Brandon Alan looks at the many years he spent on the scene in Austin, TX as something of a “musical grad school” where he developed his chops as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and performer. Now based in Nashville, he’s moved his musical focus a slightly different way. This March, He is set to release his newest Country-Rock EP entitiled “Different Way”. The album was produced by former Seal drummer and current partner at Creative Arts Group, Ramy Antoun. Brandon also enlisted Sergio Andrade (Lifehouse) on bass, Clayton Corn (Pat Green) on Keys, and Jacob Hiltebrand (Miranda Lambert) on the texture guitars. The album was mixed and mastered by industry giants Reid Shippen and Andrew Mendelson.
“BA” launched his recording career with two well received full length albums helmed by big name producers. Life Eclipse (2007) was produced by Chris Maresh, who currently plays bass with Eric Johnson; the set featured famed keyboardist Riley Osbourne, who played with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s band Double Trouble. Token (2008) was produced by Michael Ramos of John Mellencamp and Los Lonely Boys. These two indie releases have set the stage for his latest EP, Different Way.
BA has evolved into a multi-faceted artist in the tradition of his chief influences Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, Jimi Hendrix and—straight from his country guitar roots—Chet Atkins, Vince Gill , whom he opened for earlier this year, Brad Paisley and many other famous Texas guitarists.
“The producers I worked with on my first two albums liked my sound,” BA says, “because they thought I had a unique style on acoustic guitar that was not bland and typical of most singer/songwriters. Acoustic was the right niche for me for a while, but I’ve gotten a lot stronger vocally over the past few years and that has made my voice more compatible with heavier songs. A lot of my earlier songs could have been stronger had I taken that approach. All along, I wanted to transcend being pigeonholed as yet another acoustic based singer. I like to think of myself as a guitar player first—but one who is lucky enough to be able to use it in the context of writing strong songs that connect emotionally with listeners.”
BA was introduced to the guitar by his father, once an aspiring guitarist himself. That’s a common story, a parent sharing passion with a child, but the guitar his dad used to teach him, a 74 Les Paul, makes the history just a bit more extraordinary. His father’s eclectic music collection introduced the young musician to many legends, but BA says the reason he began playing more seriously was the solo he saw Joe Walsh do on VH1, in a clip from when he was with The Eagles.
BA’s equal passion and skill in track and field earned him a full scholarship to Drake University, but he left after one year to ponder his musical future. His family sought professional advice by meeting with the Assistant Chair of the Guitar Department at the famed Berklee School of Music in Boston. After he auditioned, the professor’s professional opinion was that his skill and talent levels were far beyond that of a typical student; he recommended that the best road for him was not four years in college but to embark immediately on his career. Alan took this advice and chose Austin, Texas as the perfect environment to hone his craft. While making the connections necessary to launch his recording career, he worked his way up to playing live four nights a week, performing at such venues as The Saxon Pub and Threadgill’s.
“It’s easy to get comfortable in Austin, but there’s also the feeling that you can get to a certain plateau and stay there,” he says. “Since it’s a college town, a lot of the fans artists make eventually move away, so it’s hard to develop a consistent career. I felt that moving to a major music market like Nashville would be a great step forward, not only because of the many opportunities to perform in the city and surrounding area, but also because it’s centrally located and a great centrally located base to tour from.
“That’s really where the excitement happens,” BA adds, “up there onstage. I love feeling the energy from the crowd and trying new things with the songs and with my guitar every night. I never play written solos and I like to try different spontaneous arrangements and segues into songs. I have done tons of acoustic gigs, and don’t mind mixing it up, but I have the most fun now playing live with my band. I can pull out my electric and really let loose.”