Printed in Herald Democrat, 8/20/10
By Mary Jane Farmer
Roots and wings. Brandon Bush learned about both growing up in Ector, Texas.
The singer-songwriter is bringing his band home to those roots, with a new CD to his credit, aptly called “Grabaholt,” indicative of the way Brandon grabs onto life.
Bush got his alternative-country music teeth cut sitting on the tailgate of a pickup in a Fannin County pasture. The first serious song he wrote, he said, was on the porch at Uncle Teddy’s house near Ector, and so he named that song for Uncle Teddy.
He went to work at the Bonham movie theater as a sophomore, in the projection room. “I would take my Uncle Teddy songs and go finish them in the projection room. I mean, all I had to do was start the movies, get out the guitar, and practice and fine tune it all.” He graduated from his high school in 2003 as valedictorian and a member of the Beta Club, then went to college in Denison and in Denton.
Those who see him in concert will have to ask him to sing the Uncle Teddy song, because it’s not on the CD. Three others he wrote in those Fannin County years are included, “Wild Child,” “The Lake At Night,” and “1970 Chevy,” and they are also of those Uncle Teddy times. Bush said he has heavily edited them throughout the years and so they “just stuck around.” The other nine songs included on “Grabaholt” were written within the past few years.
Bush, while in college, wrote more songs and began playing publicly, but learned he’d better know some songs more famous and written by other people. “I had all these songs ready, but they all wanted covers. But as time passed, I started playing more places where the audiences wanted original music.”
Bush put his band together, he said, about three years ago, and found them all on My Space and Craig’s List. Bass player Mike Burgess was the first to respond to Brandon’s My Space classified posting, saying he was looking for band members for a country rock band. The ad said, “Express your interest and tell me what equipment you can bring to the group.”
“Mike had a PA, the one we’re still using, and a place to practice, an air-conditioned garage room.”
Brad Haefner, who plays lead and steel guitars, mandolin and banjo, answered a similar ad on Craig’s List. The drummer, Shea Henley, was the last to join this particular group, and since then the foursome has been busy learning, tightening up those songs, performing, and recording. “We (Mike and Brandon) knew we gotta keep these guys together, to keep these links in the chain together. It will be a long time before we could ever find this again,” Bush said, adding that it feels like a lifetime association as friends.
Bush described his band mates this way:
“Brad’s originally from St. Louis, and was always in rock bands. He picked up the banjo, pedal steel, and mandolin within six months of our working together. He is the musician in the band, full, through and through, multi-talented.
“Shea is the mixture of personality and musicianship to make him the cool kind of drummer. Shea has also had a lot of experience in recording, so we deferred to him in studio.
“Mike is critical in live performances. When we switch between instruments, he’s out there bringing the crowd into it, and creating an intimate feeling with crowd, talking to everybody and leaving no dead time coming from the stage. He keeps everybody grounded, and in the most serious of times, he’s the one who will crack a joke. We have to laugh every now and then …
“I feel like the band and the motion and the energy is getting bigger and bigger every day. Even complete strangers are e-mailing us and saying, ‘This is one of the best CDs’ and ‘I listen to every song.’”
Bush’s heavy influences come from the classics — Elvis Presley and Hank Williams Sr. “I was doing Elvis impersonations when I was 2,” he said. When he got to college age, he started listening to the newer performers such as Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, and Randy Rogers.
Now it’s Ryan Bingham, and Brandon still professes to be a Beatles nut.
“In the Americana roots and genre, there is a lot of breathing room. It’s still kind of country, but it’s also rock. It’s the hybrid of the two coming together. People are digging it. It might be rock, but who cares.”
Talking about “Grabaholt,” and that’s a subject near to Bush’s heart, he said, “The idea for the album was to have it crisp and clean for radio, and it doesn’t have a song over 4.5 minutes. This album is a test to see if I could write an entire album that people couldn’t put down. I think I’ve accomplished that.
“The overall theme of the CD, ‘Grabaholt’ is its youthful intensity. A lot of this was written before I was married, and it has a sense of the thrill of the chase, what it’s like to be young and without responsibility and in college. I can look at it now that way.”
The Brandon Bush Band proves that, unlike the old Charlie Daniels’ lyrics decree, you don’t necessarily have to have a fiddle in the band.