Held in Challis, Idaho, the Braun Brothers Reunion is three days of music featuring respected artists from the Texas, Americana and Red Dirt scenes. This year, the BBR will be held from August 11-13th and will feature sixteen plus artists, including esteemed singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, who was named No Depression's Artist of the Decade in 1998. In our continuing series featuring some of the artists at this year's BBR, Mr. Escovedo very graciously agreed to talk about the festival, his new record and more.
This will be your first time playing at the BBR. What made you want to be a part of it?
I’ve played in Idaho quite a bit, but this will be my first time at the festival. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it and how beautiful the location is. Plus, I'm always happy to see those guys [the Brauns]; they're really nice people. I know they’ve done a few of my songs, and I feel like we’ve always had a connection. I'm looking forward to being a part of it.
Being that you’re playing on the first day, will you be staying the remainder of the time?
We’re hoping that we can spend some time there because we would like to go hiking and hang out, but I’m not sure. It would also be nice to be able to stay and listen to the other people playing. I live in Dallas now, and the community started to host music events at night. I went to see a great band, the Texas Gentleman, and they happened to learn a song of mine. I didn’t know they were going to ask me to play, and it was nice they did, but I declined in order to just listen, which is something I don’t often get the opportunity to do.
That's a sentiment I have heard often lately from artists I have spoken with.
You frequently speak of your musical influences, but you’ve influenced many artists as well. All of the Brauns, who as you mentioned cover your songs, really seem to respect you.
I love their story and how music is familial to them. I admire their perseverance and have a lot of respect for the fact that they worked outside the system to create and build their own thing, which is a wonderful way to approach music.
Has there been talk of any collaborations with them at the festival, or are those types of things spur of the moment?
They’re typically spur of the moment. They haven’t mentioned anything to me, but I would be very happy to accommodate whatever they’d like to do.
Switching gears, I wanted to ask you about a wonderful album that was released earlier this year, Jeremy Nail’s My Mountain, which you produced. What made you want to work with Jeremy?
I am asked to produce fairly often, and I don’t always do it because it’s a lot of work; you invest a lot of time into someone’s record just as if you’re making your own. I am attracted to the role of producer when I really feel the songs and the material and feel that the artist is somehow channeling something that’s very different from anyone else. I’ve been very happy with the projects I have chosen, but Jeremy’s has been the most rewarding for me personally, and I think that’s because he is such a great songwriter. He has a way of articulating things – vocally and in his demeanor - in a way that is very beautiful. He has so gallantly risen to meet his challenges, and I think it’s very admirable.
I have a lot of respect for Jeremy, not just as an artist, but as a man and a human being. He is someone who faced difficult situations and has made them seem so beautiful. [In 2012 Nail was diagnosed with Sarcoma which required the amputation of his left leg. He is now in remission] You know, it’s often harder to fight battles than to give into it. It’s hard to explain, but when you’re in a situation like that, it can be very seductive to just give into the disease. So given the extremity of his situation, I think it’s amazing that he came out of it the way he did. Even though our situations were different [Escovedo fell critically ill in 2003 from Hepatitis C], I could understand what he was going through facing life and death situations. He and I share a lot of life’s aches and pains and have a strong connection.
He did persevere and chose a positive path, and that really comes across on the record, which is very emotional and uplifting.
Do you enjoy being on the production side of things when making an album?
I like it, and I like it more and more as I get older. I think I have more to offer as a producer - not only can I help arrange a song and an album, I can offer people advice as to how to approach their performance or move ahead in their career in a way that’s best for them, which I think is really important. I think about all of the producers I have worked with, and obviously, it all starts musically, but they’ve all given me advice on how to keep bands together and how to approach and arrange songs among other things. By sharing their stories with me, whether it was stories about the Velvet Underground, stories about Bowie from Tony Visconti or stories about Muscle Shoals from Jim Dickinson, they taught me so much. All of that historical stuff is really important for a young artist, and I think that the ones I work with value that as much as anything.
You’re finishing up work on your new record, Burn Something Beautiful. Will that be released sometime this year?
We’re waiting for the final master, and as soon as we get that back, it should be ready to go on September 30th.
You know, we have been playing this record for a while but because of personal things that have been happening, it kept getting postponed. When we were finally able to make the record, it was the perfect time to do so and it was really exciting for me to see how it all evolved so naturally. This time, I wrote all of the songs with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, who co-produced the record. I also used a different band than I’ve played with in the past and we recorded it in a different location, Portland, Oregon - all of which gave the record a really different vibe.
The title itself is very expressive. Is there any significance to it?
The title is from a track on the vinyl version of the album. It’s a line that Peter came up with, “Burn something beautiful, surrender to the dark there’re no more trees growing in people’s parks.” That line just felt like it represented a lot of things happening in the world today and I felt it was really significant. Sometimes phrases or rhymes attract you not so much because you understand them, but because there’s a lot of mystery involved in them and I think this is one of those titles that can mean many things. The whole idea is for the listener to interpret it as they want.
In your career, you have had the opportunity to do many different things. Is there anything yet you want to do?
Musically, I have loved everyone I have ever worked with. I would love to work with Los Lobos, which is something we’ve talked about, so hopefully that will happen in the future. I’d also love to work with John Cale and Brian Eno again.
Finally, is there an artist or two whom you can recommend people check out?
Outside of Jeremy who is really special, I think everyone should check out Rosie Flores. I recently met some people around Dallas who are in the scene, like The Fieros or Leon Bridges, but I think people knew about them before I did. The records I listen to are people like Kurt Vile, Chuck Prophet, and Peter Case - people like that are who I think others should check out.
Alejandro Escovedo will play the BBR August 11th
For more information visit his official website
Find him on Facebook and Twitter
For all of the information on the 2016 Braun Brothers Reunion, held August 11-13, including tickets, lodging, the full line-up and much more, visit the official website
Tickets are available as follows:
One Day Pass $50
Two Day Pass (Fri & Sat ONLY) $76.30
Three Day Pass $114.30
Kids age 5 and under get in FREE
Kids age 6-12 $15
Kids tickets are only available at gate, day of show.