I have not only had the pleasure of seeing Cory Branan live a number of times, but of being introduced to him—hand extended for the shaking—while he was peeing into a cup in the dirty corner of a dive bar. I caught up with him via phone while he was in Mississippi (under a tin roof in the rain, mind you) to talk about (among other things) his upcoming album, peer love, and his support tour with Dashboard Confessional. That being said… Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Cory motherfuckin’ Branan:
As of May, you said you were still shopping around for a label for Mutt. How is that coming along?
Well, honestly, we’ve got one last label that I’m interested in, that I like, and that we’re talking to, but it’s getting damn close to me starting my own label, or you know, self-releasing the record. It’s just getting to the point where I don’t see much advantage any other way. Starting in November, I think, I’m going to do a Kickstarter campaign, as weird as those things are. So we’re going to have that put up in November and December to set up for a March release. So, yeah, I think I’m going to go ahead and try to raise the 10 grand it costs to press and promote and do all that. Think I’m going to try to take it straight to fans on Kickstarter and use it as a way to pre-order the record.
I’m a big fan of Kickstarter.
Yeah, you know, there’s just something about it… I’m kind of old school. Something about it rubs me a little weird. I don’t know. I’m used to labels having to earn a record, and now labels just want you to record it and hand it to them for such a small investment. I don’t understand, really. I feel for them a little bit. I don’t know how any label’s doing it, sticking around, but I don’t know. I don’t get it. It’s just a real strange time for music.
I mean, yeah. It’s a record. It’s not just something recorded in my living room. Besides that, I poured five years of my life into this record. Not all recording. I’ve sat on it for a year and a half, and I just can’t settle now. I’ve seen some friends of mine have some luck with self-releasing, and you just have to take all the other factors out and do it.
So what’s the sound of the new record like?
Well, you know, like the name of the record. It’s kind of like the happiest, saddest, darkest, lightest work I’ve done so far [laughs]. It’s all of it. It’s sort of like, you know, a “choose your own adventure” thing [laughs]. The songs are all sort of thematically joined in a way but with different outcomes, because I’ll try anything seven or eight times [still laughing].
You know, I’ve just had some shit years the past couple years, and the only way I’ve dealt with it is humor and friends, and that’s how it tends to come in, like with sadness or pure joy. It’s not always so distilled. It just comes at you sometimes, so the songs are like that, and they veer off wildly from each other lyrically but definitely musically as well. I always hear songs a certain way, and even on this record, there’s one song I did that’s cut two ways because I just heard it both ways, and then I end up liking it both ways, so it’s on the record both ways.
Many of your peers have described you as “the best songwriter of our time.” How does it make you feel to hear other talented people in your genre say something like that about you?
Well, you know, it’s real kind to hear. Real nice to hear. If I could blush still, I’d probably blush [laughs], but you know, it’s real hard to stay out on the road, and I don’t believe in anything like karma or anything like that, but I have not met a lot of dickheads [laughs]. People run into awful musicians, and they say all these things, but I’ll tell you, I really fell in through luck, I guess, with genuine, talented, kind people, like Jon Snodgrass, Ben Nichols, Austin Lucas, so many. It’s something you want to happen. I don’t really give a shit if Keith Richards is a dick. He could be or not. I don’t know. I bet he’s a great dude. But my point is, you want to hear about him being a good dude. I’ve been lucky enough to fall in with some good scoundrels [laughs].
I always like asking people whom they’re listening to these days. Anyone new?
Hmm, well, I don’t really listen to a whole lot of new music, but I’d say Good Old War out of Philly. Real tight three-part harmonies and just killer dudes with especially great live shows. I’ve done quite a few shows with them. Real good band. One of the last things that blew me away too was Joey Kneiser from Glossary, who are also real great, but his solo record The All-Night Bedroom Revival is just a really great record, and, of course, Austin Lucas’ new record [A New Home in the Old World] is great.
One of the things I wanted to discuss with you was your tour with Dashboard Confessional, and their cover of “Tall Green Grass.” It seems like a strange fit. How was that experience?
Well, when I talked to him [Chris Carrabba]—he’s sort of very intuitive—I found he was right about something. He said we were sort of doing the same thing. He was just like, “I just think that they [the audience] will get it.” Most of the tours I did with him were in support of Swiss Army Romance, and he was acoustic. He also capped the rooms off, so they’d be smaller than what he’d normally be playing. There were like 1,200 people a night instead of the 3,500 or 4,000 people they normally play to.
I think some of the kids balked just a little bit at how country I am or whatever [laughs], but his fans are real lyric-oriented, and it turned out to be the warmest welcome. It was really great. Really great shows. I thought he was very, very kind. And, you know, it was playing for kids that would never wander in to some of the toilets I play sometimes [laughs]. I really enjoyed it, rode on the bus with him, and we really became fast friends. Again, it’s what I was talking about: kind people gravitating, luckily, towards me.
So when are you going out on your own again?
Well, I go out a bit in September, then tour again in October, then again in November, ideally to support the Kickstarter campaign. I will probably take January and February off, maybe to even record another record, and then release Mutt in March.
Personally, your music gets me though shit, and I’ve heard other people say the same. How do you feel when people say things like that to you?
That’s great. That’s all we really want to do is, you know, be fuckin’ useful [laughs]. I come from a place where what I do is not viewed as work. You don’t want to be out there doing it for yourself. Your ego won’t carry you further than a couple of fuckin’ bad tours. None of us are in it for ego anymore. It’s when we’re useful, when you play music that means something to someone and connects. You know, it’s utilitarian [laughs].