We’re sitting down with Joseph, Fred, John and Alec of the Brook & The Bluff. The Nashville based Alabamians started making major headway in the streaming community upon the release of their self-titled EP, The Brook & The Bluff. Since then, the boys have been touring the country, playing festivals like Summerfest and Moon River, all while working on their first upcoming album, First Place. We were excited talk to with them about their transition to Nashville and to hear about the new album.
Tell us about the move to Nashville. Did you see it as an essential part of the band’s survival?
John: It definitely was. We started gaining some traction in Birmingham after we released our first singles in 2016 and 2017, and once we had that foundation, realized we needed a way to progress, which meant immersing ourselves in the industry.
Alec: There was a ceiling to what was available for us in Birmingham. Because of the lack of industry, the odds of finding a booking agent were really low.
Joseph: We also reached a point of comfortability and moving to Nashville really gave us the sink or swim motivation we needed to make it.
(The band moved to Nashville in the beginning of 2018. It wasn’t easy. Each member worked hard to support the band and support themselves, working side hustles in order maintain rent, living and to pay off student loans.)
Fred: We were scrapping for the first few months. John, Alec, and I work for Lyft and Uber.
Joseph: My car is too old, so I found a job at a garden center. It was hard. I moved mulch and dirt for ten hours a day and still had to meet up with the guys after to rehearse. But once we started playing weddings again, I would make twice as much in one day as I would an entire month at the garden center. That made a huge difference for all of us.
John: Right before we moved, I went to Jackson, MS and bought a trailer for touring. Five minutes later, somebody merged into the trailer, totaling it and my car. It wasn’t ideal, but I got my Subaru! Which was great for Lyft and Uber.
Alec: And we still had to buy another trailer!
What did starting out in Nashville look like and how did affect your music career?
Joseph: We were definitely the beneficiaries of “the right place, the right time.”
John: We were about to release our first EP and were playing a cover gig at the Cambria Hotel. During the soundcheck, we played some originals and the booking agent for the Cambria really like them. He said to shoot him an email the next time we played a showcase. When that time came around, I sent the email, and before I heard back from him, I got an email from Joe and Jeffrey, who are now our agents at Paradigm. It was pretty serendipitous.
Alec: Which is why we moved here. The chances of that happening were infinitely higher than in Birmingham.
Fred: We also started to take off on Spotify. We landed some good playlists and our name started getting around.
What about the move was difficult?
Fred: Right when I joined the band, the guys said, “Alright! We are moving to Nashville!” It was an incredibly quick turnaround for me. I had no idea what being a musician really meant, but that hardship has quickly become one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. Despite all the difficulties of being a musician, I absolutely love my job.
Joseph: It was hard for me to readjust socially. I struggle with social anxiety. Moving to a new place was something that really worried me at first, but it’s all been a process of learning who I am and being ok with me. Sometimes, you have to be shaken up and learn that you’ll be ok. This work doesn’t come from being super comfortable.
Alec: It was hard to learn how to use my time. Between touring and making an album, there is a lot of downtime. I found it hard to know what the most productive use of my time would be. We are all still figuring out how to better ourselves while also taking care of ourselves.
John: I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. I worried that if we tried and failed at this, it could all amount to nothing, and we would have to start our careers over. Over time, those fears have subsided as I’ve realized how much of a success the actual process has been.
What does the writing process look like for you guys?
Joseph: Many of the songs for this album were written in Birmingham. Alec would come over to my apartment and we would sit in my room for hours making loops on my RC-30. The inspiration for the songs came from reflecting on my relationship at the time. I was looking back and dissecting myself as a person to get better. Once John and Fred joined, we started bringing the songs to them.
(Joseph is the lead singer, lyricist and rhythm guitarist, Alec is the lead guitarist, Fred plays bass, and John is the drummer.)
Fred: For the music, everyone’s role is their instrument. We all develop the structure and song elements together.
Joseph: The songs usually start with Alec, or myself, and then move to the next. If it gets past all four of us, then we all get together and make something out of it.
John: I get really excited when I hear the beginnings of a hook that Joseph or Alec wrote. I thrive in completing those thoughts. As a drummer, I help direct the flow of the song. If it gets bigger, then I get to take it to a new section, or if I do a fill, that can bring us back to another.
Alec: John acts as a kind of editor for the songs. We need that sometimes because we can get bogged down in the same ideas and it can be hard to move on without that outside ear.
What has surprised you the most about the response you’ve received from your music?
John: Because we all grew up in choir, harmonies can feel second nature to us. We’ve all been singing with friends for as long as we can remember, and when people really latched on to that element of our music, it came as a surprise to us.
Joseph: I love when people ask about the lyrics. I find most of my inspiration in lyrics, and I spend a lot of time getting the words right for our songs.
Talk about this album. What’s this experience been like?
Alec: The experience of working with our producer, Micah, has been incredible. He translated our live instrumentation into a recorded setting, executing our vision perfectly, and made it as energetic as it would be live. He’s encouraged us and really helped get us to the shore of this album.
Joseph: That’s important to say about this whole experience. We feel extremely comfortable with everyone we’ve worked with. From our agents, Joe and Jeffrey, to Micah. They feel like family to us and are important to us.
What has this album come to mean for you guys?
Fred: This is my first time doing anything like this, and it’s happened so fast. I see it as a monumental achievement for our lives and for our band.
Joseph: It’s the culmination of everything we’ve done so far. To have worked on some of these songs for three to four years, and to finally hear a finished product that is better than what was in my head has been incredible.
Alec: There is such a different feeling to this album than the EP. We’ve grown so much sonically, as well as personally, and I’m excited to see where it takes us.
John: We are presenting what we believe is our best work so far, and that is wonderful.