Brandy Row is an artistic performer: singer, guitarist, lyricist, poet, composer and author that has been performing for around 15 years. Starting in The Seminals, then the London Guns and The Hateful, he cut his teeth on the London punk scene starting at 16. He then went on to form The Gaggers and The Troubadours. He now performs solo or with The Nightshades which are an amazing band, when he is playing in Germany. I was able to have a fantastic conversation with the prolific and constantly creating Brandy on a Saturday afternoon before he had a promo to do on SoHo radio. We found we had a tremendous amount in common to speak about and it was an absolute pleasure to speak to such an authentic, true to self and inspiring as well as inspirational artistic man. Read on and I hope you find the inspiration, truth and joy this artist projects as well as lives every day. Enjoy!
Erin: Hey! How are you?
Brandy: I’m really well. Nice to meet you.
Erin: Nice to meet you too!
Brandy: So where in France are you?
Erin: I live in Lyon, but originally I am from Los Angeles/Long Beach area. I emailed you a few minutes ago because Shaun Clark (The Crazy Squeeze, The Tenement Rats,) and his wife Jackie are friends of mine and upon doing my research on you I found Shaun had been in most of your bands including the Troubadours! It is such a crazy, small world!
Brandy: Yeah, we grew up together. He’s a really good guy. He’s just a really straight up guy, no bullshit. He’s just a straight up musician.
Erin: I agree-I miss him and his wife Jackie lot. So, let me get started with my questions so I don’t take up your whole afternoon. Obviously, I’ve done my research on you so I am not going to be talking about your past or the more punk stuff, because the music and art you’re creating today, this is just purely my opinion-are you familiar with Nikki Sudden?
Brandy: Yeah, I know who that it is.
Erin: And are you familiar with Rowland S. Howard?
Brandy: The Australian guy, yeah.
Erin: The stuff that Nikki Sudden was doing with this band that consisted of he and Dave Kusworth called the Jacobites and even some of Nikki’s solo stuff, I kind of get the same vibe, or that aching, soulful yearning deep in my chest that happens to me when I hear prophetic music or something that really hits me in my soul. That’s a compliment from me by the way-nothing negative at all!
Brandy: I don’t really listen to punk anymore, that’s sort of a long time ago, so my music, I guess translates, well, I don’t really listen to too much music anyway, it’s definitely not punk anymore, you know what I mean?
Erin: I read something where you mentioned you’re into Motown, but what are you listening to?
Brandy: I listen to a lot of folksy blues stuff. A lot of the sort of Delta stuff, a lot of the Chess records 60’s stuff…
Erin: Oh yeah! Some of my absolute faves!!!
Brandy: But it doesn’t mean I wanna do that music, you know? And I listen to a lot of folky stuff. I guess because I’m getting older, I’m just making music that’s a little more, not so punk ha-ha.
Erin: As we get older, it’s not that you necessarily lose that type of rebellion within you, but for me, I have a very strange, diverse music collection that ranges from Leonard Cohen to the Birthday Party and Nick Cave solo or with the Bad Seeds to Bob Dylan to the Stones and beyond.
Brandy: Them four bands you just said are my biggest influences. I’m being serious man, I really am.
Erin: (laughing) That’s so crazy-it’s so hard for me to meet people that understand my diversity in music!
Brandy: Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Bob Dylan. To me musically, they’ve had a big impact on my life.
Erin: So, when did your dream of becoming a musician begin or when did you realise that was the path you HAD to take?
Brandy: I was born into quite a poor family,
Erin: You’re from Harlow, right?
Brandy: Yeah, on a council estate and the only real thing in my house were old records, a lot of punk stuff and my mum and dad were both punks. My mom was more into the 60’s Beatnik movement, more of a mod, but my dad was a punk, but anyway, so we didn’t really have any money so all we had in the house were old vinyl’s. Even stuff from the 30’s like Woodie Guthrie and George Formby, so all I used to do was study these vinyl’s every day and it used to fascinate me and I’d find all these punk clothes and stuff and that’s what I wanted to do really. I would go to school when I was a kid and it was just a different world, I guess the conformist world of the “normality” which was going on around at that time in the early 90’s. And me, all I wanted to do was play music and just be a part of this weird, kind of thing that I had of all these kind of crazy people from these record sleeves, cause that’s the only thing I wanted to do. I had a bit of a turbulent upbringing, where a lot of kind of crazy stuff happened that I don’t really want to go into and the only thing that got me through that really, was the fact that I could be one of these musicians so that’s the only thing I wanted to do. So, from day 1 really, that’s all I wanted to do, yeah.
Erin: The cool thing about vinyl, I’ve been a huge collector even before it became big again, my dad was a higher up person who worked for a company called Pioneer which made electronics for musicians and audio equipment and they sponsored musical artists’ tours in the 80’s and 90’s, so he had been a huge music fan and follower and collector since he was a little kid so he had amassed this HUGE record collection-I’m talking THOUSANDS of records. And one of my first memories was flipping through all these records he had propped up against the furniture piece that held them all as he was organising them and the album covers became a whole other world for me. My fave thing to do as a child was look through dad’s records. As a little kid, even before you can read, you can see these pictures and artwork and inserts that are mesmerising and can completely change your outlook and alter your developing mind to have music become ingrained into your brain, your subconscious, your soul.
Brandy: You’re right. And it’s art isn’t it? It’s little pieces of art, you know?
Erin: Which kind of bums me out with the whole digital music revolution, I mean the accessibility is fantastic and artists are able to get music out to people throughout the world that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise, but you don’t have that same type of album art unless that musician or band puts out a single, an EP or an album with some type of album art, cause you just don’t get that anymore.
Brandy: You don’t have the ritual of having a record, sitting down, putting it on, taking it all in, sitting there listening to the whole thing getting so vibed on it and knowing every lyric on it and now it’s just pushed into the background. I will say digital stuff is better for the planet, man. (Laughs) It’s the organic version. It’s the modern world. We will probably look back in like 30 years and say “do you remember like the digital release days? They were great!” By then it will be something like a chip that’s implanted into your head and you don’t even realise it’s music.
Erin: You just have to think and it automatically plays from some airwave or something. I was gonna ask, but you’ve already told me a few of your major influences. I read that Bob Dylan to you is a modern day Shakespeare which I totally agree with and Alan Watts, the philosopher, but who else influences you?
Brandy: Alan Watts definitely, Bill Hicks, even Bruce Lee man, his philosophy and style. I’m inspired by a lot of things. I love all the blues stuff, you know the 30’s stuff, that I think, is really spiritual music, you know? Charlye Patton, Lead Belly, stuff like that, Robert Johnson. There are so many things that influence me. I mean, I don’t really listen to the Clash anymore. It’s funny, I had a dream last night that I was hanging out with Joe Strummer which is great, but I guess as a kid, the Clash just blew my mind with how much I could relate to them and Strummer’s integrity and passion. Even stuff when I was growing up that my mum used to listen to that I didn’t use to like. At that time I didn’t like to listen to Billy Bragg or the Jam or stuff like that but that is so embedded in my music because it was always there in the background. I get a lot of influence from comedians and stand up; I think they’re like prophets. Just how you can really instil so much truth into people through laughter. They’re like the real spokespeople of “the people” opposed to like a president or a prime minister, you know?
Erin: Because they are actually voicing the truth, meanings and thoughts OF “the people”.
Brandy: They’re modern day jesters. I mean, through the years, there’s Nick Cave who is unbelievable-he is one of my biggest influences and because I do a lot of writing as well, I’m writing two books, and people like Patti Smith, because all these people that are writers, cause that’s fundamentally what I am more than anything is a writer.
Erin: So what inspires you musically, poetically and lyrically, since you’re first and foremost a writer and I know you’ve got another book coming out soon, don’t you?
Brandy: I’ve got the original book soon to come out. I’ve just started a collaboration with a really great artist, so we had the book ready to go and I was just about to push the buttons to get it released and then I met a girl who is amazing and who I started collaborating with art and she started drawing these pictures, so I’ve just completely redone the whole book with all these pictures in it, so now I’m waiting for a month or two to get the pictures in there and then I’m gonna release it and that’s called “Unwritten Stories”. And there’s another book called “The Probable Self” which is a book about my experiences, but I’m also using that as a kind of foundation for a more philosophical book on how we choose different paths and how it’s really strange that we can go one way and this happens and that doesn’t happen because we’ve gone that way, you know just normal things that happen but just really looking into it in detail as it’s really just a crazy thing. I’ve been writing that for about 2 years. So that’s still a long way to go. But as far as inspiration generally, I don’t know, just being alive really.
Erin: Just day-to-day life experiences?
Brandy: Yeah, really and just, you know I get inspired by inspiring people. Like being able to inspire people and always giving content. I always put a lot of content up on social media and stuff like that and I never really put personal stuff because I just want to inspire people and get people to do stuff, you know what I mean? You can do anything you want.
Erin: That was something I was going to ask you about-I know you’ve had some tragedies in your life and do you use those feelings to project or propel them into music or literary art and how does that help you with all of the positive messages that you post continuously on social media? Which I’ve noticed you do, there’s nothing negative or shitty, or sad self-indulgence. It’s very uplifting, but not like that cheesy, false uplifting, it’s REAL positivity.
Brandy: It’s how I am in real life! I haven’t got time to be blue or down and stuff because things could always be a lot worse, you know what I mean? And I don’t want to sound too much like a crazy new age hippie, but if you ride the positivity and let that manifest even if you’re not positive, you will find yourself getting positive and it just escalates! Anyone can do anything they want.
Erin: You just have to channel that within yourself and you have to have the belief in the positivity but then sometimes when you have somebody that is able to help inspire you, which gives you the confidence within yourself to be like, “hey! You can do this!” So I commend you on living that way and sharing it with others because it’s really good to see an artistic person on social media that doesn’t have some sort of made up or contrived persona, that when you actually speak to or meet them, it’s total bullshit. For me anyway, it’s usually very disheartening and disappointing.
Brandy: Well the mystique of an artist in today’s modern world is lost. Like Prince and all these other cats that were quite mystical and you didn’t know much about them, but that’s kind of lost now with social media. So there’s a different approach-it’s very personal now with anyone that is an artist, with new coming artists.
Erin: Even established artists! My husband is the founder and singer for, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Slaughter and the Dogs?
Brandy: Yeah, yeah!
Erin: He’s on Facebook, but he actually makes the effort like, when he gets birthday reminders to send ‘Happy Birthdays’ to fans and I’m always trying to say “but wait! You’re killing that mystique!” He says no, because I was so into Bowie and T.Rex and Roxy Music and because they were never accessible to us fans when we were kids, I want to be more accessible to the fans. But I definitely agree with you that the true mystique is gone. How do you feel about that? Do you think it’s more of a positive or a negative?
Brandy: I’m neutral with it. I was just commenting on it that it’s just how it’s changed with social media so personal, it’s like a different breed, it’s a different kind of thing. I think if you’re an artist in this new day and age, there are a lot of different things that are changing. You know you can be a solo artist and I hate using the word, but be an entrepreneur if you want. And be an artist and do it all on your own and use these platforms on the internet, it’s quite exciting actually! I get quite excited by it because I’ve got so much going on, that I’m working on as a solo artist, that I don’t think anyone could do before so we’re in different times, we really are.
Erin: You can do videos and photography and writing and playing musically and producing, it’s true that nobody before would be able to do so many things. You were only really able to do ONE thing and try to connect with someone that could propel that into what you wanted it to be.
Brandy: In a way, it’s very punk, very DIY, back to basics, you know?
Erin: I absolutely, fucking LOVE ‘Martial Law’ (Brandy’s single).
Brandy: Aww, thanks.
Erin: But how do you feel you’ve progressed musically since, wasn’t’ your first single, ‘The Drifter’?
Brandy: My first single was ‘The Final Stand’. Have you seen the video to ‘Martial Law’?
Erin: No, not yet-I’ve only been listening to it on Spotify.
Brandy: I’ll send you the video-we are premiering it Friday the 23rd. (At 7:00pm here on The Punk Lounge!)
Erin: Hooray! I can’t wait because I love that track so much. So, how do you feel you’ve progressed from your very first single?
Brandy: Whoa, it’s like night and day really. I’m still using the same components of an acoustic guitar, but since then I’ve started recording in a great studio in Birmingham, I work with a great producer called Alastair Jamieson and I’ve recorded the last few records there. So I’m just doing a lot more stuff that I want to do which is a bit more musically open to other influences. Cause I think when I first recorded that record I was still heavily in a punk band, even though it was an acoustic record, I was still into a lot of punk stuff, so I don’t really listen to that anymore, I’m a more universally, worldly kind of person as far as music goes. I mean, I like anything really. Being able just to record what I want to do really, that is something that’s changed and not being, I guess before I was a little more close minded, now, for example, I was in Birmingham last night and I was recording something at 1:00 AM with a xylophone hahaha!
Erin: That’s fantastic! So you do have more access to different instruments now and you’re able to explore more.
Brandy: With the band, I guess it’s like in Birmingham I’ve got a really great, amazing group of musicians that are the house band up there, so I’ve got brass instruments and all that stuff. I use brass a lot. It’s changed a lot and the new stuff, I’m about to release a record called “Sweet Tranquillity” and I really like that record, but after that we’ve got something else in mind and we’re gonna change it up a little bit but I’m not gonna say too much.
Erin: So “Sweet Tranquillity”, is it a full length album?
Brandy: No, it’s another single and the one after that will be another EP.
Erin: Can we say when “Sweet Tranquillity” is coming out?
Brandy: The beginning of April. That will be “Sweet Tranquillity” and the B side is called “Sanctuary”.
Erin: Wow, you’ve got quite a bit going on the next couple of months.
Brandy: Yeah, then the book as well.
Erin: It’s amazing! It’s a very prolific time for you so take advantage of it! How does this upcoming video for “Martial Law” differ from your videos in the past because based on your social media posts, you seem extremely proud and excited of it.
Brandy: Well, the thing is, it was supposed to come out a year ago and then we boycotted it and not put it out because we went to get some effects on the video that looked like London was burning, but it was just too hard to do. I even spoke to a guy from Game of Thrones that I know, so that delayed everything and now we’ve just re-edited it and getting ready to get it out. It’s just really a great video! It’s simple, very noir film of London. And something I think is quite relevant actually to the times England is going through right now, it’s kind of social commentary I guess. The highest form from my angle. Which I don’t really get into the political side of stuff too much in my music, it’s always really social but I always think, well just for now, that could change-I could get super political soon and just really try and change things as that’s the great thing about being an artist is that you can! But being neutral and sort of swaying in between sides is quite good because you’re not sort of one or the other. It depends how it goes in England, then maybe I could start talking about things that really matter, like REALLY invest in it because I do care about it, but anyway, the video is a very neutral kind of look at a deserted, or more of a fragile London, before bad stuff could happen and I’m trying to get out of London and it’s just a beautifully shot video.
Erin: Are you trying to get out of London in reality? Or is this just in relation to the video?
Brandy: No, no.
Erin: I read something about you when you finally had gotten over to New York to play and you absolutely fell in love with it and could see yourself living there.
Brandy: Well, yeah I’ve done that everywhere, all over. I lived in Chicago for a little while, not too long, also Los Angeles, been there many times, been in New York many times, yeah I love America but there’s something about England and London I always come back to. And Berlin as well, I love Berlin; everywhere I go to I fall in love with it really!
Erin: Germany has such an alive and diverse music scene. I was over there at the beginning of last year for a little over a month. I’ve seen you’ve played at Wild at Heart and I think Uli and Lea (Ulrich and Lea Reisse, who own and run Wild at Heart in Berlin,) are such great people and the venues in Germany are so hospitable! Are you familiar with Freak Show in Essen?
Brandy: Yes, I know that place, I played there.
Erin: It’s run by a couple, Benny and Manuela Nordvall and Benny is actually from Sweden. When my husband’s band played there, I walked in first to see where to set up merch and how the guys were going to get the gear in and Manuela was there in the kitchen COOKING US A HOMEMADE MEAL. I couldn’t believe the hospitality and respect and love we were treated with. I think I ate better in Germany than I’ve ever eaten anywhere else!
Brandy: I think Germany is one of the greatest places in the world if you’re an artist; I’ve been playing there nearly 15 years, with my first band with Shaun (Clark) we used to go there a lot, especially in the last 8 years I’ve been going there a lot. Germany is really happening for me, man. I’m going back there in March. I don’t know if you’re aware I have a band out there as well?
Erin: Yes! The Nightshades, right?
Brandy: The Nightshades, yeah, that’s like a big 8 piece band with cello, organ, brass and stuff like that. They basically play all of my big band songs I’ve recorded in the past. We’re also going to be doing brand new stuff as well and we are going to make that into a separate entity really. So that’s really fun and I’ve known them for years and they’re a great band and they’re really into what I do and we’ve got a lot of tours coming up this year, so that’s going to be really good. That’s a little more of the punky thing which I’m still glad I’m a part of. Because when I’m on my own it’s not very punk at all. They’ve got that sort of grind still and with my kind of 60’s vibe on top, it really kind of works, you know?
Erin: Do you feel more vulnerable on a stage playing just on your own with no band?
Brandy: I absolutely love it, man, being up there on my own. Because I’m not just up there with a guitar anymore, I’ve got like a stomp box, which is a bass drum and all these different (guitar) pedals as well, like big reverbs and other things going on. And I play harmonica as well, so it’s not just me and an acoustic anymore. It’s like a one-man Nick Cave band or something like that. I really like challenges. That’s a thing I’m really into. For me, I really enjoy it. And it’s quite easy to get into a meditative state being on your own as well.
Erin: Yes! Because it becomes very transcendental I would think.
Erin: You get into your groove and you’re taking the energy from the audience and the audience is giving their energy back to you.
Brandy: That’s a great point you just hit on. Because my solo shows are very dependent on the audience. If I’m not getting any reaction, even if people are shouting bad shit at me, I don’t care, just give me something man! If I’m not getting anything from people and I REALLY try to get things from people and if I don’t, it can be really hard. I played a GREAT show in Kiel and from the word “GO” it was like everyone was right up front and saying shit to me and it was so good and we were just laughing about the stuff and we got through the whole set and it was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever played! It was because people were getting so involved and asking me questions about what that meant and what that song is and saying stupid shit to me, saying I smelled ha-ha.
Erin: But it’s something that’s ENGAGING you with your audience and the energy, whether it’s humorous or mean or whatever-you’re getting something that you can respond back to.
Brandy: EXACTLY! It’s like stand-up comedy. One of the only art forms that as you’re delivering your art, you judge what the audience is doing. If you say a joke and you’re not getting a good response, you can quickly change that and do something else. But you can’t as a musician. But that’s the closest thing when you’re on your own, to get that kind of response from somebody.
Erin: Like we’ve talked about, you’ve got the tour dates coming up in Germany and I know you’re playing Rebellion this year aren’t you?
Brandy: Yeah, first time ever!
Erin: I am so excited because I will be there the full 4 days and cannot wait to see your set and meet you! Are you excited?
Erin: I know it’s always been considered more of a punk rock thing, but in recent years they have the “Up and Coming Artists” or “Feature” stage or the fantastic acoustic stage and it’s a very cool diverse group of artists and music. They had artists that were more garage rock or bluesy sounding or R&B. I think you’ll be pleasantly satisfied with the fact that it’s not all hard core punk.
Brandy: Nah, I don’t mind it. I’ve been to Rebellion many times. There’s always different stuff, it’s always good to see that stuff still alive, you know? It’s great. I’ve had some good times there!
Erin: You’re a musician, a songwriter, a poet and an author. Which artistic medium do you feel most comfortable working with?
Brandy: I think I feel most comfortable being a performer. Although I said I’m a writer, I’m a performer as well and that’s the thing that comes most naturally I would say. And it’s less work ha-ha. I like hard work, but the performer thing is so natural it’s less work.
Erin: You’re such a prolific artistic force, one I’m going to be keeping a close eye on! I know we’ve discussed your singles and your books and we will have links included at the bottom of this article so readers can access and purchase your music and books.
Brandy: Thanks so much!
Erin: I know what I wanted to ask you! Besides your dates in Germany and Rebellion are you looking to do any tours or dates outside of that? Like coming over to Europe, like Spain, Italy or France?
Brandy: Yeah, absolutely. I think I’ve got France, I’m gonna have a big tour in May which again is primarily Germany, but it’s gonna be Belgium. But really, I just wanna tour as much as possible, I’m not scared of getting on a bus and going. That’s what I love-travelling on my own, so I want to tour as much as possible and just hit as many places as possible. So, yes, in theory, I really want to be coming to France and Spain and Italy but it just depends on my booking agent who is in Germany, so it depends on what they want to do and logistically what will work. But if it was up to me I would be on the road, then a week back home and then back on the road. I wanna go everywhere-I wanna go to Japan, I wanna go back to America, I actually might be going back to America in September, I may be doing a big tour and Greyhound bussing it on my own. So much good stuff is possible, man! It’s just making it happen!
Erin: Well, I think that is finally the end of my questions, because I didn’t want to take up your whole afternoon.
Brandy: I’ve really enjoyed talking to you.
Erin: I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you as well so we have to do this again on a non-interview basis because we share a lot of the same ideas and creative ideologies!
Brandy: Thanks so much Erin, we’ll speak soon!
Video: “Martial Law” https://youtu.be/bN8xqK8v1iA
Links: http://brandyrow.com/ can buy all merch, see all tour dates and message artist directly through the site.