The music of Wade D. Brown recalls both the prewar blues sounds of Skip James and Charley Patton and the more modern voices of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. His recently released EP of rough-hewn blues and folk, The Basement Demos, is Brown's first recorded collection of music, though he has been writing songs for two years. We're excited to share an interview with Brown, along with his book and music recommendations.
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
I was raised in rural Kansas. I moved to Overland Park following graduating from Kansas State University in 2004. I met my wife in 2007 and moved to south Kansas City in Raymore where I live today with my wife, son, and dog. I earn money working with a local beekeeper in Peculiar.
Talk about the set of songs you’ve shared called “The Basement Demos.” How long have they been kicking around? What’s the story behind this particular collection of songs?
Well the Basement Demos have been around for about two months. I have been writing songs for about two years but this summer was my first attempt at performing them in front of people. In order to demonstrate my sound for purposes of getting gigs I recorded these songs to give the listener a taste of the types of music I write/perform. I referred to them as the Basement Demos because I recorded them in my basement.
You describe your music as “old time balladeer + space blues + a pinch of punk grass.” What are the roots of this style for you? Who are your influences?
Well I would say my biggest influences are the thought provoking, poetic singer songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Gene Clark, David Bromberg, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Lou Reed. I am also completely obsessed with the prewar blues era from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Bluesman like Skip James, Blind Willie McTell, Gus Cannon, Bukka White, Charlie Patton, Lightnin' Hopkins, Reverend Gary Davis. I also have immersed myself in bluegrass music the past couple of years. I love Bill Monroe!! I work a lot on flatpick guitar. Guys like Doc Watson, Clarence White and Norman Blake.
How do you record your music? What tools do you use?
The demos I recorded myself, which is probably really noticeable. I have no idea what I am doing when I record. Like I said I just wanted to get a couple of songs out to showcase my sound and direction. I thought about down the road investing in some quality sound equipment and get in to producing albums but as of right now I am researching professionals to help with the first album.
What inspires you about current Kansas City blues and folk music?
There is always someone to look up too. There is such a variety and depth of talent that it is almost unreal. I don’t make it into the city often but every time I do I meet someone that puts me back behind the pen and piano. The scene definitely motivates me to work harder.
Wade's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
On the Road by Jack Kerouac. This is the Bible for us that yearn for more than conformity and a bland general society. The fact that he lived on the road for seven years and road about it inspires me as a freedom hunter.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This is my favorite novel. The ultimate testament to the human will to survive. It is completely heartbreaking and I almost hate to read it, but in a good way. The best ending to a novel of all time.
Birches by Robert Frost. This poem takes me back to my youth. The way Frost depicts swinging on the branches of birch trees reminds me of my old weeping willow tree in my back yard as a kid. It was my great escape as a child. Today reading this poem revives my youth.
Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I feel I owe so much of my outlook and the way I go about life to the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Follow your own voice instead of conforming to societal expectations.
Essential Muir: A Selection of John Muir’s Best Writings by John Muir. I strive to live my life like John Muir. Utter enthusiasm for nature and completely in touch with his surroundings. An amazing man I challenge everyone to educate themselves on the works of Mr. Muir. The world would be a better place
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Well you probably notice a trend. I am a student of the Transcendentalists. What can I say?
The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan and The Band. I could recommend a thousands of pieces of music but I will recommend this because I believe it is music by definition. This album was never meant to be an album, given that it is unrehearsed, unscripted, incomplete, and just plain perfect. The themes make me laugh, cry and everything in between. It is just a group of guys having fun in a basement playing music with no rules, expectations or any kind of outside devices. That my friends in when real music is found.
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music This one is another nostalgic moment for me. I can remember watching this when I was a young kid and just being entranced with all of it. My wife says I am a reincarnated hippie and she might be right because every time I watch this I just feel like I was there and actually lived this film.