Welcome to a new American original that opens the front door to her life and lets you in with a smile, and no apologies for the fact that she didnt have time to straighten up before you dropped by. Brigitte DeMeyer is an artist whose songs are her life (and vice versa) and are presented with an uncompromisingly pure artistic slant. Her music embraces all forms of American styles, and this indeed reflects her journey thus far.
Midwest born and bred, DeMeyer first sang in gospel choirs as a child, and this no doubt instilled her with the inescapable blues, gospel and soul roots that inform her music. A move to San Diego, California found her becoming a musical sponge, with rock and country styles invading her artistic jetsam. While in San Diego, she sang with legendary bands such as The Beat Farmers and The Soul Syndicate, and the unavoidable desire to perform took hold.
Relocating to the Bay Area after college, Brigitte met and hooked up with guitarist Chris Rossbach, and the pair performed in and around the Bay Area. They played in different bands together, while in the meantime, Brigitte trained with vocal coach Judy Davis, in Oakland, CA, and had begun writing her own material. Having developed a love for bluegrass earlier on, Brigitte eventually also studied this classic form with such modern-day masters as Peter Rowan, Tim OBrien and The Del McCoury Band, amongst others. This whirlwind of musical experience and exposure only enriched DeMeyers already powerful talent, setting the stage for her debut album. Released in January of 2001, Another Thousand Miles proved to be an anagram of Americana, with country, rock, and bluegrass styles all coalescing into a delicious musical gumbo. Despite all of the ready influences, DeMeyers burnished song writing and expressive, uncompromising vocals provided the albums main thrust. Refreshingly honest, several of the songs reflected her life at the time, with a crumbling romance (the title track), and the passing of her father ("Rooftop") being centerpieces, topping it off with featured performances from bluegrass veteran Mike Marshall on fiddle and mandolin. That said, it wasnt surprising that the album was greeted warmly by the critics. Blues Revue, Acoustic Caf?, Cosmic Debris, Time Out and Indie-Music.com were just a few of the outlets that stepped all over each other with praise. According to Indie-Music.com, "There is a distinct, heart wrenching, Ive-been-there quality that shines through on each and every track, the song writing itself lends a nod to the great Carole King." The reference to King is important, because while comparisons to Sheryl Crow and Shawn Colvin have undoubtedly been made, the fact is that DeMeyers music comes from much older sources: Bonnie Raitt, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan, Carole King, and Little Feat are just a few of the influences that inform her music. Avoiding overstatement, DeMeyers songs get to the point, with a shortcut to the synapses, heading straight for the heart.
Following the release of the album, DeMeyer was thrown into a situation which she had never been in before, that of playing solo acoustic shows, opening for the likes of Dan Fogelberg and Hall & Oats, among others, before sell-out crowds. According to Brigitte, playing solo made her a stronger singer and guitarist. "The challenge of playing as a solo artist, alone with the guitar, as a troubadour, has been the main thing that has helped me develop as a performer. People can really hear my voice, and instrumentally, you have to rise to the occasion." And rise to the occasion she did. Among the other shows she played, was an opening slot for Marc Cohn, with none other than her hero, Bonnie Raitt in attendance, unbeknownst to DeMeyer. "Afterwards, Bonnie came backstage and I had the opportunity to meet her. It happened that Id performed John Prines "Angel From Montgomery" that night, which to me, she had made famous. The amazing thing for me was that shed been a mentor of mine ever since I could remember and I finally got to meet her. It was a great way to start 2002. "
In the later part of 2001, when DeMeyer was plotting "Nothing Come Free", which would be her sophomore album, she decided to expand her musical horizons and search for a rhythm section that would solidify her swampy, Southern yearnings. "I wanted to broaden my scope. On my first album, I wanted a representation of my voice, and some acoustic-based and Bluegrass influences. But on this new album, I wanted to create a more Southern, swampy, soul sound. I wanted to make an album that reflected how I felt musically." While attending an Emmy Lou Harris show in summer 2001, she was suitably blown away by Harriss drummer, Brady Blade. "In the planning stages of making the new album, I was talking to the engineer who was going to help produce the album. In discussing our ideas, I knew I wanted to emphasize my vocals, but wanted a strong rhythmic backbone. She said, "If you could think of anybody in the world, who would be your drummer?" I immediately said Brady Blade. When I saw him play with Emmylou, there was something special about him. He had a charisma and vibe about him Id never seen in a drummer before. People dont always notice drummers, but Brady knew how to be laid back, powerful and soulful all at the same time. Emmy Lou doesnt need any help, but Brady Blade knew how to hold it down."
The search for Blade began. "Lord help me, I searched high and low for him and finally tracked him down", DeMeyer says, "I called everybody I knew for leads. It took a few months, but I eventually tracked down his cell phone number, which was in Europe. I left a message for him, and three days later my cell phone rings and its Brady, calling from Sweden. We quickly seemed to connect, and after our first conversation he agreed to come record with me. I felt like I had known him for years. It was great". DeMeyer later learned that her new friend had toured not only with, Emmylou Harris, but Jewel and The Indigo Girls, and had also worked with Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller and many others. "When I learned that he had been playing in that kind of company, it was very cool that he wanted to play with me too. It was exciting, and felt like a good fit", states DeMeyer. Blade recommended Tony Hall, also of Spy Boy (Harriss backing band), and DeMeyer ended up getting him as well. They already had quite a personal and musical rapport, Hall with quite a resume of his own, having played with The Neville Brothers for years and also Harry Connick, Jr. "They provided a strong musical backbone and we became great friends along the way", states DeMeyer. Aside from this rhythm section combined with long-time guitarist Chris Rossbach, DeMeyer also added Tony Furtado to play some slide guitar on the album, featured particularly on a cover of Little Feats "Roll Em Easy". Stef Burns (guitar, from Huey Lewis & The News) and Mike Emerson (additional keyboards), rounded out the sessions. The biggest surprise guest on the new album is none other than Ivan Neville, of The Neville Brothers, featured on piano, Hammond organ, and an awesome vocal duet with DeMeyer on "By Yer Side". "We were thinking of putting some organ parts on the album," comments DeMeyer, and bassist, Tony Hall said, "You should get Ivan". Based on Halls recommendation, Ivan came out and sang, played some piano and organ. "We had limited time, but I wish I used him more, he was a total force of nature. And his voice is so fat, and soulful. It was such a pleasure to work with him. His whole musical vibe was down-home and soulful. I guess its a Southern thing".
A Southern thing is exactly what Nothing Come Free is, and despite how fast the players were put together, the group sounds as though theyve been together for years, rather than months. "When I gave the band my home demos of the songs," says DeMeyer, "the music kind of took on a life of its own when we got in the studio. The cool part of the recording process was that Brady and Tony interpreted the songs their own way and the vibe between Chris, Brady, Tony & I was incredible. I originally thought Id only get them on two or three tunes, but they seemed to like my songs and voice so much they asked to be on the whole album. They really seemed to care about the music".
From the low slung, Delta blues of "By Your Side", to the Creedence Clearwateresque bayou funk of title track "Nothing Comes For Free", this album is an evocative declaration of musical commitment and growth that is sure to stand out in 2003s musical landscape.