Guthrie Brown may be an artist that is young in age, but he possesses an old soul and an expert perspective on timeless composition. Guthrie and his band prove that blood is not always thicker than water, and men can become brothers through the collective creation of melodies and the trust it takes to thrive as a band. With a rich history of friendship amongst the four young men, every story they tell and reminiscent memory they revisit paints an elaborate portrait of life as a literal band of brothers. These guys carry an evident authenticity that is rare to find in any music town.
Whether they are playing pool at Mickeys or playing a national festival, each band member exudes a genuine confidence and contentment with who they are and the organic symphony of sounds they produce. I could not have chosen a better group of artists with whom to commence the band interview series at The Family Wash. Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado I present Guthrie Brown…
Repertoire: Where do you hail from, both geographically and musically?
Guthrie Brown: Will Honaker (bass/keys) and I are from Montana. John Ogelby (drums) is from Southern New Hampshire and John McNally (guitar/pedal steel) is from Minnesota. I met all of the other guys through Will while the three of them were in the Twin Cities.
R: How did your band come together, and how does a solo presence factor into that?
GB: I started writing songs at 12, and Will and I started a band together when I was around 14 or 15 years old. I dropped out of high school and moved to Nashville while Will pursued the music school in Minneapolis. I travelled up there to visit Will and record some songs with his college buddies. We played a couple of shows altogether, recorded a bit, and came back to Nashville. McNally moved to Nashville upon his graduation, and we started playing while the other guys were finishing up their degrees.
R: Did you and your sister Maddy grow up playing music together?
GB: As children, Maddy used to kick my ass. But once I was in Nashville, my mom brought up the idea of Maddy playing in the band with me, so we tried it. Above all, she is my sister first. She studied musical theater and is now pursuing that passion. Though she played with the band last year, it has been just the four of us touring this year. Even with four guys we can still enjoy shaping and assisting the band’s musical growth. We will play anything from broken down sets to full rock shows. Our main goal is to stretch ourselves musically and stay outside of our comfort zone.
R: Your band seems to jive well together, and the songs are poignant. What is your specific writing process for some of these songs?
GB: You know, I was thinking about this earlier. Here is how I can best explain it: I am pregnant with a song. I have cravings and my weight fluctuates. Then when it is time, the band is there to help deliver the song baby out of me. I think it’s a fair way of looking at it. Honestly, if anyone else were to bring in the ideas they bring in and sculpt them, it would be a completely different outcome. These three guys possess a musicianship that is top shelf and so old soul. The chemistry just works. They sculpt the songs with me and for me.
R: Tell us about the expected journey for recording this upcoming album.
GB: In essentially the year’s time of the full band living in Nashville, we have recorded plenty of demos in my home studio. It is a boot camp of sorts; the demo recordings have prepared us to actually record. Our catalogue has been growing. The official recording process will be foreign to all of us, but we are ready.
R: You’re younger than your lyrics and experiences portray. Have you had any difficulty finding your niche in the local music scene at your age?
GB: Moving here at 17, I could not do too much. I used a lot of fake I.D.s to be able to experience the music scene here. I also have always had older friends, and have never truly related to people my age. As I moved here, I knew that I wanted to steal and absorb from those older and more established people.
R: What’s your favorite venue or state to play/that you have played?
GB: Let’s go with Kemmerer, Wyoming on this question. Kemmerer feels like a tiny, tiny town and is the location of the first JC Penney. The city was pretty magical in a sense. For one thing, Kemmerer has a bunch of underwater fossils. People will bring their families to Kemmerer to dig up fossils. What do you do when you are digging for underwater fossils? You get wasted and then go see a show. The city has a small town park, which is where we played our show. We thought it would be a very low-key show, but everyone from the town showed up to party. The town people threw these little fireball things at us while we were on stage, and Guthrie ended up taking his shirt off at some point in the show. The town even opened up their local bar for us the night before, and of course Guthrie took his shirt off there too. That show was actually the show where Guthrie took off his shirt for the first time while playing with all of us.
R: Who have you met in your career that you have fan girl-ed over?
GB: For McNally and I, we fan girl-ed over Stuart Mathis. He has played with The Wallflowers and Lucinda Williams. We just went out on the road with Johnny Lang. He is the sweetest dude ever. He’s so humble and his crew is amazing. The last one I will name is Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes. We got artist passes for Bonnaroo last year and we got to pretend to be rock stars in the artist tent and get free drinks. We got to meet Taylor in the artist tent, which was a cool experience. All in all, we have been lucky enough to have older mentors to look up to during our career.
R: What would you do professionally had you not gone into music?
John McNally- I would probably work in sports memorabilia. I would run my own sports memorabilia store.
John Ogelby- I started a t-shirt company with a friend in high school, so I would want that to turn into something. If I didn’t play drums I would probably pursue a clothing line.
Will Honaker- I would have gone into the family business and own a restaurant somewhere. My dad owns a restaurant in Montana, so I would follow in his footsteps.
Guthrie Brown- I’d like to think I’d be an architect, but I’m pretty sure I’d be a butcher. My brother and I had a band called the Brown Brothers Butchery. My brother’s dream as a kid was to grow up and own a butcher shop with me, and he wanted to call it Brown Brothers Butchery. We used to hunt in Montana and butcher our own meat. Even though it sounds weird to anyone who did not grow up in that environment, I like working with meat. Someone’s gotta do it!
R: What’s the craziest/most potentially illegal thing you’ve done on tour?
GB: We played a show in Chattanooga, and we were at Waffle House after the show. This old guy came in and remarked, “Well, the hipsters are here” I got excited because I thought he had gone to our show, so I remarked, “yeah dude!” Needless to say, I ended up mooning the guy on a dare, and I have “That’s What She Said” tattooed on my butt. I quickly mooned him and then we took off running toward the van. This may sound stupid, but honestly I think mooning someone should be as formal as a handshake.
R: Which movie resonates with you the most?
Guthrie Brown- We all love The Big Lebowski.
John Ogelby- We were all stoked on The Revenant. We also loved Bird Man when it came out.
Will Honaker-Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of our favorites. We quote that one a lot.
John McNally- We like to blast the Titanic soundtrack for creative purposes.
R: What is your must-have food and liquor of choice while on tour?
GB: Cliff Bars are the predominant food of choice for us. We always have whiskey on our rider, and we actually got Jack Daniels once at a venue. We saved the bottle; it’s the little things in life.
R: Where is your favorite local spot to hang out when you are not touring?
GB: That’s easy: MICKEYS.
R: Boxers or briefs?
GB: We collectively love boxer-briefs: the best of both worlds. I personally like the Kirkland brand of underwear from Costco.
R: Which Spice Girl do you relate to the most?
GB: We all relate to Posh Spice the most.
R: What’s your go-to word in the English dictionary, profane or otherwise?
Guthrie Brown- I like the word sensational; and I use the phrase “well hells bells.”
Will Honaker- I typically use disappointed dad expressions, especially when I’ve been drinking; and my drunken safe-word is ABBA.
John Ogelby- If someone says something/someone is good, I like to say, “a little toooo good.”
John McNally- I simply say, “Mainnnn.”