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Brad Byrd interview 

Brad Byrd
Submitted by Johan Wippsson on 2012-01-23
I've been a big fan of Brad Byrd ever since his fantatsic debut album "The Ever Changing Picture" that was released in 2005. Loves his mix of traditional singer/songwriter rock with a portion of pop that makes it both classic and fresh. He's back with a new album called " Mental Photograph" that is equally as good and we just had to do an interview to get an update! Enjoy….
Hey Brad, how are you?
- I'm hangin in there Johan, thank you for the opportunity and nice to hear from you again. It's been a while...!

Wow, your new album is out in"Mental Photograph". What a great record this is, you must be really proud of it?
- Thank you kindly for saying so, I am very proud of it.

It's a cool title, what's story behind the name of it?
- Thanks, well it's a "mental" snapshot or reflection if you will of the past 6 years of my life, and looking back on living out on the west coast and ultimately deciding to relocate back to Massachusetts where I grew up. It's like I went to sleep when I was 18, had this crazy dream that I went off to college lived in New York City and Los Angeles met all these interesting people and had these wild experiences. Then woke up again in my 30's back in New England saying, "wow, what was that all about?"  

How would you compare it to your debut album " The Ever Changing Picture"?
- I feel like the records are equally as different as they are similar. Different in the sense that I feel as though I've grown considerably as a songwriter and I really wanted to move towards a more organic acoustic sound on MP. TECP was my first "at bat" and I wasn't sure what my sound was yet. I guess in many ways I'm still looking for it but I feel like I'm getting a little closer. I'm trying to achieve the perfect blend of warm organic acoustic singer/songwriter meets contemporary modern/sonic rock. I guess that's my thing. I like to make records that have a range of both rockers and mellow cuts. I feel like I balanced that pretty well on this record. They are similar in the sense that I captured my story well and conveyed a message again that I feel like is true about what I went through in my life and what I saw happening around me. My writing is always very personal yet a big part of it is my everyday observations of the "human condition". I'm fascinated with our existence on earth, and the way we interact with each other.  

The album is really well written with no fillers at all. My favorite tracks are " Zero To The 101", " On My Way Down" and " Livewire". What's your ones Brad?
- Always a tough question for me to answer and yes I love those tracks as well but I'd have to say that "Mental Photograph" is my favorite because the lyrics really sum up the whole theme of the album for me. I think it's one of the strongest songs I've ever written and I'm very proud of it.

How many songs did you record for it and can we expect any b-sides to be released in the future?
- We demo'd (acoustic guitar/vocal) about 25 songs and then Steve and I ultimately decided to develop these 11. I have a lot of songs. So many that it was really difficult to choose. I wish I was able to fully produce/develop all my songs with instrumentation and THEN choose the best 10-12 but my budget allowed for only 11. Believe me, this is merely the tip of the ice berg for material. I'm hoping on my next record I can record more songs and choose from say 15 and do the "b- sides thang".

"The Ever Changing Picture" was released in 2005 so it was time ago. What have you done during this years?
- Same thing I've always done which is work hard and try and write, record and perform great songs. I managed to record a 4 song ep called "Release Me" as well as a 10 song (live in studio bootleg) called "Last Night In Manchester" that I never officially released. Compared to "The Ever Changing Picture" the recordings were not quite up to snuff and worthy of an official release. However, many friends and hardcore fans have these recordings and love them so maybe I should "officially" release them on iTunes? Maybe through my own label? In many ways they are released already because you can download the ep of my website for free and find the other recordings floating around out there. I guess you'll have to dig a bit to find them. Truthfully, like most musicians who have dedicated their lives to their craft, it is really about survival. I don't have a rich family member or trust fund or unlimited cash flow to "professionally record, mix, and master" songs quickly. For me recording has been a gradual process over time when the money allows for it. I've got bills and debts not to mention touring all on my own dime. It's amazing I was actually able to get this record finished. I can only hope to release the next one in under 6 years:). I think it's doable.

On the debut you worked with one of my favorite producers, Evan Frankfort. How did you meet him and was it work with him?
- I was introduced to Evan through mutual friends in Los Angeles and we hit it off right away. I was initially attracted to Evan's upbeat energy and positive attitude not to mention his resume! I was very green to the whole recording process when I first started recording with Evan and I learned so much from him. It was really hard to not be pinching myself throughout making that first record. I couldn't believe that finally after all those years I was witnessing a "real" record coming to life. Watching him work his magic with protools was just incredible. I've been writing songs since I was 21 years old, and to finally be in sunny Los Angeles making a professional record was, well, nothing short of the biggest thrill of my life up to that point. I'm eternally grateful for the experience I had with Evan, and of course, I would never had made the connection with you guys at!

On this new album you've worked with Steve Scully that me is a new name. Can you tell a bit about this guy.
- Steve Scully is one of Boston's best kept secrets. He is one of the best drummers in town however keeps a relatively low profile when it comes to producing records. Not to mention a super nice guy! Like Evan, they both have amazing personalities and are extremely patient and kind people. Those are two qualities I have to see in someone in order for me to "trust" them with my songs. It just so happens that when you have those personality characteristics you usually are a gifted musician as well. Steve works out of a small rehearsal space, (for now), and knows how to get great sounds with his gear and is equally as talented as both an engineer and mixer. Like all great producers he's also a great musician and has great ears. It's a win win working with him. Steve and I have been playing together since I moved back east and he understands my vision and the sound I'm trying to achieve. I've been very fortunate to have connected with him.

To me both producers have given the albums their own spirit, but sounds very Brad Byrd to me. How would you compare those two guys and their way of creating your albums?
- That is very cool of you to say. I really wanted to show people that TECP was not just an "Evan Frankfort" creation but that there was a real artist in that record with a real identity, talent, and something to say. I think the fact that I was able to make a record just as good as TECP in Massachusetts, far away from the bright lights of Hollywood, proved to a lot of people not to mention myself, that I am a viable artist. It's very easy to think in this modern day and age that it's more "the computer" making you sound good than it is actually "you" sounding good. I was finally able to put that fear and concern to bed when I made Mental Photograph. Perhaps it's all in my own head and no one thinks that at all but for me as an artist and musician I want people to take me seriously and believe in my abilities in the studio. It's hard when you're a singer/songwriter because it's usually just you and one other person (the producer) in the studio performing. That producer/engineer is often the only one that sees your real abilities. Even the other musicians don't know if you're the real deal sometimes because they come in and lay down their parts and never really see what the songwriter does. I really enjoy it and have a lot of fun in the studio performing and making "musical decisions". I feel like my studio work is one of my strongest talents as a musician. All in all I can't really compare them, I think both Evan and Steve were very conscious of trying to make me sound like me. If that makes any sense? In other words, they both spent a lot of time talking with me about my musical influences and listening to my catalog of songs to help me shape a sound that was my own thing. We really tried to stay away from "trite" sounds and constantly pushed ourselves to experiment with new miking techniques to hopefully attain "new" fresh sounds. Tough to do when everything "has all been done before". I have some "well known" musical friends and although they have been a huge influence on me I've been acutely aware of trying to sound different. The one thing I respect about both Evan and Steve is that they were totally aware of that and pushed me to find my own way, carve out my own "thing", or rather a certain sound. I think it's important to really know what a producer's sound is because that's what your songs are going to sound like when it's all said and done. You've got to know going in what you want, and I feel like I have a better understanding of that now. You can't know what you want your music to sound like until you actually make a record. Usually after 3 or 4 you settle upon what your sound is. I'm still on that journey. The thing is though, you truly never know what the song really wants until you lay down bass, guitars, drums, keyboards, etc. Every record and song is it's own unknown journey until it's finally mastered, and even after that it continues to morph and change forever. That was one of the concepts behind "The Ever Changing Picture" and I'm proud that I had that vision and "awareness" that early in my career. I've kind of come full circle with becoming a real musician and recording artist through working with both Evan and Steve. I'm very grateful to have met them both. Thanks to them I've grown and learned so much.  

You have chosen to move back to "Massachusetts" after some time on Los Angeles. What made you to go back?
- I came back to the east coast for a friend's wedding in New York City in May of 2005 and then decided to come up north to Massachusetts to visit my parents. TECP album was just released and I was playing a lot of shows at the time. I technically had no apartment lease back in LA so I was free to stay for a while. I ended up touring around the northeast for that summer and all of a sudden it was the fall and I realized that I enjoyed the change of scenery from LA. I found that there were more places to play and having a record out I felt the need to get out of LA and connect with people from my past. It's been a long strange transition. Basically I was offered a record deal from a small indie label who released TECP in the spring of 2005 (as you know). They wanted me to be playing more shows and with the northeast being this dense populated area with colleges, coffee shops, and venues all over the place it seemed like a new fresh start. The LA scene was incredibly fun and exciting but limiting. I felt like the main objective was to land a record deal and in order to do so you had to play once every couple months in order to try and fill a room with friends and industry people. It was an exhausting endeavor that seemed to get me far enough to actually get "signed". That in and of itself was a huge deal. To actually see my record in stores was a surreal. But could sense the ground shifting beneath my feet with the internet and everything being so DIY. I really just wanted to play my songs more and connect with "fans". I didn't want to play the same 7 or 8 songs for 35-40 minutes trying to impress the head of A&R at a major label anymore. They never came out to the shows anyway! I love to play my songs and back east I could play in a coffee shop for 3 hours to 10 people and feel more of an "artistic" connection then playing for a bunch of jaded friends and industry people who only cared once I got "signed" or started getting songs on tv. Anyway, I guess I just felt more free back in Massachusetts. Kind of an important feeling to feel "free", I think.

How would you compare the places? To me they feel like the opposite! I was in LA last summer and it was so cool and relaxed, but a bit unreal in some way. If you have a great job and plenty of money it must be great, but if not you have a lot of people to "compete" against.
-Yes, to further elaborate, LA was and is a surreal place to live. I miss it dearly in many ways. I don't regret my experience living out there at all. But there's a lot I don't miss. I agree, it's a tough place to live when you're struggling financially with so much competition and constantly seeing crazy successful people on billboards. I knew too many people that were just scraping by out there. It got depressing. Despite it's beauty it can be a brutally tough place. Personally, I felt like I needed to change things up a bit. Sure, if there was a thriving music business and labels were offering "real" deals then maybe, or unless, like you said, I had some solid financial backing. Back east I actually make a real living as a musician. In LA, it was more of a "waiting to get discovered" thing (mentality) going on. I realized it was more about the art for me than the fame. Granted It's been hard as hell back east so there's really no easy way out no matter where you live! I think people often make that mistake of thinking that if they only moved somewhere else where there was a "music scene" then it would all of a sudden "happen" for them. It's been my experience that it doesn't exactly work that way. You have to make great music in order to make it happen. It's been proven that you can do that anywhere now. I think it's very important as an artist to live in a place where you feel "free". Where you feel inspired. That place for me has been the small seaport town of Rockport, Massachusetts "conveniently" located on the island of Cape Ann about an hour north of Boston. But, yeah, if I could be bi-coastal I would be. I'm hoping to be able to do that soon.  

And you have started label in Elusive Tiger Records., really cool. How did you came up with that idea?
- Thanks, I'm glad you like it! I'm pretty excited about the label and the name. I kind of fancy myself as this "elusive" artist that has been in the game for a little while that some people know about but most do not. I feel like I have put out quality work and performed quality shows however the breaks have eluded me to date. I can't complain, I've had quite a bit of success with my music on film and tv shows but unfortunately that has gone over peoples heads as well. It might be the long hard road I'm taking here but I see other artists that I admire such as Aimee Mann, Ryan Adams, and Joseph Arthur all with their own labels and their finding a way to do it. Sure, they had a big push in the beginning but I still get inspired by the DIY model. There's just something so punk rock about doing it on your own. To me it's the only way to go. I'd be totally full of shit if I didn't think about getting signed every now and again but I just can't trust the system anymore. I could have waited longer and shopped the record around more but that could have taken forever. The record was done a year and a half before it was released. Ultimately I just said fuck it and set up my own label and distributed the record through Tunecore. I actually see my digital sales now! What a concept? I'm currently meeting with potential investors and "business people" that can help me put together a solid business plan to help get my music out there more. If I can get my own project off the ground more than maybe I will consider bringing on some new artists. There's certainly some talent out there that I have had the pleasure of working with and producing over the last few years. Perhaps if I can find a way through licensing and publishing to make Elusive Tiger profitable I'd consider "signing" other artists. It's certainly not out of the question. I think I'm heading in the right direction but for now I really need to get on some decent tours and expand my own projects awareness first.

So what is happening now, will you do some touring supporting "Mental Photograph"?
- That is the question of all questions. I'm really trying to find an agent or manager that can get me on the right shows. People are constantly telling me that's what I need to do. It's just so hard to land. My fan base is small but they are passionate and believe. I just need to get in front of some bigger audiences. I'm really hoping that will happen soon. I do really enjoy performing around the Northeastern U.S. though. I can go at my own speed and make my own way. It's usually just me in the car driving for 8 hours and oftentimes it's playing to a few people. Don't get me wrong some shows are great turnouts but most are not. Most acts probably would not admit that but it's the truth. Getting people out to shows is the hardest thing to do. Don't even let me tell you about the number of shows i've gotten lost trying to find the damn venue!;) It's been nuts at times. But yeah, it's like Tom Petty says.. "we're all just runnin down a dream, goin wherever it leads"... For me though, I'm getting a bit tired of running around in the same circles. (Sigh)...Patience...  

And I'm really curious if have any plans do another record? And I hope it won't take six years if so :)
- Well I certainly hope so. I've got way to many songs to give up the ship now. I actually just wrote a couple new ones this week that I'm really really excited about. I'm a lifer man, what can I say. It's a daunting task to realize that you're gonna see it through to the end. When there really never is an end. The songs will out live us both. But for me, this is a calling. I'd be lost without my songs. When I start to get off the beam I can listen to the songs and they help remind me of who I am and what I believe in. They keep me centered and in line. I promise I'll give you another record in 3 years or less!! 

That was it, thanks for your time Brad, any last words to the readers?
- Well thank you again for the interview and I wanted to thank everyone at for all their support over the years and continuing to believe in my work. I feel as though we are evolving towards better days. It takes a long long time but all good things do. We must be patient and continue to try and strive towards being kind to one another. It's our own resentments and ego's that will ultimately kill us. We can't let that happen. We must try and believe that love can and will save us from ourselves. It's my duty and calling to try and convey this message through my art. I hope you can take the time to listen to my music and hear that message.

I wish you all the best,

Brad Byrd