Newport Folk Festival Spotlight: An Interview with Brown Bird

Last week we were lucky enough to chat with the lovely MorganEve of the Rhode Island based band Brown Bird. Of course Brown Bird will be playing at this year’s Newport Folk Festival (and for those of you in attendance at the lineup announcement party you will certainly share in our excitement for seeing these guys again this weekend) and we talked to MorganEve about the festival itself and Brown Bird’s latest EP The Sound of Ghosts. Check out what she had to say below:


Maimed & Tamed: Being a Rhode Island based band how important is it that the festival features bands from around the state such as Deer Tick and Low Anthem in years past?

MorganEve: I think it’s a great move for Newport to get local RI bands involved with the festival. I think it sets Newport apart from other festivals and creates a sort of pride for Rhode Island. I’ve heard a lot of people say they go to Newport specifically to hear new bands that they wouldn’t normally hear about, which is pretty cool. Newport’s reputation also gives these local bands a pretty great boost, which works in everyone’s favor- the bands gain notoriety, the festival has a hand in their success, Rhode Island gets a place on the music scene map, and festival-goers who see these bands before they (hopefully) get bigger get to say that they were there “when”.

M&T: You have played some shows with The Devil Makes Three in the past, any chance of collaboration at Newport this year?


ME: We did indeed tour with The Devil Makes Three earlier this year, and it was great fun! We’re looking forward to hanging out with them for the weekend, but I’m not sure there will be any sort of musical collaboration. We’ll see…


M&T: We have read critics who compared Brown Bird to bands like O’Death and your voice in particular to June Carter, and obviously artists want to create unique music that they can call their own, but what artist (maybe someone you have been influenced by) wouldn’t you mind being compared to and why?


ME: Well, I certainly don’t mind being compared to June Carter! Being compared to other artists is tough though, even when it’s a flattering comparison. It seems like a lot of critics (and listeners) need to compare bands to something they already know to make sense of it. For example, we’re often compared to Iron and Wine and Bon Iver, and we’re certain it has more to do with Dave’s beard than our music. Likewise, I often get a Gillian Welch comparison, and while I’m flattered by it, I think it has more to do with us both being “folk” and having slightly deeper voices, than what our voices actually sound like. I realize I’m going on a bit of a rant here, but I wouldn’t mind comparisons to get a little more creative. I have no idea who I wouldn’t mind being compared to, other than the two I’ve already mentioned. We’ll have to wait until someone comes up with a good one!


M&T: We noticed you recorded The Sound of Ghosts at Machines with Magnets, could you describe the creative process that went into making this EP and the importance of recording close to home?

ME: We wrote all the songs on The Sound of Ghosts over the winter. Dave was working at a shipyard installing electrical systems in large aluminum boats, and was often working outside in the cold. You can hear the influence of that sort of atmosphere  in several of the songs. It was kind of a rough winter, dealing with the insane amount of snow and the duration of the colder months, but was sort of the perfect atmosphere for writing, too. When we went into the studio it was Spring, and we were excited to be getting all these songs onto tape. We were at first just going to release the full-length album, but decided to rush-release an EP because we were invited to play in Brazil in April (at their festival Virada Cultural)  and wanted to have something that represented how we sound now. We also ended up joining The Devil Makes Three directly after Brazil for nine dates on the West Coast, and so it worked out perfectly to have a new release to bring with us.

Anyway, we loved recording at Machines With Magnets. Seth and Keith are exactly the types of people you want to be in a studio with: laid back, professional, comfortable, and completely willing to make us do a take over and over and over again. Being close to home was a huge benefit, too, as it took away the stress of traveling and lugging our gear around.


M&T: When we interviewed Newport Producer Jay Sweet earlier this year he talked about the importance of booking artists who make timeless music, in that their music is both lyrically and sonically transcendent of place and time, do you feel like The Sound of Ghosts fits into this category?


ME: I hope so! That’d be a pretty great compliment. I don’t think we had that goal in mind when we were writing it, but we’ll definitely accept that assessment if it’s given to us.


M&T: What does playing at the Newport Folk Festival mean to you given the artists who have played and the performances that have taken place there in the last 50 plus years?


ME: When I was growing up, I was always looking at the scene that was created by people like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joni Mitchell, The Band, Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead, and I always loved how intertwined everyone was. It seemed like all these great musicians were all just good friends with one another, and this phenomena of a music scene just happened to build off of them. The original Newport Folk scene was a huge part of that, and the amount of history that happened at the festival is really something else. When I first started playing in touring bands, I thought there’d never be a musical community the way I imagine it was like in the 60s and 70s, but now here we are sharing a festival stage with not only well-known acts who we look up to, but with good friends and peers who are in our circuit, and who we’ll hopefully continue to play with in other venues. I guess you could say that Newport is continuing the trend of “making history”, and we’re thrilled to be part of it.
M&T: In a hypothetical world, you get to do a sold out world tour with two other artists/bands, who would they be?

ME: Oh man. The Black Keys and Secret Chiefs 3. That’d be a pretty funny bill but SO friggin awesome. (In case you aren’t familiar with Secret Chiefs 3, they are a band made up mostly of the members of Mr. Bungle, sans Mike Patton. Although if he were to choose to hop on this hypothetical tour, we certainly wouldn’t argue.)


Posted on by Eric in Newport Folk Festival Spotlight

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