Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the OC Music Awards kicked off on January 4th with seven weeks of free showcases at different venues across the county. 35 local artists will compete for the titles of Best Live Band or Best Live Acoustic and a performance slot at the 2011 OC Music Awards, March 5 at the Grove of Anaheim. And, the voting is open now!
Before the ubiquitous downpour of modern blues-rock, the stark, humanist lyrics and fiery finger-pickin’ of the blues sired a musical deluge of greasy, almost carnal rock ‘n roll. Dana Point musician, Micah Brown, evokes the plaintive energy of the blues pre-[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rolling Stones[/lastfm]; Brown has reinvented the uncompromising brood of the sludgy Delta Blues with his own rhythmic, juke-joint fingerstyle, world-worn lyrics, and even, reggae-infused production.
Just like the backwoods blues of almost a century ago, Brown’s penchant for dark rumination and the gritty swagger of his country-blues guitar are almost buoyantly optimistic. Brown’s dulcet tenor has the ability to connect the collective unconscious through all human emotions–whether they come from a place of deep sorrow or profound joy.
California-native, Micah Brown, went from being a teenaged punk rock drummer (with his favorite band being the Bay Area’s [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]No Use For A Name[/lastfm]) to being a tremendously talented blues guitarist, simply with his uncanny ability to transmogrify primitive punk rock beats into sophisticated finger-slides.
[pullquote quote="I changed to guitar when I moved to Hawaii after high school because I couldn't bring my drum set. So I sold my drum set and just brought my acoustic along."]
A die-hard drummer, Brown learned basic twelve-bar blues as a child, but it wasn’t until he moved to Hawaii for school that he began to experiment with the guitar. This allowed him a freedom his bulky drum set never could. Brown elaborated:
“I’ve been making music pretty much since I was little. I got my first drum set when I was like five. I was mainly a drummer growing up. Played in high school. Mainly in punk bands and stuff…I changed to guitar when I moved to Hawaii after high school because I couldn’t bring my drum set. So I sold my drum set and just brought my acoustic along.”
“I had been writing songs before that, but that’s when I first started to write and kind of dig inside me and pull stuff out. Before it was like childish songs, like punk and Blink-182 type stuff, songs about girls. In college and being out there, isolated from all my friends I just turned to the guitar a lot and that’s when it started to become more of a hobby.”
Although Brown has a modern, almost-folksy vocal styling, he balances out the well-pitched cool of his voice with scorching-hot guitar riffs reminiscent of Delta Blues greats [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Robert Johnson[/lastfm] or [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]John Lee Hooker[/lastfm]. Due to his drumming background, there is also bit of the percussive punctuation of juke-joint blues guitarist, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]R.L. Burnside[/lastfm].
Brown enthusiastically talked about his favorite blues artists and how his drumming has influenced his guitar playing:
“I find a lot of inspiration from Delta blues artists like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Mississippi Fred McDowell[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Lightning Hopkins[/lastfm]. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Big Bill Broonzy[/lastfm], vocal wise. It’s like old-time jazz vocals with acoustic blues. It fits really well and he’s like a legend. Those guys really inspired me as far as my blues style…But I do a lot of other stuff too, like folk and rock stuff too. I just try to mix a bunch of things together.”
“I kind of play a percussive guitar. I do the bass notes on the top strings and do rhythms on the bottom strings. And then that also makes melodies at the same time…For one thing it solidified my groove. I can hold down a pretty good groove for a long time.”
Another aspect of Brown’s life that has been a major influence on him both musically and personally, is his connection with Lewis Richards and Costa Mesa’s 17th Street Recording, which currently acts as the creative hub for popular acts like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Dirty Heads[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Seedless[/lastfm], and at one time, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Sublime[/lastfm].
“They’re tight family around here. 17th Street Recording is really like a hub for all the things going on around here.”[pullquote quote="When I write a song, I don't automatically think of it as an acoustic song...Some of them are fully produced and some of them are just acoustic. It just depends on the vibe of each one and how far I want to take it. "]
“I know Seedless through 17th. Juan from Seedless rents Studio C right here. Matty [Matthew Liufau] sang on some tracks. Shay [Pino] drummed on a track of mine on the new record. We’re all homies. We support each other. It’s just like a brotherhood type thing.”
Producer Lewis Richards, or as everyone calls him, Lew, has also been a huge part of cultivating Brown’s style.
“He’s definitely helped develop my songwriting over the last half of the year and gearing it more towards certain sounds. He developed the Dirty Heads and he produced Seedless. He produced Sublime. He’s done a lot over the last few years.”
“Those are the bands that he helped develop and he also kind of helped develop me, so you know, there’s some overlap there. Even though I’m not a reggae act, just working with Lew has influenced me.”
Admittedly, it is rare for most acoustic acts to get so engrossed in the recording process, but Brown said that he “loves performing acoustic but don’t want to limit myself to that.”
His 7-song EP, Down Like Hail, is a great reflection of this. Some of the songs are gorgeous acoustic sojourns that would be ruined by too much instrumentation; Some like “Finally Free,” featuring Seedless’ Matthew Liufau, are dynamically and sonically multi-dimensional.
When questioned about his diverse mix of production, Brown said that in the future he’ll definitely have a backing band for live performances, but that “For the OCMAs, the acoustic thing is the easiest way to perform for a songwriter.”
“That’s another reason why I went away from the drums, as well,” Brown elaborated. “From age five to age eighteen, the drums got me nowhere, really. Guitar and vocals, you can really make songs that connect with people.”
“When I write a song, I don’t automatically think of it as an acoustic song…Some of them are fully produced and some of them are just acoustic. It just depends on the vibe of each one and how far I want to take it. So, like the one with Matty…we’ll probably do a music video for that with a full band and everything. I’d like to definitely do some live performances with a full band.”
Whether as an acoustic act or a fully equipped band, Micah Brown is an example of pure, timeless talent with the unmitigated blues chops to prove it.
“Finally Free”-[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Micah Brown[/lastfm]
The 2011 Showcase Series runs every Tuesday night, January 4 -February 15 with stops at:
Five Showcase Series finalists in each live category will then move on to the Showcase Series Finals.
2011 Best Live Band winner will receive a performance slot on the four Southern Califonia Vans Warped Tour stops!
Night Six of the OC Music Awards Showcase Series featured nominees for Best Live Acoustic on Tuesday, February 8th at the The Gyspy Den of Santa Ana.
READ MORE INTERVIEWS ON KROQ.COM FROM SHOWCASE NIGHT 6 BANDS:
Friday, February 4th- Danny Maika
Saturday, February 5th-Justin Soileau
Sunday, February 6th-Micah Brown
Monday,February 7th-Parker Macy Blues
Tuesday, February 8th-Foxxhound
You have the power to send one Showcase artist to the Best Live Acoustic Finals and Best Live Band Finals.
Cast your vote and enter to win a massive prize pack from the OC Music Awards partners (To be Announced). Voting will begin on December 27 and will be open through the last Showcase on February 15. The votes will be tallied and the band with highest score will automatically move on to their Series Finals! Click here to vote
LEARN MORE AT: OCMUSICAWARDS.COM