Brushville guitarist Dustin Reynolds said band members have soaked up music industry wisdom since their 2012 “Battle for the Saddle” victory at Nashville’s legendary Wildhorse Saloon.
“The music industry has changed so much, which is why we decided to do an EP instead of a full album release,” said Reynolds of "Taking You Higher," the follow-up to their 2014 eponymous debut.
“A lot of what modern radio is taking is singles. They’re not pushing albums. And nobody is really buying albums anymore.”
A common notation since iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify changed how consumers buy and consume recorded music.
“When we put together an album or EP, we want to put together a product our fans that are buying albums can listen to all the way through. It’s full of what we deem to be great songs,” said Reynolds.
Like the old radio slogan: “All killer, no filler.”
That commercial radio is still a viable option for at least country artists considered “progressive” or “modern” makes songs that sound like "hits" imperative.
“It’s all about ‘a song’ anymore," said Reynolds, emphasing the long 'a.' "You’ve got to break into something with a song, and then it’s a singles game after that. They (radio) want single, single, single."
Listening to the new EP “Taking You Higher” makes it obvious Reynolds and bandmates including lead guitarist Kirk Ellis, bassist and keyboardist Marc Broomby, and percussionist Darin Holthaus have taken lessons learned from industry insiders to heart.
From the opening song (and first single release) “Girl in a Trucker Hat” to “Running Out of Places to Hide” to the just released single “Somewhere in Love,” the five songs comprising "Taking You Higher" would easily sit alongside today’s major stars on FM country radio.
"'Girl in a Trucker Hat' was written by a couple big-name songwriters," said Reynolds. "Rhett Akins and Ben Haslip out of Nashville, two prominent songwriters. Akins was a star himself. We got pitched this song by a publishing company and just loved it."
Reynolds said for now, nearly all aspects of the business side of Brushville is being handled in-house. They did push a couple songs from their debut album to radio, but didn't do similarly with "Girl in a Trucker Hat" as getting on commercial radio requires promotional money – generally from a record label or independent promoter.
"We didn't feel we got as much out of the last radio tours that we thought we were going to get. So we just released it to our fans online and iTunes," said Reynolds.
During a January conversation with GLT, legendary rock music engineer/producer Steve Albini said because of especially the internet, now is a great time to be a recording and touring musician, as record labels and music industry insiders no longer control music distribution. Albini argued that record labels have become much less relevant than they were pre-internet.
Reynolds understands the reasoning even if he disagrees slightly.
“They’re reluctant to sign people,” said Reynolds. “And that’s where it comes back to that singles game. If your single doesn’t hit, you’re out the door and they’re bringing in a new face. You don’t see people like Garth Brooks or Jason Aldean … they are making some money, it’s not a lot of money. You’re making your money touring. It’s these concerts where you pay $80 a tickets is where you’re making your money.”
In addition to slimming down from LP to EP this time around, Brushville decided to have the new release recorded and produced by Erik Nelson at Eclipse Studios in Normal. It’s a brighter, tighter sound than the 2014 album they recorded with Kyle Lehning, who has worked with a who’s who of country music legends. Milliken University in Decatur was the connection, as both Lehning and Brushville drummer Holthaus are graduates of the Decatur school.
“Eric has a more progressive and modern sound to what he’s doing, and it sounds great,” raved Reynolds. “You know the modern country sound is a little mix of everything. There’s so much involved in it, and he was able to bring many different genres into the mix.”
The video to “Somewhere in Love” hit yesterday.
Reynolds said it’s the band’s favorite from the album, and may take it on a radio station tour across the country. He said hitting four or five stations a day to push a new single can be a grueling process, but even that is more fun than what he was doing pre-Brushville.
“I used to be a home builder,” said Reynolds. “I had a construction company and swung a hammer for years. I remember waking up in the middle of winter hearing the wind whipping outside and going ‘oh man, I really don’t want to go to work today.’ All the years doing this, and it’s getting close to eight or 10 years, I’ve never once said, ‘Man I don’t want to go to work today.’”
Brushville plays Six Strings Club in Bloomington on Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m. Show starts at 10 p.m.
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.