Held in Challis, Idaho in August, the Braun Brothers Reunion is three days of music featuring esteemed artists from the Texas, Americana, and Red Dirt music communities. This year, the BBR will be held from August 11-13th and will feature sixteen plus artists, including Reckless Kelly. In the final of our series highlighting some of the featured artists, Cody Braun talks about the festival including early memories, how it's grown and what makes it special.
Your parents [Muzzie and JoAnn Braun] have been hosting the BBR for almost forty years now. Do you recall any early moments?
We've been on stage doing something pretty much since we could stand. Willy always had a knack for it and liked being front and center, while I played fiddle and kind of hid behind my Dad for the first few years.
I remember Willy and me on stage in Stanley, in the early 80’s. Dad was running a bar that had a big open dance hall, which is where we had the two to three-day event. Willy and I got up and sang “Dreams” by the Everly Brothers with my dad and uncle’s band, The Syndicate. We sang at the reunions as kids, and in 1995 we played as the Prairie Mutts before doing it as Reckless Kelly.
How has it changed for you over the years?
Well, it really did start as a musical family reunion, so initially it was much smaller. We had maybe 500-1000 people in Stanley where we basically had a flatbed trailer set up with my family and their bands along with other vocal groups. So it started out very grassroots, and mostly just for fun, and changed so that it’s now a legitimate festival. We have twenty acts from all over the country and 3000 people a day for three days. As it's gotten bigger it's more of a business, but it’s still really fun and really holds that small town family feel.
It really does retain that feel, and it seems that the audience here, as opposed to some other festivals, really wants to hear the artists instead of it being a party and having the music in the background.
Yeah absolutely, that’s our goal. I think we throw this festival for the musicians as much as we do the fans. It’s an opportunity for them to come and play in front of a crowd that really does listen and get into it.
It’s pretty unique to find that at festivals anymore because they can get so big and are so focused on other things instead of the music; but we could do anything from acoustic singer-songwriter stuff to a full on rock and roll show and we’re going to have a great audience. And that I think has a lot to do with the kind of fans who follow this type of music. They have to try a lot harder to find the music that they like because it’s not played on the radio or force fed to them via all of the sources that are out there.
So how do you choose who plays every year?
Really my dad does the majority of it. He tries to find bands who he thinks are really great and that people would want to listen to. There are bands that we’ve tried to get for years and it just hasn’t worked out and there are others, like Hayes [Carll], where it finally works out and we try to get him back when we can. Then there’s people like Cody Canada who told my dad, “You might as well put me on the bill cause we’re coming.” (laughing). Those guys are so great - we’ve been playing music together for almost twenty years now and they’re definitely part of the family. Turnpike Troubadours too, those guys are killing it right now and could be playing much bigger festivals, but they keep returning because they like the crowd. They come up Wednesday and stay til Sunday and hang out. That’s the other thing about these Americana bands - we all work so hard and tour so much that when we get the opportunity to just get off the bus, hang out in a really cool place with our friends and experience what the land has to offer, it’s a really special thing. From the outside looking in it looks like we’re on vacation every day, but it’s not like that. The reality is we roll in an hour before the show, play, and roll out that night or the next morning, so a lot of times we really don’t get to hang out or see much of what’s around us. So we encourage our friends to stay and relax and more often than not most bands show up early or stay for a couple days after and enjoy Stanley, Challis and each other.
It’s a great time then for both the fans who attend and the artists.
One of the artists who is coming out for the first time this year is Alejandro Escovedo. Knowing how much you guys admire and respect him, his being at the BBR must be a highlight for you.
Absolutely. We are so excited to have him. He’s a guy we started watching when we first moved to Austin. He was playing the Continental Club once a week, so we had the opportunity to see him on a weekly basis and just by watching him we learned about dynamics and songwriting. He completely inspired us as someone who had a passion for being an artist who remained true to who he was - and that’s something that’s harder to find these days especially in the music business; so when you find those guys who have been out there, really doing it for right reasons and not for the money or fame, that’s the kind of stuff that really stuck with us. We have a ton of respect for him and are really excited to have him.
Reckless Kelly plays quite a few of his songs in your live shows, but have you ever played with him?
I don’t think we’ve ever really jammed together before. We’ve been at the same festivals, and have covered his songs for years, but I don’t think we’ve ever gotten on stage and played together. Hopefully, we get the chance to play a couple of songs with him, that’d be really fun.
Is there anyone else who may be on a short list to bring out?
We have a pretty long list of people we’d love to get out here. I would love to get Steve Earle, John Hiatt, and Emmylou Harris - those are total bucket list artists for us. A lot of things depend on scheduling, but if it would happen to work out that we could grab them while they’re on their way to somewhere else, we’d love that. You just throw the hook out there and hope one of these days it’ll work out. There are so many friends we’d love to have back too, but it’s really hard because we only have one stage and it’s only three days. It’s hard to cram more in than we already have, but I think eventually we’ll find ways to add a few more artists per day.
Speaking with your Dad, he mentioned he is ready to pass the reins to you guys. Are you ready to take it on?
We’re getting there. At first, we were like, “Oh we can do this” and then we realized how much we needed to start digging in. It's a lot to take in and was a bit overwhelming at first, but we're learning.
My mom and dad have done an incredible job for almost forty years. They literally do everything from hiring the security to ordering the porta potties to arranging the food booths and the beer guys to the sponsorships and advertising, which is pretty remarkable. They take on everything that anywhere else would require a huge production company to pull off - and they do it with just the two of them, friends, family, and volunteers.
Because the festival has grown has much over the last few years, the main thing for us is that we want to take some of the stuff off of their plate so they can enjoy it and not work quite so hard. It’s amazing how many people think they want to throw a festival, but there are very few who actually do it and do it well. I think my parents definitely have paved that road and set a pretty high bar for us to shoot for. It’s been so great to see it grow and to know that the people who come are really here for the music. It’s a unique experience that’s hard to find anywhere else in the country. Everybody obviously has their favorite festival, but I think for the Reunion, everybody always feels like it's theirs.
For more information on Reckless Kelly visit their official website
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Reckless close the BBR on Saturday, August 13th
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.