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Brian McKenzie Singer/Songwriter Interview

 Brian McKenzie


Interview By:  Nina McCarthy, Senior Music Journalist

Boston Rock Radio


I've had the unique privilege of being amongst some of the first to hear the tracks off of Brian McKenzie And Always September's newest album, Bruising From The Fall.


On November 17th, when I saw Brian was playing an acoustic set in Providence, RI, I jumped at the opportunity to hear him live and get a chance to chat with him about the new release.


I previously only knew Brian as the lead guitarist from Providence’s own Time-Warner/Giant Records metal artists, Kilgore (Smudge) from the 90’s.  They've played 2 reunion shows in RI over the last couple years and have a new upcoming release this month.  At the last show, I talked to Brian about interviewing Kilgore and boy was I surprised to find out that he was also a melodic singer/songwriter that I've had the pleasure of getting to know and call a friend as well as a fan.  



BRR:  Okay, the recorder is on, so anything you say can and will be used against you.  You started your music career in the early 90’s, but when did your interest in music actually start?


Music in general, like 6th grade I'd say, when I was playing my tennis rackets on top of the bed, jumping up and down.  It was probably whatever was on MTV back then like Cinderella.  Sixth grade is actually when I got into Maiden and Anthrax and that's kind of where it went from there.


BRR:  (laughing) I'm still picturing you playing tennis rackets.  When did you learn to play guitar instead of the tennis racket?


I was 12 when I started playing guitar.


BRR:  It's interesting that I met you at a metal festival, the last time Kilgore played Providence. I didn't even realize that you were also a singer/songwriter with your own project.  Do you find Kilgore fans are often surprised by that other mellow side of you?


Yes, especially since the last two records were a little more country/americana and it was the complete opposite of Kilgore.  This new album, Bruising From The Fall has a little more rock to it, a little more emotion  so it's not that far off.  But people would be like, “You're in Kilgore, what are you talking about?”



BRR:  You warned me before I listened that it was completely different from Kilgore.  I like almost everything, so I wasn't worried.  I'm not huge into country, but I like some.  I was pleasantly surprised!


I think my first two records had a hint of Americana, but this record I don't consider country at all.  I think it's singer/songwriter.  This was specifically not going to be a country album.


BRR:  Why did you chose to make this one more rock?


I appreciate country very much, but this record I just wrote, Bruising From The Fall is the most me.  I'm very proud of a lot of the songs in the other two albums, some in particular are some of my favorite songs I've written.  But in general, if there is anything to describe what is completely me and what's inside would be this last record for sure.  I do appreciate country but the Sun Records stuff, that's not really country...like Elvis.  I'm a huge Elvis fan.  That's the stuff that brought me in and then I went to the older guys like Merle Haggard and that type of thing, and Johnny Cash, obviously.  I also like people like Chris Isaak and people that do more of the rockabilly/country thing.  I'm not a Top 40 country guy, I'm an old school Memphis type.  That's the kind of stuff I was into for awhile and absorbed it.


BRR:  And you've spent a lot of time in Nashville as well?


Yes, for sure.


BRR:  You've been on the Official Ballot for some Grammy Awards. Tell me more about that.


Resolution had 4 songs that were submitted and they all made the first round, but clearly I didn't make the top 5, I'm not Toby Keith or anything.  It was an honor for sure.  It was definitely pretty cool to find out I got on the list because plenty of people get denied.


BRR:  Can you give me a little history on your backing band, And Always September?


I lived in Nashville from about 2004-2006.  I moved back to Providence and I wrote this record that was kind of a cross between electronica meets rock, kind of like The Postal Service, something like that.  And Always September was the name of it and I didnt actually “release it,” release it but it was released on MySpace.  That album has a bunch of songs that I still hold on to and one of the songs (“Later On”) on the new record is actually from that record before.  That was my initial rock indie vibe and I wanted to make that happen on this record too.  Clearly, my favorite drummer in New England is Bill Southerland, so I had to have him on there, and my buddy Chris Piccirillo is a great drummer and I wanted to have him on there too.


BRR:  I couldn't picture having Marty O’Brien (bass for Kilgore & Lita Ford) on this album because I don't see him playing that type of music either.


Well, the thing that was cool was that Marty played on the rock songs. Brad O'Brien is a phenomenal bass player.  He just creates this layer of smoothness and deepness that I can't really explain, but I had to have Brad on there for this record, because I wanted it completely different from the last one.  I wanted Marty to do the rock songs, basically.  Technically, the whole thing was written by me; I play all the guitars on the record, I do all the vocals and shakers and tambourines.  I do it all, but I wanted to have a great drummer and a great bass player, so I was lucky enough to have two great drummers and two great bass players.  I'm kind of a control freak so I had to do all the guitars.


BRR:  So that worked out perfectly.  You're 3rd and latest album, Bruising From the Fall is now available tonight, but not officially released yet.  Any plans for a release party?


Yes. I don't know exactly where and when yet.  I would like it to be a full band thing so I have to make sure Bill and Brad are available, because I know Marty won't be.  I'm going to have to find a guitar player to play that night because I can't do both acoustic and electric at the same time, unfortunately.  I'm planning on probably January.


BRR:  The title song “Bruising From The Fall” is by far my favorite song on the album.  I actually cried when I listened to it today.


Come on?!  That's a huge compliment.  


BRR:  I put the album on today and tried to take a nap and that song came on and I got goosebumps and cried... which is rare, because I'm pretty hardcore.  But today I really concentrated on the lyrics.  It did just what a good song should, bring emotion to people.


That's so awesome.  I miss feeling in music.  I like songs that can get that right melody or note that twist something in your gut.  I love that.  Music should make you feel, on so many different levels obviously.  But I like stuff that can bring you to a place and keep you there and if you're going to cry, you cry.  That's my goal.


BRR:  It just really hit a soft spot in me. Can you give me a little insight into the writing of that song?


It's obviously a relationship thing.  It's tough when you fall in love with someone who is a bit manipulative and it's tough because you want nothing but to make it work, but clearly it's toxic.


BRR:  I know that story all too well. That's probably why I related to the song the way I did.  Is the inspiration behind most of your songs based on your own personal experiences?


I'm thinking about the record right now and I would say every single song is based on my personal experience, so yes.


BRR:  When I listen to the album, I picture chilling on the beach, driving in a convertible down the coastline, or relaxing with frozen drinks...then bam, “Justified” starts...Hello!  You told me why “Justified” was the heaviest song on the album, but for the readers, can you relate that story?


I rented a house in Nashville, this January actually, and it was right after Kilgore had our reunion show and we decided we were going to make a new record.  I was able to get up at 5 am and just immediately start playing and writing because I'm a big time early bird.  It was not intended that I was going to write these songs.  I went down there and wanted to write my own songs for my record, but I had a lot of anger, obviously relationship based, so I ended up writing all these Kilgore songs.  Then I wrote this one song, kinda worked off a riff I had written years and years ago and I finally had the right chorus and it all just came together and I was belting it out at 5am, and there were no neighbors to hear me, which was awesome.  That song was unbelievably personal and I felt like I had to sing it rather than introduce it to the band.  I wanted to put it on my record but I wanted to have the Kilgore guys play it, but it clearly was not a metal song...but if you turn up the distortion a little bit and hand the mic over to Jay's growly voice, it could be.  It somewhat fits on the record and I clearly made it the last song for a reason.


BRR:  It's a perfect ending.  Do you have any tour plans in promotion of the new CD?  


I'm hoping to book something for the beginning of the year.  I want to head down the east coast and then across to Nashville, hopefully Austin, then work my way back.


BRR:  I know you play a lot in Nashville and I can definitely see you there.  Do you find it very competitive there?


There is a lot going on there.  It's not just country by any means.  Basically, Nashville is the equivalent of if you're an actor, you go to Hollywood, if you're a songwriter, you go to Nashville.  There's still L.A., of course, and New York, but Nashville is pretty much the number 1 music destination.


BRR:  I need to go to Nashville and L.A. for those experiences.  I've met so many people from L.A. in the last year, I need to get out there.   From someone who has been in the scene for sometime now, what advice would you have for young aspiring musicians?


I'll be honest with you, it's tough.  We used to put flyers on telephone poles, we toured with a CB and road atlas.  We'd literally get on the CB and would ask the truckers how everything is going.  No cell phones.  We had to stop at payphones to call home.  Honestly, I don't understand the music business anymore.  It's not the same. It's completely changed.  I would probably ask them if they had any advice for me.  


BRR:  That's the first time I've heard that!  That's the best answer I ever had to that question.  Do you have any further comments or anything else you'd like to say to your fans or plug any endorsements?


I do have endorsements with Blueridge guitars and Godin guitars, Shubb Capos, and LR Bag electronics and Cleartone strings. I've been with them a few years now and I'm unbelievable happy with all their instruments and gear.  Beyond that, I just hope people can check out the record with an open mind.  I'm pretty proud of this and it definitely is my favorite thing beyond the Kilgore stuff that I've ever done.  So check it out and I hope you like it.


BRR:  And people can now request your songs on Boston Rock Radio.


Yes, please do.



[Read Allyson’s BRR review of the album here: http://bostonrockradio.com/forum3/articles.php?article_id=107]











(Stay tuned for an interview and review of Kilgore’s upcoming release! The CD Release will be Dec 29th at Fete in Providence, RI)


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