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Get to know John Branch with us. We sat down with John at Chez Russ. We talked music,friends and philosophy. And we laughed a lot. Three of John’s band are busting out nationally. We talk about that. With all of these positive things going on he is still just our friend, John; “

people are just people…” Our team this time was Alexis, Rockslide, Gewel  and I.(Transcribed by Alexis Mathews)

Austin Daze:
So John, you are involved in three different bands on the verge of taking off. Spanish Gold and Hard Proof are on the ACL line up this year. And Golden Dawn Archestra, which is one of my favorite bands right now. What do you think of this popularity and how is this effecting your music?


John Branch: Right, I mean, I am very honored to be a part of three bands that are doing such cool things musically.  That’s definitely why I got involved in it. They’re all my friends, people I’ve played with for a long time and I think it’s great. The hard thing of course is managing a schedule but you know, maybe the consequence of getting older is you just use your calendar a little bit more {laughter} to figure that out.  There is definitely that crossover, more with Hard Proof and Golden Dawn, just because they are big bands.  I like those kinds of bands because the bands are the summation of a lot of little things happening all at the same time.  If you just did one part it wouldn’t have the same effect, but to get nine, ten, eleven people all on the same page, it’s a really powerful performance, you know? And with Golden Dawn, obviously it’s more enhanced with the visual aspect of it.  Hard Proof is more focused on the music where as Golden Dawn kind of has both and has more of a theatrical aspect.  Between all three I guess I should say, the other difference is in the other two bands I play guitar, in Hard Proof I play guitar and keyboard, and in Spanish Gold I play bass.  So, they’re all great because I get to do some different function within the band and contribute in a different way.  This year has been a big growth thing for me as a musician with other gigs I play.  Definitely my solo material I have been working on a lot this year as well.


Austin Daze: What’s really cool is that all three bands are so different musically.


John Branch: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I mean the main thing I would say for sure with all three of them that is consistent is the groove. They’re all kind of danceable and they all kind of bring people together around a groove. In Spanish Gold, there is a lot more singing, there’s more hooks and chorus’, so that makes more people involved too. But if you go to any of those shows I’ve done the past six months, there’s always a sea of people dancing, they’re all tied in and they’re all kinda getting off. There’s other things that make each band individual and distinct but they’re all there because it’s a good vibe, groove, and not just in the sense of being a wild, crazy party, it’s more of an uplifting experience.


Austin Daze: How did you get involved with all the different bands?


John Branch:  Out of these three I first started playing with Hard Proof and I got involved with them maybe a little more than two years ago. For a little while I would sub, cause at the time there were two guitar players, and one of the guitar players played keyboard. So I subbed maybe two or three gigs over maybe six months playing one of those roles, where I was just playing guitar, or I played guitar and keyboard depending on which one of those guys wasn’t there.  Then Aaron, the sole guitarist, meaning he only plays guitar, he left for about five months for an internship for his graduate degree and he was in New York for five months so they needed a sub.  So he went and did that and I was just playing with them for five months just playing guitar.  Then when he came back they just said we really like what you do on guitar, you know, it was just another little element to the thing.  So, now it’s morphed even more to where there’s always two guitars and keyboard.


Austin Daze: Yeah.


John Branch: Yeah, cause if Gerardo is playing guitar, then I’ll play keys and vice versa. It’s better when there is some other kind of timbre, some other kind of texture going on. Gerardo does the Farfisa where I do the Wurlitzer.  They all have a distinct keyboard sound so that’s different.  And then Golden Dawn. I’ve known Topaz forever, we played together in Mudphonic, and we still do that every now and then.  He started doing that band {Golden Dawn} maybe, a year ago, and I played with him in his other project Hellfire Social, and then that led into Golden Dawn. He just started doing GDA for fun I think honestly just kind of to do something different.  I think it’s cool because it focuses on his strengths of what he used to do with just the saxophone, back to that afro influence he’s got and just kind of like chanting stuff, obviously still funky. I just said, hey man, I’d like to be involved in that anytime, and he just kind of approached it as a collective. It kinda still is although it’s more formulated, formed, come together more as just a big band, but not everyone that always plays is always on every gig.  He and Greg, the bass player, started working out ideas more regularly.  And then, Laura, she became involved, and the three of them are more the primary writers.


Austin Daze: Yeah, everybody in that band, everybody’s friends.


John Branch: Yeah, exactly, we…


Austin Daze: I love going to see y’all play cause everybody on stage is a friend


John Branch: Yeah, yeah, exactly, we’ve all done things and other projects and it’s cool to get everybody together.  Everyone really tries to make time and make it work when they can.  Sometimes, it doesn’t always work out but definitely more than 75% of the time I’d say we can get it together. And then with Spanish Gold, I’ve know Adrian Quesada for a long time, long time back to…


Austin Daze: Did Spanish Gold evolve out of, that, I forgot the name but it’s that band you were doing with Adrian awhile ago


John Branch: Oh, the Echocentrics? That’s a great project.  Echocentrics was really Adrian’s kind of solo project because it was all his music. Then he involved the singers.  He wanted to try a recording project. As he started getting things together, he wanted to perform and do it live.  Then that involves kind of another faction of musicians that all know each other and play together in bands. But Spanish Gold really came more from Dante, I think, contacting Adrian because Dante wanted to do a solo record and then he called Adrian just to bounce ideas off each other. They knew each other from, technically speaking from Laredo, but they didn’t really reconnect until a few years ago. Adrian knew about Hacienda.  Dante knew about Grupo Fantasma, Brownout, and those bands that Adrian’s involved in.  They were trying to bounce ideas about where to record and Dante quickly changed it to a collaboration. They were looking for studios {when} Dante came here to do some demos with Adrian.  Then Dante {said} I know a drummer who would be down for this.  So that’s how Patrick became involved.  They booked some time in Nashville for a couple of days and were literally like, lets just go record and see what happens. They tracked, like, half that record in a couple of days just being in the studio.  Dante had most of the song ideas.  He’s the lyricist.  The other guys bring the groove and kind of the production of things together. The two guys that are playing bass on the record are Tim Deaux, who plays in a band called the Whigs, and that’s through Dante’s connection in Nashville.  Then the other is Jesse Ebaugh from the Heartless Bastards, obviously living here in Austin.  They played on the record.  It took maybe three sessions or so, six to eight months to record and finish it because of everyone’s schedule, Dante with City and Colour, Adrian with his projects, Patrick with My Morning Jacket.  They really didn’t play live very much for almost a year, did a handful of gigs, and then SX came around. Jesse was doing that. Then really, they got the momentum and they were like let’s just put this record out and just see what happens.  I think it was unexpected.  They didn’t know how much they would like the record or what it would turn out to be.  But it just got better and better and kept improving, and it was really good, we should do something with this and see what happens.  So they put the record out and I became involved. I’ve known Adrian for a really long time. I recorded some solo records of my stuff with him in his studio.  I played on a bunch of different gigs with him where I was playing either guitar or keys in a lot of different sessions.  My stuff, I played the bass on, so I think he got an idea, well, he can probably do a bunch of different things. So Jesse and Tim, since they are associated with bands that tour a lot, they really just couldn’t commit to how much touring Spanish Gold was going to do this summer.


Austin Daze: What’s really interesting about that is that Spanish Gold has exploded differently than some other projects you are involved in, like Spanish Gold doesn’t even play that much, like, I’ve only seen Spanish Gold once at SXSW.


John Branch: Right


Austin Daze: And you guys are exploding so fast


John Branch: Yeah, yeah, I mean, you know, they really took the time. They knew when the record was going to come out. They had established some press stuff.  They really were good at building up the anticipation for that record.  They had the single, “Out on the Street” and just kept generating more and more interest in the band before the record came out. So when it finally came out, I think it was a pretty big release for a lot of people.  I think a lot of people were really looking forward to it ahead of time.


Austin Daze: So how did you get on Letterman?


John Branch: They had that booked already. I mean, when Adrian brought me in they already had their tour booked.  It was more, are you available for these dates?  They needed to work out whether one of the other guys was going to be able to do the tour, because they had recorded on the record and that sort of thing.


Austin Daze: Right, right.


John Branch: So, I’m very fortunate to say Letterman was a by-product of them just having a tour booked and they just ask me to do the tour.


Austin Daze: Nice. That’s a pretty sweet little perk there

John Branch: Not bad. Not bad. Not bad, no.


Austin Daze: No, not bad. And speaking of other big things that you’ve done, you’ve opened for Sting…


John Branch: I did open for Sting. I had a brief stint playing with T Bird and the Breaks, another big Austin band, and so that happened with them. I actually got to meet Sting, briefly.


Austin Daze: Yeah, tell us how that happened?


John Branch: I was trying to load out and he came up behind me {laughter}. There was all this equipment around, and there was this little path to the elevator, and I’m waiting there right in front of the elevator, and it’s kinda stuck, and I heard people behind me…, “We need to get this one, can you get the next one?”  I just didn’t think anything of it.  I kind of turned perpendicular and I’m just kind of standing there, looking around.   Then I look to see why I’ve turned, cause I didn’t even think about it.  Oh, oh.. that’s Sting. Oh, they want Sting, to get that elevator, and get him out of there.  Then something was wrong with the elevator, so we’re standing there for a while.  Finally, I just had my amp and my guitar, a big amp, and he kinda looked down at it. I had put my pass to the show on the amp and he looked me in the eye and says, “Do you need a hand with that?”  I kinda looked at him and he was trying to be funny.  But I was like, allright, if you’re being a jokester, okay.  So I said, “Well, if you’re offering, sure I’ll take you up on that,” that thing weighs 60 pounds!”  And then, well he one upped me, cause, you know, he’s Sting… {laughter} and he’s like, well, it does have my name on it… But then he came over and picked it up and obviously it’s heavy. He kinda groaned and was like, “Oh, nah, I don’t do that anymore.” And my girlfriend was there and she’s freaking out, cause she’s a huge Sting fan.  She couldn’t even talk to him


{laughter}… {laughter}


I mean, it was GREAT meeting Sting. He’s a phenomenal musician, a phenomenal music spokesperson. Just absolutely, iconic but… you know all and all in the end he’s still… I wasn’t going to talk to him, but since he talked to me, he’s still just a normal guy. I think in those situations, if you meet someone like that, you talk to them normally.  They’ll probably be more normal.


Austin Daze: {motioning across the room} we were talking about that earlier, Russ and I were, about, people, just being people…


John Branch: Yeah. Exactly so…


Austin Daze: Okay, how did music become such a big part of your life?


John Branch: So, I played piano, I got piano lessons like a lot of people when I was really little, and then I quickly became to hate it.


Austin Daze: Mmhmm!


John Branch:  I was probably five and then I started playing guitar, maybe 10? My dad had a guitar in the house.  I just liked it.  It just seemed cool.  I liked the sound of it and he had a book.  I was just into figuring things out and it was a book with pictures, where you put your finger and all this stuff.  I knew how to read music from piano.  So I could kind of put that together and I did that for a while. I loved it but I guess it was also to impress my parents, that I could do something.  I really did it for six months.  I got more into it and I was trying to get through the whole book. They got me lessons.  They got me an electric guitar and it was all over after that.


Austin Daze: Nice. Very nice.


John Branch: My dad had a bunch of records and so I can honestly say when I was eight… or nine years old, I got a walkman.  I think the first thing I bought was the Beatles Anthology ’62-66, so that was probably the first thing I had.  Really my dad’s musical influence, he had all those records and played them all the time.


Austin Daze: Okay, well tell us about some of the other gigs with you’re involved in around town. We’ve talked about a few


John Branch: Yeah, so I don’t play with T Bird and the Breaks anymore. We’re still buds, but the other things that I do, are, my own solo music, which is under my name, John Branch, and then I still play with Mudphonic from time to time, with Topaz.


Austin Daze: You’re playing with them… on December 2nd. 


John Branch: Yes I am, playing with them on December second. We’re actually doing a gig on October 24th at C Boys, I think it’s just going to be an amalgamation.  It’s going to be me and Greg {Rhoades}, and guests.  It’s really cool cause, that band, we used to tour so much and play together for years.  We really worked it hard.  We got involved with other things because we wanted to do different stuff, which have spawned Hellfire Social and now Golden Dawn.  I did Hard Proof and Alex started playing with a bunch of other people.  Now he’s in Brown Sabbath, doing that thing.  Now when we do a gig, we can make it a special thing and we try and get some other guests to come in. We definitely have lots of other guitar players.  The last gig we did we had David Jimenez on guitar.  He is just an amazing singer from Baby Atlas.  Eric Zapata from Gary Clark Jr., came and played with us.  We had some other friends. Nikki, she’s a great soul singer.  She came in.  We just try and do that every time we play.  We’ll definitely do that again on Oct. 24th. We’re still trying to round out the band but it will be under Mudphonic.


Austin Daze: It’s going to be under Mudphonic, love it.


JB: Yeah, I think it’s going to be the Mudphonic All Stars.


Austin Daze: Cool.


John Branch: Yeah, but the other things I do that are regular. Probably my favorite gig, is Wednesday nights at the Gallery.  I’m super tight, really good friends with the Greyhounds; Trube, Farrell, Snizz. When Anthony and Andrew are on the road with JJ Grey & Mofro, I usually play with Snizz and Bobbie {Perkins}


Austin Daze: Oh Yeah!


John Branch: Yeah, from Mudphonic, and then Josh Perdue, Matt Hubbard. It’s just a great.  It’s my favorite room to play in.  I mean that room is the perfect amalgamation that I am talking about, these bands, everyone just coming together and just having a great time.  Like, things were really shitty this week, but now I’m here, Wednesday night the Gallery, and everyone knows it’s going to be a great time.


Austin Daze: That’s really cool, that that’s your favorite out of everything you are doing.


John Branch: Yeah. I mean, I love the Continental Club in general, but that room has a really, really special vibe.


Austin Daze: Yeah, totally! It does.


John Branch: I love the Continental downstairs, it’s great, C Boys is great, there’s a bunch of great gigs, but that one’s always consistent. You see friends, you see new people, you see tourists and everyone’s always having a great time. You know, that’s really a special thing.


Austin Daze: We have known each other a long time, So back in the early days Ghandaia, which I always say wrong…


John Branch: Ganhn-die-ya {laughs}


Austin Daze: Yes! So since the early days of Ghandaia, things in Austin have really changed. How do you feel about these changes and how to you feel they have affected the music life in this town?


John Branch: Both ways, positive and negative. I guess.  I don’t know if I should start with negative or positive {laughter} I’ll say negative, so that way we can end on positive. Negative, I think with more oversaturation of musicians, because there are more places to play, they can’t keep up with the amount that Austin is expanding.  I think in general, culturally, it is harder make a living from music, particularly playing live.  But there are ways to do that being involved with music, but performing music is what I mean, making a living that way. It’s harder to get better paying gigs, let alone paying gigs, because there’s a whole plethora of people who will play for free. You know, so, it devalues the idea of live music because live music is just something you’re supposed to have in Austin.  At the same time, I think it’s really positive because the sonic scope of Austin music is way bigger now. There’s so many other different kinds of bands.  I’ve been in Austin, mostly on, and little off, since 1995. So I remember when Liberty Lunch was around and Antone’s was open on Guadalupe.  All that stuff and those were awesome times!  Granted, it was why I moved here because all the music at those places was music I was into but now there’s all sorts of different clubs that bring in all different types of music {and} musicians.  It’s brought people from all over the country. It’s positive because you get different perspectives and different styles but you also make connections with people who have connections that lead elsewhere. And I think for any musician nowadays, you need to make a wider net, cast a bigger spectrum to be working as a musician, you know? So, I really enjoy that. My experience with that has been what happened with Spanish Gold.  Adrian lives here, Dante lives in Nashville, Patrick lives in Louisville.  We did that tour.  We fly to Nashville, hope you learn the record, we rehearse for two days, and then a week later we were playing on Letterman. That’s it.  That’s just kind of what happens. Austin has grown, people are more interested in Austin from all over.  You get a lot more influence.  It’s not just Austin is the blues town, like it used to be twenty, thirty years ago. There’s still a lot of blues, but there’s a lot of rock.  There’s a lot of Indie stuff.  The Latin music thing has really taken off. There’s all sorts of much more developed pockets, scenes like that. It’s really, really cool.


Austin Daze: And you came here to Austin, or like you said, for college,


John Branch: Yes, yes I did go to college. Amazing.


Austin Daze: {Sarcastic} Wow. But yeah, you started playing in Austin in college, that’s when Ghandaia started, right?


John Branch: Yeah, after I finished college. I should have finished in ’99 but it ended up being 2000.  I got a classical guitar degree.  I sojourned to Spain for a semester sabbatical.  Then I came back and finished.


Austin Daze: Nice!


John Branch: I knew Freggie and Alex, Freggie because we went to the same college. I met Alex in 95, and I knew him.  I didn’t hang out with him much through college until I came back and I was finally really really living in Austin, not just {the} area of Austin. They started doing gigs.  I was actually playing bass {laughs}. They needed a bass player and they were like, “well, you can bring your guitar too.”  After we did that one time they were like, why don’t you just play guitar.




That was a great experience.  That was definitely a young band working it out. Lots of rehearsal, you know, not very many gigs, but definitely really satisfying, I moved to California after a couple of years and they really took off a lot more.  But it was all part of the process because Ghandaia went on to do a lot of great things. Not that what we did at first wasn’t great.  I love that record. But then I heard the second record and I was like, man, such an improvement, and that’s what you want as a musician.  You don’t want to put out a crappier record {laughter} if your first record was good.


Austin Daze: Okay, I ask Josh and Robb the same question, How do you play your instrument in GDA with your costume covering your eyes?


John Branch: Well, I think I gotcha on a technicality there… my face isn’t really covered in my costume. It’s just covered on the sides, so I still have my eyesight. Josh has definitely got the full on mask.


Austin Daze: Yeah, {laughter}


John Branch: But, at the same time I teach a lot of guitar.  I tell my students to close your eyes and you just try.  It’s a combination of seeing it in your mind, without, literally seeing it, you know?


Austin Daze: Yeah.


John Branch: And then you just get used to the feel of it, like how far something is from another thing.  Probably the best way to think of it is typing on your computer. It gets to the point where you are just looking at the screen and typing. Not that you don’t look at the typewriter, or the keyboard every now and then, but mostly you’re looking at the screen, correcting.  It’s kind of the same thing.


Austin Daze: Very nice analogy.


John Branch: Mmhmm. mmm.


Austin Daze: Okay, give us some advice, what have you seen over the years, for people trying to do what you’re doing.


John Branch: Definitely, definitely, definitely, you want to do it. You love to play music and you love to connect with other people.  I’m sure everyone has said this but don’t do it for the money because there are definitely better ways to make money.  As you get older, you think about maybe trying to do something a little bit different.  But ultimately I can’t make the commitment just to not play music or to just “kind of” play music. I wouldn’t know what to do. If I just kind of worked a job all the time that wasn’t music related at all and then kinda played music, I think I would go crazy. So there has to be that kind of…


Austin Daze: Passion.


John Branch: Passion or drive.  You really want to do it and you love making music with those sacrifices that come along with it. But, at the same time, you get all the reward of self-expression and just being creative and thinking differently.  Have a good attitude. {laughter} It depends on what kind of musician but if you’re going to be someone like me, who works with a lot of different people, you have to have a great personality. I mean, you want to be a strong personality but at the same time, you want to be able to relate to people.  If you’re a musician, that’s super opinionated and super judgmental of other people, it’s going to be really hard for you to do anything.


Austin Daze: Do you meet a lot of people like that?


John Branch: I have met people like that and it’s definitely not good because you’re not gonna connect with your band.  Even if you do have a band and you’re like that, crowds feed off of that really quick. Like, this guys kind of a dick, I don’t think he really wants us here.   Why are we here?




John Branch: And then they leave, well that’s not good right?


{more laughter}


Austin Daze: Right, right.


John Branch: You know, that’s the antithesis of all the stuff I’m talking about with the other bands.  You just want to be in this vibe, where everyone is getting along, feeling the music the same way, whether you’re listening, dancing or playing.  Those are the really, really important things.  The thing about music now, as I get older {is} there’s so many ways to do creative things with music. Obviously, it’s not like they just invented recording but it’s so much easier to do that on your own. Really learn new things, learn new approaches. I dig that. I think that’s cool to be creative in that format even though I’m not playing live. I teach guitar.  I think it’s really cool to connect with a kid or an adult, or whoever is taking a lesson, just to inspire music.


Austin Daze: Did you do School of Rock this summer?


John Branch: Rock camp! Yeah, you can inspire kids to do that, that’s really cool for you. I mean, it’s work, at times, but if you can inspire someone to start playing something they didn’t think they could play because you were able to impart on them, that’s cool. It gives me an idea to do this or just gives you more fire to keep doing what you’re doing.  You’re not staying stagnate, you know?   That’s a cool way, other than, I played this really awesome gig.  You just keep having kind of that positive energy around you and let it flow.


Austin Daze: Very Cool. Is there anything else you want to tell us that we didn’t ask, anything you want to mention?


John Branch: Um, Not really…


Austin Daze: Are you looking forward to ACL?


John Branch: Yeah! I’m definitely looking forward to ACL.  I’m excited.  There’s two things I’ve got coming up that I am excited about.  I’m definitely going to be putting out a lot of solo material.  I’ve been doing since the beginning of the year The Song Machine with Andrew Trube from the Greyhounds. It’s a group of musicians from all over the country.  You get a little phrase at the beginning of the week and then you have to write a song by the end of the week and record it.  Some weeks I do it on my iPhone  and I just do a song.  Other times, I really try and do a whole recording.  I’ve probably got, in some form or fashion, forty or fifty songs at this point.


Austin Daze: That’s awesome


John Branch:  I’m going to try and start whittling that down and release some new material soon within the fall. And then I’m doing and online guitar lesson thing, branchoutguitar.com


{Matt Hubbard walks in}


John Branch: Oh hey buddy! {laughs}


Matt Hubbard: Oh, this still going?


John Branch: No, no, we’re just finishing up. But those are the exciting things on top of all the other exciting things…


Austin Daze: Cool! Lots of excitement. Lots of good things. Cool. John Branch, check him out, go to www.branchoutguitar.com Cool. Thanks John.

John Branch: Thank you.


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