter fare, as his brand of folk rock is more alt-rock than folk-influenced. However, the emphasis on lyrical composition is clearly part of Macleod’s repertoire, and in that way, he fits quite nicely into the singer/songwriter category. Unfortunately, the reserved and decorous vibe of the venue didn’t entirely suit the style of his music, and his performance ultimately felt a bit constrained. The highlight of the set was his current single ‘Kicks In’, which did in fact lift the energy level in the room for at least a brief moment.

Belle Adair internal

Macleod’s set actually ran a bit short, so I had plenty of time to make my next appointment at B.D. Riley’s for Alabama indie rock band Belle Adair. I’ve typically visited B.D. Riley’s during the annual Full Irish Breakfast, so it initially felt a little strange for me to hear American accents coming from the small stage. However, Belle Adair’s mellow pop-rock was an easy adjustment to make, and their engaging warmth on stage clearly resonated with the crowd in the Irish pub. Listening to their current single ‘Get Away’ was indeed like taking a brief mental vacation from the hustle and bustle of SXSW; watch the official video just below

My final stop for the evening was at The Main II for an Irish rock band I’d first seen last year at B.D. Riley’s, The Academic. Mary was already at the venue when I arrived, and though we don’t typically double up on coverage, this was to be The Academic’s only SXSW 2018 show, and neither of us wanted to miss it. You might already have read Mary’s report on the show back here, so I’ll only add that this was a very different band to the four shy lads who stared at their shoes on the B.D. Riley’s stage a year ago. This time they had a hit album under their belts, and the room was full of young female fans, as well as a rowdy group of Irish punters who’d come specifically to see them play their 1 AM show. The Academic took full advantage of the triumphant mood, playing an exuberantly sweaty and altogether brilliant set to cap off their North American tour.

The Academic internal

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Quickfire Questions #130: Allman Brown

 
By on Monday, 5th March 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

We recently featured singer/songwriter Allman Brown as our (SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #397. If you’ve already read that article, you’ll know that Brown’s new EP ‘Bury My Heart’ is due for release on the 16th of March, right in the middle of his trip to Austin for SXSW 2018. The EP will feature an eponymous title track, along with the tender ballad ‘Moonlight’, which you can hear just below.

After giving Brown’s songs a listen, we were keen to know more about him, and he provided us some interesting background information in the form of answers to our Quickfire Questions. Brown’s replies reveal his musical influences as well as a few of his literary and alimentary preferences. Read on to find out what he had to say . .

Describe your music / sound in three words. (We know, tricky…)
Caramel folk-pop.

Is this your first time at SXSW? What have you heard about the festival? Are you excited / anxious / scared / etc. and why?
I am very excited! It sounds like an uber festival with every artistic medium rubbing shoulders and with some other crazy stuff thrown in for good measure. Also I am pumped to get me some good Texan food.

Of the bands who have already been announced, are there any you’re particularly interested to see? If yes, who are they and why?
Max Richter. For my money, he is the greatest composer of our times.

What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Austin?
Just meeting people and soaking up the atmosphere. I’ve heard so many people say what a great place it is.

Name something you’re packing in your suitcase that we might find unusual. (You are welcome to elaborate.)
Several books. That doesn’t sound crazy, I know, but what makes it unusual is that I bring a choice so it feels like I have a little library with me. It’s like a piece of home. I’m a super packer with everything else but books I just can’t get enough of. Wow, I sound like a nerd.

If we happen to run into you in a bar, we’d like to buy you a drink. What is your tipple of choice?
Well . . . different occasions call for different drinks. In this instance I feel we should share some bourbon together.

Now, let’s get into our usual list of Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson.

What was your favourite song as a child?
‘Bad’ by Michael Jackson.

What song always makes you laugh?
‘Bad’ by . . . only joking. I mean, it has to be ‘Business Time’ by Flight of The Conchords.

What song always makes you cry?
‘Breathe Me’ by Sia.

What song reminds you of a specific memory? (For example, the first time you fell in love, the first concert you ever attended, etc. It’s up to you if you want this to be nice or naughty!)
There are so many! For this question I will pick ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ by The Darkness, which is a track my three close friends at university and I would air guitar to whenever it played in the club. We each had our own special section, and as you can probably tell, it was pretty fucking cool, ha! One time my friend Grant was engaged in some romantic activity which he cut short, just so he wouldn’t miss his bit. It was a simpler time.

Which song (any song written in the last century / 100 years or so) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Not Dark Yet’ by Bob Dylan.

Who is your favourite artist? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer, or an actor, visual artist, etc.)
This is just getting cruel now! Hmm, at the moment it’s Paul Thomas Anderson.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I’d own a bookshop.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why? (Sorry, but double albums do not count.)
‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ by Bon Iver.

Do any of your friends and/or colleagues have any upcoming music releases we should know about?
Yes indeed, keep your eyes peeled for Liz Lawrence‘s new stuff. It’s awesome.

Our thanks to Jeremy for arranging this email q&a. Following SXSW, Brown is planning an American tour in May and another EP release later this year. As with all of the SXSW 2018 showcasing artists we feature here at TGTF, Allman Brown’s appearance in Austin is subject to change. We recommend that you consult the official SXSW Music Festival schedule for the latest information and updates.

 

(SXSW 2018 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #397: Allman Brown

 
By on Monday, 5th February 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Jodie Canwell

London singer/songwriter Allman Brown excels at at the age-old craft of writing and performing unabashedly romantic love songs. Categorised by SXSW as folk/indie pop, his songs range from acoustic ballads to atmospheric neo-folk, but the thematic material remains constant. ‘Sweetest Thing’, the track highlighted in Brown’s SXSW 2018 bio, falls into the former category and has already garnered over 17 million plays on Spotify.

‘Sweetest Thing’ features prominently on Brown’s debut album ‘1000 Years’, which was released last year. Several collaborative tracks appear on that LP, not the least of which is the striking duet ‘Sons and Daughters’. Here, Brown is joined by Liz Lawrence, who aside from her own solo work has also worked with Ed Nash of Bombay Bicycle Club. ‘Sons and Daughters’ was originally the title track to Brown’s debut 2013 EP, but it’s certainly strong enough to warrant inclusion on the long player, even 4 years after its original release.

Brown also experiments with rock and electro-flavoured instrumentation, leaning more toward the pop end of the folk/indie pop continuum. ‘Last Dance’ takes a decidedly rock-oriented turn, with heavy drums and electric guitars behind hazy vocals in its verses and a visceral chorus that opens with the evocative lyric “when we dance, dance, dance / with your arms around my shoulders / it’s all I ever wanted, now I know.” His latest stand-alone single ‘Bury My Heart’ layers his light, evenly modulated vocals over a subtly electronic backing. The song is set to appear on a new EP due out on the 16th of March, conveniently coinciding with his appearance at SXSW.

Brown reminds me a bit of a very young Ed Sheeran before Sheeran abandoned this kind of authentic, soulful pop-tinged balladry for the bland production-by-committee approach he now favours. Coincidentally, one of the songs on Brown’s ‘1000 Years’ is called ‘Shape of You’, though it’s a very different creature to Sheeran’s radio hit of the same name. That being said, Brown could easily become a star of Ed Sheeran proportions, depending on the path he chooses to take. Allman Brown is one to watch in Austin certainly, and for the remainder of 2018.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 showcasing artists we feature here at TGTF, this act’s appearance in Austin is subject to change. We recommend that you consult the official SXSW Music Festival schedule for the latest information and updates.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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