Brian Lindsay has been performing and writing material for over 25 years. He has had songs that have not only gained radio time across the country, but have charted among the greats. Despite accomplishing more than most bands in the area the conversation didn’t turn turn to working with a major label, touring, topping music charts cross country. The conversation always came back to one thing: song writing.
So this newest release is your third album?
Brian Lindsay: This is my third album under the GFI label. It is a label out of Ontario run by Tony Gross and it just came out about a month and a half ago. We are getting ready to send it to radio which is the third time our music has made it to radio. That’s always a riot to see how you can compete with the big dogs so I’m looking forward to that.
A few of your singles have been charted before.
On the first record the song was called East Side of the River it charted for 11 weeks. That was the first under that label, so I was really excited and tried to do it again. I [charted] again with King of the Mountain on the next record. That charted for about the same time and got a number one song on a station out of Ocean City, Maryland. With the third one I want to do it again.
Feel like a rock star yet?
No not really, you are still paying dues it’s just the way it is. Songwriting and all of that I do it more for the writing. I get a lot of pleasure out of writing the material, not just playing rock star.
So it’s the Brian Lindsay band a regular line up?
I have a regular line up now. In any town the size of Rochester it takes a long time to find the right players that are on the same page as you are and it’s taken me quite a while. I have been through many bands. I think the lineup that I have right now is the best line up I have ever had. I’ve been working with the guys for a while and we just added a girl for backup vocals. It’s a six piece now and it keeps getting bigger but now I can do all of the stuff exactly how it sounds on the record which is a big part.
Do you tour after you finish recording.
Mostly Upstate New York, we don’t go too far. Mainly around this area, everyone has their day jobs but we can do three day stints. We do a lot of the festivals around here. We are a big band so we are built for festivals, we like the room to move around. You lose something as far as stage show when you try to fit us all on a small stage.
How long have you been playing music?
I have been playing music for about 25 years. I started out a little different than a lot of the bands in Rochester. I never did cover song thing, I placed cover songs during the shows mixed in with our own material. I wanted to concentrate on originals and used some cover songs just to fill out a set. I stuck with it; you see a lot of people fall of the radio then come back 5 years later and try again. I never really took the break, it didn’t make sense to take a break. From the beginning it was really about writing the songs.
Has it always been this style of music?
Pretty much, certainly to some degree depending on the type of songs I’m writing. On this last album it’s a really wide range of tunes and styles. I write everything from soulful Motown music to more country, and definitely straight up rock and roll, even some stuff is a little on the punk rock side.
We had a hard time coming up with the name of the record. We said there was like 10 different dances and music styles on this record and that kept coming up. Then in one of the songs someone asked me to dance and we ended up doing The Monkey, The Tango, and The Boogaloo. I talked to the guy at GFI after about a hundred titles that didn’t fit the album I told him those dance moves and he said that’s the title right there.
The album is very diverse which made me wonder who your influences are.
The influences are not so much bands but song writers. All of the best songwriters that have lasted the longest are the guys I like. You can go back to the Beatles and the Stones, Motown, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Bruce Springstein. Really just the great songwriters are who I’m inspired by. If you look at their careers, they all did several different genres and styles as they write.
Do you do all of the song writing yourself?
I do all of the song writing myself. Way back in the day I would share the work load with the band, but its back to the [problem]where you start a band with a bunch of guys and writing with them and one leaves the band then you are arguing whose songs it is. It always gets dicey so I made a point of doing all of my songs. Not to say that the band doesn’t get a say when we start to flesh it out.
This album when we recorded it all together. So they had a huge influence as far as there parts and how it all went together.
There are a lot of bands out there who have a main song writer of the group. The McCarthy and Lennon of the Beatles for example. When I was honing my skills and getting together I really wanted to learn how to do it all myself.
Do the lyrics come first or the guitar.
[The Lyrics] come first now, back when I first started it seemed like there was never that much to write about. There was always romantic love songs and not much else but as I got to be a better writer the songs began to range. There is one song called The Bully, you read a lot about bullying in the news, there is a song right there. As far as that goes now I take all of the ideas and inspiration I can to write. I know it is a good song if I come up with the title right away or some of the lyrics or idea right away as opposed to sitting down and forcing a song out of a guitar riff. The lyrics now really tell me what the music should be.
How is this album different from the other two?
This one is a heavier record. A lot more guitar, the old stuff was more acoustic, this record has a lot more production gone into it. When I put this record together I wanted an overall concept to it. We pulled from thirty songs and narrowed them down to about ten that tell a story together. I feel like not a lot of people do that anymore. It’s meant to be listened to front to back.
You narrowed it down from 30 songs so you have 20 songs that are not released yet?
Yes, the other songs are raw and pieced together. I sat down with the band this time and asked them what songs they liked; usually I just give them the songs and go from there, this time I really wanted to include the rest of the band as much as possible.
Was it a longer process now that the band was included in making the full album?
Yes, like anything else as we were whittling the songs down people would get attached to a certain song or a certain riff but eventually we got it down to the ten songs. But all in all it was a great experience because I always wanted to put something together as a band.
Do you think it sounds better because of that?
I don’t think better is the right word but it sounds more cohesive than the other two. It has a sound that carries through the whole record.
Do you have a best memory of your career as a musician?
I don’t know, I like getting out there and meeting people and it doesn’t matter if it a small show or a festival. I love to do interviews and radio shows seeing articles in the paper. I like the fact that the music is really about the songs and the writing behind it.
What do you do when you are not playing music?
I have a house on the bay and a boat so I spend quite a lot of time boating and hanging around by the water. It is a huge influence on me there is a lot of history in these songs. I always try to thread something in about our area about upstate New York. I travel a lot too but this area and the outdoors is something I really dig and get a lot of inspiration from it.
Have you been under GFI label your whole career?
I have, back in the early nineties I made a record in a band called the El Fidels. That’s when I first got on the label and then when that came out CDs came out and changed the whole playing field. That band broke up and went through multiple bands. Cassette tapes became big and we could record our music on our own really easily, I did several cassette releases. I ran back into the guy who owned the label and he asked me if I was still writing and wanted me to send him a few tunes. I did and he called me up and asked if he could buy some of my songs for another band that was just instrumentals and needed songs for a record. I ended up selling them ten songs and they recorded them and put their own cd out. From there it was a spring board to get back into that label and making my own records again.
When you write songs for other people how you decide which ones you want to give or keep for yourself?
I always have the songs written and I let the band listen to them and decide which ones they like and see what fits them. You just need to know their style, where they are coming from, how they sing, and just go from there.
Do you feel bad parting with a song?
No not really. It’s great if someone covers my song or wants to use my songs for their albums. I get a kick out of hearing other people play my music especially when they approach it with a different vibe that I originally had in my mind. It’s a testament that the song is a good one and holds up. I mean everyone is still covering Dylan tunes because the songs last the test of time. It is really rewarding for someone to like your tunes.
So GFI called you the skinniest man in show business is that something you go by?
Actually GFI didn’t coin that, it was one of my friends that used to write for an old magazine around the area, I can’t think of what the magazine was. We became friends and went to a few of my shows and he wanted to write blurbs for me, I gave him my record and he had a ton of blurbs and quotes , one of them happened to be the skinniest thing. I am not sure if it is a good quote or not but it’s something. A lot of writers now will write stuff that’s funny instead of a straight review, which is cool. Stuff like that is interesting and it makes a point.