Every August, the town of Challis, Idaho plays host to thousands of visitors for the annual Braun Brothers Reunion Festival. A family-friendly event for the music enthusiast, the BBR brings both well-loved and up and coming artists together with their fans in a picturesque setting for three unforgettable days. This year, the BBR will be held from August 10th-12th and will feature fourteen plus artists, including esteemed singer-songwriter Jack Ingram who makes his BBR debut. As part of our continuing series showcasing the artists performing at this year's Reunion, Ingram graciously took some time to talk about playing the festival, musical friendships, and much more.
You’ve taken part in Reckless’s Softball Jam, but have you been out to the BBR before or will this be your first time?
I haven’t been to the BBR, but I have known Reckless, Micky, and Gary for many years. I love them, I love their family, and I love their music. Like a lot of musicians down here, they’re brothers in arms. I’ve wanted to play the Reunion for a long time, but I was either too busy, or they didn’t offer enough money for me to get up there (laughing), so I had to tell them to quit being cheap and I’ll come (laughing). Finally, it worked out this year, and I’m so glad it did because I really do feel close to them in a lot of different ways.
It’s funny, I can be acquaintances, and friends to a certain extent, with people that I don’t like musically, but when I know what someone is going for in the music world, well, that’s always a basis for a good friendship with me. I guess it’s like any job where if you know someone and they’re hacks and you know they don’t care and they’re just going for the most common denominator bs you can probably be friends with them, but you’re not going to give them your heart because you know they’re not going to treat it well, and they’re not going to give you theirs because they don’t give their heart to their work. When I meet people and love what they do, and more importantly how they do it, and I think they’re going about it for pure reasons then right there I think we have a chance to be really good friends and if I like them personally, the way I really love these guys, it immediately becomes a friendship like your best friendships where you can pick up where you were the last time you saw one another.
Those are some of the best kinds of friendships. Being that you all have the same careers, does seeing one another at a festival like this or Steamboat make it more special?
It’s about that, but more importantly, when I had hits and was being mister country star, it was great to have friends in the business that regardless of everything else, understood the what and why. The Reckless guys, if they didn’t like what I was doing, they’d say, ‘Oh man that sucks for Ingram that he had to do that because you know he hates it,’ instead of calling me a sellout. There’s a big difference there, and there are only a few other artists who understand fully what other people are doing.
I do love seeing them because we don’t see one another often. A lot of times people get together and say let’s not talk about the business, but no matter how hard you try, sometimes you don’t have anything else to talk about and with these guys we have other things to talk about; we really do understand each other and can let ourselves be our true selves because we really do care about one another. There’s this code with Willy and Cody, almost like a Mafia thing (laughing) where we’re lifers. When they say to me or I to them that a person is a lifer, we know this person is going to be around a long time, so it’s okay to invest in him or her, like Jamie Lin Wilson. No matter what degree of success she finds it doesn’t matter, she’s going be here. So those types of friendships, like what I have with Wade and Randy, Todd and Rodney, they’re cool. We don’t have to know all about each other; we just know.
That’s just wonderful, and I think what we all want no matter what we do in life.
You play on the second day of the festival, will you be playing solo or with the band?
I've been doing some solo acoustic runs lately, but I think I’m going to try and bring the band. When I see the that the Old 97’s, Reckless, and a bunch of really good bands are going to be there, then this competitive side, which is really the only competitive part of me, comes out. If I’m up there with a band and my friends are watching, I want to burn the house down. I get a little competitive when it comes to that; it’s like I don’t think I’m king of the world, but I’m going to prove to you I am. I can’t help it (laughing).
When you play acoustic versus with a band or smaller venues versus a festival, do you approach the set list differently?
Well, when I’m with a band I pick pretty differently than when I’m solo. When I’m solo, I’m able to take a lot more risks with new songs or songs I haven’t played very often because I’m leading my own parade and if I take a left instead of a right, who’s going to know but me? If I’m playing with a band and I take a left and they take a right then I’ve proven that I wasn’t king of the world anymore. With a band, there’s a certain amount of trust, communication, and knowledge needed so that the band gets in synch with one another. Once we’re in synch, we can do things that are unexpected and stretch out a bit more.
Since playing music is what you do, do you also like to catch other’s sets either at a festival or music venue?
Yeah, I love it. When I watch someone play, I separate myself as a fan from me as an artist, and I try only to be judgmental as a fan. I remember there were reasons, dumb ones, why I didn’t like bands growing up. They weren’t fair, they were just my reasons in the same way, say, I love the Oilers and hate the Steelers. I love football, and I love having villains and heroes, so musically I love it when I’m in love with a band and get to see them play and if I don’t dig them, well, I know why I don’t dig them and just don’t watch them. My opinion of them doesn’t matter; Luke Bryan will still sell ten million records, and that’s fine.
Speaking of records, we’re almost a year out from Midnight Motel. Why do you think that album, in particular, struck a nerve and was so well received?
Because I think for the first time in a long time, probably since the first couple records I’d done independently, the agenda, my goal, was a little purer. I think a few records were done with a specific target in mind and as a result, I learned that you couldn’t please everyone all the time - and I didn’t know that. Before, I was trying to hit a mark Kenny or Garth hit, and not that I couldn’t be those guys, but it’s very complex. Garth wanted to be successful, but it was a purer want out of him which is an inherent part of the art of being successful, and that’s why they’re so good at it and hit a large mass audience. Their bullseye was too big for my specific way, and by making my bullseye larger, the opposite happened and it turned into me trying to thread a needle through something which wasn’t truthful. Making other people happy and the kind of art I make don’t have to be in the same sentence, in fact, they probably shouldn’t be.
This time, I decided I would let go of that and make a record with a fan of 1 - and that’s me - and if anyone else loves it, then that's great, but if people ignore it or hate it, then I have to walk away not giving a shit. If I can’t like it, then I’ve done myself a disservice; I'm not being truthful and am making music for money’s sake. Of course, I have a family to feed, and there are economic things I need to consider, but I think this time around I’ve been successful by saying that the only way for me to get people to like the music, is for me to actually love it myself. Don’t try to sell what you wouldn’t buy. End of story. It’s easy to say, but really hard to do, and I think I finally got to that place where I want you to like my music, but if you don’t, it’s not going to change what I do one bit.
Is that something you came to realize through experience, age, or something else?
I only figured that out once I got everything I wanted and I still felt just as out of place and weird. Having a #1 record and awards was great for business – and I’m not taking away from that, I’m proud of what I did - but the hard lesson learned is: be careful what you I wish for because you just might get it. And if you’re going to want for something that hard you better know exactly what it is you want because when you hit the top of that mountain, you might not be afraid of falling, but you may be afraid of not finding other mountains to climb. Being a country star is boring. It’s a business and I didn’t get into this to be in a business, I got into this to be an artist.
It’s a trip, and it’ll mess with your head and that’s part of the reason why it took so long for me to put out a record. I felt like I finally got a date with the hottest chick in the world to the prom at the best high school and all we did was end up fighting all night...and I realized I didn’t really like her. (laughing). Your friends all think you’re crazy for saying that, and I was just as freaked out as they were by hearing myself say it. It’s amazing when you think about it and an interesting lesson learned.
That takes some reflection and introspection to realize.
So, for that album then, where were you writing from? From personal experience, others’ experience, observations, or a combination?
I’ve been writing for a long time, even before I could play music and it’s not that I’m so prolific, but I wish I could turn it off because it keeps me up at night. And it’s not like I have to do it, but I can’t stop thinking about things, analyzing, and trying to make sense of it all. So, I keep writing.
Songwriting to me is trying to take things that happened to me in my career, and put that into a song in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m whining or bragging. I want what I write to be the understandable truth - and that’s a f**king hard thing to do. Taking complex situations and complex questions and boiling them down into songs is hard and that’s what I write about whether it’s about someone else or something I saw while observing people in this world. I try to attach motivation for actions and consequences, which is really complex, but it’s my job to take something that’s hard to understand and make it extremely simple. I try to put something in a song that makes a little ‘a-ha moment’ - and that’s why music is magic to people because all the therapy in the world can’t help you understand something, but one listen to a song can.
I’m a big advocate of wanting the truth, and it’s not that I’m bringing it, I just want to see it and understand it and write about it. You can curse someone out, and that sounds like the truth, but it’s not the truth. The truth is you felt sad or ashamed, really baseline emotions, and having those feelings and understanding why...that’s the truth, and I’m the biggest fan of the truth and people who tell the truth.
For all of the information on the BBR from lodging to the full lineup, please visit the official website HERE
Tickets: BBR 3-Day Pass for ages 13 and up $124.30
BBR 2-Day Pass for ages 13 and up $86.30
Tickets purchased online will be picked up at will call at the venue and are non-refundable. One day passes will be sold at the front gate while supplies last. The BBR is held rain or shine.
Kids age 5 and under are free. Kids age 6-12 are $15 a day and can only be purchased at the front gate. Kids age 13 and up pay full adult price.
To stay up to date with Jack Ingram visit his official website
Find him on Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and Instagram
Purchase Midnight Motel HERE