August 2011 Script
Hi, this is Brady Earnhart and you are listening to OutRadio.
JD: A song that I think a lot of people can identify with is "car repair"
Brady Earnhart: Oh, yeah yeah, that's another one that came pretty quickly. Once I had the openly line, the song just kind of spun itself into being. That was recorded live in Charlottesville, and it's one of the few live performances that I'm really proud of.
Brady Earnhart - Car repair (2004)
That was Brady Earnhart talking about his song "Car Repair," from his 2004 album "Manalapan," and this is JD Doyle. I'm delighted this month on OutRadio to bring you what I call a career interview for Brady Earnhart, an artist I very much respect. And that will just be Part 1 of a four-hour show this month, as I had just so much music I wanted to share, and I'll be taking you all over the queer music map.
But on to my feature on Brady. He grew up in Florida but now lives in Virginia, and over the last 15 years he's built up a reputation as a songwriter's songwriter, and I certainly agree. I much respect not only his music, but the craft of his songwriting, so on this segment I get to share with you the stories of a number of his songs from all three of his albums. In 1997 he released the CD called "After You," in 2004 one called "Manalapan," and last year, his latest, called "So Few Things." We're going to go mostly chronologically through them, after I ask some preliminary questions, like, when did he start writing music.
BE: I've been playing guitar since I was 15, but I concentrated on poetry until I was about 35, and then I went through a really traumatic break-up, and started to feel like poetry was just too solitary. I wanted to do something that bring me in contact with the world a little more. I already played a lot of other people's songs but I started trying to write my own and since I already wrote poetry it came fairly naturally.
JD: How would you describe your musical style?
BE: Oh, I guess artists hate to describe their style. I hate to pigeon-hole myself. I guess if CD stores still existed and I were on the rack, it would be in acoustic or folk. I consider it poetic and dramatic and thoughtful, but those words sound so heavy I think there's also a good deal of humor to what I write, and I actually think in order to make a sad song work, there really has to be humor going on as well. How would I describe it? It's personal. It's based on my own life, so in poetry circles it would be called confessional. It's informed by all kinds of music, from Joni Mitchell to classical music. I'm pretty much a control freak about my music. I write everything, I perform on a lot of instruments, and I write all my own arrangements and I'm a pretty bad back-seat driver when guest musicians come into the studio and I often have charts all written for them.
JD: I've always been very impressed at the craft of your songwriting. How do you write a song?
BE: I think my approach is a lot like a playwright's approach. I care most about the character, who is sometimes me, and sometimes somebody I invent who is singing the song. And a lot of times there'll be a scenario, or a scrap of language that I imagine a certain person using. And then I just kind of take it from there, and think, well, what else would this person have to say?
JD: Your first album was "After You," in 1997, could you talk about the title track?
BE: I mentioned scraps of language. That was kind of how that song came about. I was in the throes of another break-up, that seems to be a frequent catalyst for me, and "After You" was just a phrase that I wrote down in my notebook, and then I realized that it could work in several different ways, and might make a good refrain. And then I started playing my guitar and I guess I really love that song, but the process of writing it sounds kind of boring to me when I try to describe it. You think of some language that's attractive to you, and then you sing it in different ways while you're plucking at your guitar, and then you kind of work your way up, like somebody crawling out of a well, by putting one foot on each side, and inch by inch you work your way to the top. And then if you're lucky it feels like it's always been there, like you've always been at ground level.
JD: Do you keep a notebook of phrases that you want to remember?
BE: Oh, God, yes, I must have 50 notebooks yeah, and sometimes I look back over them, and find things that I'd forgotten about, and work on something new.
Brady Earnhart - After You (1997)
That was a bit of the song "After You." I've got a lot of songs I want to cover in this interview, so regrettably will not be able to play them in full length, but you'll get enough I think to make you want more. Brady, tell me about the song "King of My Living Room."
BE: Well, that has a lot to do with my feeling about being on stage, which is I'm sort of stage-aphobic. I recently got to play a gig with Dudley Saunders, whose stuff you probably know
JD: He's a master.
BE: Yeah, he's really good, he's a really good songwriter, and he has a great voice and he's a good player, but it was interesting to watch him. I mean, you can see that to him the spotlight was like a grow lamp. He just soaked it up, and to me the spotlight is more like one of those klieg lamps at a prisoner of war camp. I get kind of nervous and embarrassed and my hands shake and out of about one out of ten gigs that I play something really great does happen. You know, there's a connection with the audience that takes place, but in general I'm kind of shy about playing my music for other people, so it was occurring to me that to me this sort of ideal performance situation would be that I'd be sitting in the living room and playing a song, and somebody would spy on me through the window, and that's when I would be at my best. I would never want to play in some sort of big arena. I tried to play even Scott Free's Alt-Q series, in Chicago a few years back, and I just wilted miserably. I didn't know what to do with all those people, so "King of My Living Room" is just about that shyness.
Brady Earnhart - King of My Living Room (1997)
JD: Probably one of the most out of the closet songs on that album is "Something About Him."
BE: Sure, yeah, the genesis of the song is once again it sounds kind of demystifying or anti-climatic I was living in Albany and listening to the college radio station, and I thought I heard a song about a guy whose boyfriend had died. And when I got home I called the station, and they said, no, that sounds interesting but we haven't played any gay-themed songs today. So I decided to write it, and that's what happened.
Brady Earnhart - Something About Him (1997)
JD: In 2003 you released the album "Manalapan," tell me about that album.
BE: "Manalapin" is a stretch of beach in South Florida where I used to go snorkeling and that I've always loved, and it kind of felt like a kindred spirit to me, so that song is kind of addressed to that little strip of land. The album as a whole is it's poppier than my first album. I think I was kind of intoxicated by all the stuff that I found out one can do in the studio, and I got a lot of musicians together for it. I love that album too. I'm my own biggest fan, but it feels to me a little bit on the commercial side now, a little bit too slick. And that's really what I was going for. I wanted "Honey, Don't Think Your Mama Don't Know" to sound a little bit like an old Creedence Clearwater song, or Byrds song. And I wanted "Plain White T-Shirt" to sound kind of like a Latin-y pop song. You know, I'm not embarrassed by it, but I feel like my first album is a little bit more naked, and that's what I also tried to do on the latest album.
JD: Well, I loved the album, "Manalapan." I want to talk about the title track, and you told me once an interesting experience while writing that song.
BE: Yeah, that was a neat experience. While I was writing the song, the lines were kind of hard to get right, and one of them came to me while I was in a bar watching the singer/songwriter James McMurtry one night. And I got a cocktail napkin and wrote it down, "when my closest friend had told me I'd worn my red carpet thin, you took me in." But then when I got home I realized that instead of "my closest friend," what I'd written was "my closet friend," and I liked that better so I kept it.
Brady Earnhart - Manalapan (2003)
JD: I also love the song "Plain White T-Shirt."
BE: Oh, good, thank you. The idea there is that the hardest thing to find in a tourist town is a t-shirt that doesn't have dumb sayings all over it and pictures. So I thought the biggest compliment you could pay somebody would be to say that he was a plain white t-shirt in a tourist town.
JD: On the cover of your first album, you're wearing a plain white t-shirt.
BE: (laughs) Yeah, I am, that wasn't an intentional connection, but I guess, yeah, I don't wear legible clothing.
Brady Earnhart - Plain White T-Shirt (2003)
JD: This next song I think is my favorite from all your albums, I love this song, it's "Honey don't think your mama don't know"
BE: I woke up one morning and the refrain was in my head. I guess that's how Keith Richards wrote "Satisfaction, kind of. I picked up the guitar and I had been playing with an open-C tuning that I really liked, so I pieced that together, and it came pretty quickly. A lot of times it takes me years before a song finished gestating. That one I wrote I guess within a week. I really like the spirit it has and the lightness, and the sense of humor.
Brady Earnhart - Honey Don't Think Your Mama Don't Know (2003)
JD: Talk about the song "Think Again Heart."
BE: That's one of the really early songs that I wrote, and I guess it feels to me a little bit like a country song. It's a very, very simple song, in open, or drop-D tuning, and it's about the break-up that really catapulted me into songwriting.
JD: I love the line that starts "pretending I was sleeping."
BE: Oh, yeah, "you were wishing I was someone else and I was wishing you were you." That was a terrible, terrible period. I lost 40 pounds that I really couldn't afford to lose, and I was just a real mess, but as far as songwriting went it was a really fruitful time. I think there's nothing like loss to make you creative.
Brady Earnhart - Think Again Heart (2003)
JD: When I interviewed you in 2004 you told me this next song was the one from "Manalapan" of which you were the most proud. Tell me about the song "Walt Whitman in 1863."
BE: Well, that one does matter a lot to me. I wrote my PHD dissertation on Walt Whitman, and so I was constantly immersed in, not just his poems, but his letters and his articles. And I was really moved by the fact that he wrote these terribly sad letters to a soldier during the Civil War. The soldier's name, oddly enough, was Tom Sawyer. And they would have passages in them like Whitman would write, "Tom, didn't you get my last letter, that had the self-addressed envelope inside?" And, "Tom, I'll never be happy until we're living under the same roof," and you can imagine how sort of baffled this young soldier was to get these love letters from this grey-bearded old man. I tried to get Whitman's love for him and longing for him across in the song.
Brady Earnhart - Whitman in 1863 (2003)
Below, envelope Whitman used when writing to another soldier
BE: It's kind of a silly song, and it didn't really fit with anything else on the album, so we left it out. Yeah, it's kind of a dumb blues song "why did we stay together, we would have made such a good one-night stand." It kind of reminds me of "Thirty Rock," where the character Jenna is all upset because her stalker has quit stalking her, and she misses him. It's a little bit like that.
Brady Earnhart - One Night Stand (2003)
JD: Talk about the song "Thank God Virginia's on Our Side."
BE: Well, the anti-gay marriage movement was very strong in Virginia and so was the push-back against it, and I kind of felt like I'm really bad at making phone calls and carrying placards, but I think I can write a song. So I put this song together pretty quickly. It's very rough, but I think that goes with the spontaneous and angry feeling of the song. It's a satire that's in the voice of a guy who is a total jerk, who's saying what a good thing the amendment is, but you can hear right through him to the fact that it's a terrible idea in so many ways.
Brady Earnhart - Thank God Virginia's on Our Side (2006)
That song packs more satire into its five minutes, and you can download it all from Brady's website. We're up now to his latest release, from last year, called "So Few Things." I wanted to know how it is different from his last two releases.
BE: Oh, well, it feels to me like a return to the sort of low-fi production of the first album, almost let's see, is it all the instruments almost all, anyway, are acoustic, and there is almost no studio wizardry. I wanted it to have some rough edges.
JD: I was very impressed with the song "Daniel" and when I first got the CD I took it right away to play in the car, so I had not read the lyrics at all and I remember marveling at how the story revealed itself, at the craft with which you unveiled the story, with so few words, but yet getting it across beautifully. So, I'm going to let the listeners experience that as well, and then I'll ask you about the song.
Brady Earnhart - Daniel (2010)
JD: I really was impressed with the experience of that song, the discovery of it.
BE: Well, good, I had read an article by Paul McCartney recently, and he was talking about how he wrote the song "Eleanor Rigby" and that it started from reading an article in paper. And so I thought, fine, I'll start reading the local paper and seeing what stories came up. And sure enough there was a story about a guy who was just about to leave for the war in Iraq. He had just gotten out of boot camp, and the night before he shipped out he went for a joyride with a friend, and the car crashed and the soldier was killed. So it was such a heart-breaking story that I wanted to find a way of telling it, and pretty quickly, me being me, the friends became boyfriends, and this was of course during the time of Don't Ask Don't Tell so the guy's who's singing the song, talking to his friend, Daniel, is kind of hoping that nobody finds out, and when he sings the last verse of the song he's already dead, and he's sort of having his last thoughts as Daniel and the other pallbearers carry his coffin in the rain.
JD: I loved that kind of almost surprise, "the rain falling on the box against your shoulder," and you realize what that is.
BE: Yeah, that's what I wanted to happen, so I'm glad that came across to you.
JD: Considering your three CDs you seem to often write about soldiers, at different times in history.
true, and on the new album there's a song called "As You Were"
that comes out of that interest. I live right now just five blocks from
the field of the Battle of Fredericksburg, so every time I walk downtown
I pass by that battlefield, and it's a fascinating battle. But I was
thinking about in war movies how you always see how the officer walks
in and all the men snap to attention. And then the officer says, "as
you were, boys." And the irony is of course once you've been in
war you'll never again be as you were. War is
you know, not that
I've ever experienced it, or wanted to
but it's one of the basic
human dramas that really puts people in situations that are fascinating
and moving to me.
JD: Another military song, if you will, is "Train."
BE: Oh, yeah, I guess that is. I was thinking about every new guy I met, after I had this terrible break-up years ago, felt like a stop on the underground railroad, and I was gradually coming up for air, and coming into a sense of freedom from this old relationship. You know, I still love him, but it was not good for me, so I needed to come out of that, and the song is a combination of people I really knew and people I fantasized about knowing.
Brady Earnhart - Train (2010)
JD: Could you talk about the song "This Time."
BE: Sure, I was going out with a guy in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I was very happy. And I don't very often write happy songs, so I wanted to have one under my belt. I wrote a song about settling down with somebody, about no more one-night stands, and it had a very rhythmic guitar part, with lots of slapping on the strings, and I always thought it might sound good with a tabla, so I tracked down a table player to play along with it, and an upright bass player who supplied a really nice part, and I liked how it came out.
Brady Earnhart - This Time (2010)
JD: If you would be remembered for just one song that you've written, which one would that be?
BE: I suppose my own favorite song of all the things I've written is probably "Garden" from my first album. It feels to me original and fresh and heartfelt. The guitar part is unique. I really like the melody and it feels like the whole song is cut from the same cloth.
Brady Earnhart - Garden (1997)
JD: Any question that I should have asked you that I didn't?
BE: Oh, let's see I guess I'm really gratified that several people's opinions that I really trust consider my last album the best thing I've made, and I hope they say the same thing next time I put one out. Dudley Saunders recently said on Facebook something that I was really grateful for, that he considers "So Few Things" hands down, the best album that's come out in the past year.
JD: Wow, that's high praise, cause he's a songwriter's songwriter.
We're winding down, and of course I've saved one more song for the closing, but this is a logical time to mention again that the artist's name is Brady Earnhart and the new CD is called "So Few Things." You can find him at bradyearnhart.com, and Earnhart is spelled e-a-r-n-h-a-r-t. And please check out the other three segments of OutRadio this month for a lot more music. Okay, to close I'd like to hear about "Getting' Up Guy."
JD: I'd like to hear about "Getting' Up Guy"
BE: (laughs) "Getting' Up Guy" is this never happens to me, but one morning, here in Fredericksburg I woke up next to my boyfriend Bob, and neither one of us wanted to get out of bed, and so I improvised this song to him, pretending that I was this type-A go-getter, but I wanted it to be obvious that I was not going to be getting up any time soon. It's a tongue-in-cheek that I hope brings a smile to people's faces.
Brady Earnhart - Gettin' Up Guy (2010)
That was Jeff Straker and two tracks from his brand new CD "Under the Soles of My Shoes." They were called "Gone" and "The Stars Played Tricks," and I just love his style. To me it's kind of theatrical pop. And this is JD Doyle and you're listening to Part 2 of OutRadio. This is one of my rare four-hour shows, only the second this year, but I just had so much to share I could not resist. So for the next three hours, well, I'm going to give you just all kinds of music by GLBT artists. And up next is Jeremiah Clark and a track from his new EP. The EP is called "Just Another Sad Song," and this song is called "Understood."
Clark - Understood (2011)
Following Jeremiah Clark was Matt Alber and a cover of the Everything But the Girl song "Missing," and following Matt was Ernest Kohl, and I bet many of you recognized his cover of "Being Alive," from the musical "Company." I'm going to change the pace now to bring you a San Antonio artist I met when she played at Houston's Pride Festival in June. She's Mallorie and you'll hear "Blind," from her album "Dreams," and then an extra treat, an unreleased track by her, one that's quite lyrically gay, called "One World."
- Blind (2011)
After two by Mallorie I played "Dog Days Are Over" as sung by Vicci Martinez on the TV show The Voice. I quite liked that show, and I especially liked that they were very out front about what singers were openly gay and lesbian, and wonderfully, four made the finals. In addition to Vicci Martinez, I'm going to play one each by the other three, starting with Tyler Robinson. I played one of the songs he sang on TV on OutRadio in June, and I'm pleased to have something brand new by him, his first single since the TV show, called "Get Some."
- Get Some (2011)
In the middle of that set was a Texas artist, Nakia, doing his cover of the Adam Lambert hit "What Do You Want From Me," and then finishing up was Beverly McClellan and "The Thrill Is Gone." Unfortunately none of them won the competition on The Voice, but I quite enjoyed following their ride.
I'm playing this next set for a particular reason. The three songs, and 22 more are all from a special various artists compilation called "A Day Most Swell." These artists contributed their tracks to help raise funds to pay for the medical expenses of Susan Frazier. If the name doesn't ring a bell it's because she's more of behind the scenes person, in her role as National Sales Manager for Goldenrod Music, and Goldenrod has been a pioneer in distributing women's music for decades. So I hope you follow the link I provide and consider downloading this wonderful album. From it you'll hear Nedra Johnson and "K.I.S.S.", Jamie Anderson singing "Faith" and Chris Pureka performing her song "Lowlands."
- K.I.S.S. (2011)
Closing Part 2 of OutRadio is a wonderful new song by Catie Curtis. It's from her CD "Stretch Limousine on Fire," which will be released at the end of August. She is giving a free download of the track in honor of marriage equality in New York. The song is called "I Do."
Catie Curtis - I Do (2011)
Yes, let's show some appreciation on behalf of the queer foundation. That was Team Gina, from the 2006 CD "Gina Gina Revolution," and that track also featured the band Scream Club. This is JD Doyle welcoming you to Part 3 of OutRadio for August.
And as long as we're in kind of a punkish mood, well, would you like some free music? Queer Control Records out of San Francisco asked me to help spread the word that they have a compilation album of just lots of queer artists as a free download from their site. I'm about to give you a sampling, starting with K Anderson and a track called "This Changes Everything." It's a track I'm already well familiar with, as I selected his album for my Best of the Year show last January.
- This Changes Everything (2010)
In that set from Queer Control Records the first and last acts were from the UK, and in the middle, from Nebraska, was the duo known as Once a Pawn, and their song "Never Ending." Ste McCabe brought up the rear with "Public Debate," from his 2009 CD "Murder Music."
Zoe Lewis sent me her latest CD, called "Rotary Phone," and these two tracks especially caught my ear. They are the title track, "Rotary Phone," and the very clever "Breakfast Blues."
- Rotary Phone (2011)
According to the website the lead singer of the Toronto band Diamond Rings just goes by John O, and that's all it gives. But his debut CD is attracting a lot of attention. It's called "Special Affections" and this track is "All YR Songs."
Diamond Rings - All YR Songs (2010)
I'm a big fan of journalist Gregg Shapiro's monthly music columns, and through a recent one I found out about a young artist named Chris Riffle, and I was so taken by the sound clips I heard that I bought all three of his albums. This month I'm sharing songs from his debut album, from 2003, and I just love the youthful slant on being queer, as he wrote these as a teenager. The album is called "The Sun Is Up." Here are the songs "5th Grade," "Wonderboy," and "XY Boy."
- 5th Grade (2003)
Keeping things very gay, I'm going to give you a couple jazz versions of two of my old favorites, written by Noel Coward, and George & Ira Gershwin, and done by French artist Gallavin. They are "Mad About the Boy" and "The Man I Love."
- Mad About the Boy (2009)
I'm so pleased with this next EP that I'm going to play all three songs from it, as to me they just seem like they really are part of one work. It's the self-titled EP by Dan Holguin (HOLE-geen). The songs are "Extract the Facts," "Now I Only," and "So Damn Beautiful." This is I think the first time I'm ending a segment of OutRadio with 14 minutes of solid music, but I think you'll like it. Dan Holguin.
- Extract the Facts (2011)
This is JD Doyle and Part 4 of OutRadio, and that artist is Gregory Douglass. That last song was "Lucid," the title track of his new CD, and I opened with "One True Thing." This next CD is from 2008 but I just discovered it. It's by Ryan Harrison, and I heard him singing on a very nice CD by his partner Shawn Kirschner, called "Meet Me on the Mountain," a work inspired by the movie "Brokeback Mountain." So I googled Ryan and found he has his own album and got him to send it to me. I think It's excellent, and it is called "It's True." From it are the title track and one called "Liar."
- It's True (2008)
After Ryan Harrison, that was Robert German, from his 2006 EP "Marlboro Man." And after Robert was a favorite artist of mine, Mark Weigle, and I picked a track from his 2003 CD "Different and the Same." On that one he did his own take on a number of songs by other artists, that one being "867-5309 / Jimmy," but you probably know it more from Tommy Tutone's original, "867-5309 / Jenny."
I've been meaning for a while to play something by Tommy Keene, as he's been making music for almost 30 years. So from his second release, from 1984, an EP called "Places That Are Gone," I picked the title track; and jumping 22 years to his 2006 release "Crashing the Ether," you'll hear "Quit That Scene."
- Places That Are Gone (1984)
And I admit, this next song is not well done, but I had never before heard a male version of the 1964 Jay & Americans song "Come a Little Bit Closer." From the 1999 album "Queen City," this is by Invaders From a Forbidden Planet.
From a Forbidden Planet - Come a Little Bit Closer (1999)
And that gem was "Detachable Penis," by the band King Missile, from their 1992 CD "Happy Hour." Now, y'all know I only play GLBT artists on my shows, but it's okay, one of the members of that band, Chris Xefos is gay. He's been making music since at least the 80's and also has an excellent discography of just the albums he's engineered and produced, like for this next band, The Bobbleheads. John Ashfield is one of the vocalists for that act, and I've got him on a number of other CDs in my collection, including solo work. But The Bobbleheads have two recent EPs and I picked from their 2008 one the song "Johnny Mathis." Yes, the song is called "Johnny Mathis." The EP is called "Two Guitars, Open Fire," and probably only a few collectors like me would know that "Open Fire, Two Guitars" was the name of a 1959 album by Johnny Mathis. The other track you'll hear is "Rose, I'm Sorry," from their 2010 EP "M Class."
- Johnny Mathis (2008)
And that last short little song appropriately had a name just like it sounds, "Sugar Coated Candy." At the end you hear them shout "Whoa Nellies," and that's the name of their band. They are a San Francisco sort of 70's style bubblegum pop act, and the band includes, again, John Ashfield, along with Leigh Crow, who is one of my interview subjects on Queer Music Heritage this month. Also in the band are Connie Champagne, Peter Fogel, Tim Perdue, and Kevin Kirkbride. In 2009 they were featured guests at a concert by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.
Here's another San Francisco act, that was active around 2004, and called themselves Creamy Goodness. Here's their fat-positive song, "Fat Girl."
Creamy Goodness - Fat Girl (2004)
Up next is a duo on and off stage, Cheryl & JaVonne, and from their new EP "Equality," is the song "Waiting All My Life."
Cheryl & JaVonne - Waiting All My Life (2011)
I'm changing the pace again, this time with two tracks from the brand new CD by Tim'm T West. It's called "Fly/Brotha" and from it you'll hear that title track and another called "Bro Homo." More music I couldn't play on broadcast radio. And I'm closing Part 4 of the show with this artist, so this is JD Doyle thanking you for listening to OutRadio. Here's Tim'm T West.
West - Fly/Brotha (2011)