Pete Brown, son of rock ‘n’ roll veteran Joe, has taken his dad’s touring band and turned it into a newgrass – as opposed to bluegrass – band.
They play Chichester’s Chichester Inn on Friday, November 25 at 8.30pm (tickets on 01243 783185).
“What happened was that a friend of Mike, the bass player, said ‘You guys do a lot of bluegrass, don’t you? I know a guy who has got a private party and this guy wants to pay an enormous amount of money for a bluegrass band.’ Mike, being a musician, said we could do it,” Pete explains. “We got in touch with a bluegrass player Richard Collins, and he said ‘We can do it!’ But I said we can’t do all these songs. Phil and I were expected to sing them all, and we just couldn’t learn them all in just ten days. Richard came up with the idea that we had all been in covers bands and we could just appropriate other songs and do them in a bluegrass style. And so we did. We do songs like Born to the Wild. People come along and enjoy it because it is really unexpected. And we do songs like Good Vibrations. And it works great. It puts a smile on people’s faces.
“It’s getting bigger. I would not say that it is massive yet, but it is definitely getting bigger. We had a bit of a break last year. I said we needed to get things together, that we needed a website. I said I would see if I could get us some testimonials, and I took four tracks and put them out to people that might like it and might give us a bit of credence if they liked it. I sent it to Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention. He loved it so much that he said ‘I would love them to play at Cropredy!’ We played the main stage there last year. Last year we did nine gigs. This year we are doing 18 gigs. It is getting to the stage where the band is wiping its feet, as they say. We are not actually a bluegrass band. We are a newgrass band, which is like bluegrass but without the rules. Usually a bluegrass band doesn’t have a drummer. In America, it’s quite a common term. It’s like in jazz, you would talk about fusion. It’s a new approach… basically acoustic instruments with no rules. Some of the other songs we do are like Kylie Minogue in a newgrass style. We do some bluegrass disco as well. Boogie Nights with banjo and mandolin. It puts a smile on people’s faces. We finished our album some time ago but we are taking a bit of a stand. We were offered a record deal that we didn’t really think much of, and we also don’t do Spotify or iTunes. I did a solo album ten years ago and I put it on iTunes. I have never received any royalties from iTunes. And everyone you speak to says the same, that that kind of thing doesn’t really work for a small working band. If you sell copies at gigs, you make a lot more money. We pressed a thousand, and we have got about 250 left, and we are selling them at £10 a time at gigs, so it works out better for us.”
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