One Less Reason~Deep, Meaningful Hard rock "One Less Reason songs are more lyrically heavy than musically heavy, and there's always a message. It's all based around those four letter words - love, hate, pain, hope."
A Blueprint For Writhing was reviewed here on Bluebirdreviews and the stunning collection of music lead us to inquire about an interview with lead vocalist and songwriter, Cris Brown. Mr. Brown was honest, eloquent and decidedly bold, in his comments on the recording industry, songwriting, the creation of Blueprint and how his new love of being a Dad has affected his artistry. You think you know anything about Psychology? Read Cris Brown's insights here and learn more than a book can ever tell you.
BBR: Tell me what happened with Universal?
CB: In 2004, 2005, we went in and did some songs. They treated us well. They gave us money and the things that usually come with record deals. We did really well with key markets and we had requests from all over, including radio stations, wanting to put the songs on a power rotation. Universal never returned their phonecalls. We were getting 1100 spins and going down and playing for 6,000 fans the first time out, and Universal was never getting involved, with these radio people. They stopped returning our phone calls and eventually said, "you know, the rock budget for the year is done. You can wait for the new rock budget to surface next year, or we can let you out of your contract." So I said, "Let me out of my contract." So they let me out of the contract. They let me keep all the money, they let me keep all of my master recordings, and all of the radio play was still happening from around the nation. So at this point I went to Orlando. I had 7 songs already, and recorded 3 more songs. Then released a record called 'Everyday Life'. Some people were telling me to give it up, that I had my shot at fame already. But I didn't know if that was true or not. Then my new record had sold 33 hundred copies the first week at 10 dollars a copy. At that time, I was still a one man show, it was just me. That's why I held on. It was just me. I had band members come and go, but the music stays the same.
BBR: That's a powerful statement that the music will always stay the same, regardless of the band members. I was wondering about that, because I know you've been through some line-up changes.
CB: There is always a clash of personality in any band. People have differences in what they want to put their time in to. Especially if you're going to different places, you go out on tour, when you're touring with these bigger bands, you go from working a day job to playing out in a band, some guys feel like they did something, but really, it's no different than playing songs in your room. "You're not a rock star yet, we're just lucky enough to know that this is our job."
BBR: Well, you know the hard work that goes into it, when you've written a song and you're out there to keep it alive. How did you keep that listener-ship going? The fan base? When the record label went away.
CB: I kept on making good records. That is an opinion bias, but the people who bought my records then, still buy my records now. So it just kind of snowballed since then. I think that as long as you make good music and put out good records, people will stay with you. But one bad record, wow, if you burn them one time ... A lot of our records are pre-sales. People who just buy the record blindly. Based on how other records being good. They pay ahead, so it gives us the money to promote the record even more. So it's kind of like the fans have stock in us. The people ARE the record company. They are what keeps us going. They fund us. They are the ones who are going to the shows. They play a huge role. The people who listen to this music put just as much into the band as I do. Because without them, I can't keep doing it. If I'm not there, then there's no music. So we are all part of the band. They are the band and I am singing their song.
BBR: That is so well said, and that is how it should be. Because you are not being typecast to a record label slot.
CB: Absolutely. And at the end of the day. They are the only people who can fire you. The record people can fire you, but the only people who can really fire you are the people who listen to your music. They are the people who can go, "look ... you're fired ...I won't listen to your records anymore." Those are the people that can fire you. Whether the record labels say yes or no, it's the people who do the loudest talking.
BBR: I think that many up and coming bands say this to stay inspired as they are out there working on their own. But secretly, they may hope for a major label to pick them up. You have been on the other side of this and can say with confidence that nobody else has.
CB: We've sold over half a million downloads now and the people are as faithful to us as they've ever been. And that's why it may take me two years to make a record. Because I'm not going to put out a piece of crap, just because the record label is rushing me to put out a piece of crap. You know what I mean? I'm not going to bite the hand that feeds you, you don't put out garbage just because you're on a timeline. But you know, a lot of bands have to do it this way. "You've got three weeks to make this record" (the label would say). And nobody is going to make a great record in three weeks.
BBR: I read that you toured with Seether and I researched some of their interviews. They often said they were under pressure to crank out records on a timeline.
CB: Absolutely. Although, I know some guys who are great songwriters and they can't write a great song without a deadline. They'll go out and screw around and if they aren't on a deadline, they can't get it done. Every band has a certain workflow. And I own my own studio, so on the days I want to work, I work, and on certain days I don't want to work, I don't work. And then there are certain months, that I just don't.
BBR: That's good because everybody needs rest. Everybody needs time to let your mind rest.
CB: Absolutely. You know sometimes I don't even want to pick up a guitar or sing for a month at a time. It really is like a creative tank. And once you're creative tank is empty, you kind of have to refill it. If you have nothing to say in your songs and you're just a sounding bell, then you're not really ... saying anything. I mean, if you've got nothing to say, then why are you talking? And I hear a lot of that in music these days.
BBR: It's so true, because I think the music world is getting saturated too. A lot of people jumping into it, maybe too soon.
BBR: They aren't ready to say what they have to say in their songs, they are just jumping in ...
CB: Yeah, well there's a huge difference between that and look at the mid-90's. There were so many bands in their mid-20's, (who are) now in their 30's. They had so much to say, because they had life experience. (I've) been there done that. I've already had your point of you and I've lived on.
BBR: So let's talk about your record. I just thought it was stunning, intellectually amazing and poetic. I listen to a lot of bands and sometimes the music is striking, but the lyrics are well, ok, but you hit it on both counts, The music and the lyrics are just incredible stuff. So what inspired you to do that.
CB: I never really write a record until I feel compelled to write a record. When I write a record, it's kind of like writing a book. And I know when it starts and I know when it ends. I know when the record's done. To me, the music is nothing more than a vehicle to deliver the words. So based on what you're saying, the music should follow suit. If you're saying things that need to be loud, then the music should be loud. If you're saying something soft, then usually you should play something soft, to carry it around. And this record was one of those records that came really fast, the songs and the feeling from the record (came together) until it felt like the record was finished. I said everything I wanted to say for this record and the record was over. That's why I put out an EP, instead of a full length (album).
CB: This record was inspired by the events of the last three years of my life. Dealing with the record labels, becoming a Dad for the first time, going from being that 19 year old kid that was mad and who first started until now, I mean, there was a lot in there. Especially the song, "Uneasy." It is a song that is hard for me to even play live, because it tugs on me a little too hard.
CB: "All Beauty Fades" was also hard for me, because it is the first song that I wrote for my daughter.
And all beauty fades
And everything changed
But you'll always be mine
You know you'll always be mine.
60 years from now, 100 years from now, she'll still be my daughter. It's kind of the point I was trying to make with that song.
BBR: You can tell when you hear it, there is more than matching lyrics to a song, you can tell it comes from a place that's in your soul, that most people can't put words to.
CB: Absolutely. That second verse,
Cause I just died in that door way
Your breath is where I'll begin
And when the devil take his words out of my mouth
And God touched my skin.
That was when I wanted to be a good person, for her. Instead of just living up to society's standards, I wanted to live up to my own standards, that I want her to see.
BBR: I've got a ten year old, so I understand. Being a parent DOES change you. When you become a parent, your schedule will change, your timeline will change, you know you won't be able to think of yourself, but it's hard to think and predict the bigger/biggest picture and how being a parent will change you and that is something you can't predict. You can't predict how or who you will be after a child comes in to your life.
CB: It really is something I couldn't wrap my head around until I saw her for the first time. I actually saw her. We were in the delivery room and she was crying and they handed her to me and I said, "hey baby ... " and she stopped crying and looked at me ... and I was like ... "I know you ..." and I thought I'd been in love before, I really thought I was but I'd never really been in love until that point.
CB: It's just a whole different level, you know what I mean. You got a little girl of your own, it's just a whole different meaning. You've got a ten year old, it's just a whole different level of love. It's not like losing a girlfriend. It's just another level. When you could look at someone and say, "I would die for you. I would give up anything I had for you." And music has always been my main love, I never thought anything could take a second place, but you know, nothing comes even close to that very feeling.
BBR: How old is your daughter?
CB: 18 months.
BBR: oh, wow ...
(you could almost hear Cris Brown smiling)
BBR: As she grows, that love is gonna get wider and wider -
CB: (laughs ... still 'smiling' ...)
CB: Yeah, I spend a lot of time with her and when I'm in the studio, she goes to 'school' and we call it 'school' because they teach her stuff and I make my records. And she is so happy. I am working on a new project now, so we make it all work.
BBR: What made you switch over to a more melodic sound for this record?
CB: It really comes from the words, the words were more coming off as more melodic to me. As I'm getting older and my musical taste is changing, I don't even listen to rock music. As weird as that is, that's why it sounds a little bit different because I guess the only rock band I ever listen to is a band called, Brand New, everything else is just singer-songwriters. Jason Mraz and James Morrison, you know, all of these great singer-songwriters, and I don't feel like rock music has anything to offer me right now. For me, personally, so I'm kind of going to fly my 'version' of singer-songwriters too, and I'm a firm believer that you don't deviate. You don't deviate from what you're good at. (If we deviate from) One Less Reason forms, (for) One Less Reason fans, we'd be almost shutting them down. You gotta for the most part, give the fans what they want. Instead of being all artistic on them, blah blah blah. Well, if no one wants to hear this, then who cares? That's it, no one wants to hear it. That's cool, to find that happy medium. Some people think this record actually looks heavier than anything I've done before, just heavier in a different way. It is lyrically heavy, I think.
BBR: I think you've created something new. Singer-songwriter for a metal band. That's what I was struck by. Is that you took the edges of metal that I love, but underlined the meaningful lyrics, something that a singer-songwriter would do. I mean I listen to a whole range of music and some lyrics of singer-songwriters, I think, wow, this story is really good, but the music around it is just boring. Or it's not reflective. It doesn't reflect what this person is trying to say. But you do that mirroring of your music and your lyrics and that's what makes it work.
BBR: It's ironic, because a lot of being a good parenting is mirroring. You look at your little girl and know what she needs and you reflect it. It's like being a Dad, made you a better musician!
CB: Even in relationships, you know, when you know what the other person is feeling and you accept it, reflect it, you know, mirror that back to them and they feel that, even if you don't agree with them, they know and you know that they've been heard. or that somebody knows how you feel, it can quickly change the dynamic of an argument or what not, I'm only getting older, so I'm just trying to apply what I feel. It is all about what I feel now, it's not about anything that it used to be about. I always wrote songs because it was what I felt, but the pressures of a record label, and a manager and a this and a that- you know, I don't have that over me anymore - This is a record I got to record, produce and have total input on. Nobody or management, no this or that, was telling me what I could put on my record. If I wanted to put a country song on it or break out a xylophone and do a xylophone solo, you know, I could do it - (laughing) - you know it was just one of those things! I got to do this and it was totally free - I was totally free just to do it.
BBR: That's great, just great!
(Be careful, you might just end up with some xylophone solos as your daughter grows, mine is playing piano now ... she does a great job, but the teachers also force the kids to play other instruments like the kazoo and the recorder, so she is always bringing some instrument home that I am not listening to at the moment!)
CB: (laughs) Hey, it's all music to me!
BBR: Well, I know you have a busy schedule with your family and your work, so I'll wrap this up quickly. What do you want to say to the up and coming bands, these days?
CB: Ok, Don't buy in to the lie. The lie that these record labels have. All the record labels are good for is giving you bad advice and stealing your money. And at the end of the day when you're 60 years old and looking back at your life and if you've failed, you want to have failed on your own terms, not failed on someone else's terms, because one of those is something you can live with and one is something you can't live with. So you've got to be smart enough to know better, when someone is giving you bad advice, and dumb enough not to quit - because this may sound really ridiculous but you just can't give up -
BBR: That's really well said. I'm so glad you didn't quit, that you kept going and followed your soul. And I'm gonna keep on listening.
CB: I didn't put this out there, but I have a new side project that's a little bit heavier, something from The New Chosen. We have a new record coming out called, Truth is Never Soft Spoken. I will definitely get that over to you once we finish it. I've done all the writing and recording but I've got another guy that does some great screamer-singer kind of vocals, like a 30 seconds to Mars kind of a guy - which is something I can not do, I can't scream - (laughs) - I sound like Cookie Monster when I start screaming - laughs - Well, I'll give it a try, I might need your help to figure it out because I'm not much of a screamer either, but I do respect the art.
~Many thanks to Cris Brown for his time and thoughtfulness in sharing his perspectives with our website today. It is always something new that we seek to learn from every article we write on Bluebirdreviews. Music teaches us, guides us and lets us express the thoughts and emotions that have no words. Call the tune, ramble on and sing your song for the ages.
Click here for One Less Reason Band Members biographies.