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Interview with Gregg Aaron Brown

Interview with Gregg
Aaron Brown, Nashville 2013
Can you please interduce yourself,
who you are?
My name is Gregg Aaron Brown, formerly
Gregory Brown.
How did you become a producer?
I came to Nashville at a fortunate
time. I moved here from Duluth Minnessota in January 1985. I grew up
playing country music with my father, he had a country band. I
started playing guitar with him when I was fourteen and played with
my dad for about five years, we played two to four nights a week. It
was a great education, particularly when it came to country music. I
started to make a brake for it and came down to Nashville in January
1985. I finished my BA degree in a college here in Nashville called
Belmont and was fortunate enough, to get my foot in the door at
Warner Brothers Nashville. I did odd jobs for a while, working in
different departements, radio promotions and ANR. But the real
turning point for me was, when I was working with a producer that was
cutting records in house, a gentleman called Barry Beckett, he was a
part of the rythm music show, the rythm section, a great keyboard
player. I was fortunate enough to book his sessions, listen to songs,
just basically getting things ready for his recording sessions. So I
became more involved with that environment and was meeting all the
great studio players and songwriters in Nashville. Working with Barry
really was the turning point for me. Not long after that, I wanted to
produce records as well. We were really fortunate, at the time, we
had a small studio at Warner Brothers on the second floor that Jim Ed
Norman had created, Jim Ed was the Head at Warner Brothers Nashville.
I checked into the studio on weekends, cutting whatever I could, I
had met an individual when I was finishing my degree at Belmont, by
the name of Chris Austin. Chris was just a fantastic multi
instrumentalist from Boone North Carolina. He went on the Road to
play with Ricky Skaggs as part of his band. We became friends and he
eventually contacted me, wanting to record some of his own records
and pursue a solo career. We went upstairs on a saturday and we cut
Delmore Brothers’ song called „Blues Stay Away From Me“. There
was me playing accoustic, Chris on accoustic, Dave Pomeroy was on
upright bass and my cousin Jack Purcell played drums. Jack is now
head of promotions at Big Machine Records. As a result of cutting
those songs, we got Chris a deal at Warner Brothers as an artist and
I did a producer contract, they gave me a guarantee, I had a little
more courtage for looking for acts, starting acts, these kind of
things. That was kind of the beginning of my production career. Not
long after that, I came accross some recordings that an artist out of
Atlanta Georgia had done, his name was Travis Tritt, I listened to
those sides and I thought this guy is really great. There was just a
little more edge to his tonality. Not long after that, we were able
to sign Travis and we started the process to get ready and produce
records with him as well.
Do the artists usually come to you
or do you contact them?
It works both ways, you keep your ears
and eyes open. You try to stay active and try to find artists and
music that excites you. The door gets knocked on both sides.
What is it like to be a producer, is
it difficult?
Business has changed so much, it seems
like during the 90’s, it was a real kind of a heyday for Nashville.
There was a lot of money being spent and a lot of acts getting
signed. Most of the major labels split off into sister labels, so
there was a lot of activity at that time. I guess, I never really
found the process difficult at all. I mean you had certain
challenges at times, working with certain artists and maybe some
temperament, but I was very fortunate to work with great people and
all kinds of singers and artists.
Do you prefer certain music styles
to others?
I like working with really
expressionistic soulful singers, particularly those that write their
own material. I find it really tends to translate into things, being
more personal while at the same time, it’s also an enjoyable
process because there are so many great songwriters here in
Nashville, as there has been for decades. Working with artists who
don’t tend to write as much of their own material, creates enough
for me to really connect with music row songwriters and publishers
and try to find great songs to make great recorts. You can take a
good song and make a good record, and you can take a great song and
make a great record. Both aspects are really enjoyable. I guess
tonally I tend to grab a take towards one of two things, really hard,
traditional country to things that are more edgier in the lines of
Hank Jr. and Waylon and things that have a little sharper edge to it.
I guess I don’t particularly enjoy so much the contemporary aspect
of where country music is right now. I tend to be either wide left,
or wide right.
I noticed, that you have produced
CD’s that have won double and triple platinium awards.
I have been fortunate to work with some
great acts. You take your time to try to get the right record
together that transpires. In the marketplace it’s always kind of a
fine line between art and commerce. You try to be artistic at the
same time as in business to sell music. Just try to do your best to
cover both aspects of what drives you in this business.
Do you also produce other styles of
music or just country music?
I produce whatever excites me. I love
great rock’n roll, blues and traditional country. I’m just
getting ready to release a record on a rock’n roll band out of
Louisville Kentucky called the Bluestown, which is a throwback to
your earlyer classic Rock. I just like things that are simple in
groove for the most part.
Are you working on a project right
now?
Yes, me and my partner Isak Levi have
initiated a series of live shows called Branded Nashville. Initially,
we’re really focusing on artists who have a great independent
spirit and first and foremost have really helped to brand Nashville
to the great community that it is, when it comes to diversity of
musical genres. Associated with Revelator Recordings, our Production
Company and Independent Label, we’ve created „Branded Nashville“
and have been doing a series of live shows. Below our creative
compound, there is a live entertainment venue downtown Nashville,
called the Rutledge. So we’re running that series twice a month and
incorporating great music from hillbilly country, rock ’n‘ roll
to blues and americana. we’re recording every show live, multi
track and filming everything. Over the course of the rest of the
year, we will be creating different compilations associated with
those shows. It’s just partnering up with some businesses here in
Nashville. Between businesses, our sponsers, supporters and the
artists, it really creates a great environment for light modern
people and musicians as well as a great networking opportunity for
those involved.
Are you still with Warner Brothers?
No, I was with Warner Brothers in the
90’s, but I’m an independent producer now for about 15 years.
Do you have your own studio here?
Yes, we have a great little creative
compound off 4th avenue south, associated with a live entertainment
venue called the Rutledge. I do a lot of pre-production and over
dubs. I still use other studios here in Nashville for tracking. I
worked a lot in a studio in Franklin Tennessee called The Castle, one
of my favorite places here in Nashville, a great residential studio,
it sits on about 46 acres and is very peaceful. I still do mixing in
RN studios in Memphis with my buddy John Hampton, as well as doing
some tracking in a studio over in Berry Hill called Treasure Island.
So over the years, you kind of develop your approach in the people,
venues and studios that can really induce in making things roll in a
pleasurable, creative process.
Interview:
Heidi Duss / Foto: Marco Duss for Country Music News International

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