Thursday, 11 August 2022

Legendary rocker’s son is mowing his own way

PETE Brown’s new band gives him more creative control than he has ever had before.

PETE Brown’s new band gives him more creative control than he has ever had before.

The son of 74–year–old rocker Joe Brown, who has more than half a century in the business, Pete is now staking out his own territory as part of bluegrass band the NewGrass Cutters.

He said: “I have worked for my dad as a professional musician for a long time.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a hard way to make a living in music, but if we go somewhere he’s in charge.

“But this is our band, so I can say if I’m a bit bored or not feeling something we’re doing.

“We all feel some ownership for it and that is a really good thing.”

Brown, 49, plays mandolin and lapsteel guitar in the band, as well as jointly singing lead vocals with drummer Pete Capaldi, 65 — a fellow veteran of his dad’s band.

Double–bassist Mike Nicholls, 42, and banjo player Richard Collins, 49, complete the bluegrass group — a type of country music.

The band was formed after Nicholls was approached to put together a bluegrass band for a party.

Brown said: “Someone wanted to pay a lot of money for a bluegrass band but there wasn’t one they could book.

“I thought: I can play mandolin but I don’t know much about bluegrass.

“Someone was prepared to pay a huge amount and Mike said he had already said yes, so we better get on with it.

“I rang people who know bluegrass music and got Richard Collins, who’s a world–class banjo player and goes out to Nashville to play. I got Pete Capaldi, who’s a great vocalist and we had gigged together.

“First we thought it was a one–off so we don’t want to prepare too much. We came together, came up with ideas on what to cover in a bluegrass style. Then we played the gig and people were going mental for it.”

Now the band are gearing up to play the main stage at Cropredy in August — a three–day acoustic festival near Banbury — in front of 40,000 people.

Brown said: “The way I saw it was we have done four gigs and were invited to go on the main stage. There are really big mainstream bands playing on that stage.

“We’re just building up to finishing our album. I think our reputation as musicians and producers of records helped us.

“We covered You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester James and people said ‘Wow, this is something completely new.’ They had never heard anyone do disco bluegrass.”

Currently the band focuses on covers of classic and contemporary music including Maroon Five’s Moves Like Jagger, Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf and Elbow’s anthem One Day Like This.

An album of cover tracks is due to be released later this year. Entitled Mowing Down the Groove, it will be produced by Brown.

He said: “It is exciting to get the album finished and I think people are going to enjoy it. We’re looking to have it finished by August.

“I’m producing it, so it’s all on me to do it. I do a lot of production in my studio, which is still being finished.”

Brown’s studio — in a warehouse between Nuffield and Crowmarsh Gifford — is still under construction.

The studio, which is soundproofed on all sides with 18 inches of hay, is where Brown will be based for the work he does as a music producer.

He has previously worked with the likes of The Specials, Status Quo and George Harrison.

Brown said: “I normally do 90 gigs a year with my dad’s band — 45 in the spring and 45 in the autumn.

“He had a health scare last year and said he was taking 2015 off, but I have still been keeping busy producing for other people as well.

“Now the NewGrass Cutters is beginning to take over.”

As he goes over the tracks which need touching up for the album, Brown enthusiastically twiddles his pen between his fingers in time to the music.

“The whole bluegrass thing is a lot of fun and as long as it stays that way we will keep doing it.

“We try a lot of songs out and if it doesn’t work we just move on to the next one. My dad absolutely loves it and thinks it’s a great project.

“It’s a novel idea and takes the music out of context and that is part of it’s charm. It’s not necessarily that the covers are better, but for me the important thing is that the song still works.

“Doing songs out of context is not a new thing — Susan Boyle did a cover of Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones, that was massively out of context. As long as we feel the outcome is good and we’re still enjoying it, we will carry on.”

• The NewGrass Cutters play Nettlebed Village Hall tonight (Friday). Tickets on the door.

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