Brent Kirby: As His Luck would have it
Brent Kirby has been playing music in bars since he was 14 years old. He’s currently in a number of bands including a Gram Parson’s tribute project and hosting a weekly 10 x 3 singer-songwriter night at Brothers Lounge. Making a living playing music is not an easy thing to do, but Brent proves time and again that it is possible with enough hard work, determination and skill. We caught up with him before a recent gig at A.J. Rocco’s to talk about his new group, His Luck, and an upcoming album.
Is there a name for the new album?
It hasn’t been announced, but I’ll announce it now: Patience Worth. In the 1800s, there was this lady who supposedly had these visions of these words coming from this dead lady named Patience Worth, who lived in England. This is a true story. The spirit was talking to this author. The author wrote all of the books but believed they came from Patience Worth. Patience Worth was the spirit.
How does that relate to the album?
There’s a line in one of the tunes where I talk about, “Who’s your Patience Worth?” Who’s your spirit? Who’s the person that speaks to you and motivates you to go out and do something? We all have this spirit of what we do and we just kind of unconsciously know that we’re going in the right direction. We’ll end up in a space and say, “Wow, this is awesome. How did this happen? This is what I wanted to happen.” You don’t recognize the path because it may be a long path. The other part is that in the last couple of years I went through some personal things that were challenging. That was a part of it. Just patience. Just one step at a time.
What’s different about this album?
Different band. Brent Kirby and His Luck is Kevin Johnson on bass, Ben Nieves on guitar and Chris Hanna on keys. Ray Flanagan sits in on guitar every now and then, JJ Juliano did most of the drumming for the record and then Travis Payton played some drums, too. So, that’s the band. It’s an interesting group of players because Ben kind of has a jazz background. Kevin also has a jazz background and Travis has a completely different background versus what I’m used to playing and writing. It was really interesting to hear these songs that I’ve played a whole bunch of times. Different bands come out and make it feel completely different and fresh. I wanted to capture that. I had some songs and it was a matter of writing new ones.
So, it’s a mix of old songs that you never released and new ones written for this project?
Exactly, kind of half and half. We recorded in this great house in Willoughby Hills. It’s my friend Greg Campolieti’s house. He’s a contractor and he built this house to play music. It has big, cathedral ceilings and it is set up so we can play together live. It wasn’t a thing where we were piece-parting stuff. It was, “Okay, here’s the song. Let’s just start playing.” Sometimes it took 20 takes, but each time kept getting better and better. We kept trying until we got it. That’s the way the recording was done, so when we got done with it, we were on to a completely different mindset. We’d go through the drums, and how they sound, the cymbals, the guitar, the bass, all the different sounds that we were thinking of. The organ, or Rhodes piano, regular piano, whatever it was. We’d talk about that and pull back some. That’s just how we approached the recording. It was organic. It wasn’t forced and it has a nice live sound to it.
And you’re working with Jim Stewart?
He’s engineering it. I’m doing most of the producing, I guess. Jim’s great. He offers input at all steps. He’s got a golden touch.
Where did you find the musicians that make up His Luck?
Chris Hanna, I’ve been playing with for a while, Ben Nieves was a friend of his, Kevin I met through Hey Mavis, he plays bass, and Travis I had met through the 10 x 3. JJ played on an album two records ago, he played drums on it. He kind of rolls into town every year or so for a couple of months and always inspires me to go out and start making another record. He’s a great drummer, too.
You’re running a Kickstarter campaign for the album. What are your feelings about Kickstarter and crowdsourcing in general?
It’s really hard. As an artist, you’re not making a ton of cash. There are good times and there are bad times just like anything else. I try to look at my calendar and know what I’m making in a given month so that six months from now I’m covered. But, when it comes to making a record— to pay musicians, to pay an engineer, the studio, the rentals, and then mixing, overdubs, mastering—it just takes so much money. I budgeted it out and it was much higher than what I’m asking. To do it right, you kind of have to ask for help sometimes. I have people all of the time that come up and say, “Hey, if there’s ever anything I can do . . . ” I guess this is one of those times. Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to return the favor outside of the prizes that they get, which are significant too, as far as value. It’s not especially prideful to go and ask for money. I don’t like to do that. It’s a little bit uncomfortable but when you do something like this you’re getting yourself excited about the record, you’re getting other people excited, and at the same time you’re getting encouragement because you see people buying into it. When you have a successful Kickstarter campaign you get this kind of “in it together” feeling which I think is important. I think all of us, everywhere, need to think about people around us and how we can help them, what we can do to help each other succeed. I try to do that with everything that I do, as far as reaching out to the community. I’ve supported a ton of Kickstarter campaigns because I think it’s important and I want to help out. I think crowdfunding is a good thing.
Your campaign is the first one that I’ve seen with officiating a wedding as one of the rewards.
Years and years ago, some friends of mine asked me to officiate their wedding. I had introduced them. Now I’ve married about eight couples. Now whenever I hear, “We’re engaged,'” I always try to offer that because I know it’s really hard to find. It’s a really rewarding thing, actually, to be part of this special day between these two people. Many times, they’re friends of mine, so it makes it even more special.
Is there a release date for the album?
May 9th at Brother’s Lounge.
Are you planning to tour with His Luck?
Yes, but these things come in steps. In order to get out of town, you have to have something to talk about. I think it’s easier to get things booked out of town when you have something you’re pushing and press happening. I’ve been busy doing Jack Fords and another solo record that I decided not to put out right now. I was with Hey Mavis for a while. All those things have been happening, so I put my stuff on the backburner. Now, this became a priority. I think it’s a process. It starts with a product, then you have to go out and support the product. But, it’s harder to go out and support the product if you don’t have something that’s recent. It was time for me to do this. As the year progresses, we’ll be doing more out-of-town stuff.
How many bands are you currently playing with?
Four. The New Soft Shoe, which is a Gram Parsons band, Jack Fords, His Luck and Ohio City Singers. Four is a comfort factor in a way, at least the way it’s structured right now. I’ve been in six or seven bands at the same time, which is silly.
The Jack Fords also have a new CD coming out.
Yes, March 6th at the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern.
What are some of the differences between the Jack Fords and His Luck?
The Jack Fords are definitely a louder band. Bobby (Latina), who plays guitar, he’s just got a special thing going on. So it’s an attitude there that’s pretty fun to do. It’s more in-your-face . . . more intense. We like to be loud. I’m excited to get it out because it’s been three years that we’ve been working on it and part of it is a sense of closure to me in a way. I think musicians and artists think of things in phases, or as chapters. A certain album represents a certain chapter of your life. Three years is a long time to work on a record. I’ve changed immensely in that amount of time, so I’m excited to be able to commit it and say, “Okay, it’s there. It’s out.” I can mentally move on and Bobby and I can write some more songs. It’s a bit overdue for that one. That one will be good to put out and I’m excited because the mixes sound good and I think it’s a great representation.
Any advice that you would give to a 14-year-old Brent Kirby?
Practice. And learn computer programs. Learn your Photoshop. Learn how to build websites, all that. I didn’t have time to do that, but man, if I was a kid I’d be all over that. Be self-sufficient. Do it all yourself. You can accurately represent your vision if you’re doing it all.
Upcoming 2015 Release Dates
Fri., March 6
Sat., May 9
The Jack Fords CD Release – Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern, Cleveland, OH
Brent Kirby and His Luck CD Release – Brothers Lounge, Cleveland, OH