Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Conversation with Cory Branan

Hello, Windfarm readers. My name is Derek and I'll be checking in from Austin from time to time with thoughts, reviews, and the occasional interview. I recently caught up with Cory Branan on living in Austin, his upcoming album, and recording his recently released split with Jon Snodgrass.

Windfarm: You recently moved to Austin...

Cory Branan: Yeah, about a year and a few months. I've only been in Austin for about a third of that. I've been touring and recording elsewhere. But, yeah I'm an Austinite now.

WF: What were the some of the reasons that made you make the move?

CB: Well, ever since Memphis I've always had to have a music town. I lived in Nashville, L.A., Brooklyn and none of them fit right. I did two years in Fayetteville, Arkansas because my girl was doing her school there. Every time I toured through Austin I just really dug Austin. It's a cool town. Also, my girlfriend's grad school is down here. So it worked out nice for both of us.

WF: Do you enjoy the music scene in Austin? Was it hard to get a foot down since there are so many bands?

CB: I don't really bother with it honestly. It's just like when I lived in New York or L.A. They're just a place to live and tour out of. I like living in Austin just as a town. Musically, they treat me alright. I get some good gigs at the Cactus and I play some more punk rock gigs here and there. It's good. When I first got here, they were like, "you gotta do that thing where you go over to Momo's and play every Thursday and work your way up". Man, I'm 34 years old so I'm not working my way up to nothing. I've been doing it for eight years. I'll just do a show in Austin every few months and treat it like any other town. I'm not trying to conquer Austin.

WF: How was this last tour, I hear it was a long one?

CB: Yeah, it was with Honorary Title and a band from Philly that's my new favorite band. They're called Good Old War. Just an amazing band made of harmonies and really good guys. I knew Jarrod from Honorary Title from a tour we did before and from when I was in Brooklyn. It was good and everyone was real cool.

WF: Were the crowds good for a diverse musical lineup like that?

CB: It was good. The shows were all ages so it's uh... I find with an acoustic guitar there's not any way for people to reject the aesthetic. The more that you add to it then the more someone can signify that "Oh, I don't like that sound or that thing." But, if it's just a guy and a guitar then you can only chafe at whether or not you like the song. There's really nothing distracting from the song. But, I'm distracting, haha... they can chafe at me. The shows went great. Since they were all ages people came up to me and said "I saw you when I was 16..." and now they can come see me at the dirtbag bars that I normally play.

WF: Tell us a little about the new album?

CB: We have to get it mastered. We're doing that pretty soon. I had Luther Dickinson from North Mississippi Allstars and Black Crowes play on one song, so I'm going to remix that so that he can be on there. I love him and he's amazing. He did a killer job. We're shopping it around trying to find the right home for it.

WF: Is the sound of the record a big departure from the two previous albums?

CB: Well, both of those records had songs that were almost a departure from the one before it. So, the new one is continuing on in a "I don't know what I'm doing and I'm going to do whatever I feel at any given moment kind of thing". There's some stripped down acoustic stuff and some crazy stuff. It was all in San Francisco at a place called Closer Studio with Tim Mooney engineering. He's the drummer and engineer for American Music Club. He was really great. I got a bunch of great musicians to play. My buddy John Murry got that set up for me out there. We even got Tom Waits' horn guy, Ralph Carney.

WF: Do you prefer performing live or working in the studio?

CB: Live definitely, but this studio process was good because it was on the fly. I met them and we were arranging while we were doing it. I like to do things fast. None of the songs on the other two records were more than two or three takes. This was fast too. We cut the whole thing, 13 or 14 tracks in four days and then we did overdubs and stuff.

WF: What are some of you current musical influences?

CB: Currently? I don't know a lot of modern stuff. I don't know what the hell's going on anymore. But, lately I just listen to a lot of older blues stuff: Reverend Gary Davis who I'm still freaking out about every time I hear his stuff. I've been listening to an old soul guy named Gary U.S. Bonds... he's great. But overall as influences I'd say John Prine, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Paul Simon. I've been wanting to get into Chuck Berry a lot. You know, as a songwriter. It's just those songs. They didn't come out of no where. He wrote those. All of those diminishing returns were from the brilliant songwriting.

WF: You just had the split with Jon Snodgrass come out...

CB: Yeah, they did that on Suburban Home. Virgil and all of those guys. I love those guys.

WF: Was that a real quick process? Were you just passing through Colorado?

CB: Well, I spent a little time up there because I was playing some Colorado shows with Jon. But, we just went in and said let's do this. I actually did one of the tracks when I got back here to Austin with Tim from Oh No! Oh My!. It was pretty fast... just us goofin'. I think it sounds really off the cuff because that's exactly what it was. I really enjoyed that. Plus, Jon's one my favorite people on the planet. He's good people.

WF: So, you're familiar with Thrift Store Cowboys...

CB: Speaking of good people.

WF: True. In your opinion what makes Tugboat's harmonies so sweet?

CB: Haha. I'm not sure. I think it's the years that he had with the boy's choir.