Interview – Brick Blair

Brick Blair is a talented musician and singer-songwriter with a flair for writing amazing country/folk songs – he recently released a song titled On The Zooms, which I loved. Find out more about Brick below!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a track titled On The Zooms, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about the album and where can it be purchased?**

I have an album and an EP finished, mastered and ready to release. The album is called Unreleased and is focused on songs that I wrote over the past 15 years and just could not get out of my head. The album is a full production that some have called, “Radiohead meets Sturgill Simpson.” The EP is called Widow & Orphan Control & is more stripped down. On the Zooms kind of fits in between them and was released as a single. Because of the way music is marketed and heard these days, I am not sure if I am ultimately going to release the songs as an album or an EP. I may continue to release them as singles, and when the final song is released, package them together.

Credits on the song:

Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, synths, drum programming, bass guitar, and vocals – Brick Blair

Lyrics and music – Brick Blair

Produced by Brick Blair and Robert Farren

Engineered by Robert Farren

Mastered by Dev Avidon at Ex Machina Soundworks in Brooklyn, NY.

I gather the track was written about the current pandemic. Can you tell us more about that? Has the pandemic hindered your work much?**

On the Zooms is a letter I wrote to someone I started dating at the beginning of the pandemic, and who I was with as it blossomed into a smothering malignant kudzu. I hoped the song would deepen our connection by showing that I saw and felt them – which it did. But, like many people and many things, our relationship did not survive COVID.

I’m not really sure what ‘pandemic art’ is, and whatever it is, I am not sure that I like it. This song explores themes that are timely but that are also a constant in the human experience.

I wrote a full essay about the song, which you may find interesting: https://br…eb06ca7bf7

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

I produced and recorded On the Zooms in my bedroom studio in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY, and then it was mixed by Robert Farren at RFL Studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Rob and I have been working together since 2016, with Rob co-producing and engineering all of my upcoming releases.

We were doing pre-production on my next project when the pandemic hit, making in-person recording and production impossible. So, On the Zooms was the first song that we created with me tracking all the parts in my studio and Rob mixing it in his.

When we started working together, I felt self conscious recording intricate parts under pressure in the studio. I use a lot of different instruments to compose, but only perform with guitar. But, in my studio, with unlimited time and takes, anything is possible.

Rob helped me build my project studio so that the sonic quality of what I tracked and produced there could slip right into his workflow. I already had a decent studio, but I got rid of some crap and added some analogue pieces. I learned so much from him through the process, and went deep into the recording rabbit hole.

I ended up building a self-contained, standing songwriting workstation that incorporates several vintage and modular synthesizers, half a dozen vintage amps, and several vintage and analogue outboard colour and effects pieces, which are all wired into a central patch bay that lets me connect anything to anything in seconds. This means I can truly use the studio as a songwriting and production tool.

So, three years later, when we were working on this song, I had the tools and the knowledge to track the parts well. Recording vocals was the last frontier for us, both because I lacked Rob’s amazing and expensive vocal chain, but also because of Rob’s vocal coaching, which had completely transformed everything about how I sing, how I feel about my voice and my goals as a vocalist. But I had been putting his coaching into practice on dozens of my own demos, and felt ready to try it on my own.

Do you plan to release any more singles at any point in the near future?

My next release will be a song called $2 Coat, and will be released on February 25th, 2022. It is the most naked and stripped down song I have recorded, just me and my acoustic guitar, recorded live in the studio. I hope you will write about it! 😊

Have you got any plans to release a full-length album or an EP anytime soon?

I think my answer to the first question probably answers this one too? If not, I am happy to provide more information. My current strategy is to release songs one at a time so I can try different things, slowly building a fanbase of people who really connect with my music, learning more about who my audience is. I have a couple of songs that I think have the broadest commercial appeal that I am building towards releasing once I understand who my fans are and what they like. At that point I will likely release a group of songs as an album or EP.

What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

My main influences used to be drugs and alcohol. Now they are wanting to be understood and loved. Also, for this song, I was consciously referencing the country and gospel that I grew up with, i.e., Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.

Right now I am listening to a lot of Snail Mail, Mitski, Soccer Mommy and FKA Twigs.

Whereabouts are you based and what is the music scene like in your part of the world?

I’ve been writing and performing since I was a teenager, starting out as a failed choir boy in a Christian fundamentalist sect in rural Alberta, Canada, continuing as a Christian rock bandleader playing to hungover bull riders at cowboy rodeo churches and kids at religious camps, and then ending up as a godless heathen singer songwriter in Brooklyn, NY since 2011.

Do you have any tour dates lined up?

I will be touring this summer yes, dates to come!

What can people expect from one of your shows and why should people come and see you perform live?

I do three kinds of shows. One is a with a full band, which tend to be louder, faster, and more dynamic. I have songs in my catalogue that are more indie rock, and we have fun with those. Then I do a show that is just me and my hollow-body electric guitar. Those are more intimate and provide time and space for a mix of soft and slow songs, some storytelling, and some covers (recently I have been playing Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston covers). Finally, I am in the middle of producing a live show that is more like a Broadway one-man show than a traditional concert, and involves performing, video and storytelling, incorporating the audience, tape recorders and other analogue things. It’s a high-wire act, but I think I can pull it off.

Any last words for the fans?

I would like to thank every single person who takes a moment out of their day to listen to my songs. Time is precious, the only thing we truly own, and I feel honoured that they would spend some time with me.