Ned Brower, drummer for LA-based pop-rock band Rooney, has released his first solo project. The album is comprised of Brower’s original songs as well as writing collaborations with Rooney bandmates Taylor Locke and Louis Stephens, and local favorite Mike Viola.
How did your solo project start?
Several years ago I decided I was going to do this [project] eventually. I had been writing songs and started doing more singing on one of our [Rooney] records. One of the producers [on the Rooney record] started hiring me to do other stuff so I started taking [singing] more seriously and developing it more. I was a singer in the beginning before I was a drummer.
What kind of projects was the producer hiring you for?
Just singing background vocals and stuff on other people’s records like a Relient K record, Frausdots from Sub Pop Records, and some metal bands. I had the idea that I was going to do [my solo project] eventually and then I really got serious when I was on the Calling the World tour with Rooney.
When did you start writing the songs?
I think a lot of these songs were written in 2008 and 2009. Once I got home from tour and built the studio here at home I started getting more into recording and writing songs by myself and writing songs with some of the other guys in the bands…trying out different collaborations.
What inspires you when writing?
I like to read a lot of books so sometimes I’ll get a title from a book or sometimes I take walks just around the neighborhood humming tunes to myself or I’ll be listening to music and it will inspire an idea. They start in different ways. I just try to open my mind when I’m ready to write a song and then something comes somehow.
You co-wrote some of the songs?
I co-wrote about half the songs and then wrote half the songs myself. I wanted it to be enough focus on my own writing that it felt like a real solo record but I’m also aware that I know some really talented people so I didn’t want to close off that possibility. I wrote one really good song with Louie Stephens [Rooney] and then I did some co-writing with Mike Viola who is the producer for the record, and also Taylor [Locke]. Taylor and I have written a lot of songs together.
How did you meet Mike Viola?
Mike and I met through my other friend Bleu who is a songwriter and producer. They have a project called The Major Labels. I was kind of a fan of Mike’s and then met him while we were working on our just-for-fun live band Mogul. He and I got along really well. We had similar taste and things like that. I started playing him the songs and I held him in a very high esteem so when he got really excited about the material that was a huge boost of confidence for me. We decided to work on it together. He’s a really good partner for me because he’s great with all the chordal instruments which are one of my short-comings. Between the two of us we had everything covered – me rhythmically, singing and melodically and him with his chords and producer’s mentality.
What instruments did you play on the record?
I pretty much just played the drums. It was cool because, since I knew the songs really well, I could just go and lay down drums with almost nothing or sometimes Mike would lay down a scratch track. We made the record in 10 days. We had a finite amount of time so I pretty much let Mike handle all [the other instruments]. We would talk about ideas but he’s such a good player that I didn’t have any interest in topping his performances…nor could I.
When you’re writing a song do the lyrics or the music usually come first?
I’m definitely focused on words and melody. I’ve always like writing whether it be stories or lyrics. Sometimes I’ll have a lyrical concept but usually I always start with a melody and write the words to fit that melody the way that I want.
The song “Father to Son”, did you write that for your son?
I actually wrote it thinking about my dad before I even had a son. It seemed more appropriate and cool once I ended up having a real son. I knew I wanted to record it. A lot of the record is about family and people I know.
What’s the story behind the song “Ned Brower”?
That’s a good story. Mike and I did pre-production in LA and it happened very quickly. We ended up burning through seven songs in a day but we wanted to leave some time while we were in Boston to do some work on the fly so we left a few spots open. I knew I was going to do 10 songs and that was one song that we wrote together in Boston. It started as a joke because there’s a guy that I became friends with online named Ned Brower. He has the same name as me, he’s in his 20s and he’s a musician. There are a lot of similarities but we started our relationship because we literally had the same name, which was bizarre.
I was talking to him and then started talking with Mike and we were talking about the idea of writing a song called Ned Brower about the other Ned Brower. That’s how the seed started but once we got in there it got more personal and I decided I didn’t want it to be a funny song because it had too serious of a melody. My grandfather was named Ned Brower as well and it tied into the family theme of the record. It became more of an emotional piece and one of the more serious songs on the record. It’s a good case of how something can change a lot during the creative process. We had some of our biggest laughs talking about the idea in the beginning and then got fairly emotional by the time we were working on the real song.
If you had to pick one song that meant the most to you which one would it be?
I don’t really know. I’m proud of all the songs in different ways so it’s hard for me to pick just one. I think it’s like any record that I’ve made whether it’s my own or with bands, I go through phases where I like different songs at different times. I don’t know if I can pick just one.
For someone who hasn’t heard the album, how would you describe it?
It’s definitely a pop record. I wanted to make an up-beat happy record. I felt a lot of joy when I made the album. It’s influenced by a lot of 60’s and 70’s pop records. The production is very authentic in that all the performances are real. There’s no auto-tuning or trickery. It’s very sparse production-wise but it’s also exciting…it’s a rock record.
When did you record the album?
I made the record in March of this year. It was recorded and mixed in 10 days. We got it done right under the gun but it worked out perfectly. I still haven’t actively marketed or promoted it because I’ve been working on Rooney.
When do you plan to put it on iTunes?
I wanted to do that all at once. I made it available on NedBrower.com for people that I know or people that find me. I haven’t really promoted it on Twitter or Facebook. I want to do that all at the same time when I feel like I can commit the time…by the year’s end I would like to get into it in a more serious way.
What made you decide to go record with Ducky Carlisle in Massachusetts?
He is an engineer that I really like. He did Bleu’s new record and Mike’s projects. Everything I’ve heard out of his studio in the last few years has sounded great and I knew that was the kind of record I wanted to make. In some ways it would have been easier to stay home and make a record but I knew I wanted to get out and have a special experience. Living at the studio far from my friends and family, and just working on music everyday, was really spectacular and one of my greatest experiences in music so far. I think I got what I wanted in the record.
And you were there in the winter?
It was pretty cold still. It was great to get up and have coffee. We were in the house around the clock so it was nice that it wasn’t a hot and sunny day. That would have been hard to focus. I like being able to hunker down, bundle up and do the record.
Mogul played the Hotel Café on September 22 and you sang “Great to Say Hello”, was that your first time singing one of your songs live?
Yeah it was, well it was the first time singing one of my songs off this record live. That was great. I had a great band at my disposal. I had a really good time playing that song and it made me want to do more. I’ll definitely do another one someday with that band because we have so much fun. We’ll get back together for more Mogul shows.
Is playing live something you planned on doing when you were recording the album?
I didn’t really think about it. I just wanted to put music out in the world and let people hear my songs and hear me sing and do it for myself. I needed to refresh my musical sponge and I definitely did that. I’m not sure about playing live. I love playing music live so I’m sure at some point there will be something. I haven’t really thought about it…I’m still in Rooney mode I guess.
Would you want to do acoustic YouTube videos?
That’s a great idea. I’ll probably do some of that stuff when I actively start promoting the record. I’ll have to come up with something.
Yes, talked about a possible music video as well. A guy approached me about that yesterday. I like film making too…I have a background in that so it’s something else I would like to do simply for the fun of it.
Who have been your greatest musical influences?
I would have to say the guys from my band [Rooney] because we spend so much time together. I think we’ve all influenced each other. Obviously, there are the great artists that I love like Paul McCartney and Tom Petty and stuff. Actually, to be honest, influential people are the ones that I spend time around making music. Those are the guys that I’ve learned a lot from and probably also taught things to. They’ve formed my style in some ways that I’m aware of and some that I’m probably not.
Do you write songs on the road?
I do and I did. I went through a period where I wrote a bunch on the road. That was when I started going through a period of writing a lot of songs. A couple of the songs are on my record. Some of them ended up on a Rooney record and some ended up on mine. I don’t really care what ends up where. I just like to make music and be creative.
Do you have plans to make another album?
I don’t at this time. I feel like I just wanted to do it once. I could do another one and I may. I haven’t really gotten back into my writing zone since I made that record. If I feel like I want to write more songs then I’ll make another one.
If you do make another album, who would you want to collaborate with?
I don’t know. I really loved working with Mike and Ducky. I can see myself going back for another experience with those guys. There are other people I like in town like Jason Falkner…he’s a really good guy. I just want to record and write with people whose music I like.
What would you like to have happen with your music?
I’d like to entertain my friends, family and myself. I like listening to my own music when I finish it so I think on that level alone it was nice to have a new album that I like to listen to. It sounds kind of arrogant but I don’t mean it that way. The music business is tough but I enjoy making my own records. I hope to entertain people and bring joy to others.
Just for Fun: Say the world is going to end in 2012 and they decide to move us all to space stations…you can only bring three non-essential items…what would you bring and why?
A fully stocked iPod, a pizza oven, and a hot tub. Does the pizza oven come with the ingredients? I’m not sure how that would break down. I don’t know…I’ll have to get back to you on that. I’m going with that for now.