Listening to Darrin Bradbury’s music you get a sense of an old soul in a young man’s body, well traversed and seasoned in life’s lessons with a sense of humor and wit not hampered by some of his struggles. Turns out this talented musician is just starting out on the road traveled by the great minstrels and story tellers of by gone era’s, so we’ve a lot to look forward to from Darrin’s creativity. His recently released compilation of 25 songs he’s done since ’06 is a great starting point to get a feel for his potential as an up and coming troubadour. click play and listen while you read more below.
I had a chance to chat with Darrin recently about what the future holds.
Popa: I guess first off let’s talk about your latest move, as a New Jersey native with our thriving music scene here in North Jersey and New York, what lead to your decision to relocate to Nashville?
Darrin: My relocation to Nashville was more of a slow migration versus a clean cut move. I left New Jersey about a year and a half ago. I spent some time working as a cook on a commune in Virginia. After that was done I spent some time living out of my car haphazardly touring the south and midwest with two other NY/NJ natives (Mike Fabano/Matt Benjamin). We sorta trotted around making stops in college towns finding folks to play for in various dorm rooms, living rooms, bon-fires etc...We were surprisingly successful. We'd roll into a town, find our way to what looked like an interesting crowd, and play for tips, beer and a place to sleep. We traveled around in a Ford Focus, three dudes, it was a tight fit. I think in total we spent 40 days and 40 nights on the road. We didn't stay in a single hotel. Nor a single night sleeping in the car.
After draining most of my resources bumming around the country I settled into Charlottesville VA cause I knew some folks there. In the back of my mind I knew Nashville was where I wanted to be, but I must admit the idea intimidated me. I found a couch to crash on and got a job as an Antique Furniture buyer (kinda like a less glorified version of the T.V shows). I started gigging around Charlottesville, met some really good folks, worked my way out of poverty, saved up and left. I think I spent 8 months there?
In September I left Charlottesville to further explore the country. I had been out west before but not since I was 19 by way of Amtrak. I wanted to see the northwest. Truthfully, I knew in the back of my mind I was procrastinating. I saw South Dakota, Montana, the northwest cities, drove down the 101 and spent some time in LA with an old friend of mine I hadn't seen in a long time whose mom had been in Ringling Bro's with my mom.
After about a month and a half of traveling I ended up in Austin, Texas. In the back of my head it had become either Austin or Nashville. I ended up choosing Nashville. Why? Because I realized I'd gone to every city I could think of in order to procrastinate what I knew all along.
As far as New Jersey goes, I love New Jersey, I miss New Jersey. There's no place in the world like it. I hope to be it's poet laureate someday. I just got to get some stuff done in Nashville.
Popa: Nashville has a great music history and is going through sort of a revival, how is it going down there? Are you getting shows, glad handing with the right people? What’s been the biggest surprise? Do you now have a few pearl button shirts in your wardrobe?
Darrin: Nashville is the most intimidating place in the world to claim to be a songwriter. Most of the writer's nights are 3 hours long. The bad is better than most, the middle will drop your jaw and the great is like nothing you've ever seen. There's a pulse coursing through Nashville. As a writer you can feel it. Everywhere you turn - the guy serving you pizza? He's a killer piano player. The girl at the coffee shop? She's the best fiddle player from her town in Oklahoma. You don't know it but you're standing next to a dude who wrote a hit for Miranda Lambert. It's manic. I've never felt more in the right place. Whether or not Nashville reciprocates that feeling is irrelevant. It's not about success. It's about community. It's about standing with your own kind. Because the city was built by your own kind. The kind who can't rest without writing. Nashville has taught me how to listen. It's wonderful. The only place that tops Nashville? New Jersey, cause of the bagels. Then again it's got your buddy Joe, he holds up pretty well against a good cinnamon raisin bagel. Also a common misconception is that it's all country, this is simply not true, it's got a lot of different shit going on.
Popa: Your collaboration on A Casual Conversation w/ Superman with Don Ryan and Nikki Sue was excellent, I’d imagine that was hectic with Don, is he ever serious? Nikki Sue, I confess I have a crush on, they are both musicians I really dig and are Couch By Couchwest alumni and this came out in March, why didn’t we see you at CXCW and are you planning on participating this year?
Darrin: Don Ryan, Nikki Sue and Nick Berry did me a real solid. I'd been working on this record in a converted barn in Lovingston Virginia at this really amazing venue/studio called Rapunzel's. Originally I'd intended it to be a 5 song E.P (Full Band) all of which was tracked but never finished. Don, Nikki, and Berry drove down one weekend to help me finish it. We spent a day doing some over dubs getting drunk and eating Thai food (Lovingston VA surprisingly has world renowned Thai food). We weren't able to finish all 5 tracks, so I figured I'd release what we had accomplished. That record is on the back burner, I'd really love to finish it.
Don was great, He's a little bashful when tracking blind. Furthermore, I'm pretty terrible at explaining what I want out of a player. The solution was to drink. He's really one of the best guitar players I've ever heard, which is an uncommon trait in most really good songwriters. At least the ones I've seen.
Nikki (who doesn't have a crush on her?). I still feel bad for making her suffer in the vocal booth for an hour and a half tracking the harmony. She was a real trooper. I love her voice and her songs are top notch.
What was also cool about that session was getting to know Nick Berry whose band Dots Will Echo is signed to Asthmatic Kitty. Since then, he and I have become partners in crime so to speak. We toured the south and midwest together for 11 days this summer. We'll be working on some recordings this winter together. That session was really the beginning of what became quite an obnoxious bro-mance between the two of us. All of the crazy sounds in Straight Street blues is Nick going ape shit on various instruments. The guy is nuts. You know? Nick had never played a mandolin before tracking the part on Superman.
I regret not doing CXCW. It was a weird time in my life. I was gravitating toward a more reclusive lifestyle up in the mountains...This year we'll make up for it. Only it'll have to be Car by Car West
Popa: Your recently released Demo’s is packed with songs, 25 in all and a good view of your growth as an artist; will any of those songs get full treatment on a new release?
Darrin: Thanks I really appreciate that. I put that collection together while I was out on the road this fall. I've been recording, releasing stuff and touring for 10 years. I think the earliest recording on that stretches back to 2006? Before Big Wilson I had been doing alright solo. I think I wanted to release stuff that brought me back in touch with myself before Big Wilson. There's a couple I'd really like to redo. Then again I'd love to redo every recording I've ever done...haha.
Popa: BWR is of my favorite Jersey bands and I was saddend youse went on indefinite hiatus, can we talk about your band Big Wilson River?
Darrin: I spent 5 years of my life working feverishly toward bringing Big Wilson River to its full potential. I think we averaged something like 125 shows a year for all five years. It had started as a completely acoustic house show band in the winter of 2008 (Our drummer used an accordion case as a bass pedal type stuff). After going electric in 2010 and changing the lineup a bit, Big Wilson River hit its's peak as New York City's number one emerging alt folk band according to "New York Deli" Magazine in 2011. Whatever the fuck that means. We toured as far north as Maine and as far west as Omaha. We did an Indie Go Go South By Showcase. We'd regularly headline Maxwell's and I think we nearly sold it out a few times. But basically we were a bunch of kids. Looking back on it, it really taught me a ton about how the business works. What's sustainable, What isn't. How far you can push with no resources. How to write to the strengths of the people you're playing with. It also taught me just how much one could drink and still do their job. It showed me the virtue of regularly changing my oil. It taught me a band can't live on blogs alone. Big Wilson is the horse I fell off from.
Popa: You recently put out a video Bagel In The Morning with Dylan Spader of The Rodrigos are there plans for a band or are you going the singer/songwriter route?
Darrin: Dylan is a great guy. He's actually the straw that broke the camels back on leaving Austin for Nashville. I was sitting at this Cafe in Austin when I got an email from Dylan (who I hadn't heard from in a while) telling me I ought to get my ass down to Nashville and make a record with him. Honestly, it doesn't take more than that for me to pack up and go. I'll go wherever the recording equipment is... Dylan and I tracked some before I came home for the holidays. Right now he's got more of a producing role. The Rodrigos are killer though. We got a lot of things cooking, and it'll be interesting to see what makes it to the surface.
Popa: What are some of your other musical influences? Obviously Woody and Dylan are apparent.
Darrin: John Prine, Townes Van Zant, David Dondero, Dar Williams, Jonny Fritz, Guy Clark, The Mountain Goats, Blaze Foley....To name a few....Kurt Vonnegut...Calvin and Hobbes...