A Conversation with Jay Brown
For the better part of two decades, Jay Brown has been filling
the air with music.
As a member of the blues/swing combo Lazybirds, Brown mastered a distinctive rollicking bluesy jazz guitar style. The band originated in Boone, but now all of the members live in different parts of the Southeast.
Without his Lazybirds bandmates at his beck and call, Brown has had more time to explore other musical ventures over the past few years, particularly solo singer-songwriter material and Indian-inspired “world” music.
Brown’s latest solo release is “Beginner Mind,” recorded at his father’s Higherground Studios in Birmingham, Ala. It shows a songwriter and recording artist who is comfortable in his own skin, writing about home, family and love, with the occasional wistful look back at his younger self.
Many of the songs on “Beginner Mind” have a lilting lullaby quality to them, perfectly befitting a man who is now a father for the first time.
The Mountain Times caught up with the busy Mr. Brown on the eve of his new album’s release.
The Mountain Times: How has family life and fatherhood changed your life and your music?
Jay Brown: I used to be a little intimidated by the prospect of one day being a married man with a family, not knowing how much of my energy would be taken from music to be given to my loved ones.
Specifically, I wondered if I’d be able to practice and have the time for the musical immersion that I’ve become addicted to over the years.
Now that I find myself in this new life with a wife and 15-month-old daughter, I see that it is possible be devoted to my family without letting the musical fire die down.
One thing that has helped with this is my part-time job as a music therapist in hospice, because that gives me the responsibility to continue to grow musically, so I can best serve my music therapy clients. Music therapy, as well as my wife, Aditi, and our girl, Sahana, have really been a godsend for me musically, because they have opened up my heart, and that comes out in the music. Aditi has brought me close to the immense world of Indian classical and folk music, which has inspired me in immeasurable ways. So, I see my apprehension was unfounded. The only thing I’ve really had to give up is sleeping late.
MT: How do you divide your music between your solo projects and Lazybirds?
JB: In general, Lazybirds shows take precedence. I try to book my solo shows around Lazybirds, fill in the gaps that way. Lazybirds play mostly weekends, but my one-man-band plays just as often on weeknights. For instance, I play every Tuesday at The Lobster Trap in Asheville. Playing shows with Lazybirds is such a great joy, to the extent that my solo shows used to seem kind of dull. But as I’ve developed the one-man-band show, with guitar, harmonica, percussion and piano, they’re getting to be more fun for me and for the audiences.
MT: How do you like living in Black Mountain compared to Boone and other places?
JB: We just moved to Black Mountain last month, into a house a couple miles from town, complete with two goats and nine chickens. This is the first time I’ve moved into a house and had the feeling that I’d be calling it home for the foreseeable future.
Black Mountain is great because it’s so small and yet has all you need — a few great pubs, farmers markets, a nice community, friendly people, good music scene and a lot of natural beauty. So, I’m proud to call it home. Before this we lived near Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa. Good times there, and I will miss telling people that I live in “Swanna-nowhere.”
There will always be a warm place in my heart for Boone — I spent many great years there. Always living hand to mouth, and that was fine with me. I was thinking about my time in Boone when I wrote “Get Your Fill Of Feelin’ Hungry” off the new CD.
MT: Will you be touring or playing live much this year?
JB: Sure, mostly around Asheville and the surrounding towns. I’ll be doing a CD release show for “Beginner Mind” at the White Horse Black Mountain on March 23. Lazybirds are playing more and more around Asheville, which I’m thrilled about. Alfred from Lazybirds is in Germany right now (where he’s from), and he may be making arrangements for us to play some in Germany. It seemed to work for The Beatles.
MT: How was it like to reconnect with old Boone friends at the Hob Nob show?
JB: Always great to come back to Boone and see some old friends — some I haven’t seen in years and others that I keep in touch with. Lazybirds get the best crowds in Boone — a lot of people who we’ve sort of grown up with, mixed with kids from the college who may be new to the band. Always feels like a good homecoming.