Hailing from Canada’s west coast, the Graham Brown Band will be heading to Red Deer this month as part of the group’s fall tour. The guys play The Hideout on Sept. 15, and will be showcasing tunes from their latest disc Hiwatt which was released last year.
Brown was born in Glasgow, Scotland and came to Canada with his family as a child.
“We first arrived in Winnipeg and then shortly after moved to Toronto. I was still too young for school but I do have very strong memories of the old house we lived in and the neighbourhood,” he recalls of those early days. The family resettled in Edmonton and later St. Albert. And a passion for music was born early on as well. With a musical family, listening to all kinds of genres as well as singing and playing instruments around the house was a given.
“We always had drum kits and amps downstairs in a room my parents put together for us. After dinner we’d go downstairs and start off with maybe some boogie-woogie stuff with dad, then he’d leave and my brother would start on the drums. We’d play some Hendrix or Black Sabbath stuff and rock out. All the kids of the neighbourhood would hang out at our place.”
Years earlier, Brown was struck by seeing the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. He counts that as a pivotal moment in his eventual choosing of music as his life’s work. Seeing the ‘Fab Four’ on the small screen also sparked a passion for playing guitar.
Although he did get serious about hockey through his youth, music was always beckoning. “It was always pulling and pulling,” he adds with a laugh.
As a kid, Brown would also sit on the steps and fake his way through Beatle songs to the pleasure of some neighbourhood kids, but something was missing. “I needed a drummer and a bass player but didn’t know any. About half way through Grade four a new kid came to our school by the name of Kim Upright, he played drums and we were almost set.
“By Grade seven we finally found ourselves a bass player by the name of Bob Drysdale who I met through playing hockey. We decided to call the band (Stone) and even had it on the bass drum just like the big guys do. It was a great time and I have very fond memories of the show, I also remember that I never felt nervous about getting up in front of people to sing and play guitar, it all seemed so natural to me.”
It was in 1984 that he formed his first professional band with two friends from St. Albert. He later moved out to Vancouver and it took about a year to put a band together and get a record out. Collaborations followed as he continued to hone his craft, and then it was time to venture out on his own.
His first solo disc was produced in 1998. In 2005, he released his third solo project Graham Brown – Stand Your Ground which was followed in 2008 by Do What You Should.
The aforementioned CD Hiwatt follows a bit of a different course from earlier outings, he says. “The new record has lots of screaming wawa guitars, pounding drums and bass, which, of course, are all beautifully dressed in well-written and emotionally moving rock and roll songs.”
There’s an unmistakable ‘live’ feel to the punchy tunes as well, as they were recorded ‘live off the floor’. Usually, a single track is complete in as little as two takes, he said. “Most of them are done on the first take.”
Songwriting is a gift that has always come naturally. “It all comes together. I have literally walked from my house down to the recording studio and written a song or two in my head. I’ll go over to my guitar and figure out what it was. I know what the drum parts are, I know what the harmony parts are, I know what the bass should be doing and I know the ending.”
These days, Brown relishes life on the west coast where the winters may be gray and rainy, but at least they’re mild compared to what he recalls of the Alberta cold. The beauty of the place provides its own unique inspiration as well.
Still, he does have a love for the prairies that was instilled during his boyhood days. Inspiration also flows from thinking of those formative times as well.
“I think it’s beautiful – I love the big skies and the wheat blowing in the wind. I think it’s majestic,” he said. “It takes me some place.”