If you haven’t had a chance to check out the patio area of MadLife Stage and Studios in Woodstock, Georgia you are missing out on a great spot to catch local artists throughout the week. The patio is covered so there is almost always a musician playing Tuesday through Sundays rain or shine. That is where I first ran into Brennan Burns.
My husband and I had gone to MadLife for an afternoon lunch to eat one of the best smoked turkey sandwiches I have ever ordered and we were pleasantly surprised to be entertained by a young man with a deep country voice that caught our attention. I later introduced myself to Brennan and learned that he is new to our area and moved to the Atlanta area from South Carolina. I was excited that Brennan agreed to be interviewed by Libro Musica and I can’t wait for our readers to be introduced to his music.
You can find Brennan playing most Sunday afternoons on the MadLife patio or find out where he is performing at other venues by checking out his Facebook page “Brennan Burns Music.”
Interview with Brennan Burns
At what age did you begin playing music? Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
The first time I picked up an instrument was probably before I can even remember and that was my grandpa’s fiddle, I remember going to his house or shows he had and seeing him saw that fiddle as good as any bluegrass fiddle player.I never learned how to play it but in elementary school I took violin lessons and I also played the baritone horn for a short time but never stuck with it.
Music has always been my passion I was always looking to find new music anywhere I could especially country, blues, and rock music. My dad listened to country music and my mom listened to classic rock. It was in eighth grade when my mom really pushed me towards playing the guitar because I really didn’t want to play it at first. I didn’t think it was cool.
I remember a bunch of my friends got Xbox’s for Christmas and I didn’t get one, I was bummed about it but then my birthday after I got a cheap used Epiphone Les Paul. The Les Paul was my go to in Guitar Hero but to me it might as well been the nicest guitar in the world.
My parents thought video games were a waste of time and they were right, for the rest of middle school and high school any free time I had I played that guitar, while most of my friends were playing video games. I took guitar lessons from Berklee School of Music graduates from beginner to advanced guitar. My teacher Miguel Perez who now tours with Danny Gokey, one of the top Christian music singers right now, really transformed my guitar playing.
Another musical teacher that didn’t necessarily teach me guitar but more about music itself was my Grandpa Bryan. He lived out in Missouri and was a life-long bluegrass fiddle player, but he learned not by formal training but purely on his own by ear. He would tell me “you just need to listen to the tune and you will hear where it is taking you”.
I didn’t know what that meant so I had to go back to my guitar teacher and ask him, he then taught me to hear music by ear not sight. I started singing in high school for multiple reasons but I never thought I would be a singer. I started taking vocal lessons last summer and they have really transformed my ability to sing not only better but properly.
When did you write your first song? What was it called and what was it about?
I wrote my first song my junior year of high school while I was taking a class on Bob Dylan. The class was for juniors and seniors only and it wasn’t a very serious class but we pretty much analyzed the beat generation and also studied Bob Dylan’s discography and songs analytically.
It was a spring semester class so the seniors graduated and there were four juniors left in the class for the last month of school. We were all musically inclined so our final project was to write and perform about five songs that were based off of the many personalities that Bob Dylan has been throughout his life.
I wrote this song called “The Wolf”, a more country folk song based off a previous assignment where we wrote a poem based off of Alan Ginsberg’s poem “Howl”. It was a very simple song and I didn’t plan to sing it but I did when we presented it for several classes in an auditorium. It was also the first time I had every sang in front of a crowd.
What were you like in high school? Would you go back and redo high school again if you could?
I had fun in high school, I played sports mostly baseball and football. My senior year I was captain of the football team but had no college football aspirations. I did a lot of different things. I made decent grades but I was not an educational genius by any means but I got into college. I also did a little bit of improv which helped my confidence on stage, a lot of people fear being on stage but it just takes time to get used to.
I believe that all things happen for a reason and the way my high school career went was the way it was supposed to be so I don’t think I would necessarily want to do it again but I have some great memories from those times.
Who are your musical influences?
I have quite a few musical influences from different types of genres but my main influence would have to be country and bluegrass music. People like Johnny Cash, Travis Tritt, Chris Stapleton, and The Zac Brown Band also bluegrass musicians like Doc Watson and Tony Rice. I’ve gone through many different types of music stages in my life including a lot of classic rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seger, and The Eagles. Dave Matthews is also a musical genius and I really enjoy learning his music.
When people hear your music, who do you hope it reminds them of?
When people hear my music I want people to know that it is me, I am not trying to sound like anyone but Brennan Burns, whether that’s vocally or on guitar. However music is about learning from other music, stealing it, and then turning it into your own.
When people listen to my music I hope they enjoy it and they want to listen to it, whether a country music fan or not. What I really hope is that listeners hear that it is organic music, created with real instruments played by musicians that have worked hard at there instrument to play it as best as they can. No crazy effects or computer generated sounds just real music.
What was the first album that you added to your personal music library?
My first CD I ever bought and remember listening to it front to back was the Lynyrd Skynyrd – Thyrty: 30th Anniversary Collection which was a two disc set that had songs from the first recordings all the way up to there songs after the plane crash when Ronnie Van Zant’s brother took over as the lead singer. The classics like “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Simple Man” were a few of my jams, one that really gets me every time I hear it is “All I Can Do is Write About it”.
What was your most recent addition to your personal music library?
My most recent additions to my music library that I am really liking a lot are songs by the artist Riley Green and Tyler Childers. Both have there own unique style of country music and are up and coming but are about to make a big name for themselves.
What was your first live music experience? Which venue and which artist(s)?
My first live music experience ever wasn’t exactly that exciting it was a Ray Boltz concert, he was a christian singer in the 90’s, in St. Louis, Missouri. I was about four years old and barely remember it but that was my first concert, I went with my Mom and my Aunt Marilyn.
My first rock concert experience I am pretty sure was when I was in fifth grade my mom took me to a Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band concert, it was a great show even for an older guy he still had an unbelievable voice. I got to sleep in because we got home late and when I told my teacher why I was late she was jealous I got to see Bob Seger and she hadn’t.
If you could cover one album in your music library which would it be?
I would probably have to say the album Traveler by Chris Stapleton, I don’t know that I would cover all the songs on it mainly because I don’t have that kind of skill but song for song that whole album is one of the best.
What artist(s) do you wish more people had in their music library?
Sturgill Simpson should be heard by everyone he is more of an underground country artist that you would never hear on today’s country radio but he is the real deal.
Where do you want your music career to go?
As far as a music career goes I really don’t have an end goal set, but as far as building a career out of music what I am mainly seeking is longevity and stability. I believe everyone is looking for that in any career area they are passionate about, but never words used to describe being a performer.
All I know is that I love to play music, I believe it is what I am meant to do, that the events in my life looking back have always led to me being a musician, and I would do it regardless if I got paid to do it or not. I always want to improve myself and push to take my career to new heights so I do not want to limit myself because I don’t know know where it will take me.
Music has already taken me to places I thought I would never go and has given me relationships with people I will cherish for a lifetime. If fame and fortune is what God has in store for me than so be it, but it is not why I play music, I always try to keep music at the forefront by performing it and respecting it to the best of my ability.
I heard a quote once I have no idea who it is from but they said “If you take care of the music, the music will take care of you”, I try to keep that in mind.
Any upcoming projects you want to tell us about?
This past February I started working on my first fully produced EP of original work, a collection of six songs that I really got to dive into in the studio and track seriously. I worked very closely with Francisco Vidal who oversaw the whole project and the producer for the EP, Ivan Duke. Every song is unique in its own, highlighting different aspects of my life whether that’s my family, playing music, or having a good time.
I also had the pleasure to work with several extremely talented and successful musicians, including members from Atlanta’s own Zac Brown Band. We spent a day with John Driskel Hopkins (bassist for Zac Brown Band) at his studio “Brighter Shades Studio” where we recorded the song I wrote for my Grandpa “Grandpa’s Fiddle” which he sings on as well.
Another highlight was going to Daniel De Los Reyes’ (percussion player for Zac Brown Band, previously toured with Earth, Wind, and Fire and The Eagles to name a few) house to record a percussion track for another one of my songs.
Being able to work alongside musicians of that caliber was truly an honor to work and learn from them, a very humbling experience. I could go on all day about my EP, the first single “Whiskey Road” should be out by early August 2018 and I am really excited about it I hope my listeners enjoy it too.”