Loss, Songwriting and the Blues–Brian Young (Ep 183)
Blues guitarist, singer-songwriter Brian Young is a member of the Unstarving Musician community–the list. A while back, he reached out to check in with me. I’m always asking the community and you listeners how you’re doing. Like Ezra said last episode, music is a collaborative experience between community and musician and I feel that extends into what I’m doing here. Brian took time out to thank me and to share his own personal update. He shared with me that he’d lost his wife Becky of 43 years to cancer. Becky was also manager of his blues band.
Brian recently published the last album that he and Becky worked on with his band, Blues Station. In her honor he’s been donating a portion of the proceeds of his latest CD to Stand Up 2 Cancer. We talk about all of this, how and where he and Becky met, his surprising early influences, his life and music memories, the greatness of blues jams and some great songwriting advice.
You got to get started. Get your pencil, get your paper or whatever. I mean, you know, just look around you and listen. Just sit and be quiet for a while. Thoughts will come to you. Write them down.
– Brian Young, Advice for Songwriting
This is the Unstarving Musician podcast. I am your host Robonzo. This podcast features conversations with me, indie music artists and industry professionals. It’s all intended to help other indie music artists be better at marketing, business, the creative process and all the other things that empower us to do more of what we love. Make music.
Hey, the Unstarving Musician is made possible through the generosity of listeners like you. If you love the podcast, please visit our sponsor page on UstarvingMusician.com /crowdsponsor to learn about the different ways that you can support the podcast.
All right, thanks for joining me for another episode. My guest is blues guitarist, singer, songwriter Brian Young. Brian is a member of the Unstarving Musician community. He’s on the list. A while back, he kindly reached out to me to check in. I’m always asking the community and those of you listening how you’re doing, especially lately? Well, Brian took the time out to let me know how he was doing, and to thank me for checking in with him. He, in that email, shared with me that he’d recently lost his wife Becky. They were married for 43 years. And she was also manager of his blues band. In her honor, he’s been donating a portion of the proceeds for his latest CD to Stand Up to Cancer. We talk about this, all of this, how and where he and Becky met, at a blues club, of course, his surprising early influences, some of his wonderful life and music memories, the greatness of blues jams, and some great songwriting advice. We are absolutely living in special times. And for me, Brian complimented these times. He is a special guy. And this is a special conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Here is me and Brian Young.
Brian Young 2:11
Thank you man for hooking up the podcast with me. Thank you.
Of course, man, I really appreciate your support and being part of the community a lot. It’s been nice getting to know you a little bit. And I know you’ve been, when we met, you were going through a rough patch, and I’m sure it still feels, you know, relatively rough and I guess a lot of us are but um, yeah, it’s been really pleasant getting to know you and know some of your story.
Brian Young 2:38
Yeah, thank you. Likewise, likewise. Maybe one day we’ll hook it up, we’ll jam together, get to play music together some kind of away.
Yeah, that would be good. Well, we’re, we’re rolling. So let’s get right into this. I want to talk about your album for right off.
Brian Young 2:59
Thanks for sending the press release, by the way. Yeah, so there’s something a little, a little special about this album. I’m gonna let you tell the story.
Brian Young 3:09
Okay, well, it was special about the album. My wife and I, we’ve been, you know, co writing together. We were married for 43 years, and she passed away this April 2020. And she got her all the song on the album. You know, that’s what’s really amazing. [Yeah.] And she told me, you know, go ahead on and go ahead and do what you gotta do with it, go on and put it out there because I heard all the songs and they sound okay, they sound good. So that’s why I’m… You know? Want to dedicate it out to her and I call it Brian, Becky, and Brian’s Interpretation of the Blues.
Lovely, and it’s been a little while since I listened to it when when you, I think almost as soon as you contacted me, you were on you’re on my Unstarving Musician community kind of email list and you had reached out. I don’t remember exactly what you were responding to. Maybe I was just because I was asking everybody how they’re doing and you shared, you know the story about Becky’s passing. And I’m so sorry, by the way. I know that’s hard, and especially in this weird time that we find ourselves in, makes it even a little harder, but
Brian Young 4:23
Oh, yeah. Thank you. Yeah, we were married 43 years this year.
That’s amazing. Where did you guys meet?
Brian Young 4:32
We met in St. Louis. I’m originally from out of East St. Louis. And believe it or not, my band was performing one night in St. Louis, and she lived right across the street from the venue we were performing in, and she came across the street and said, You guys playin’ here tonight? And I said yeah, we’re playin’ in here tonight with our band, and she says okay, I’ll come back. I’ll come back and check you guys out. She came back You know, we struck up a conversation and they say, the rest is history.
That’s amazing. You know, I’m, I want to ask you what that venue was like, but there and one of the reasons I wanted to ask is because I’m originally from Fort Worth, Texas. And before I got into the blues, I had a circle of friends, when I was very young that were going out to some of the blues clubs that are in were then in Fort Worth, I have no idea. You know, I’ve never even been to any of those places, to be honest. It took me, you know, I think it was probably around the time that Stevie Ray Vaughn started becoming famous that I started exploring blues, little by little more and more. And by then I think I’d kind of forgotten about those years when my, you know, when I had these friends that would go there. And the thing that struck me at the time, about it was, these were in neighborhoods that were predominantly, you know, black neighborhoods, and, but had a rich history of music and a lot of other things, too. And I had never spent any time in those neighborhoods. And then like I said, as I got older, I didn’t really didn’t really, I just wasn’t appreciating the blues yet. So I kind of missed the whole thing. But, so having spent some time later, in those neighborhoods, I was actually driving a Frito Lay truck around. And when they gave me my own route, as they call them, they gave me you know, a neighborhood that I think we used to when I was growing up, we used to call it Southside, I think so predominantly black neighborhood. And, and because of where I lived, it was a little bit of a culture shock to put it mildly. And then you know, those, those neighborhoods back in those days, were going through some rough times, and maybe much rougher before I even discovered them. One of the beautiful things I discovered there, obviously the people but also, Texas is known for its own style of barbecue and man did I discover some wonderful, wonderful barbecue?
Brian Young 7:12
Oh I know. Speaking of barbecue. My wife and I was traveling back to St. Louis, from here from LA. We moved to California in ’81, because of the music. That’s why she said well, you want to do music. Let’s go out there. So we did. And we were traveling back, and we stopped in a place in Tex… Amarillo, Texas. Yeah, best brisket I ever had in my life, man and, and her and I we loved to barbecue. Matter of fact, I just barbecued Tuesday.
Brian Young 7:45
Out on my patio.
Wow. Well, and you know, that’s funny you say, that you mentioned brisket, because man, that is what they really do well. I mean, when I as soon as I say barbecue and think of Texas, I’m immediately, whether the word comes out of my mouth or not, I’m thinking brisket.
Brian Young 8:02
And you know what’s funny? I’m realizing right now, as we’re talking, I actually did go in to some of those blues clubs. But it was when I was on my Frito Lay routes in the mornings. And those neighborhoods Yeah, they were still pretty rough. And it was a, it was a culture shock for me. And I, you know, for, for what it was worth to my exposure to those neighborhoods for the first time, when I was a kid going to elementary school in Fort Worth, that’s when they were doing what then was called busing. So they basically took half of the kids from my school and half the kids from I’m not sure which school or schools. And so one day, I went back to school, and I had a lot of young African American kids in my class with me. And I always remember that being, It was a surprising thing, but it was it was a pleasant experience, as I recall. And I was talking to someone about it not too long ago. And I, you know, I know there’s a little bit of luck of the draw as to whether or not you get moved from your school, depending on which direction you’re going and everything. But I think that they didn’t move, they didn’t bother to move me because my parents are of Mexican descent. And I was probably a nice minority, frankly, for them to have to retain at the school. But so this is all circling back to I wanted to know, what was the what was the club like that, that you were playing at? What was the neighborhood like?
Brian Young 9:25
The name of the club was called the Blue Circle. You know, I can’t forget it because that’s where I met my wife. And it was a just a regular bar. Had a nice stage in it. They’d play music Friday, Saturday night, I mean, you know, had the big leather, big booths, the tables, they didn’t serve food, but they served alcohol, you know, back in in the 80s, early 80s. You know, you could smoke in the clubs and it was a really nice atmosphere. I mean, it was peaceful. People came out, we packed the place every weekend. But as you know, and it was really nice experience and you know, that’s how I grew up in St. Louis, East St. Louis, Illinois area, playing blues. That’s why I started. But first, you know, I got started hooked on the guitar was when I was growing up like everybody else, millions of kids. The Beatles.
Brian Young 10:22
Brian Young 10:24
That, that hit me. I love the Beatles. I loved them, guys. Okay. Then I heard Jimi Hendrix. I heard him never seen him. We was walking, an old frind of mine, and I was walking home from school one day, and he said, Listen to this tape man, listen to this tape. So I went and listened, and I said, Oh man, this dude’s doin’ this with a guitar? But that’s it. That’s it. I got to play the guitar now. I got, that’s it. So, you know, that was my main influence and playing the guitar. And, you know, been all over Southern California playing music playing, and speaking out of Beatles. Like 2017 I was invited to Ringo Starr’s 77th birthday.
Brian Young 11:08
Yes, there’s pictures of it on my website and on the internet and Facebook page.
How did that come about?
Brian Young 11:15
I have no idea. You know, I got an email one day, it was about two days before the event. And I opened the email, it said you know, you’ve been picked to come to Ringo Starr’s, you know 77 birthday party, peace and love. Like what? No this is a scam, there’s somebody scammin’ me. So I read, read further, read the email. And I followed instructions and did what it had to say then, later that night, I got a call. And when I got that call, they told me how to, you know where to go, how to… And I’m like, okay, and they sent me something ups of a badge in the mail the next day. And the next day, you know, my wife and I went. Took pictures with him. I mean, I hang out with him. The food was great. It was one of the best times of my life, man. I still can’t sometimes believe it.
Do you have any idea how they found you. Or why how? Why you got invited?
Brian Young 12:17
I don’t know. To this day I don’t know. You know, I met BB King, my wife and I met BB King, spent the whole day with him. I met, I met some of the greatest musicians, man. No, sometimes I don’t believe I’m meeting people. Spent time with Buddy Guy.
Brian Young 12:36
No… Yeah, I’ve met, I’ve met some and got some great advice from them, too.
That is crazy. How long? How long were you and your wife in California? Together?
Brian Young 12:52
We’ve we’ve been here since ’81. So yeah we’ve been here since 1981.
And what’s your connection to, I noticed that you so you spent like 20 some years performing in California, but also Phoenix and Vegas? What’s your connection in Phoenix?
Brian Young 13:12
Once again, another crazy story. We were performing. And a guy came up to us and said, Hey, I want you guys to do a little performing here. First stop was the Wrigley mansion. You know, Wrigley’s gum company?
Brian Young 13:28
Yeah, they have a mansion in Phoenix. So we got to do that a couple of times, couple of bars and Phoenix. It’s been, you know, some a lot of things. I can’t explain how it happens, you know, but it’s, you know, fate. That’s how it is, you know,
I guess so. That’s amazing. Sounds so fun. Was there? Was there anything? So when you when you and Becky started the album, was she? Was she sick already? Or did you guys even know that?
Unknown Speaker 14:04
Yeah, well, she’d been battling cancer for, I’d say maybe about 10 years. She really fought. She had battled it. You know, battled it all the way. We have four other CDs out. So she’s always been the co writer on every CD that I ever did. But she didn’t write any songs on this last one. Because, you know, she was ill.
So yeah, it was kind of, where I was going was, I was curious to know if there was anything different about the music for this one. But I was first kind of thinking that I certainly, if she was at a place where you knew she was very ill or something, that would just have an impact in and of itself. Was there, is there anything else? I mean, you wrote all the songs.
Brian Young 14:53
I wrote all the songs, except for one. Hug Me Love Me. She wrote that one. It’s on first, it’s on, what album is that on? That’s on the album titled The Blues Man is Here Tonight. That’s on the second album that we ever did together. And her and I are doing a duo. She’s singing on that one. That’s the only one that I could get her to sing on. She wouldn’t sing with me in the clubs. They don’t pay enough!
Brian Young 15:23
Yeah, and everybody loved everybody. Everybody love Becky, when we go out and perform everybody, they always say, we like you. We come to hear the band. You guys are good. But we love your wife. We love, everybody. I mean, I can’t explain it. So many people from all over Southern California, sent me well wishes cards. And, you know, the nice words and everything.
Brian Young 15:49
She was really loved. She was really loved by the fans. Like I said they loved her. They liked me.
That’s how my circle of friends treat me they, my wife is really the reason that I have friends.
Brian Young 16:01
Right, see? You can relate.
Totally. Totally. So were you when, I assumed that because Becky became increasingly, you know, ill in the latter part of her life. How long were you touring aggressively? Had you stopped somewhat recently, or?
Brian Young 16:26
Well, we were working. We were working on an average of four nights a week. She was the manager of the band, and the booking agent. So we, she he had us out. They called us the hardest working band in LA. She had us out there man, we would we would house band at the House of Blues, Disneyland here in California. We once was the house band at BB King’s club, up at Universal Studios before they shut that down. So she had us out there, and then as she this year 2019. It kind of slowed down for us. You know, we were performing maybe two times, two times a week. Then as she got sicker then it was you know, once a week, then it became once a month. Then it became, as we rolled into 2020. Not at all, you know, and, you know, so, but we had a good run. And you know, we’re now you know, living in California in LA. We are under pandemic. So, you know, there’s no bars, no entertainment venues are open right now. So
Do you see yourself after things kind of normalized with the pandemic? Do you see yourself playing out with the band at all?
Brian Young 17:52
Oh yeah, definitely. Definitely. I have to. Because I know she would want me to keep going.
How are you? How are you guys gonna fill the hole of her, all that all that she was doing for you?
Brian Young 18:04
I’m gonna have to put on another hat, like you were saying earlier?
Brian Young 18:13
Right. I know it’s, well she taught me well.
Well, that’s good.
Brian Young 18:19
People say, You taught him good girl.
Well, that’s a great, that’s a great partner to have, you know, someone that had the interest? And was kind of, well, not kind of, but was part of your music, and pretty much every way.
Brian Young 18:33
Oh, yeah. When we first came to California in ’81, I didn’t play music for 15 years. Now, this is a story within itself. Because when we first came to California, you know, eighty one, they had the real gang problem. And, you know, coming from St. Louis, back then in the 80s to California, we didn’t know anything about gangs, the Bloods, the Crips, and I son was right at that ripe age, you know, where he could get influenced by them. So, I didn’t play music for all 15 years, because I had to be a dad, you know, raise him up, you know, Be there, go to PTA meetings, go to the sporting events, get him involved in his, and we both did parents, she would you know, get him involved in sports to keep him busy. Okay, then he went off to college, and 91, then 92. She said, Now, you know, come on, what you waitin’ on? Do what you came to do. Do what, you can work, you know, let’s go. And so when you were saying you drove for Frito Lay I drove for UPS, you know,
Brian Young 19:44
Oh wow. That’s a hard gig.
Brian Young 19:46
Very very hard, and drove Airborn Express. So, you know, you know being a musician an unstarving musician. You had to work, the whole time. What are the 15 years I didn’t play? You know, I had to pawn my equipment back and forth, back and forth. But I kept, I kept, I kept all my guitars, kept everything, just kept paying the pawn dues, payin the pawn dues. That’s why we got the song on the CD, The Pawn Shop Blues.
Now I gotta go listen to that song.
Brian Young 20:21
Yeah, that’s, that’s really The Pawn Shop Blues. Wish I could leave it alone.
Yeah, I was gonna ask you, you just made it very clear to me. But I was gonna ask what made you stop for 15 years, but that’s, um, that’s a really great reason to hit the pause button. And I was curious to ask, just because I’ve had these short periods where I would stop playing never that long, but, and I now in more recent years, I’ve looked back at those periods of not doing it realizing I don’t want to do that anymore. Because it for me, it’s always been a little painful to come back, because I come back to it. And I want to do it. But then there’s the uphill of trying to, you know, get your chops up and things.
Brian Young 21:04
Right, right. Yeah.
But anyway, hey, you know, we always come back to it.
Brian Young 21:08
Yeah, when I got back on the same, I went to a lot of jam sessions, you know, blues, jams, blues jams, blues jams. And, you know, getting back out there getting getting, you know, like I said, when I first met my wife, I was performing regularly around the St. Louis, the St. Louis area. But like I said, once we got married, and you know, had to do the parenting thing, which you got to do. So, I hit the blues jams, hit the blues jams. And there was a bit of blues james for about a year. You know, I’m ready to go back. Now.
That’s kind of how I did it one time. When we moved to California, excuse me, I didn’t know anyone really. I didn’t go. I did not go out and seek out musicians right away. And then a couple years passed before I knew what had happened. And we had, actually, we moved right next door to an English guy who was a musician. And he loved.
Brian Young 22:18
Oh that was a blessing.
Yeah, he loved blues. But he talked me into going to play at JJ’s Blues in, at the at the open, you know, at the jams, which at one time, it was kind of at the tail end of its history when I stepped foot in there. But at one time, it was a premiere spot for blues artists to play. But yeah, and I met someone who really sort of just, just walking in there, going in and playing with a blues, someone who is leading a blues jam there, who was very encouraging to me, about coming back, inspired me to start playing again. And so then I started meeting people little by little. So those things are great man. Blues jams,
Brian Young 22:59
Right? Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Like so you get to meet some nice cats. You know, and sometimes you can even get them and, you know, get a band together from the guys that you’ve met, you know, through the circle of the blues jams. Yeah,
Yeah, totally. I know. You know, I think when anybody heard me played at that, you can always tell the guy who grew up playing rock music, not blues on the drums. Right? Or any instrument, I guess.
Brian Young 23:29
Well I heard your release. You sound good playing them drums man.
Brian Young 23:35
You can kick.
Thank you. Yeah. So I wonder in retrospect, did, Because I guess, what I ended up playing mostly in the Bay Area was rock and pop music. And I wondered even as early as those blues jams did. Did anyone hear me and go? Yeah, we should probably introduce him to these guys. These guys that play this other music, but I did. I know that, you know, I have a fascination with the blues. And I’m, And I got to play with wonderful blues artists right before the pandemic came down. He came here to Panama and we did some stuff. And I was very nervous about it too, because I haven’t really performed much at all with blues artists, good ones. And he’s, he’s definitely he’s up there. You know, so he plays with a lot of good people. I think it’s more. It’s not just that he’s good, but it’s that I know the people he’s played with, right? He’s played with like…
Brian Young 24:27
Okay so you felt like, I got to, I got to be on it tonight.
Yeah, but you know, we went we went on my we had, you know, we had no rehearsals. He sent, I had him send me some songs so I can kind of get an idea of what I would be doing and I sent them to a bass player friend here. So it was a trio. And he and I, Johnny Bergin. We sat on my balcony before our, the day of our first show, and I think I just took a practice pad out. And we were, we were just kind of running through some things and he right then, it’s not that I didn’t feel like I couldn’t play the blues, but I’m just like, Okay, I need to. I need to play it well, as well as I can, because I’ve seen too many people play it so well. I’m like, I know. I know where I stand among those guys, but
Brian Young 25:16
But I heard you play man. I know you could play the blues man. I know. That’s why you guys didn’t have to rehearse cuz you’re good enough. I know. You know, you did good. You gonna get back with him again. Watch.
Oh, yeah, it worked out. He told me before we even finished that little thing with the practice that he could see you could play the blues Roberto.
Brian Young 25:38
See, I grew up like I said, I grew up playing Hendrix. Deep Purple. I grew up playing rock. And I’m you know, in black guy, and all my friends said, man what’s wrong with you? Why you playin’ that stuff? What’s wrong with you man? What’s you know, we want you to play, you know, you’re not gonna make any money around your playin’ that kind of stuff. But I said that’s what I like, man. That’s what I like. So eventually, they got me to start playing the blues.
Brian Young 26:10
Never went back huh?
Brian Young 26:12
Yeah, well I still do. The name of the band was Brian Young and The Blues Station. My wife named it, because we still play everything, we still play Albert King, we play the blues. We might go back and play some of the Beatles. We did, we did the song Ringo did, Don’t Come Easy. You know, we play a variety of everything. We was a variety band. But that’s why she named the blues station because we played a variety of everything. Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, to Louie Armstrong. I mean, you know, we played a variety. We play a variety of everything.
That’s so cool. She was a smart lady. We, gosh you and I grew up playing a lot of the same music, because I know among the first you know, handful of songs that I wanted to learn to play and did were were Jimi Hendrix songs and, and [Right] Rolling Stones. And I think that for some reason, the Beatles, Well, I know why the Beatles were hard because the vocals were so clean. And when, when you’re really young, unless it’s, it’s unusual that a really young person is going to sing anything by The Beatles that well, but we would, we would try and like some of the, you know, some of the things that they did that were a little more rock and didn’t feel like we had to worry as much about the beautiful harmonies.
Brian Young 27:36
I know. Yeah, we have five CDs man, you know, they’re out there. And we’re on the Spotify and all the streaming services. So you know, you know, like you saying, we came back and did that song Hug Me Love Me that was on, Becky and I singing together. That’s the only one I could get it a thing. You know, I would tell her… Come on, you’re not writting me any songs.
Wow, that’s cool. Yes, I remember that. You had your stuff on Spotify. And that’s where I first checked out your, your latest one, I’m really looking forward to listening to some more of it and sharing it with with my people.
Brian Young 28:25
All right, man. Appreciate it. Thank you. I think the best one though, the one before that. We did go blues land. And that’s the name of the CD. And she wrote a couple of songs on that one. And you know, I like the title track clothesline. It’s a two part one and part two. Part one is kind of instrumental and part two is has the vocals and the lyrics. Bluesland.
Cool are you, I’m kind of looking I want to I want to kind of bookmark you here in Spotify for myself, are you just in there as Brian Young or is it Brian Young and the Blues Station?
Brian Young 29:06
No, I’m just under Brian Young. But you know, the got a, they even have a Brian Young channel. I mean, yeah I was, yeah okay.
Yep, I see you. I’m going to be listening to this when we get done.
Brian Young 29:23
Oh, thank you man. Thank you.
Um, are you in touch with the band here lately?
Brian Young 29:30
Yeah, we keep in touch we would just you know, just talk on the phone you know that’s it, and it’s how you guys doing? what you guys doing? You know, we not as regular as we used to, you know. We say hi and a few syllables thereby you know, and they say, well we’re thinking about starting a jam in our friend’s garage. I’m like, man, I don’t know about that right now. In California, if more than 10 people get together, they want to shut off the electricity and water.
Is that right?
Brian Young 30:09
Yeah, because of the pandemic. So that’s what I’m telling them. Yeah, just just hold off. We’ll see what happens. Just hold off.
Brian Young 30:21
It’s rough here. There’s no music venues open and no entertainment venues, no bars.
Yeah, so it’s the same for us. And it was this where I’m at now. And so it was a it’s a beach community. And so it was a pretty small scene anyway, but, you know, several musicians that that want to play out and just kind of shut it down. So I just coincidentally had started thinking I want to record something, and certainly, being somewhat cooped up, encouraged me to get it done.
Brian Young 30:57
Yeah, that’s, that’s a great idea. That’s what I’m doing. I went back into the studio and did one track and, but you know, I did one song, I’m working on some stuff. And then I started, you know, reminiscing about my wife, and had to shut it down for you know, set it down for a minute. But I got I don’t, you know, I go back in and try to do some every now and then. I’m always writing, wrigint you know, words, but then when it comes time to go in and, you know, lay the, lay the tracks down. That’s what’s kind of hard for me right no.
Well, I’m glad that you’re at least putting your your your toes in, back in there and writing some stuff. And I hope that you’ll be able to press record sometime soon. That’ll be great.
Yeah, thank you man. I appreciate that.
Now, I know what I’m gonna bug you about when we email. You recording yet?
Brian Young 31:49
Yeah. Okay. And likewise, I’m gonna ask you that too.
Well, yeah, no, I did I tell you about that. My friend. I’m supposed to talk to him this weekend to get some more details, because I’m a rookie at this. But he he heard the song. He heard it before it was finished. And then he heard it when it’s finished. And he says, record an album, and I’ll put you out on this new labor event label venture. I’m getting involved in. Did I tell you that?
Brian Young 32:20
No, no, you didn’t tell me that. That’s great. Okay,
Well, yeah, we’ll be. At first I was like, well, I said, let me get back to you, let me think about that. And as soon as I told my wife, she goes, Well, you have to.
Brian Young 32:31
I agree. Yeah, you have to.
So so you’ll be in your right to ask me if I’ve been working and, and working on stuff. I you know what I already booked a. So the song that you heard, On Top of the World that I sent you the preview of, much of the lyrics were written at a writing workshop at a place called Tranquillo Retreat nearby. And it was a…
Brian Young 32:57
Yeah, the workshops are really small groups. And the lady who runs it is just one of my favorite people in the world. But she, because… it’s really geared for fiction writers, but because she knows, I’m a musician. And I had mentioned that, I’m not even sure I mentioned it to her, but whenever we read, what we would do is we she’d give us a prompt something to write about. And we’d write for 10 minutes, and then we’d go around the circle and read to one another. And then the group would just give some feedback, but not nothing. It was never a critical in any way. It was more about like, wow, that character sounds a lot like this, or I really liked the way you did this, to kind of encourage you and, but she always framed, she think mostly when she was talking to me one on one about it later, she always framed what I was doing as a potential song. So she kind of put the bug in my head, I guess, to use some of that.
Brian Young 33:56
So you wrote it, you wrote it all? Did you write it all in one day?
No. So well. So I wrote basically prose for, in that one day, like just in a couple hours that we were there. I probably did three, three pieces while I was there. But then, sometimes between the different workshops I go to, I would, I would go back to the piece and work on it some more and send it to her, because she says, what the deal is you go and you write, and she says if you want to go home and work on it some more and send it to me. I’ll you know, I’ll give you give you my feedback on it. So occasionally I did that. But what happened was I, I had this melody in my head and I, that I recorded on my phone on the guitar, and then I immediately was thinking of looking back to some of those things I’d written for lyrics. And so that’s how, that’s how it came about. But this is all to tell you that I have booked a one-on-one workshop with her for next week, we’re and fortunately we, it’s outside. It’s called Tranquilo Retreat, and it really is tranquilo so. It’s outside. So it’s a nice safe area.
Brian Young 35:00
Yeah it’ll be a nice safe area for us, so we’ll just be the two of us. And she, I don’t know if I told her about the, you know, the friend who wants me to do more songs or not I might have, but I’m sure she knows that I want to go over there and and try to write some more stuff. So
Brian Young 35:17
Yeah, man, those are more songs. Do songs come to you? Like a lot of times songs come to me and then and when I sleep, and I have to jump up or write it down? Because if I don’t the day before, I’ve forgotten it.
Now do you?
Brian Young 35:34
Does that ever happen to you?
Well, I was gonna say no, I’ll tell you, but I have to ask you a question about that first, when they, when they come to your mind, is it lyrics? Or are you thinking of guitar chords and you you write those down or?
Brian Young 35:47
Both some how melodies, sometimes melodies come and I have to, you know, write the melody down on a piece of paper, how I want to go fast, slow, moderate tempo. Then words will come too sometimes, you know, and I have to, or a title will come. And I have to write that title down, and try to build around that title. And that’s what I got the melody, and you know, work on it work, let it work out from there was a lot to me.
That’s cool. No, that has not happened to me. But like, this past week? Well, so first of all, I don’t I’ve not really spent time thinking like a songwriter most of my life. I’ve been a performer, you know, a drummer, and I sing, and I played a ton of cover bands, and I’ve done some drums on in a handful of original projects. But I started thinking I, a friend here gave, you know, refurbished a guitar and gave it to me since I’ve been here in Panama. So I’m like, Okay, well, here’s my excuse to pick the guitar back up, because I hadn’t touched 120 years. And yeah, and then I’m like, Well, okay, now I have to, I have to write something. Just this past week, though. I had a melody in my head. So I went and grabbed, my wife was talking to me, I said, Hold on, grab my phone, and I sang it into my phone.
Brian Young 37:03
Right, that’s what you do, then you go away, you know, work it out. That’s the start. That’s the start. That’s what you have to do. That’s it.
But I think my process for a while is going to be that, I’m going to go to these writing workshops and see if I come out with some things that I can use for for lyrics for songs. And then unfortunately, because well, it’s not unfortunate, but because I haven’t played the guitar very much in so many years. And never did I take the time to get good at it. I the other part of the process is for me. Now. Fortunately, in this day and age, I’m not 100% reliant on this, but if I want to write some stuff on the guitar, I’m gonna have to spend some time playing and learning some things. And just like with the first one, the one that I recorded that you heard it, after playing for a bit, the idea came to me and and so yeah, there was
Brian Young 37:53
Yeah, that’s, that’s what it is, man, you know, like you say, you listen back to, and, you know, work on, you know, it’s a process that have come to, you know, it’ll come to you.
I believe you.
Brian Young 38:08
That’s what I do a lot of times, yeah, I get get a melody sometimes, too. You know, and hey, let me put this down. Now I need a title. You know, it’ll come to me, you know, get you, you know, if you play the guitar, like those sayings is like riding a bike, right? You might be a little slower at it. But if you keep going, you know, the speed to come back. Everything will come back.
Yes. Well, Brian, you know, my, my thing is…
Brian Young 38:38
Anyway you have the year. You got the, you know, you know how music goes. Yeah. That’s a beautiful song you wrote man. Props on that, man. Keep Good. Keep going.
Thank you. Well, I will and thank you. I appreciate the encouragement. It will be helpful for sure. So yeah, so I’ll be bugging you. I guess you can bug me.
Brian Young 38:59
Oh yes sir, I will.
I’ll be afraid to open your emails.
Brian Young 39:08
Yeah, there’s that blues guy, oh god.
So listen, I I have a friend who asked who, who’s also in the community. And we were in a band Long, long ago in Texas. And he hasn’t written music in a long time. And he was asking me about my process, and he was, you no he said, I want to call you sometime soon. I’m trying to talk to people about the writing process. And I just shot a couple quick things back at him and said for sure, call me anytime. But what what would you say to people who either haven’t been writing for a long time, or they want to start writing and they think maybe they can, but they’re just, they just can’t seem to get started. What advice would you give?
Brian Young 39:48
That’s, the last thing you said. You got to get started. Get your pencil, get your paper or whatever. I mean, you know, just look around you and listen. Just sit and be quiet for a while. Thoughts will come to you. Write them down, write them down. You know, that’s what you gotta do. When you come to you, write them down, and go down. Once you write it down, once you write it down, you know go from there. Never forget this all know, one of the last things, my wife was on a sick bed, we was talking about something. She said oh they full of shit. And I said oh let me write it down. And that song is on the latest CD. [Laughter.] Yeah you know, think. You know, and write it down. And, you know, you can build from there. You know…
It’s so true. I love what you said about listen and look around. Johnny Bergin, the guy mentioned to you earlier that the blues player, he when he was here, or maybe when we were talking for the podcast, he said that, so his his partner Stephanie. It’s kind of like you and Becky. He’s got a partner in crime, but that’s with him all the time and managing him and he said she has a lot of, comes up with a lot of great quips. And he’ll always she’ll say something, he’ll go, that’s a song.
Brian Young 41:21
Yeah man, that’s how it is. Let me write that down. That’s what I do a lot of times, you know. Write it down. That’s what I’m saying. Write it down. Once you write it down you know, that’s the first creative part right there.
I think that’s a good habit to, to focus on in which, which means carrying something with you all the time to write it down with. Or I did, I can’t remember who it was, but man, I’m sure that many of the young artists I’ve spoken with on the podcast do this very same thing. But I spoke with one that was constantly taking their phone out and jotting down, you know, typing ideas in there, basically writing it down, as you say, but on their phone.
Brian Young 41:59
Exacly, and if you carry your phone with you. Everybody carries their phone with them all the time. Like he said just hit the, you know, write it down. That’s the main thing I say when you get an idea, write it down.
Yeah. That’s good advice, man. I like it. And, and, and, you know, also sitting still for a while. That’s, that’s pretty good. I’ve, I’ve it’s one of the many things I’ve tried to do. In fact, and I haven’t done it in a while, but I was telling some, a group of people a while back that. You know, if you’re in a creative rut, sometimes one of the best things you can do is carve out some time, daily or weekly to just sit down and do nothing, like nothing.
Brian Young 42:47
Especiall now that where we’re in this pandemic situation and lock down the good time, you know, just sit down and be still for a while man. Be quiet.
Yeah, it does help. It does help, man. Well, Brian, thank you again for spending time with me today and for sharing your story. The very first couple of emails that we we exchanged I was really touched. In fact, I don’t know if I ever told you this, but you pretty much I think made me cry that day. I was telling my wife about it. Becky’s passing. Oh, it was nice man. I appreciate you sharing that it means a lot to me. I am, I know not everybody has time to even open those emails. And and if they do, I don’t know. You know, who am I? Some of them. Some of you guys don’t know me at all.
Brian Young 43:34
But well, thank you, Roberto for being my friend, man. Appreciate it. Thank you for you know, letting me be on the podcast and talk and much success to you, brother. And you know, you’re shining. You’re shining light. You’re a shining light, man. You’re a shining light.
Well, thank you. And same back to you. I will talk to you soon. Because when this thing is ready to to publish, you’ll be the first to know about it.
Brian Young 44:01
All right, man. Thank you again, much success to you, and always give your wife a big hug, man. You know, 25 more years brother.
I will, likewise and enjoy your weekend. Okay.
Brian Young 44:15
Okay, you too, man. Thank you again, Roberto.
This episode was powered by Bandzoogle, the easiest all in one professional website platform for musicians and bands. Two things that will help ensure you’re in control of your music business and your fan base community are a website and an email list. Bandzoogle can help you do both. Plus a solid website makes you look legit! Serious musicians, singers, songwriters, composers and performers know this to be true. If you don’t yet have your own website, check out Bandzoogle. It was created by musicians for musicians. I use it and I love it. It’s as easy as easy to use gets, and you don’t have to worry about plugin updates. security patches Bandzoogle takes care of all that for you. The features and support are both incredible. See for yourself, go to Bandzoogle.com to start a 30-day free trial. Use the promo code Robonzo to get 15% off your first year. Plans start at just $8.29 a month. That’s Bandzoogle.com promo code Robonzo, R O B O N Z O to start your free trial today.
This episode was powered by ConvertKit. I have been to ConvertKit users since early 2016, and I really love it for the email marketing aspects of what I do. It’s more than just an email marketing company though. They are focused on landing pages to giving beginner creators everything they need to start building their email lists. Their new free plan allows creators to make unlimited landing pages and forms, and you can choose from multiple templates. personalize them with design, include an incentive email, create a thank you page, manage all your subscribers and of course send broadcast emails. The support is great. And that is important to me. To learn how ConvertKit can help you connect with your audience so that you can make a living doing work you love, go to UnstarvingMusician.com/Convert or the Show Notes for this episode.
Did you know you can help other independent artists find this podcast by subscribing on Apple podcast or wherever you are listening to your podcast these days. It really does help, so I hope you will consider it. And if you have feedback, please go to UnstarvingMusician.com to get all my contact info. You can text me, call me, email me, leave a voice message right there on that page. Just go down to the bottom of the page and you’ll find everything you need to know. I really would love to hear any of your comments, suggestions, questions, whatever you’ve got. And you can find links to just about everything talked about in this episode at UnstarvingMusician.com/Podcast. All right, I’m peacing out. Thank you for listening and sharing with your musician friends and fellow indie music fans. Peace, gratitude and a whole lot of love.
Support the Podcast
The Unstarving Musician exists solely through the generosity of its listeners, readers, and viewers.
Pardon the Interruption (Disclosure) Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means I make a small commission, at no extra charge to you, if you purchase using those links. Thanks for your support!
This episode is brought to you by Bandzoogle.
From garage bands to Grammy winners, Bandzoogle powers the websites for thousands of musicians around the world.
Plans start at just $8.29/month, which includes hosting and your own free custom domain name. Go to Bandzoogle.com to start your 30 day free trial. Use promo code “robonzo” to get 15% off the first year of any subscription.