WHAT GENRE OF MUSIC ARE YOU CURRENTLY PLAYING?
IS THAT WHAT YOUVE ALWAYS PLAYED OR THE ONLY STYLE YOU LIKE TO PLAY?
"No, I love all types of music. I like to combine different elements, especially with my band mates. 'Cause my voice has such a heavy country twang sound especially for this area. So I end up playing with guys that aren't that style cause there's not a lot of great country players up here. Not to say there aren't great country players, there just isn't an abundance. There's a lot of really great musicians that are available looking for something new to do and somehow I connect with them. Then I have to figure out how to incorporate, to jibe. My style of writing and arranging has always been based off of country, rock and roll, blues, basic progressions and story telling. In some way, I've always written country music. I just haven't always produced it or stylized it that way, but now I do it with all the stuff that I do. Before I did metal, dance, now I'll incorporate those elements, they'll be in my songs but they're not the "genre" I'm subscribed to."
WHAT DID YOU LISTEN TO AS YOU WERE LEARNING TO PLAY? WHAT SPOKE TO YOU?
"I grew up in a house where there was a lot of Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers being played. What really influenced me, I'd say, for country music, was the first time I heard "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". I remember being really little, like 7, and I just spent all my time trying to learn all the words and sing it. Eventually I did. I always say I learned how to "rap" before I learned how to sing. I learned how to rap from Charlie Daniels."
DO YOU EVER PLAY THAT?
"Yeah, with Dirt Road Anthem. Fiddle and the whole nine yards."
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM VENUE?
"My dream venue isn't there anymore, so I'd have to pick another one. It would've been the Empire Rock Club. 'Cause when I was about 14-16, at the tail end of it, I used to sneak in there. Nights I wasn't supposed to be there. I grew facial hair early as a kid, at 16 I had a full beard, so I used to sneak in. So, in my greatest, wildest fantasy, I would want to play there. Since that's not possible, I would say Red Rocks, Colorado. Just because of where it is and the sonic aspect of it. I've never been there but I've heard amazing things. Just the pictures alone are incredible."
DO YOU FIND THAT YOU DEAL WITH EGOS A LOT IN THIS BUSINESS?
"Oh yeah. My own to start with. That's the hardest one. I try to keep it in check with as much intellect as I can. Sometimes I actually have to boost my own too. But I do deal with egos a lot. Sometimes that's why people wind up becoming artists because they need that acknowledgement somewhere in their life. Sometimes it's a long period of time of not a high level of success, so you become sort of jaded and it gets intertwined with an ego. Sometimes playing with a guy playing with an ego is the greatest thing, cause he's all ego and he's just totally out there wagging it like a maniac and that's exactly what you need. But then the problem dealing with the ego or super ego, sometimes you're not dealing with a person's real shit and they're covering up for stuff -and music (creating and playing) can be very vulnerable. So me, with Dirt Road Anthem, that's not me calling the shots. They'll tell me "that's not what we want, we want this", and I have to keep my ego completely to the side and just be professional and give them what they want. But not all musicians are like that. I've lost some really good members because our egos, or whatever you wanna call it. We couldn't be in the same room together. A lot of alpha male dominance. And being a lead singer, I'm always getting the attention whether I want it or not. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. I hold no grudges. I appreciate all the guys I've played with, no matter how it ended. We always have that connection of the music we made together."
HOW DO YOU THINK YOU'D HANDLE FAME?
"It would be difficult. Not because of the people that don't know me, but the people that have known me. And how sometimes people that have known me a while and haven't paid any attention, all of the sudden are all in your business, up your ass. That might be difficult. If it was just someone asking for an autograph, I'd be good with that cause those people would be appreciating me cause I'm Brodi Valos. I imagine they wouldn't be appreciating me cause they know me from way back when I was in sixth grade and now I'm Brodi Valos and famous. They think they know so much. I think sometimes, again when it comes to egos, my experience is that I've had people that I built lifelong friendships with that even at this ridiculously minuscule level of popularity, just in the local area, that all of the sudden are all up in my shit. Like in a weird way and injecting themselves into my life in a way that is perceived as somehow connected to me and we were never connected like that. That's been disheartening cause I've lost some friends just by pursuing what I wanna do and then have those relationships transform with just a little bit of fame.
Heading a band is not all that it's cracked up to be. It's like a reversed mullet. It's party in the front, business in the back. When you get down to business, things can very checks and balances. Then there's these odd things that come in and things you never expected. I guess I was just figuring that it would hold itself at that level, then as things got bigger, those strange friendships that I had that I didn't really acknowledge for the oddities that they were, they grew and blew up in my face to a degree. I feel guilty that I'm not friends with people anymore but I know that I can't be 'cause what I was in the friendship for wasn't really what the friendship was.
The fame part of like, getting up and being on a tour bus, I'm sure would be exhausting to a certain degree. I look at some of these guys and say I don't know how they do it. Particularly somebody like Miranda Lambert, with her demanding schedule and as famous as she is, and as in demand as she is. And there's an aspect of fans that can be scary at times. I've even had a couple of scary encounters that I sort of was able to duck out of. Or there was some weird shit in my inbox on Facebook that I had to sort of handle. Originally, it would be a compliment, like "Hey, saw ya, thought you were great!" And I'm not gonna be ignorant and I'll reply. But then it becomes more and more and then they show up at a show and it's weird. So for a woman in the business it's gotta be harder cause there's the crazy fear factor. As crazy as some of the women I've known in my life back then, men can be scarier and more dangerous at times. Just because of the male ego. But some of the crazy girls are just as dangerous on some level. But they come with a good lore."
DO YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO FIND OTHER MUSICIANS TO COMPLIMENT YOUR STYLE?
"Well, I found that before I became "Brodi Valos" it was impossible. I had my music up, I was trying to find people to play with, nobody! Then I said "Ok, I'm not gonna be the singer of said band anymore. I'm just gonna be Brodi Valos." And then, even some of the same people that I'd known for years, that I had asked to play with again and again, came out and played."
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT WAS?
"I don't know. Power of a brand? Maybe that's it. Also I think I became more focused. It was no longer about what we all democratically agreed on. It was about my focus and my direction they had to funnel into that kind of a "product". I don't find it hard, once I get somebody into a room when I'm playing with them, I don't find it hard to jibe with them then. I have a couple of rules: rule number one is play what you want. Rule number two is don't step on anybody. Don't get in anybody's way with their sound. Don't overplay someone. Play what you want but don't get in anybody's way. That goes for me too. I lead a band well, so I can queue people. There's different non verbal queues to give everybody their space. So it's kind of like lion taming. So if I'm in a band with four other guys, you have to lion tame three of them so that fourth guy can do his thing whether it be a guitar solo, bass, drums, whatever's going on. That's important. I like to play with people and I like to build them up. If somebody's not as good as somebody else says they are, but I see something special in their playing, I'll basically put them in a head lock until they recognize that they have that and then build it and build it for all it's worth.
So finding people and getting people into a room used to be real difficult, now not so much. Somebody has to have the idea that they wanna succeed. And as musicians, it's real easy to have a couple of beers (or a couple of beers times however many more) and sit around and talk about how we wanna be rock stars and how we wanna be famous, get this car, get this house, these big blown up dreams. And that can sometimes be enough to fuel a band to come together if it's just a fantasy at that point, cause you never know what can happen, especially with the internet."
HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED MOVING AND PLAYING YOUR MUSIC SOMEWHERE ELSE?
"I thought about moving a few times, and not to places people would normally think. Like I own land in Taos, New Mexico (where easy rider was filmed). Back in 2002, when I bought it, I could've sworn I'd be there by 2004 living. There's a film, art and music community there. It's not really close to any major place. I was also in the gulf coast area after hurricane Katrina. I went down and did volunteer work for a couple months. When I was down there, I realized that there was so little of places to play, people, musicians, so forth, that I was really blessed to be from an area that was like, the fifth largest market in the country. I didn't know what to do with it at that point in time, I just knew that I was better off being here than I was being anywhere else. I guess because I was always country at heart, I didn't always take being a country artist in Philadelphia seriously. I thought it was impossible. Thought I'd be better off singing in any cover band. I didn't really know what to do. I realized that we were in such a large market, that I have no right to complain. That even if it took me thirty guitar players to find the right guitar player, I have thirty guitar players to choose from- there's that much talent. Once things started getting rolling for me, musicians just kept coming out of the woodwork. Musicians that are in this area are dedicated, the professional ones. We can call them on the drop of the dime and they'll come out and play."
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE MUSICAL EXPERIENCE?
"The first time I ever sang in front of people as a lead singer. I was in a band. This was when I was a kid. I played bass with a friend of mine (my bass player now). Both had the same bass as kids. I sang one song to a crowd of like 200 kids. We sold tickets and rented a room. I sang and that's when I knew that was what I wanted to do.
Another one: I met a guy, while I was in the gulf during Katrina cleanup, that taught me how to play the blues. This guy called Iceman. He delivered ice to everybody from his truck. I helped him do something with his house. He was a cabinet and guitar maker. He taught me how to build my first guitar, which was actually stolen off me back in 2008. It was one of a kind. Before I met him I never thought I could be a lead guitar player, ever. I'm not saying I'm really a lead guitar player by any means, but I now play some leads. Everything was so devastated down there, and we were playing music, and it brought so much life to people. But we were playing country music. And I'm like "here I am in the bayou area in Mississippi with the people learning how to play the blues." That'll stay with me forever."
OTHER THAN MUSICAL INSPIRATION, IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT HELPS YOU FOCUS AND HONE IN ON YOUR CREATIVITY?
"There's a couple of things: self improvement is a big one. I think always since I was a kid, I was always trying to improve, which leads into music. I take it as an honor that I can sing, cause I know not everybody can. That inspires me. Then there's this: (the symbol/pendant on his chain).
In 1994 I drew this symbol (a tribal symbol for the world. It's all the land masses formed together in such a way, if you connected them all and flattened them out.) that I have as a charm. It seriously inspired me to be more interested in everybody, in life, in the world, beyond what was in Philadelphia. I was in a bar one time and a guy said it best, he said "it's that damn Philadelphia experiment that did something to create a black hole like a magnet and nobody can leave this fucking place." And somehow, I realized you didn't have to leave here to experience the whole world because the whole world is here. This symbol meant the world, everything to me. I'd meet people of different backgrounds and ethnicities and go hang with them and learn their cultures. I never understood the deep divides of other backgrounds. When I was about 20, I drew this, December 8, 1994."
HOW DO YOU REMEMBER THAT DATE?
It was the anniversary of John Lennon's death. How do you forget that?
So, I drew it and four months later I was totally obsessed with it. I was a 20 year old tool. Trying to get laid, drink more beer than my friends, and come up with a better ball busting joke. Have a cool car. That was all life was about. Then one night I just doodled this. And all of the sudden it just meant everything to me. I literally made myself sick.
I don't hang around people that are like "everything's peace, love, joy and cool", 'cause it's not. There's some horrible people in the world. Overall though, I think people are good. When I wake up, I know no one has broken into my house and harmed me, my car's still there. Nights when I've played a show and got a ride home with a roadie, and my stuff will still be on my step still the following morning cause I didn't bring it in the night before. So how bad can people be? I mean yeah, some people do terrible shit. But overall, man is pretty cool. So this helps me recognize, no matter how significant I think I am, and we all do, that I'm still just some kid from Holmesburg who thought he was too cool for school. And in some way everybody who's ever made a difference in the world was just some kid from wherever made fun of in a schoolyard.
By the time I was 20, I was thoroughly apathetic about nuclear war and things like that. We were at the tail end of the Cold War, and it was like "The Day After" and the Russians were gonna get us. And I've come to the realization through the people I met, and through this symbol, it made me wanna know what made them wanna love and get up everyday. Something inspired them to get up and love their life everyday. I've learned a lot. It makes me calm and not worry about some of the things going on in the world. Everything flows. I had panic attacks and night terrors when I was like 8. Worried about the world ending. I had a teacher in seventh grade that talked about flat maps and some were distorted and depending on who printed the map determined which country was the largest. And if someone could come up with a way to make an accurate flat map, that they'd be a millionaire. I think somehow that stuck in my head. It seems so trivial, but it stuck.