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Micky & the Motorcars Q&A
Micky & The Motorcars
By Michael Devers
Jul 2008

On July 29 th Micky & the Motorcars will release their fourth studio album in a span of six years. That, in itself, is significant in an era when we're lucky to get even two studio records in that same amount of time from most artists. In fact, the band that was the previous LoneStarMusic artist of the month has managed only three studio records in the last eight years, but it's probably not fair to compare those guys to Micky & the Motorcars.

The band first hit Texas from Idaho in 2002 with brothers Micky (vocals) & Gary Braun (guitars) joined by long time friends Mark McCoy (bass) and Travis Hardy (drums). Texan Joseph Deeb was added on lead guitar and after the bands debut record, Which Way From Here , Hardy returned to Idaho with Shane Vannerson taking his place on the drums.

The 2007 departure of Joseph Deeb shifted the weight of the songwriting task completely to Micky Braun. He's equal to the task on Naïve , writing or co-writing every song on the disc but one, with a little help from the likes of brother Willy, Randy Rogers, and the entire family of Welch. The first single from the album, “Grow Old” is a hard-edged Americana tune penned solely by the Motorcars front man.

LoneStarMusic caught up with Micky at Cheatham Street Warehouse in late June as he was filling in for new daddy (again) Wade Bowen on a songwriters show with Randy Rogers.

LoneStarMusic : You guys have been like clockwork, putting out a new record every two years.

Micky Braun : That's the plan. We're trying to keep it down to a year and a half, but sometimes the ol' songwriting machine gets a little squeaky.

LSM : And sometimes getting the record through the label system takes more time than you think it will.

MB : To go in and record the record only takes ten days. You kind of go in and bust it out and get it done. Then with all the other stuff you have to do. The preparation and photo shoots, it really is about four months worth of that.

I wanted to release Naïve on July 29 th so we'd have it for our reunion show, and they were really trying to push on me for releasing it after that. I was like, “Man, if there's any way we can get it done by then…” I'd hate to drive all the way up there and do that tour and then two weeks later have a brand new CD that nobody got and have to go straight back up there and do it all again.

LSM : In speaking about the preparation, photo shoot, and all of the other stuff – the artwork on this album is great.

MB : Thank you. That's all Betsy Baird and then Carl Dunn on the photos. He does such a good job. He's a great guy and so easy to work with – it's like he's not there. He says, “Just do your thing and I'll be snapping shots and I'll see if I can get something.” He always gets really good shots. Do you have his book?

LSM : I don't have the book, but I've seen a lot of those shots over the years.

MB : His book is so good. This Is Rock & Roll . It's amazing. I've talked with him for hours about different stuff he's shot. It's like “stump the band”. “Have you ever shot Loretta Lynn?” {doing a Carl Dunn voice} “Yeah, I did shoot her this one time…”

Betsy also has done a phenomenal job putting all the stuff together. I've gone to her and said, “Okay, this is my idea…” Then she'll show it to me and it's, “Wow! That's almost exactly what I was thinking, or better.”

LSM : With each individual band member shot in there – it's almost like LP graphics. You just never see this anymore.

MB : Right. I wanted to do that on this record and the one thing we left out was the lyrics. I felt it's really nice to have them, but so many people have IPods now, they're not carrying their CDs around with them anyway. I thought, let's just put the lyrics up on the website (mickyandthemotorcars.com). While people are there they might see some merch, or they might see some dates they hadn't known about, and also for the time we were dealing with on it, it was a lot easier for me to sit with the CD a while and make sure I got the lyrics right.

LSM : This is the first Micky & the Motorcars CD that doesn't have a Joseph Deeb song on it.

MB : Yeah. He left the band about a year and a half ago. He was a great songwriter. I think between us being as busy as we are and he kind of jumped into some new ventures as well so he wasn't writing quite as much. He did send me over a couple of songs, but we never had time to sit down and work on anything,. He's got some new stuff that's really good.

LSM : I've been a fan of his songwriting since back in the Blind Luck days.

MB : Yeah, yeah. We did “Lost & Found” on the last record which was a Blind Luck song originally.

LSM : Joseph has been replaced on guitar by Kris Farrow, but you guys have had an amazingly stable lineup since you came down here six years ago.

MB : For the most part. We lost our first drummer who came down and was with us the first year, year and a half we were here. He found a girl down here, got married, quit, and moved back to Idaho, and we found Shane. Shane played on Ain't In It For the Money , and he's played on all the records. He was the first big change, and Kris was the only other. And actually, Willy also played drums on a couple of tracks on Ain't In It For the Money . “Miserable Year” and “Goodbye Lady”.

LSM : You guys have David Abeyta and Cody Braun producing again. How is it working with them. Any different than working with just one producer?

MB : Working with those guys is a real comfort zone for us. That's who we've worked with on all of the records, really. Michael [Ramos] did do Ain't In It For the Money , but David and Cody produced a couple of songs on that record as well. We've just been doing so many shows and hanging out with those guys… I've known them, obviously I've known Cody my whole life. Dave, I've known him since I was fifteen or something like that. They're really fun to work with because Cody is really the vocal guy and Dave is basically instruments. They're both in there all the time and they're both feeding off of each other.

LSM : I would imagine given your history with them that they do a lot of pre-production work with the band as well.

MB : They really do. This particular record we were in the practice studio for weeks, working on different versions of these songs. Then we'd go and play them live and come back in and rework them more.

On this particular record they were in the studio recording their album [ Bulletproof ] when we were working on the songs, so we came up with most of the arrangements. Later they picked up some tempos and they changed this and that. They came right out of their sessions, which took I think three weeks, and went straight into our project without coming up for air at all. I was real impressed that they held their cool and didn't get impatient and they did a great job. I love working with those guys.

LSM : I've noticed with some of the other albums and artists they've produced that the records always have a really tight sound.

MB : I think that's more of trying to capture what we do on stage. We'll stray away and add musicians – we'll put a piano player on the songs that need it, but as far as staying real tight that's what we strive for, in both of our bands. Trying to play the records as closely as we can to what we do live.

LSM : You wrote with Kevin, Dustin, and Savannah Welch on this record. Were there any cousins out there that you missed?

MB : No, I think I got ‘em. They do have another sister, Ada. She's not really into writing yet, but I bet she will be. It wouldn't surprise me at all. I'm dating Savannah so that was a natural. I'd be working on something and she'd come in and sit down and I'd ask her questions about it. Next thing you know, we're going down a different path and finishing up tunes.

Kevin and I went and sat down with Willy and wrote a tune. Then Savannah and I had started a tune and we were kind of in a weird spot with it. She showed it to Kevin and he said, “I don't know, but I'll sit with you if you guys want, but I don't want any credits on it or anything.” By the end of the session he'd added a LOT to it and I told him, “we have to give you credit on this.” It was more than just a suggestion here or there.

Dustin, I've gotten together with him and written quite a few songs. He's cut a couple of them and I've cut a couple of them. He's a great guy to write with and really all three of them are really fun people to write with. They're laid back and they make smart decisions. They're not too eager to just be done with it.

LSM : For Dustin and Savannah I'd imagine it's a situation similar to yours where they both grew up immersed in a musical environment.

MB : Yeah, yeah. They grew up with their dad always on the road and always around music. Dustin started playing when he was real young and had his bands up in Nashville with Justin Earle and the Swindlers. He's been writing for a long time. Savannah's just gotten into the songwriting part of it over the last few years. She does a great job; she's got a lot of real good ideas.

LSM : You also wrote a tune with Randy Rogers on the record.

MB : We had a couple of songwriting sessions. I actually went over to write with him for his record. The song we put on this one [“Long Enough To Leave”] was the first one we wrote. We got together after that to bang out another one and he played them both to the band and they wanted to go with the second one we wrote, and I was like “Great! We'll take the first one.”

LSM : The first single from the record, “Grow Old”, is a song you wrote on your own.

MB : That's one I like to call a “freak of nature” song. I wasn't planning on writing; I didn't have a single idea in my mind. I was planning on meeting up with Dustin just to go out and have some beers. I had 45 minutes before then and I was thinking about a friend of mine who always used to say, “I don't want to grow old.” I was thinking about that and I grabbed my guitar and sat down and the idea, “I don't want to grow old if I'm going to be lonely” rolled through my head so I thought I'd see what I could do with that. Literally 25 minutes later I had the song done.

LSM : Do you find that the best songs show up like that? Like an unannounced guest?

MB : They just kind of pop out and it's a done deal. A few songs that I've written have taken that path. It's the greatest feeling in the world. Instant gratification. “Thank God I didn't have to spend three months on that one.”

LSM : When you grow up in a musical family like you and Gary did, is there any kind of “Braun Backup Plan”?

MB : No. There's no backup plan. Music is all there is. “Man if this doesn't work out, I might try acting.” That's the backup plan.

We've both done a lot of other stuff in our lives other than music. I built log houses for five summers. I really loved it. Not really as a backup as something to do, but more if I ever get to a point where I can take a little bit more time off of the road, I'd like to do that for myself. Build a ranch, or work on a place. That's what I'm working for right now. I just bought land in Idaho, hopefully I'll start breaking ground next summer.

LSM Naïve is the fourth record now from Micky & the Motorcars and I guess you didn't get a copy of the “Texas Music” blueprint – no live record?

MB : We've yet to go down the live record trail. We've talked to Smith Music about doing a “Live At Billy Bob's”.

LSM : Seems like a natural.

MB : So many people say, “Why aren't you guys doing a live record? You're such a tight live band.” I guess the timing has always been a little bit off. This time around we were just starting a new guitar player with us. We'd had Joseph with us for so long maybe it would have made sense to do a live record if he had stayed in the band – we'd had so many years on the road together.

If I don't have songs, then I could see that being another reason. If I only have a few strong songs that I'd want to put on a record, then maybe we'll do a live record. Or maybe if we want to try and get two records out in a year.

It's not that we don't want to do one, because we really do. I think we're just kind of holding out for the right time and the right venue. We don't want to rush into it and do it half-assed. If we do a live record it's going to be really good quality and the right venue and the right songs. We want it to be a record we can be proud of and happy with as opposed to saying, “Well, it's a lot easier and a lot cheaper, let's just put out a live record.”

LSM : It's a good problem to have always having enough good songs to put out a new studio record every two years.

MB : We're trying to stick with it and I think I really came out of the box on this last record – going to other people and saying, “let's get together and write.” I've logged fifty phone numbers a year of great songwriters and every time you run into each other it's always, “let's get together and write, but really this time. I know we said we would last time, but let's do it this time.” Always for some reason it kind of drifts away.

Now, I'm enjoying co-writing. At first it was a hard thing for me. If a song went a direction I didn't want it to go, I'd kind of groan to myself. Or vice-versa - if I'm trying to push a song a direction they didn't want it to go then you bump heads.

LSM : A lot of songwriters I talk to say that they learn to write one way and then they have to learn a new approach when they start co-writing.

MB : Exactly. There's a lot of give and take. It's hard because when you're sitting in a room by yourself, whatever comes out of your mouth is fine. Ten seconds later you can go, “Gawd, that was cheesy,” and no one knows. But when you're sitting face to face with somebody else I think it helps you be a stronger writer than what you really are, or at least than you are when you're by yourself. It takes a little bit of the laziness out of the process for me personally.

LSM : I have a habit of always checking out the publishing company names so I have to ask you – “Picky I O”?

MB : My dad used to call me Picky I O Micky when I was a little kid. I have no idea why he called me that. I wasn't a picky kid, I think it was just the rhyme. I wrote a tune with Willy a long time ago – it was on The Day – and it was my first song to ever go on a record, and Willy told me, “you have to get your publishing, not that this is going to be a big deal, but you need to have it anyway.” The problem is, there are so many songwriters and so many publishing names, it's hard to find one – like if you sent in Micky, it's probably taken. Willy told me he sent in four or five different names before he finally got one approved. So I tried to think of something that would go through on the first shot.

LSM : There's only one song on this record that you didn't write – Jon Dee Graham's “Twilight”.

MB : Jon Dee is a phenomenal musician and songwriter. When I first started coming to Austin, me and my brothers would go out to the Continental Club and watch Jon Dee play. It was always peeling-your-skin-off loud. Really loud, but so good you couldn't leave. I've always been a huge fan of Jon Dee Graham's stuff. I think this song was on the Great Battle . We played it in the Rock Farmers, which is our side project me and my brothers have, and Gary's wanted to do it in our band ever since. But one of the rules we made in the Rock Farmers was that were going to do songs we didn't do in the other bands. So that was Rock Farmers song and we've always been teetring on the edge of, “can we steal a song from ourselves?” Finally Gary said, “You know what? I just want to do it.” Kris plays phenomenal on it. It's my favorite lead on the new record. It was a fun song for me too because it's the first time I get to play electric guitar on one of our records. It's the only song they let me play it on and it's mixed way, way back. I also got to sing harmony on it.

LSM : Before you came down to Texas, you and McCoy went down to Arizona first. Was there a scene down there?

MB : There wasn't at all for what we were doing. My brother Gary had a trail riding business that he had bought in to and he was giving trail rides. I went down to celebrate his birthday and ended up staying four months working on the ranch with him and helping out, and I really liked the area. I decided to go back down there and I went down there with Mark and Travis, our old drummer. I wrote a lot of songs and Mark was writing with me a lot of the time, and we just practiced our asses off. That's all we did was practice every day. We didn't have jobs. Our day jobs summer before. We thought we had enough money for eight months, but it ended up being more like five. When the money ran out I got a job at a gas station and Mark got a job at a Levis Outlet store.

LSM : Did Gary come back down later?

MB : Gary actually never came down there. He came down to visit in the early spring right before we were moving back. He said, “What you guys are doing looks like a hell of a lot more fun than what I'm doing.” We told him we'd be back up there in the summer and try to get the band back together. He told us to get him all of the lyrics and chord changes so I sat down with a tape recorder and recorded all of the songs. We got up there a couple of weeks later and he had learned them all.

LSM : I know you had a place to crash, but what prompted the move to Austin?

MB : We had couches to crash on and we had a booking agency that was willing to work with us – Wayne Nagel over at the Davis McLarty Agency. There were just too many reasons to fight chasing the brothers coattails thing. It just made so much sense. The only thing that was ever holding us back was the fact that it was going to be the “baby brother band” and how people were going to respond to that.

LSM : How did you guys hook up with Shane?

MB : When Travis told us he was quitting we spread our feelers out trying to find a drummer. I was talking to George Devore and he said, “Man, I got a guy for ya.I got your guy.” It was the drummer from Dexter Freebish and they were on hiatus for four months. He couldn't commit to the band, but we got him to fill in while we looked for a drummer. We did that for a couple of months and then we realized, “I guess we better start doing some auditions.” We hadn't found anybody just by word of mouth so we put an ad in the Chronicle. Shane was one of the guys who called about the ad. We had about fifteen guys lined up for auditions and Shane was the first guy to come in and absolutely nail it. It was instant for all of us. Even there in the audition we felt like a band again. We thought, “If we can get along with him and he can get along with us, that's our guy.”

LSM : How'd you guys find Kris?

MB : I got a phone number from Adam Odor, I believe. We called everyone that we knew that had a guitar rig and did the same thing with the crazy all day auditions. Each guy had thirty minutes to come in, set up his stuff, and play two or three songs or whatever we could get through and then it was next and next and next.

I called him and he said he liked the stuff but he had auditioned for another band the week before and they had just called him and he was going to take that gig. I was like, “Okay”, because I'd never heard him play. I thought, “Good for you, Great.”

We went and did a three week tour with a guy and he played really well, he just didn't fit with us. We learned our lesson on that one – taking him out for so many shows over such a long trip. Great guitar player, but just not our guy. Kris had actually called me while were on that run and said, “that band didn't work out if you guys are still looking for a guitar player.” I let him know that we would call him as soon as we got back to town.

We set up three auditions. With one of the guys it was obvious the second he started playing it was just “no”. We let him play all three songs, but before he even closed the door on the way out everyone was saying no. Another guy came in and he did a really good job, but when Farrow came in it was just like Shane. As soon as it was done we all knew, “that's our guy.” He's a phenomenal musician.

LSM : So he's the rookie. Does he get hazed?

MB : Not really hazing so much, but he hasn't been around as long for all of the other shit. We'll pull into a gig that we know is not going to be that much fun and he doesn't know that yet. It's like, “let's see how he reacts.” Welcome to Pensacola, Washington.




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