Imagine foot tapping sounds, strong vocals with cutting-edge and high power guitar effects. Gary Brown’s performances are just that and he wishes to share his love for guitar with all the music lovers of the world. Always looking for a way to perfect his already seemingly perfected craft, Gary Brown, from the Washington, DC area, has over 30 years experience as a musician. We were given the great pleasure of interviewing Gary, the funky blues master himself.
Critic Studio: How did “Bushmaster” form and how did you acquire the name?
Gary Brown: I have always played guitar. I had a brief experience trying to play with and for other people which didn’t work out very well. I just discovered that people didn’t tend to be as serious as I would have like them to be. I wanted to be the guy running things so that’s when I formed ‘the band.’ As far the name of the band, I have always been into snakes and ‘Bushmaster’ is just the name of a snake that I think is a particularly interesting creature. I thought the name was a good description of the type of band I wanted to have and the type of music I wanted to make.
Critic Studio: Could you give me a rundown of the band members and their roles?
Gary Brown: For my most recent album, on drums, I have John Thomakos and Spencer Brown. Jay Turner is on bass.
Critic Studio: When did you begin playing guitar?
Gary Brown: I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old. I am now 50, so it has been awhile. (Laughs)
Critic Studio: Thinking back, did your family carry on the same musical/artistic interests as you?
Gary Brown: We had a house full of good music. One of my main influences was the fact that my dad had a lot of good music on 45. Artists like early Ray Charles and James Brown…the good stuff…the roots stuff. Also when I was coming up, the radio actually played good music. We had a healthy variety of music. My father dabbled with the guitar a little; he played a few cords here and there. My mother had cousins who were musicians but as far as my immediate family I was pretty much the main one who had a huge interest in playing music. My entire family enjoyed listening to music and became huge music fans. But as far as performing, I was pretty much the main one out of my immediate family.
Gary Brown: See that’s the thing, I believe there is too much music out there that is easy to pigeonhole. Primarily though, you would say it was funky and bluesy. However, I like to work outside of the box. Yeah, I am blues-based but a lot of blues fans would tell you that my music isn’t pure blues. Overall, I think if you came to hear me, you would say it was funky and fun. (Laughs) I like to create a mix, just to keep it danceable and keep it exciting and just keep it fresh. After all, you know, when Robert Johnson was doing music it was new music at the time. He wasn’t keeping alive a tradition; he was furthering a tradition and playing contemporary music for his day. So I like to do the same thing. I think that idea has been forgotten in today’s blues. Blues has become sort of this backward looking thing, as opposed to something that people will continue to try to further.
Critic Studio: I had a chance to listen to your latest album, “Revolution Rhapshody aka: Uprising Music.” I couldn’t put my IPod down. What inspired this album?
Gary Brown: As you might gather from listening to the lyrics, I am a pretty political person. There is a lot of madness going on and there has been a particular resurfacing of some things that I thought were behind us. In a lot of ways, this album is a response to the current political issues. It is me documenting and commenting on things and trying to speak up about political issues I feel need to be addressed. I feel that you can be an activist and you can do it in a way that is not offensive and one of the ways to do that is to couch it in music where people can enjoy it and before they realize it, they are listening to a message. If you were to just to get up somewhere on a soapbox and started venting about what’s going on, even if you had valid points people aren’t going to be receptive of that, they are going to tune you out. But if you put some good music with it and deliver the message that way then you can get more “flies.” So that is definitely what inspired the album, these times we are living in – the documentation and the reaction to these times.
Critic Studio: What decides when the time is right to go into the studio to record an album? Or is it an ongoing process?
Gary Brown: Well, it is an ongoing process usually. It comes down to several factors…economical being primary. (Laughs) Of course it happens when you are moved and get a feeling to write new material. It is a combination of different factors. I’m almost compelled to keep coming up with new material and go into the studio to make new music. When I feel I have enough songs for an album, I get in the studio and put an album down. (Smiles)
Critic Studio: What comes first the lyrics or the music?
Gary Brown: Usually, the lyrics tend to come first but when I write/see lyrics I’m usually hearing some kind of melody accompanying them. I almost never just hear music without lyrics. That just never happens. So, I’ll get a lyrical picture and then once the lyrics come in my mind I try to hear a musical backdrop – a certain melody or a certain beat. Simultaneously, I just try to put all of that together.
Critic Studio: Do you write all of the band’s songs or is it a collaborative effort?
Gary Brown: Yes, I write all of the band’s songs. Not that I am not open to collaboration but it has just kind of worked out that way. I just have a lot to say. (Laughs) By the time that I am finished writing, I usually have enough tunes for an album. I am open to collaboration and I would like to do more of that in the future.
Critic Studio: What are your songs about?
Gary Brown: On previous albums I have mostly written about neighborhood issues and things of that nature. But political issues seem to be the theme throughout a lot of my music. I feel that politics are life, they are kind of intertwined. Primarily, I see myself as a social commentator. I just do it to music.
Critic Studio: Who are some of your musical influences?
Gary Brown: Omg, there are so many and they are so varied. (Laughs) I could literally be talking to you for hours on just that subject. To round it off to a few important ones – Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, James Brown, Freddy King, B.B. King, Albert King, Little Jimmy King, Earl Hooker, Bettye LaVette. There are so many people…just lots and lots of people.
Gary Brown: Primarily just breaking through to getting wider air play and wider acceptance. I think it’s the same things that a lot of independent musicians go through when they don’t have a big label pushing them. The biggest challenge is playing roots-based music in a society that is increasingly turning to things like American Idol and The Voice. Neither of which I am knocking because they obviously have an audience so someone wants to hear them. It has just gotten to be that live music in this country has become less and less appreciated. Also, just getting people to come out to hear live music is a challenge. It is hard trying to stay relevant when you are in a world were less and less people are interested in live music…ok I’ve climbed down off of my soap box now. (Laughs)
Critic Studio: Tell me about your favorite places to perform.
Gary Brown: That is one thing that I can honestly and quickly answer…All of them! I enjoy any type of setting. As long as I have people that are receptive of my music and those that are just sitting there waiting for me to play…that’s all I really need. It doesn’t matter whether it is 5 or 5,000 in the audience, everyone will each get the same kind of show with the same intensity, passion, soul and sweat.
Critic Studio: Where do you think your largest fan based is located and why?
Gary Brown: I would have to say in the Maryland, DC area. Just because I have played there longer than I have anywhere else and I also grew up in Maryland. I think it’s just by virtue of the fact that I am from there. I have found there are a lot of people who appreciate the blues in the Maryland area. Who knows, a year or two from now that might change. I would love to do more playing in the south and out west. I hope this new album will help me take my music to different audiences and different parts of the globe.
Critic Studio: If someone wanted to see you perform live where could they find you? Do you have
any upcoming shows?
Gary Brown: Oh yes, definitely. I sure do.
Gary has several live shows scheduled in the Maryland and Pennsylvania area. Check out this outline of his upcoming live show venues:
- 3/23/12 Momo’s BBQ, Harrisburg, PA 8pm – 11pm
- 4/13/12 Bare Bones, Ellicott City, MD – 9pm – 1am
- 4/27/12 Market Cross Pub, Carlisle, PA – 9:30pm – 12:30am
- 4/28/12 Benny’s Pub, Hagerstown, MD – 9pm – 12am
- 5/11/12 Momo’s BBQ, Harrisburg, PA – 8pm – 11pm
- 5/12/12 Windsor Hall, Cumberland, MD – 7pm – 10pm
- 5/19/12 Hempen Hill BBQ, Hagerstown, MD – 9pm – 12:30am
Purchase Gary’s music on his website (www.bushmasterblues.com), CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon and Napster.