Phredley Brown ended 2014 by honoring his Detroit roots with a show at The Music Hall. The show was an opportunity for the people to hear his blend of soulful rock and for him to thank his hometown for grooming his craft. Brown’s musical calling started at home with his mother who taught music at the Roeper School and kept R&B playing in the background. After a short time as a student at U of M, Brown chose to go the professional route with music and started playing with several bands in the Detroit area including his own. A relocation to Los Angeles followed and the connections he made working as a musician over the years lead to an introduction with Bruno Mars and the subsequent job as his musical director. Brown talked to Kickmag about the importance of his year-end homecoming show, the Superbowl halftime show with Mars and his future musical plans.
Detroit is a very warm and honest place
How did you feel about the show Sunday night?
I had been preparing all week long and when I looked up, it was my father, their family, childhood friends, high school friends, musicians I’ve played with over the years in Detroit, it just really overwhelmed me, a lot of emotion. It was a very emotional homecoming, I hadn’t been to Detroit in 6 years.
How did you become a musician?
It was something I always felt I had to do. As a kid, I wanted to play sports when I grew up but as I got older it was something I was always doing. My mother was a teacher of music growing up. I would play in any band around Detroit I was asked to. I find myself sometimes practicing the guitar and I don’t have a guitar in my hand. I think for me it’s something very deep in who I am.
Who has had the biggest impact on your music?
My mother used to play a lot of R&B music a lot of old soul music in the house but a lot of great songwriters too James Taylor or those kind of ‘70’s acoustic songwriters and then, of course, I would say The Beatles always sound good to me no matter what’s going on. Then people like Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles is a big one for me and Sam Cooke. I would say with contemporary musicians John Mayer had a big influence on me wanting to play guitar as well as writing music.
So would you say you are a guitarist first or a songwriter first?
The piano was my first instrument and I grew-up playing horns.
What kinds of bands were you in, in Detroit before you moved to L.A.?
A ska band called Super Dot and my band was a seven-piece sort of funk, rock, there was a couple of punk bands, there was a band called Woodward for a while, just whatever was different and fresh to me.
How would you describe your music?
A soul and rock-inspired songwriter.
Detroit is known as a strong music city, are there specific things about Detroit that prepared you for what you are doing now?
Detroit prepared me in a lot of different ways for one is the many, many talented musicians but you’re also surrounded by the people of Detroit, there is a very very rich community when it comes to people’s personalities. Detroit is a very warm and honest place. You will get honest feedback and people are very talented they have a great ear and it’s just very nurturing.
What’s the most challenging thing about putting the shows together for Bruno Mars?
When I got the job to be musical director I really didn’t know what a musical director did, I was just coming out of being a guy who was in a band and was able to do several different things; arranging, writing or providing my musical experience. I would say in this group we kind of all go through things for the first time together. The most challenging part is being ready, adaptable and quick at learning something new and quickly being able to put it to use.
The Bruno Mars Super Bowl performance was amazing. What was that like?
It was the biggest stage I’ve ever been on it was a lot of pressure but it was also so fast that you don’t really have time to think about it and it comes and goes.
Do you have any plans to ever record as a solo artist?
Yes, that’s the reason I did the show other than wanting to do something to give back to Detroit . I also wanted to take a first step and share some of the things I have been working on and to see how people are responding.
We are coming off the road now. Bruno’s writing his next record hopefully I will be more a part of that and I’m writing my own music. Just keeping my head buried in music.