Pieta Brown: ‘Music is such a big place’An interview with Red House Records recording artist Pieta Brown.
When the offspring of musicians we admire become musicians themselves, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of wiggle room in the quality department. They’re either full of great ideas (Jakob Dylan, Dhani Harrison and Sean Lennon quickly come to mind) or often the butt of unfortunate jokes (like John Lennon’s first son, Julian).
Thankfully for folkie Greg Brown, his daughter Pieta fits in well with the first group. She has released a number of acclaimed albums through St. Paul’s esteemed Red House Records and toured alongside such big names as Mark Knopfler, Mason Jennings and John Prine (whom she opened for at the DECC in September).
“I think it was impossible to not have music be a part of my life, that’s for sure,” Brown said. “There was a lot of music around when I was really young.”
In stark contrast to the high-profile gig in the arena with Prine, Brown will return to the Twin Ports to play a show at Superior’s cozy Red Mug coffee shop.
When we spoke to Brown, she seemed equally at home on a big stage in front of hundreds or at a small gathering of fans.
“I really like both things, to be honest,” she said. “For a while I almost felt more comfortable in the big places, because it wasn’t as intimate. I think the super-intimate rooms can, in a way, be more intimidating — at least for me.”
Perhaps Brown’s response has something to do with the diversity of her tourmates.
“Music is such a big place,” she said. “In a lot of ways, Mark Knopfler and Mason Jennings are both songwriters, even though their styles are really different. … If you looked at all the different artists I’ve toured with and worked with, I think a lot of it comes back to the song. The song is at the heart of everything. That’s the thread there.”
As for Brown’s songs, they are influenced both by her father’s genre du jour and the blues-oriented records she devoured in her youth.
“I can still remember pulling a Led Zeppelin record out of my mom’s boyfriend’s record collection — that wasn’t something I grew up with,” said Brown, whose parents split when she was very little. “I remember thinking it was really cool-looking and putting my head between the speakers — I still had a record player.
“… I called up my best friend at the time and said, ‘You gotta come over!’”
Brown spent her formative years living with her mother in Alabama. She said her mother, a single parent, worked a lot of hours each week, so the future musician would find herself alone quite a bit.
“Listening to music was a big part of my life then,” she said. “It was kind of a connecting point to the outside world. By the time I was a teenager, I was really heavy into the country-blues. I got really deep into it on my own, and that was one of my biggest influences — and remains one of my biggest influences.
“I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t put on one of my favorite blues records.”
When I said that her songs have a more pronounced rock influence than those of her Red House Records peers, Brown said that “music has a way of finding you.”
“I’ve definitely tried to cut my own path,” she said, “and that was one of the reasons I didn’t just immediately call up Red House Records and ask them if I could be on the label.”
Even though her father formed the label nearly three decades ago, Brown, who is in her 30s, purposefully veered away from “that course” as a teen.
“I was really into rock ’n’ roll. I had huge Led Zeppelin posters on my wall … and none of my friends did,” she said. “I don’t know where that came from. That music just grabbed ahold of me and it was so based in the blues.”
Other influences Brown mentioned ranged from blues greats Howlin’ Wolf and Memphis Minnie to mainstream rockers like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Stones.
“And, as I got older, I got really intrigued with Neil Young as an artist,” she said. “That’s also very different from my dad. That [music] wasn’t as strong as an influence for him.”
NEWS TO USE
Pieta Brown will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at Red Mug in Superior. Cost is $15. Find her online at www.pietabrown.com. **NOTE: THIS SHOW HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO A FAMILY EMERGENCY.**