Two vibrant southern cities, with two totally different music scenes, but one incredibly common thread: a passion for the live music scene. Of course I’m talking about Austin, TX and Nashville, TN, the current home of our two latest Bands Interviewing Bands participants, Almost Famous Friends (Austin, TX) and Bryan Howell (Nashville, TN). The two got to know each other through our latest feature, which you can check out below.
Bryan Howell: First, I’d like to congratulate you for the release of I’m Not Who I Want To Be! What were you trying to say to the world with this debut album?
Almost Famous Friends: One thing we want listeners to know when they hear our music is that they are not alone. Music has always been a huge part of our lives, and being able to share that experience with other people is really important to us.
Bryan Howell: This album is clearly a very personal, emotional work. Are there any tracks that were particularly difficult to write/perform?
Almost Famous Friends: One track that was written during a particularly difficult time in my life is “Better Off.” I was going through a very rough time in a relationship and was feeling extremely alone, but playing music with my best friends always pulls me back up even at my worst.
Almost Famous Friends: What’s your favorite song to play live?
Bryan Howell: Just one?! I feel as an artist, I’m doing a huge disservice if I just touch on one emotion or feeling for a whole set. There has to be a bit of an emotional gamut or rollercoaster that you ride through the show, for myself and the audience. Granted, much of my music is pretty high-energy, but I hope people get that I’m dealing with a variety of different topics inside of that, and the tempo shifts and song change-ups bring about an arc and depth to things, too. I love getting all loud and angry with the guitar, cranking up the tempo and blowing things down with songs like “Cold Little Heartbreaker” and “‘Cause I’m A Lion,” but then there’s the levity and context for me of doing a slower song that still has an edge to it, like “Tough To Say Goodbye” or “Not Like The Movies.” Then there’s a few spots where I play a song and really let loose on the guitar, like “Baby, Don’t Look Back,” and that’s a release as a songwriter and as a musician that feels really cathartic, and hopefully connects with the audience on the night I would put it in the set. I can’t choose just one moment or song–there’s a variety of things I want to touch on through the set and hopefully people will remember.
Bryan Howell: The Austin music scene is clearly a huge community. Do you have a favorite venue or event in the area that you perform at?
Almost Famous Friends: One of our favorite music venues in Austin right now is Fine Southern Gentlemen. FSG is a DIY venue in the heart of east Austin that is very popular among the local pop-punk/alternative scene right now. We always enjoy our time playing there.
Bryan Howell: You guys put out a video for “All I Can Do” and it almost looked like a live video. Was this live or a planned video?
Almost Famous Friends: This was a planned video that I (Tristan) and our drummer Aris made together, with the help of our photographer friend Abbie. We’ve always been a group that likes to get our hands dirty and do the hard work ourselves, and I think this music video shows that.
Almost Famous Friends: Do you have a pre-show ritual or habit?
Bryan Howell: Yeah, kind of a few actually. My mindset is in fifth gear going into the red line before a show, so I want to make sure to stay focused. I was once told that not listening to the act that went on before me would help, and it does when the night’s lineup order is like that. I feel kind of shallow for doing it, but stepping out of the venue after hearing some of their set really keeps me focused, while allowing me to know what they were doing onstage and being able to talk to them after. It’s finding a balance of being supportive of other musicians, while keeping to myself and making sure my performance is my focus, too. Then I often go for a walk to warm up my legs and meditate a bit during that, and then I do some stretches, because I’m a pretty physical performer and I need to be ready to go when I hit the stage, and the performance and singing aspect is going to take a lot of energy and exertion. After that, it’s a matter of making sure things are ready to go–Gatorade and water ready to go onstage to stay hydrated, setlists as needed, and so on. Once I’m all tuned in and in focus like that, the show is still never predictable for a lot of reasons, but it is pretty easy for me to segue into and roll with.
Almost Famous Friends: What city would you play if you could choose only one?
Bryan Howell: That’s a tough one. I hope in the near future to get to play London–I would love to get the chance to go to England and play there. They love American rock n’ roll and are really passionate and informed about music from all I can tell, and from talking to some fans I’ve heard from online. I’m also a Clash fanatic through and through. So it would be great to get to play there and see the city and the country where so much of this great music came from. That said, I’m having the time of my life right now playing in Nashville, and every venue so far has had its own flavor to it, so I could probably be happy just playing here too.
Almost Famous Friends: What’s a goal you have for the next year?
Bryan Howell: I kind of have more than one. I’d like to get my first full-length album coming out, Take The Risk, in the hands of some kind of distributor or independent label. To get it out there, for one, and also because I want to have a proper vinyl release for it. That has been a goal of mine with this album from the get-go when I started pre-production. I would love to be able to hold my album in a vinyl format, and I’ll probably get that done one way or the other. And knowing people could put it on their turntable….wow. But this all ties in to putting together a new band in Nashville that can play and expand off of these songs, and that I can go on the road with and play them and other ones I’m writing or will have written. That’s another big one. I feel like I’m only beginning to tap in to my potential as a songwriter and live performer now, and I want to be able to harness and channel all that creative energy with the right people and get it out there this next year.
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Bands Interviewing Bands: Bryan Howell & Almost Famous Friends. Photo credit: Bryan Howell (top) by Mark DiOrio. Almost Famous Friends (bottom) by Abbie Bosworth