The ME Interview – Brinsley Schwarz

Ever since I started this blog six years ago, I’ve been wanting to interview a musician, and preferably, someone who had deep roots in the rock and/or blues scene. So when Brinsley Schwarz’s label reached out with some tunes, I immediately took up their offer of an interview.

This interview was arranged through Brinsley’s label Fretsore Records. I emailed them a few questions which Brinsley graciously answered in between bouts in the studio. Hope you enjoy. 

As I said in a recent New Music Revue, “For the uninitiated, Brinsley Schwarz is a guitarist and singer whose recording career goes back to 1967. According to his press kit, he made his “first records as a member of the British pop band Kippington Lodge.

In between the Kippington Lodge recordings and his new record Tangled, Schwarz was a member of the influential ‘pub rock’ band, the eponymously named Brinsley Schwarz with his schoolmate Nick Lowe and The Rumour, which backed Graham Parker on tour and on five studio albums, in addition to releasing three albums of their own.”

Interestingly, in looking back I found that Brinsley’s name came up here and here and here. Here’s the interview:

Music Enthusiast: The first question is not really a question so much as welcome and glad to see that one of the long-time British rockers is still out there doing it

Brinsley: Hi Jim, good to ‘meet’ you, and thanks.

[ME] How have you been holding up during COVID?

[Brinsley) Well, my family and friends are all okay, so a lot to be thankful for. I have found it pretty depressing though, definitely been very emotional sometimes pretty much every day, and it has been difficult to work through at times.

We recorded Stranded and Crazy World during lockdown with James Hallawell in his studio and me either outside in the courtyard or in Terry Britten’s studio across the courtyard. We did some mixing and mastering with me at home, which was going really badly until we realized that my iPad headphone output reversed the stereo image!

[ME] What inspired you to make your new album, Tangled?

[Brinsley) This goes back a way…. Between 1980 and 2000 I’d barely written a whole song. Then I got Steely Dan’s album Two Against Nature, I was listening to it two/three times every day, and suddenly, one day, I just started to write songs. I guess I had a lot of stuff stored up in my head that needed to get out.

Then I met up with James at a Graham Parker and The Rumour reunion gig. He has a studio and he invited me to come down and record something. So, I did, and that went so well that we carried on. The resulting first solo album Unexpected came out a few years back.

There were a few songs left over from that and so we carried on recording. And now Tangled is out and some of a third album is underway. But it’s been not so much making an album, more having fun recording the songs, and then at some point an album appears.

[ME] Your bio says that you’ve done some touring as a duo with Graham Parker. Do you have any tours planned with him currently? Or as a solo act?

[Brinsley] Since Graham Parker and The Rumour ‘reformed’ ten years ago we made two albums and toured the US and UK four/five times. And then I was pleased to tour more with Graham as a duo, which was very different from being in a band, but very enjoyable. But nothing more arranged with GP at the moment. I’m working towards some solo gigs, or maybe band gigs, but still more than a little apprehensive about COVID.

[ME] What keeps you motivated?

[Brinsley] One day when I was thirteen, I heard “Apache” by the Shadows on the radio. In those three minutes, I fell in love with guitars. As I learned more about music and guitars through my life, playing, building, and fixing them, my enthusiasm for them has grown. I play every day, just playing guitar keeps me motivated.

[ME] What artists were most influential in your musical development?

[Brinsley) Ah! Hank Marvin, The Shadows, The Beatles and British ’60’s bands, Elvis P, Chuck Berry, Albert King, everyone early Motown, The Band, Bob Dylan, Little Feat, Steely Dan, Robben Ford, Larry Carlton, Amos Garrett.

[ME] Tell us a little bit about Brinsley Schwarz, the band. What album would you recommend to readers to get a good flavor of what best represented their sound?

[Brinsley] Since we were known more for our live gigs, What IS So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding? on Hux Records might be a fun place to start.

[ME] How about Ducks Deluxe? It looks like you’ve gotten back involved with them in the not-too-distant past.

[Brinsley] When the Brinsleys broke up in 1975, I joined up with Ducks Deluxe with my friend Martin Belmont for a few months until they too broke up. Then came my time with Graham Parker. I retired from music in 1990 and became a luthier. I hadn’t played a gig for twenty years when Graham called us up with the plan to reform.

We recorded the album Three Chords Good, which went really well, but I realized I was not quite ‘match fit’, having played a lot whilst repairing guitars but not having played live at all. Martin invited me to join the Ducks on some gigs and a tour in Sweden, which was a great help and also fun. We played “Apache” to huge applause, on a boat that day tripped out of Stockholm! I played with the Ducks until, once again, they broke up.

[ME] Nick Lowe was one of your bandmates in Brinsley Schwarz. Have you been in touch with him?

[Brinsley] Very occasionally.

[ME] How has the music industry changed during the time you’ve been involved?

[Brinsley] Well in many ways, but back in the ’60s and ’70s you worked to get a record deal and then toured to sell your record, and you made money from record sales and songwriting royalties (or that was the plan). Now it seems like it’s the other way round, you don’t get much from selling records anymore but if you’re lucky people come to see you play, at least that’s how it seemed pre COVID. Certainly, a lot more giant gigs and festivals this century.

[ME] Beyond your new album, what do you look back on musically with the most pride?

[Brinsley] Well there have been special moments that I can look back on, but yes, I’m especially pleased with Tangled definitely, and my first solo album, Unexpected…. I’m quite chuffed with my bass playing on those two albums, I love playing bass, love listening to bass players, sometimes I listen to a record, it finishes, and I realize I was just listening to the bass … sorry, got distracted there … and GP and R’s last album Mystery Glue.

[Also], The Rumour’s first album, Max, proud to have been in The Rumour and having played with Graham. Guitar playing-wise, my playing on “Coathangers” (Three Chords Good) on “This Town” (Max) on “Second Best” (Unexpected), and “Stranded” (Tangled). And I like that I wrote the song “Crazy World” (Tangled), which still brings a tear.

[ME] What’s next for Brinsley Schwarz?

[Brinsley] Well, still working on getting Tangled out there. I have some of the next album recorded and more songs waiting. I’d love to make an instrumental album, gigs or touring maybe, keep on playing guitar!

[ME] Any last words for our readers?

[Brinsley] Sometime in the early ’70s, Robbie Robertson of The Band was interviewed in the Melody Maker (major UK music magazine). The interesting question was ‘what do The Band listen to?’  The more interesting answer was ‘Lee Dorsey’. We called up our friendly record company guy, Andrew Lauder, and asked him to please get us anything by or related to Lee Dorsey (we knew he’d had a couple of hits, e.g., “Working in a Coal Mine”).

Andrew sent up a bunch of records and we discovered Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, The Meters, and more, great music from New Orleans. Always interesting and sometimes rewarding to go back and discover where what you may be listening to today comes from.

Thanks for reading,, and when it comes to maybe buying my record, please don’t be shy … stay safe.

Brinsley Schwarz.

Thanks for the idea Brinsley. And thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule.

You can check out and buy his stuff here.

 

 

 

22 thoughts on “The ME Interview – Brinsley Schwarz

    1. That’s great. To my own regret I’ve never seen Brinsley, Parker or Lowe for that matter. GP is on tour but I think I may have missed his swing through these parts.

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    1. Odd, isn’t it? And that was far from their best album. But, you know, whatever it takes I suppose. As to questions, I think if I get further opportunities I would ask how musicians made that decision to go full-time as an artist. Seems like a damned hard way to make a living and eventually support a family. But some of these people just seem to glide into it naturally. I remember watching a documentary about Pearl Jam. At no point did any of those guys seem to have any other plan, fallback or otherwise. I found that pretty amazing.

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      1. Must have been annoying for the Pearl Jam guys from Mother Love Bone, to build a profile then have their lead singer die on them. They were lucky to find Vedder.

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        1. Do you know their history or see their documentary? Luck for sure. They weren’t even in the same state. A friend of a friend got it to Vedder over a thousand miles south in San Diego. He wasn’t even close to being part of their circle. But he had the goods. The rest is, of course, all grungy.

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        2. If you find it somewhere I think you would dig it. I’m not even a particularly big fan of theirs but I always enjoy a good band doc.

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  1. Needless to say I enjoyed that conversation. Brinsley has been on my box for many years. His work with GP and the Rumor have been high on my listening routine for years. He is such a good guitar player. I was telling someone about Ducks Deluxe awhile ago. I banged that bands drum years ago. Cool that he mention Amos garret another under the radar player in my books. It’s funny, in the last year that New Orleans stuff has been in my ear a lot and with a few folks I know. Im in good company with Brinsley. Good work Doc. Refreshing to hear from someone who has put out so much good music and was a big part of what I listen too.

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    1. I know that you are one of the few people I know who would recognize his name. I’ve known about him – or at least the band – since high school. But I didn’t pay super close attention and so didn’t really know his stuff (or Nick Lowe for that matter.)

      Funny about Ducks Deluxe. Only knew the name. So many bands. As to Garrett. in the guitar world all you have to do is one well-known solo and you’re in the club. So, Elliot Randall did Reelin’ in the Years (a favorite of J. Page) and Garrett did Muldaur’s Midnight at the Oasis

      It was nice to hear him name check Robbie, I know most of the people named but Lee Dorsey rang a very faint bell. Can an ME post on that stuff be too far off? Should I interview Robbie? Only time will tell…

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  2. Congrats on the interview, Jim, I enjoyed reading it. I wasn’t familiar with Brinsley Schwarz. Kind of cool he’s also a guitar builder.

    While I was reading your post and as I’m writing this, I’ve been listening to his new solo album – definitely sounds like up my alley and wants me to explore more of his music.

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    1. Have you ever heard Brinsley Schwarz, the band? This is from RockPalast. Nick Lowe on bass They’re pretty good and not what you’d expect. Let me know if you need any translation on the introduction.

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