QRO sat down with J.B. Brisendine, singer/guitarist for Atlanta’s Brother Hawk. In the conversation, Brisendine discussed their new record, Big Medicine, their old out-of-print EPs, their upcoming tour of Europe, starting the band, finding & losing drummers, tattoos, and more…
QRO: Who’s in the band Brother Hawk?
J.B. Brisendine: J.B. Brisendine [lead singer and lead guitarist], Nick Johns [keyboards], James Fedigan [bass], and Allan Carson [drums].
QRO: How long has the band been together?
JB: Since 2010. We played our first show and released our first EP in 2011.
QRO: What was the EP named and is it still available to purchase?
JB: Love Songs. No, it is not.
The new record [Big Medicine, released May 28th, 2016] is kind of an update of songs from all three of our EPs, so we discontinued the older ones when we released it.
QRO: But those will become collectors’ items.
JB: [laughs] Let’s hope! They will be available again someday perhaps, but for now as we gather new fans, we want them to be introduced to us by our current work.
QRO: What were the other two EPs called?
JB: Affairs of Plain Living, and Live from Pack Life Recording.
QRO: Has the band line-up remained the same?
JB: Only the drummer has changed.
QRO: So how long has Allan Carson been in the band?
JB: He joined the band in June. He did not play on our new record.
QRO: Who was the original drummer?
JB: Our original drummer was Sjon McDaniel, then Champ Hammet, Then J.C. Bartlebaugh for the past two years, and now Allan Carson.
QRO: So was J.C. on the album?
Yeah, we’ve had a good amount of press here, as well as in Europe. The reviews have been great. I think the only bad one we got was from Germany.
QRO: Tell us about when you performed with Blackberry Smoke and on the cruise ship tours?
JB: ‘The Simple Man’ cruise [with Lynyrd Skynyrd] was in November 2014, the Joe Bonamassa cruise [‘Keeping The Blues Alive at Sea II’], was in February of this year. We’ve played some shows with Blackberry Smoke over the past two years but the bulk of it was earlier this year, in February and March.
QRO: Did someone in Blackberry Smoke know you? How did you get involved with them?
JB: Brit [Turner], the drummer, got one of our old CDs from my friend Chris Howell, who is a tattooer from Atlanta. I met [Turner] a few times, and he came to see us play, then he invited us out to see them play. He’s an awesome dude, and just wanted to help us out since he dug our band. He got us hooked up with the cruises, had us open for them, and he hooked us up with the European booking agent we signed with. We also sell our merch through his website and warehouse, Merch Mountain. He’s a great friend and a mentor in the business for us.
QRO: How has the new album been doing? Has it had many reviews?
JB: It’s been great! Yeah, we’ve had a good amount of press here, as well as in Europe. The reviews have been great. I think the only bad one we got was from Germany. [laughs]
QRO: Has it gotten any radio play?
JB: I know there are some online stations that play us frequently, as well as the rock and college stations here in Atlanta.
QRO: Is it available to stream?
JB: Yes! Pretty much everywhere: Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc. I know we don’t get anything [monetarily] really, but we’re at the point where we just want people to hear it.
QRO: Do people in Europe know your music? Have you had album sales over there or done a tour with Blackberry Smoke there?
JB: We haven’t toured [there], but since we announced the tour, we’ve definitely sold some albums there. Blackberry Smoke does really well there, and they have the kind of strongly devoted fans that pay attention to everything they do. So a lot of people know who we are over there just because we’ve toured with Blackberry Smoke here. It’s very cool.
QRO: What size venues are you playing?
JB: I think the venues are mostly mid sized clubs, but nice ones, kinda like the equivalent of The EARL.
QRO: Are there any particular venues you’re excited to play at?
JB: Not a venue in particular, but I think I’m most excited to get to Spain. The bulk of our press has been there, and the response has been awesome. The bulk of the tour is there as well, ten dates.
Nick [Johns] and I grew up together and started our first band when we were nine, so I was chasing him down for this band because I knew just how incredible he really is.
QRO: Who started/founded the band?
JB: I suppose I did. James and I had been in bands together before, and were trying to start something for a while. I really wanted Nick in the band with us, but his life was very different then and it took some serious convincing, a couple years actually. Once he finally agreed to just get together with me, it instantly clicked and he was on board. Side note: Nick and I grew up together and started our first band when we were nine, so I was chasing him down for this band because I knew just how incredible he really is.
QRO: Was he living at home? Is that why he couldn’t join right away?
JB: He was married, and already in [the band] Mice in Cars, and he just didn’t think he had the time. He was also considering moving away at one point, so he didn’t wanna commit. Once he decided on staying in Georgia, I got him to jam and there wasn’t any turning back! He had also never played keys in a band, and didn’t have the equipment to do so either.
QRO: Really? Where did he play keys before?
JB: He’s a classically trained pianist and certified conductor. He’s really on a different level than the rest of us. [laughs] As far as bands he’d been in, he’d only been the drummer. I think he didn’t know how to translate what he knew about piano into being in a band, but we disproved that quickly!
QRO: What did you and James do before? Were you in a band together or separately?
JB: We met in 2003, when a mutual friend was putting a band together for fun. We became friends, and he’s just kinda been my bass player ever since. We had several projects we worked on but nothing came to fruition ‘til this one.
QRO: How did you find Allan?
JB: Allan was actually one of the people we talked to when we were looking to replace Champ, but he lived in Mississippi and couldn’t get down to try out before we found J.C. so when J.C. left, he was the first person I called. I kinda feel like he was supposed to be in the band all along. He’s a perfect fit. It’s all in the timing.
QRO: Why did J.C. leave?
JB: Same reason every drummer we’ve had left: settling down, getting married, not wanting to be on the road.
QRO: Who came up with the band name, and does it mean anything?
JB: I did. It’s something my parents have always said. Whenever they see an animal, it’s always Brother this, or Sister that. Brother Hawk is just one that stuck with me. I was sitting on the name before we even got the band together. [laughs]
QRO: How did you decide on what type of music you would make? Was it because of your musical influences?
JB: We didn’t. We just started making it. That’s a big part of how we like to approach things: Let’s put it all in the pot, and see what happens. When we first started, we kinda had a few ideas of what we would like for it to be, but that quickly morphed into something else, so we just let it go and let it happen.
QRO: Were you all at least interested in a similar genre?
JB: Yeah, I guess it was obvious that it was going to be some sort of rock band, very blues influenced. We had a much more mellow vision in mind at first, but when we started playing together that kinda went out the window. [laughs] We couldn’t help but be intense!
QRO: Well, you’re doing great! Keep doing what you’re doing! Mix up the pot, as you said.
JB: For sure!
QRO: Any messages to the readers?
JB: If you like what you hear, please contact us! We love hearing from people who get what we do.
QRO: Where can they contact you?
JB: Any of our social media outlets: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. They can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
QRO: Who made that great shirt design, the hawk one?
JB: My friend Jeremy Swed, he’s a tattooer from Jacksonville.
QRO: Is he the same tattoo guy that shared your CD with Blackberry Smoke?
JB: He is not. I have a lot of friends in the tattoo world. [laughs]
QRO: Yeah, y’all have a lot of tattoos going on!
I have a lot of friends in the tattoo world.
Upcoming tour dates:
Sep 24 Dollhouse Productions Savannah, GA
Sep 29 La Sacra Birra Torino, Italy
Sep 30 Le Bouffon De La Taverne Geneve, Switzerland
Oct 01 Bruch Brothers Luzern, Switzerland
Oct 04 Kofferkultur Furth, Germany
Oct 05 Jazz Cafe Poznan, Poland
Oct 06 Blues Club Gdynia, Poland
Oct 07 Free Blues Szczecin, Poland
Oct 10 Musicstar Norderstedt, Germany
Oct 13 De Bosuil Weert, Netherlands
Oct 14 BluesGarage Hanover, Germany
Oct 15 Bar Freppel Saint Martin, France
Oct 18 Sala Niagara Santander, Spain
Oct 19 Kafe Antzokia Bilbao, Spain
Oct 20 Sala Acapulco Gijón, Spain
Oct 21 Mardi Gras A Coruña, Spain
Oct 22 Salason Cangas, Spain
Oct 24 Cave 45 Porto, Portugal
Oct 25 Cafe Cultural Auriense Ourense, Spain
Oct 26 Fun House Madrid, Spain
Oct 27 La Ley Seca Cadrete, Spain
Oct 28 Pabersematao Club Valencia, Spain
Oct 29 Veneno Stereo Castellón De La Plana, Spain