“I don’t try to stand out. I just do because I’m a little weird or unorthodox in the way I approach music.” Dean Brody is explaining why his music is not like most of the stuff you hear on country radio as his numbers seem to come from a very different place. The singer definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer and this independence is captured on the leadoff song and title track of his new EP “Black Sheep”, in which the lone wolf in the song “jumps the fence to find new lands”. It’s a moving and inspirational number brought home by the stately piano refrain in the final verse.
“It’s an autobiographical number for sure,” says Dean who is calling from Nashville, his home for the last two years. “I didn’t really want to send a strong message but I think a lot of people can relate to being in that position. It was a lot of fun to write and record and I thought was kind of out there on the fringes, but it turned out to be one of the ones that people loved the most on the entire EP.”
Dean wrote all of the songs on Black Sheep and, again, this may be a by-product of his individuality. Simply put, he just works better alone.
“I’ve done some co-writing and I realize I just don’t fit a mould and I’ll get frustrated at myself,” he explains. “I’m not a very good co-writer and I rarely contribute much when I co-write. I’m not sure why but I’ve struggled for years with that. But being able to write by myself is a lot of fun and I can be anywhere in the world. I don’t necessarily have to be in the songwriting hub of Tennessee and that gives me a lot of freedom. It also makes it a little more personal for me. When I write a song it’s coming from me and not someone else’s imagination, and I think that’s meant a lot to my fans over the years.”
Dean will be co-headlining the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Tour Alone” tour with Dallas Smith, and Chad Brownlee and Mackenzie Porter are also on the bill. The show promises to be quite the cross-country extravaganza, with the two singers performing their own sets as well as guesting on each other’s songs. In addition to prepping for the show, Dean is thinking about heading to a “vast and expansive” location such as Newfoundland or Iceland to shoot a video and capture the right mood for Black Sheep. Additionally, he’s written some new songs and will be heading into the studio next month to record a follow-up EP. He also found time to guest on his buddy Alan Doyle’s new single “We Don’t Want to Go Home”. (“I have huge respect for Alan, so when he asked me I said absolutely.”) Still, for Dean, the tour’s the thing.
“It’s exciting, man. I’ve watched Dallas grow as an artist for years and before that, I had a lot of respect for him when he was in the band Default. We’ve spent some time together here and in Canada over the years and he’s a good friend, so to be able to share a stage with him and to bring Chad and Mackenzie out, it’s awesome and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It actually kind of takes the pressure off because you give a bigger and better show when you’re sharing that mantle with a bunch of friends.”
Although Dean writes all of his material that doesn’t mean that there are no musical swings in his narratives. His current single “Whiskey In A Teacup” is about a hot little number he describes as “tea with a ninety proof twist”, while the girl “Moonlight Girl” is more of an old-fashioned romantic.
“To me, it’s the same girl,” Dean begins. “A lot of people have different sides to them. Some people can have a wild side and a romantic side. To me, it’s the same girl but it’s a different kind of evening. I love the mood of Moonlight Girl. It has a kind of ethereal feel underneath and it has a whimsical kind of vibe to it.”
“I think Whiskey In A Teacup is a southern expression because I’ve seen it a lot of times here in the south. Reese Witherspoon just had a book, I think it’s a cookbook, with that title. I thought for sure a song with that phrase had been written but I did some research and didn’t come up with anything so I tried my best to write something. It turned out kind of exciting and different for me, and we’ve played it live a few times and it’s gone over really well.”
Another song with a twist is “Good Goodbye”, which was released as a single prior to the EP’s arrival. The song has a distinctly Mexican flavour complete with a mariachi horn section. It brings to mind Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”, although it’s more about heating things up with a couple of margaritas than getting burned in a relationship.
“We had some guys do the horns here in Nashville and it was fun because we’d never tried that before on my stuff,” Dean says. “Through the years I feel that Mexico has just become a part of our consciousness. It’s a happy place for most of us and to me, as soon as I hear trumpets, it makes me happy. We did the song on our acoustic tour and we didn’t have trumpets with us, but the guys went out and bought some cheap kazoos and taped them to their microphones. They worked out these three-part harmonies on the kazoo and people loved it, listening to them do the trumpets on kazoos.”
To date, Dean has racked up two Juno Awards and a staggering 17 Canadian Country Music Association Awards, and he’s about to add some platinum to this collection. (“My “Dirt” album has just been certified platinum and I appreciate my fans and Music Express readers supporting me over the years.”) Still, Dean maintains that he never set out to win awards and that his goal is to just keep making music that people can relate to. In that regard, he really hits his mark with the EP closer and second single “Dose Of Country”, a throwback to simpler times and a more traditional sound.
“I love country lyrics and I love the fiddle and steel guitar, so I wanted to bring that back,” he explains. “Being in Nashville and seeing the history of country music, I’m always reminded of the genre that we’re representing and where we come from. I understand there’s a need to evolve but I miss the sounds that we used to have in country music. Even myself, some of my stuff is kind of out there but I think it’s important to always remember your roots and keep one foot planted in the dirt.”
In order to lo leave you with a teaser, Open Spaces momentarily morphs into the National Enquirer and asks Dean about a three-second video on his Facebook page called “Dweebus Love”. He and a little lady look enchanted with each other and more than a little smitten.
“I’m very much in love right now,” Dean says sheepishly. “I got some big news coming up. Her name is Andrea and I love her so much. Yeah, the big news is coming down in the next few weeks.”
Other Roots Stuff:
Sudbury native Andrew Hyatt is back with a new EP called “ABEL”, a companion piece to his previous release “CAIN”. Diving deep into Hyatt’s strengths as a songwriter, ABEL delivers an intimate collection of songs that are stripped down and emotionally raw. “It’s a collective of songs written from real places,” says Hyatt. “It wasn’t intended to ever be released, it wasn’t ever intended for anybody other than me. But then, as I started to listen to them, and just play them, I realized that the honest songs that come from the dark places, from the broken places, from song writing that’s just for me, those are the songs that I want people to hear, people to connect with.”
B.C. country singers Danielle Marie and Jordan Pritchett have joined forces to form a new duo called Cross Parallel. Their first single, “You Could Be The One”, may be a case of art imitating life as the banjo-driven ditty tells the story of a couple of free spirits finding each other.
On the blues-front, British Columbia’s husky-voiced award-winning bluesman Harpdog Brown has just released a brand new album called “For Love & Money”. The triple Maple Blues Award winner takes Chicago blues down to New Orleans for a unique and vibrant sound, tinted with shades of Louis Jordan, Sonny Boy Williamson, Louis Armstrong, and the greats of Chess and Sun Records. The album is a striking showcase of Brown’s talent and versatility as a singer and harmonica player throughout the 13 tracks. A mix of originals and well-crafted covers, Brown takes the listener on an aural road trip through his interpretations of the historical sounds of classic American blues and jazz, with a vintage sound, new classics, modern material, and a killer new band.
Open Spaces is bad, it’s multi-nationwide, and in keeping with that credo the page recently travelled to Hawaii to check out legendary roots guitarist/vocalist Henry Kopano. Henry holds high court every Sunday afternoon at Duke’s at the Waikiki Outrigger and his fans turn out in droves to support him. His band’s twin percussion attack fondly recalls Santana, but Henry’s sound is a completely unique blend of blues, reggae and rock. His recently released album “Welcome 2 My Paradise” is his 20th, and it contains 10 new original songs. One of his previous original tunes, “Duke’s On Sunday”, was recorded by his pal Jimmy Buffett. Their music has a similar sunny vibe so with barbecue season now in gear, Canadian Parrotheads may want to think about adding some Henry Kapono to the Margarita mix on their patio playlists.
by Roman Mitz for Open Spaces