The Providence-based Brown Bird has been a vital fixture on the local music since forming in 2003. Currently consisting of Dave Lamb (guitar, banjo, percussion, vocals) and MorganEve Swain (fiddle, cello, upright bass, vocals), Brown Bird is a multi-instrumental duo that plays a unique mix of genres, which include, but is not limited to: roots, folk, Americana and bluegrass. The duo recently showcased their unrivaled style on a grand scale at the 2011 Newport Folk festival this past summer. Fresh off of the release of their fifth full-length album Salt for Salt and the start of their US tour, Brown Bird took some time out to discuss their music with knotmove.com.
Though Brown Bird started off as quintet, the band is currently a duo. Are you content as a duo or are you looking to usher in any new members?
MorganEve Brown Bird actually originally started as a solo project in 2003, and over the years it’s lineup has changed several times. Though we were a quintet for the recoding of The Devil Dancing, that incarnation was brief, and we toured as a trio for about a year and a half after that release. We became a duo in 2010, and are confident with the sound that has come out of it. We do have my brother Spencer guest-appearing on one track (“Shiloh”) on the new album, Salt for Salt, but plan to remain a duo henceforth.
Is there something about Providence that makes it such a hotbed for folk acts like yourselves, Joe Fletcher and The Low Anthem?
ME Providence is a great city. It obviously has a high focus on the arts, and while one could argue that it’s lacking venues, it still has a strong creative community. One thing we really love about it is the crossover genres. We often see a lot of the same people out as shows that we play and shows that we attend, whether it’s a “folk” act of Providence noise. I’m not sure Providence is a hotbed for “folk” any more than it is for noise rock, alt-country, math-rock or metal. I think it’s a hotbed for folk in general, and hope that the city continues to cultivate creativity.
You’ve toured throughout the US and Europe with The Low Anthem; how do European fans compare to their American counterparts?
ME Our tour with The Low Anthem in the winter of 2010 was an incredible experience. Crowds there were different from the ones we’re used to for several reasons. For one, the venues and audiences were much bigger than anything we’d experienced at home, because of The Low Anthem’s awesome following there. Europeans also have a better understanding of how an audience should act. People are very respectful- quiet and attentive while still being a little rowdy and having a good time.
Dave, although you began as a one man band in Seattle, do you consider yourself solely a Providence act or do you still posses Pacific Northwest roots?
Dave I only lived in Seattle for a few months, and though it’s technically where Brown Bird started, I consider the North East to be my home and where my roots are.
MorganEve, being a Connecticut native, do you consider yourself a true Rhode Islander?
ME Although I grew up in Connecticut, I have lived in Rhode Island for about 7 years. I definitely feel at home in Rhode Island, and think of Providence as “my city.” Dave, did live in Maine off and on for a couple of years. I think we both agree that “New England” is home to us.
Dave, I read that you spent some time working at a ship yard in Warren, RI; do you think it is necessary for a folk artist to have as least partly lived a blue collar existence in order to truly capture “folk” sentiments in his or her lyrics?
Dave We don’t consider ourselves to be a folk band. Working in the shipyard has definitely had a direct effect on my songwriting, but that’s because it’s what I chose to do for my day job and it happened to provide a lot of creative inspiration. Some songwriters write about what they know intimately and others do an amazing job at creating images that conjure up some thought or feeling in us (for the writer AND the listener) that we don’t even understand. Some do a great job at both. There are many ways to write a great song out there and personally I think it would be a shame to confine them all to a specific regimen or lifestyle in order to produce a sound that you can fit into a genre.
Do you not like being called a “folk” act?
Dave Terms that other people use to describe your music can only inhibit your creativity if you let them. We personally try to avoid using any genre title to describe what we do but if people feel a need to use a familiar genre term to describe us that’s their own choice.
Check out BrownBird.net for more info on the band and to purchase their new album Salt For Salt. Brown Bird is currently touring the US and will make their way back to Rhode Island on December 17 at The MET in Pawtucket.