Most musicians spend a majority of their time on the road, traveling as far as they can in the hopes of being heard. For some, this is through the blazing speakers of music venues or the airwaves of radio stations, but for others it's through the thoughts and feelings they strive to conjure up in listeners. Acoustic/folk/indie rock solo artist and Belfast, Northern Ireland, lad Jimmy Brown, who now resides in Hickory, fits better into the latter category.
Brown moved to Hickory almost four years ago, after traveling to the area with a friend who was buying houses. He brought his guitar along, and after meeting folks and members of the now defunct band Airspace, which he joined as guitarist, he decided to stick around.
In his time in Airspace, Brown also worked on creating songs with an English professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University and fellow Belfast native Adrian Rice. The two continue to work on songs today, in addition to playing together in The Belfast Boys, a band playing traditional Irish songs, along with former Airspace frontman and Belfast native Alyn Mearns.
Brown, who has released a digital EP for his solo project in a variety of digital stores (He's got download cards that feature codes for free downloads, too) is working on a physical CD to be released in mid-March. The album will feature two parts, on one of which he will play his tunes while backed by a band and on the other of which he'll play acoustically. Most recently, Brown has been busy recording, traveling and performing shows in Ireland and other parts of Europe.
He reflects on the fan base on his home turf. "Whenever I go home now in Belfast, it's pretty much packed out and radio stations are all playing my music and people seem to know what I'm doing," he says. "People kind of are watching. They've got their eye on me, because they think there's something mysterious about a person being away for so long and not really coming back. They want to see what's happening."
The album, which Brown is currently working on, will include tracks like "Age of Distraction," which was inspired by Rice's observations of students caught up in a texting frenzy of unimportant information.
A newbie track is to be titled "Rilke Says," named appropriately after poet Rainer Maria Rilke whose line from a poem is referred to in the song. Other lyrics in the song contain lines like "Sleep walk to an early grave" and repeat in its chorus "What's it all about?" Both Rice and Brown have been informed they were caught sleep walking as children, and in some ways the song reflects on those experiences, although it delves even more so into deep questions hidden amidst the murky waters of the unknown.
"The truth was never easy really. Basically, I think it's important for people to seek the truth, whatever it is. I think people don't do that, so that's what I mean about the sleep walking," Brown says.
Brown, whose influences include Morrissey, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Bryan Houston, also explains his rather philosophical songscaping process. "I try to get into this half-awake half-sleep, kind of dream-like state where it feels like you've got one eye closed and one eye open. I don't ever feel like you write a song. I feel like you discover it. You have to learn how to put yourself in the best state of discovery, instead of trying to manipulate it. I think it's just learning to trust that feeling. I'm trying to develop that idea and just go with it," Brown says.
As for Brown's thoughts on what he hopes to achieve through his music, he explains that he'd just like to be able to make enough money to keep doing what he is doing. He doesn't want to compromise or feel forced into changing his music for a record label or even for something that could earn him more money. In the process of it all, he also admits that being a musician isn't easy.
"It's really hard to do. It's really hard to keep playing music, because there are so many people telling you not to do it, like family and friends. They're just like 'You could be a doctor.' Maybe I could be or maybe I couldn't, who knows?" Brown says. "I just want to be myself. I want to be able to keep doing it. I want to be able to provide for myself, and a family through my music. Anything else on top of that would be a bonus."
Jimmy Brown opens for Sam Quinn and Japan Ten at Visulite Theatre on March 5. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 on the day of show.