Brayer Interview: Valley Daily Bulletin Sept. 2008

This is an interview that appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin newspaper

September 5, 2008 / Wes Woods, staff writer






1). Who is the most memorable artist you’ve worked with and why?

I’d have to say my friendship and collaborations with Michael Hedges (Windham Hill Records) have to be nearest to my heart.

We were in the process of working together on a recording of my songs in his studio in Mendocino California at the time of his untimely death in 1997.

2). How did you get into song writing?
In high school I had an infatuation with the Spanish poets, like Pablo Neruda, Garcia Lorca, and Marco Antonio Montez De Oca.

I also took a hard study to the bluegrass music of Bill Monroe, and The Stanley Brothers.
On a genetic level I think I might have gotten that from my West Virginian mother.

The beginnings of the making of my present sound would then ground itself in my attempts to ever combine those two elements.

3). How do you write a song for an artist like Alan Jackson or Alison Krauss?
I’ve never written a song specifically for any other voice besides my own personal narrator.  And this might parade as lyrical advise.  Any breaks that I’ve gotten that led to gold or platinum recordings have never been songs that I would have ever guessed that that particular artist would have felt kin to.  I always just see it as a way to make friends and share something that I hope is of use in the expansion of ideas.  The surprise element is the only part of the music business that I enjoy.  That and the mailbox.  My philosophy holds that every second people are busy not doing one of my songs. I then have to feel that, due to the law of averages, that they have to tire of that ill pattern sooner or later.

4). Why did you choose Claremont as a residence?
I will always be from Fontana.  I am merely a product of its creative bed of solitude, that and a lot of Hell’s Angel residue.  It was my wife’s idea to move to Claremont, and when I’m allowed to park my car in front of my own house and not get a ticket, I will be as proud as anyone to live here.  It is always nice to have a movie theatre, and a place you can buy sitar strings located just inches from your house.


5). What do you think of downloading?
I guess it’s like kids breaking into a candy store.  Sooner or later they’re going to get sick on the candy, consuming and hoarding more than they can ever eat.

It’s a relatively new phenomenon which ethics haven’t quite caught up to yet.

6). Do you ever get writers block and how do you get over it?
My answer is usually that it is much easier not to write than it is to write.  So, if you don’t have anything to say, just celebrate, crack a beer, take it easy.  For the time will come when the ideas do arise, and then you’ll have to get to work.  If it were a race you might have to worry, but it just isn’t.

7). What is the one thing you have learned working with so many artists in the industry?
I’ve learned to really be able to sense and celebrate the differences between people just as if they were tones.  It’s like the way a photographer learns how to see the light better from the camera.  Then the world of light is exposed to him, even when he sets the view finder aside.  If your art form doesn’t do that for you it’s not working.  The point of inspiration is in the doing, not before hand, and not in the royalty check.

8). Besides music, what are your other interests?
I feel that I have just one big interest, the human condition.  I collect motel ashtrays, Inland Empire memorabilia, and I love to walk our cattle dog Elsinore down the neighborhoods in the sunshine.  But if you listen to my songs, all that stuff is in there too.  So I guess that’s what I like most about whatever it is I do.  That I truly can’t tell my work life from my everyday life.  I’m not sure if it’s that I’m always working, or that I’m never working.  That might just be the Nirvana part of the show.

9). Where do you like to eat in Claremont and why?
I like to eat at my house, and I shop at Stater Brothers.
Honestly the only two places we ever go out to are, China Gate in Montclair, and Senor Baja for fish tacos in Pomona.
I guess I do stroll down to Walter’s once in a while for a whiskey sour.

photo: Mark Takeuchi

10). What do you tell aspiring singer/songwriters?
Hey, life is shorter than it is long.  You can sing or write for a million reasons.  It’s not really about suffering (sorry).
For myself personally, the world never made much sense to me, and hence I was terminally shy.  So, I created a way to re-arrange it by putting the characters in my songs and stories through situations in which they are allowed the realizations that I myself have been waiting for.  There’s usually a lot of darkness, but then they’ll see the whole beauty of the world in the simple hem of a dress. Which is to say, not by looking high into dreamland, but looking lower into the stunning reality of the self.

11).  In your opinion who are the most significant Claremont families that our area offers creatively to the outside world?

The Darrow family: Paul Darrow (painter), Nadine Darrow (painter), Chris Darrow (recording artist-photographer), Elizabeth Darrow (painter-singer), Eric Darrow (ceramics), Joanie Darrow Lindley (painter), Steven Darrow (musician-music archivist)

The Lindley Family
: David Lindley (recording artist), Rosanne Lindley (singer-songwriter), Joanie Lindley (painter)

The Barnes family: Dick Barnes (poet), Kiki Barnes (recording artist-luthier), Roofi Barnes (luthier), Harry Barnes (photographer)

The Chase-Harper family: Charles and Dorothy Chase (the Folk Music Center and Museum). Ellen Chase Verdries (singer-museum curator), Peter Harper (sculptor), Joel Harper (poet-musician), Ben Harper (recording artist)

12).  What are your ultimate aspirations?

with the gifts that I have been graced and burdened with I aspire to hopefully inspire individuals to have the courage to go into their own rooms and savor their sacred privacy, to sing, write, or say what it is that they really and genuinely feel, and to be aware of it coming out of themselves and consider for themselves, “from where?”.  Not for profit, not for fame, but just to exercise what it is inside them that connects them with everything else, as a simple celebration of consciousness.  These are the people that I admire and want to sing to, not necessarily because I think I’m worthy, or that I have some sage wisdom for them, but because they are the ones from which I learn the most.  Speaking for artists in general I feel that throughout our trip in the creative arts that we walk through doors after things, and that we cross over lines for what appears to us as wisdom, until we no longer find our way back in totality to the natural bliss of naiveté, which our art teaches us is the most base reason to live.  We’ve been cast from the Garden of Eden so to speak, and we offer up, through hard work and observation, through the glass, our own therapeutic compensation.

 I’ve grown to feel that we are all simply made up of the particles of what we in our lives are trying to compensate for, good bad or indifferent, all within our struggle for balance in the guise of survival.   It makes much more sense to me to envision playing for people that I admire beyond myself, than it does to, in my mind, to soak in the shallow adoration and insecure fawning of a set of audience members nailed into velvet seats.  To sing or speak from deep within your own privacy, not record it, but to just let it go, and not to even feel a pressure to remember it, but to try to feel and understand, in that instance, that it still goes out in its own way into the whole world, unpolluted but with full sincerity intact as pure freedom.  And in a base way this says to them that their presence on earth is honored, that they are perfect just the way they are, and that everything is ultimately going to be alright.