Hey Bree, can you introduce yourself to The Music Fix readers?
I’m a Nashville based singer-songwriter-guitarist originally from Harrisburg, Oregon. I was raised in a religious cult that was led by my father. He threw me out on the street when I was seventeen. I wandered from place to place, at one point homeless, until I met my drummer David J Castello on my 21st birthday in Palm Springs, California in 2010. We decided to form a band and moved to Nashville in 2011 where we met our upright bassist Mayrk McNeely. We’ve been performing and recording together ever since.
How did things get started for you?
This band started the night I met David in Palm Springs on July 22, 2010. I’d just enrolled at the Art Institute of San Bernardino to study to become an audio engineer. I was in the midst of telling David my ideas about producing music when he suddenly stopped me and said, “I think you’re making a mistake. You’re going to be on the wrong side of the microphone.”
I was shocked he’d said that, but deep down inside I knew he was right. No one had ever told me that before and I really needed to hear it.
Tell us about your upcoming album.
It’s called New Skin and has ten songs I’ve written. It’s a deeply personal album and it took me a while before I was ready to reveal many of the things I wrote about myself. New Skin was recorded by Justin Cortelyou (Bob Ezrin’s engineer) at Ronnie’s Place in Nashville (Roy Orbison’s old studio). In the studio it’s just me, Mayrk and David. The album was recorded live in the studio and Justin is brilliant at capturing the raw energy.
How do you approach songwriting?
I can’t really just sit down and write a song. It’s more of an emotional purge that I need to get out. Because of my father’s cult, I’ve been through many dark things and I admit I have many dark issues. Writing helps me keep my sanity.
How do you express your past experiences in your music?
One has to be completely honest. Warts and all. There is no other way.
What’s the attraction of making music in Nashville?
Once you live here it makes perfect sense that Nashville is called Music City. There are so many great musicians and writers performing in so many great venues. If it wasn’t for Nashville, I never would’ve considered an upright bassist or met our producer.
Do you get involved in any of the songwriter rounds that Nashville’s so famous for?
I’d love to, but it’s a struggle for me to co-write and that is ultimately what Nashville’s songwriter rounds are all about. My songs are deeply personal, terribly honest and tend to come out in a purge of raw emotion. My mother died from swallowing a needle when I was six because my father’s crazy cult doesn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. It crushed me and I was suicidal for years. She was my world and I still deal with it every day of my life. Why on earth would I let someone else into something so personal? It all seems so intrusive to me. I’ve watched professional Nashville songwriters co-write some very commercially successful songs and I’m truly happy for them, but the process seems so mechanical.
My songs are deeply personal, terribly honest and tend to come out in a purge of raw emotion.
What in particular are you looking forward to when you’re touring in the UK later this month?
I’ve been looking forward to it my whole life. Most of my guitar influences (Peter Townshend, Mick Ronson, Keith Richards, etc) are from the UK. A couple of years ago I took a DNA test and discovered I was mostly English. The first time I visited the UK was when I spent a week in London in September 2015 and it was the first time I’d felt “home” since my mother died. I can’t wait to go back and perform with my band. I love the people, the history and the culture.
Touring: a pain in the butt or good fun?
What do you love / hate most about touring?
Besides being in the recording studio, the stage is my happiest place on earth. It’s my most natural environment and I love meeting new people and visiting new places.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve played live?
A club in Meridian, Mississippi. Yes, the same town that was the setting for the movie Mississippi Burning. That incident was a long time ago and the people there today are really nice, but the club owner insisted we play all our songs as softly as possible. That’s like asking a racehorse to trot slowly across an endless meadow. We took it as a challenge (watching David barely tap his snare drum was hilarious), the audience loved us and the club owner kept buying us drinks, but it was all quite bizarre.
Social media is everywhere today; is it a blessing or curse for artists?
Mostly a blessing. To reach so many people so easily is never a bad thing for an artist.
We always like to check whether there’s a musical style you just don’t get?
I love all styles of music. Regardless of the style, I find there’s always something I can latch on to. However, dishonesty or formulaic songwriting in any style of music will turn me off in a flash.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
'Ex’s and Oh’s' by Elle King. Really impressed by her vocals and lyrical honesty.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
My favorite guitar. It’s the Gibson Flying V. I’ve loved that guitar since the first time I held one in my hands. Some people thing it’s because it looks great, but the real reason is because it feels great and I love the tone. In the States I play it through a Bogner amp, but in the UK I’ll being using an Orange.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Thanks so much for your time Bree. Good luck with the record.
Bree's new album, New Skin, is available on 6th June 2016. If you want to catch her live she's touring the UK soon: May 28th London, Camden Barfly; June 1st Wolverhampton Robin 2 (supporting Phoenix Rising); June 4th Birmingham Hare & Hounds (supporting The Parlotones); June 5th Brighton Concorde (supporting The Parlotones); June 6th Bristol, The Fleece (supporting The Parlotones); June 7th London, The Grand (supporting The Parlotones).