Pink Talking Fish’s Dave Brunyak Is A Little Bit Of Country, A Little Bit Of Rock & Roll

first_imgPink Talking Fish is well known for their performances that include the music of Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, and Phish. However, several members of the band have side projects. One of those members is guitarist, Dave Brunyak. Live For Live Music sat down with Brunyak to learn more about his country acoustic project called Heartland Radio.L4LM: As a guitarist that cranks it out on stage performing some of the industry’s best known songs, how did you go from guitar smashing performances to solo acoustic country shows?DB: Three or four years ago, I was driving up to Mount Snow to go play a gig in the lodge with the group I played with before Pink Talking Fish, called The Phreaks. So I was driving up there, and I had listened to my CD’s a million times, and my iPod was dead. Up in Brattleboro, there’s not a lot more than country music on the radio. There was twenty minutes left to the ride, and up until this point, we tried to find things to listen to. If I even heard the slightest bit of twang on a song, I would switch the station so fast. Now, there was nothing left so we gave it a shot. We were just going to leave it on the country station.It was on a commercial and then the DJ came back. In a country accent, he talked about the next song coming up by Lee Brice called, “I Drive Your Truck.” I’m thinking to myself, “what white trash red neck song is this going to be about?” It turns out that it’s this beautiful ballad with a piano intro. The story is about this guy that lost his brother overseas fighting for our country and he doesn’t go to his grave. He doesn’t say prayers. Instead, he goes to his brother’s widows house and he takes out his truck. He drives and burns up cornfields with it.The story of the song is all about the things in the truck that never change, like the Gatorade bottle on the floor, the Braves cap on the dash, the country station that never changes, and the Army t-shirt that’s folded up. At the end of that song, I was balling while driving to Brattleboro. It reminded me of things that I have always known, but needed a check on, was to never judge a book by it’s cover.I started digging into country radio. I found a lot of things that I like. I found a lot of things that I don’t like, which is very similar in all genres. Country radio now is a fusion. The younger generation has really taken a hold of it and they’re blending it with pop and rock. There’s definitely some rocking country tunes out there. Then there’s also some really silly stuff out there. Then there’s also that deep, southern sound. It’s all blended in there.L4LM: Other than the obvious, how do your acoustic country sets differ from your work with PTF? What can audiences expect from your solo shows?DB: Since I started The Phreaks in 2010, and then moved on to Pink Talking Fish in 2014, most of my career has been built around very cerebral music – stuff that I have to think about and is intense, complicated and sometimes strange. It takes a lot of practice. Country music is the exact opposite.It’s simple. It’s easy listening. It’s a bunch of 3 or 4 chord songs that you can sit at the corner of a bar and play and enjoy without having to be super sharp and intense, and thinking about the next crazy change. It’s very relaxing for me to listen to and perform.There were years that went by that I only listened to Phish, with a little bit of String Cheese Incident, and maybe some Strangefolk and Percy Hill splashed in there. It’s to the point now in my career where that is becoming a day at the office. I love it now. I still go to Phish shows every year, and when I’m there it’s amazing, but when I’m in my car, all I listen to is country music. That’s it. It’s been like that for two or three years now.At Berklee College, in performance classes, I was taught that you can’t just show up to a session as an instrumentalist and say, ‘sorry, I can’t play country.’ You don’t get paid that way. You need to be able to be flexible. That’s how you become a well rounded musician.L4LM: Explain how country music has influenced your playing since discovering it’s simplicity? DB: I love so many pieces of it. I will admit that I drive the guys in PTF nuts when I drive because it’s all we listen to when I drive the van. So, I don’t have to drive very often. Rule #1 with country music is that you can’t take it too seriously. If you’re taking it seriously, you’re missing how fun some of the music really is. If you can let it go and let it be what it is, it’s just really entertaining. There’s also some deep, emotional things in there, which is also fun to grab on to as well.On the radio these days, I really think that, in contemporary music, that the best guitar playing, and the most tasteful, is in country music, minus some of the rock that’s out there. It’s Nashville, where its coming from. The stories in country music are awesome. They’re all trying to get something across. There’s mostly morals in the good stuff. I don’t want to bash anyone that’s doing the “pop” country. The really shallow stuff bothers me, but then there’s artists like Chris Stapleton and Eric Church. I love Keith Urban. Blake Shelton is a mega super star and his music is hokey and silly at times but, again, if you embrace it for what it is, it’s really good. The stories are there and you can get lost in some of that.L4LM: Who are your biggest influences in the country scene?DB: Some of my friends have been saying that I’m going to pioneer a new genre of country music and it’s going to be jam-country. I play the songs and sing in my own version of country drawl. Then I improvise like Trey Anastasio. My biggest influences? It’s just who I like. I love Keith Urban. I wish I could sing like him. Eric Church is a great storyteller and he fits my voice pretty well, so that works out pretty good. Chris Stapleton is a beast and he’s a bit more authentic.I’m still absorbing it. On the surface, country music now has transformed from what it was fifteen years ago, thirty years ago, going back to Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and artists like that. Part of my affinity for country music these days is because I’ve been listening to underground music my entire life. To thoroughly enjoy something that’s on the radio and easily accessible is an enormous breath of fresh air for me. It’s also common ground throughout the entire country. There are people that listen to it everywhere. I’m just embracing that for what it is.I was headed down to meet a buddy of mine, to do an open mic, in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Long story short, he couldn’t make it, so I ended up going down there by myself. It was to be with the other guy, Dustin Snyder, in Heartland Radio who does a lot of the singing. We used to do duel acoustic country stuff a few years ago but we haven’t had the chance to get together since PTF blew up.So I head down there by myself to go do this gig and I walk in the door and decided that, from the minute I walked in, I wasn’t going to be Dave from PTF. I was going to be [spoken in southern drawl] “DB from Mobile, Alabama.” I never in my whole life have stayed in character so long. I did my thirty minutes filled with “hey, y’alls” and “how ya doin’s.”Playing country music helps me step into a new character. I can be free and live a whole different life for a little while. It’s just fun and that’s why I’m doing this and playing country music, because it’s fun. I hope that people who were like me and turn the radio away from country music, would just give it a shot, and not just that one song that you hear. Listen to it for a day and see if you can find something. I guarantee you will find something in there that you like.L4LM: What do you have on your schedule for your country gigs? Where can fans get a taste of this other side of you?I will be playing at the Bull Mansion, in Worcester, MA, every Tuesday night, starting on March 14th. I will be at Medusa Brewing Company in Hudson, MA on March 18th. On Saturday, March 25th, I will be joined by Dustin Snyder for a double acoustic show at The Pier in Narragansett, Rhode Island.I’m really only starting to scratch the surface on this part of my career. In 2017, I want to play more than I ever have. I will spend a lot more of my time between shows with PTF doing this. PTF has a lot of June off, so I am trying to set up a big month of country music for then. It’s going to be a growing year, as I need to set up new relationships with clubs and people and try to get the snowball rolling so that by next year it’s just running itself. It’s a whole hell of a lot of fun.For more information on his country project, Heartland Radio, please visit their Facebook page.-Words by Sarah Bourquelast_img

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