alt-country

Retro: Quick Q and A with Greg Brown

Greg Brown has got to be one of the most well-respected singer-songwriters we’ve ever presented on the me&thee stage. He first came into many people’s consciousness by being a pretty regular guest on the the syndicated radio show, Prairie Home Companion. I don’t know about you but it was a Saturday evening tradition to flip on the radio at 6:00 p.m. to listen to the shenanigans and skits as well as the moving musical performances each week. Pretty soon Greg Brown moved on to high profile gigs across the country and abroad. He put on many memorable shows here in Marblehead. His sometimes gruff exterior and his heartbreakingly beautiful music make the hearts of audience members explode with gratitude.

Since this interview in 2008, Greg has making fewer and fewer live appearances, preferring to stay at home in Iowa with his wife, Iris Dement and reflecting on a life well spent. One notable recorded appearance was his participation in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown in which he played Hades, the King of the Underworld. This recorded project has since gone on to become a Broadway Play which won 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical of 2019. Greg’s presence in the music world remains large and any new songs by him are met with great enthusiasm. Greg continues to be an advocate for the underdog and speaks and sings his mind when the spirit hits him.

Here’s a link to Greg’s discography . You can can’t go wrong with taking the time time to give a listen to any or all of these fine disks.

Greg’s song “Canned Goods” exemplifies Greg Brown’s midwestern roots and touches music listeners to their core.

Here’s another memorable Greg Brown song performed by Greg and his friends, Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman that gives you an idea of how special his live shows are.

Here’s my interview from 2008.

Does songwriting get easier or more difficult with experience?

It was never a question of easy or hard for me, writing songs. I just wanted to do that. never felt easy or hard. Still doesn’t. Feels natural.

You’ve been playing all over the country for many years. Do you have any favorite moments on stage?

Favorite moments on stage is when the groove, or you could call it the holy spirit, takes over. then the music gets big. Room for everyone.

What are you listening to for your own personal enjoyment these days?

I like to listen to Tony Joe White these days, & to Marian Anderson, to the Staple Singers, to Charlie Patton, Tommy Jarrell, a guy from Memphis named Johnny Lowe, who makes his own instrument, a low bow he calls it — I like to listen to Ali Farke Toure & to Sun Ra, to Thelonious Monk. been enjoying Chris Smither’s new one. also Joe Price, & Rainer Ptacek. Romanian gypsy music . some Dvorak. this French classical composer, lot of solo piano pieces, can’t think of his name right now. Hasil Adkins i love — rockabilly dude from back a ways. my friend Charlie Parr. he sounds something like a young Dave van Ronk. I love Dave van Ronk. i miss knowing he is here in the world. Charlie likes the old stuff, Edison cylinders through the thirties roughly. He just got an ipod. said he had 5400 songs on it. Might have to get one myself. the one Charlie has is steam powered, so it is not that easy to haul around, but it is more moral. I like listening to Judy Garland when it rains. I like to listen to my wife sing, she’s the best i ever heard. I like John Prine’s songs very much. they are built to last. Jimmie Rodgers always perks me up, he was always ready to go seems like. Clang of the long steel rail right in his voice & guitar. Elmore James, his heart was on fire. gospel quartets, like the Watchman Quartet. the Chuckwagon Gang, let’s not forget them. I hope as I get older to be able to sing more like Tennessee Ernie Ford, my own father sang in that church style also. A big strong voice that wore a suit & tie & had its’ hair combed. Well i could go on & on. but i won’t.

We received a couple of questions from fans: Bonny in New Mexico wants to know if you’re identifying with the old song “I’m My Own Grandpa” these days.

Well i feel like I am my own Grampa many years now, since I tend to channel my mother’s father quite a bit. but I am proud to be an actual Grampa too. yes indeed.

And another fan wants to know if you have a favorite fishing spot in New England.

I know a lake in New England where I can catch smallmouth over 6 lbs. I am not going to say where it is.