Interview with Cris Brown from ONE LESS REASON
Interview by Mark Dean
First of all, it’s a pleasure. Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to chat to you.
Yes, man. Love the accent.
Thank you. I’ve been into the band pretty much the first couple of albums. It was actually an ex-girlfriend that actually copied them for me. It’s been several years since the last album release, I just wonder what the band have been up to in that time?
I started a family. I had toured for 11 years straight, and so some of those years were 200-plus shows a year. Honestly, to tell you the truth, I was just burned out. I was just completely burned out. I decided to take a break. I had two daughters in that break. I got married, had two daughters. I spent every day with them through their baby days and whatnot, the real infancy, and now they’re starting school, the very, very start of school.
Do you feel that the musical climate is particularly in need of another fix of One Less Reason?
I think pop culture is pretty much lost on me at this point. If you give someone something really true and really honest, like this record is, even if right now somebody doesn’t get it, there’s going to come a time in their life where they are going to get it. I think music as a whole is on the downside right now with digital downloading and Spotify and all of these things. The only thing I can do is make an honest, true record that I believe in, put it out, and hope that the ears on the other end agree that it is what I say it is.
The band are definitely due some success. The songs connect on a personal level, and I’m really surprised that the band haven’t actually gone on to massive things, really.
Honestly, I guess what’s always thrown people off with me is success to me is completely different than what success is to a lot of other people. I personally couldn’t care less about being a rock star. I couldn’t care less about being famous. I couldn’t care less about any of these things. I care about how big my bank account is.
Yes, because you’ve got a family.
I care about the fact that my kids don’t have to worry about anything their whole lives. That’s successful to me, and in those terms, I’ve been more successful than most artists that you see, hear on the radio or on TV.
You’ve gone with a record label release. Is Tattooed Millionaire your own label?
Yes, Me and John Falls from the band own Tattooed Millionaire Records.
Obviously, you’ve got your own label. I just wonder what your views are on fan-funded schemes, with the likes of Pledge Music which appear to be increasingly popular?
I do have an opinion on that. It’s probably not going to be smiled upon by all the band members, but this is my opinion on that. If you want to have a crowd fund your record, if you want your fans to fund your record, especially one record, my problem is I’m fine with one record, because, okay, the fans funded it. Now, sell it and make some money off of it, and fund your next record, instead of taking those profits and sticking it in your pocket and wondering who’s going to fund your next record. That’s just bad business.
My thing is one record, fine, but I saw a band recently. They’re on their third or fourth crowd funded record. At some point, obviously your records are not successful enough to be even putting out more records, so why are still putting out records? Why should you go to the people who support you to make the record that they’re inevitably going to buy? It’s almost like double dipping. I don’t like it.
Coming back to the new album, do you see it as heralding a new age in diversity to the bands signed?
I don’t know. When you say band, really, the band is just me. I play all the guitar parts, I play all the stringed instruments, I play everything, and I write all the songs and I do all the singing, and then I have my drummer come in. As a whole, the band is just me, so it really is. There’s not a whole lot of opinions going on inside of One Less Reason or outside of influence, for sure.
I wonder if you’ll just pick a couple of tracks off the album and give me a little bit of insight into maybe the subject, how the songs came together? You’ve got a video out for “Break Me.” I just wondered if you’d tell me a little bit about that track.
“Break Me,” the best way to describe it is it’s a song about human condition and how eventually we all feel the same. We all go through the same things, whether it’s love, loss, or losing a loved one or hating somebody, whatever it is, we all go through these things and we all through our lifetime end up breaking down or broken at some point and how we all need a little help along the way picking up the pieces of ourselves that we might even leave behind and putting it all back together. That’s what “Break Me” is about. It’s a song about how we as humans, no matter how tough you are, no matter how cool you think you are, at some point, we’re going to need somebody.
Could pick another track yourself.
“The Lie.” I love “The Lie.” I wanted to write a song about how whenever you’re coming up in a band, you always have a girlfriend or whatever it is that supports you along the way, you sleep on your couch and you do this and they feed you and that, and then when you start becoming successful, it seems to always fall apart and you end up leaving the other person behind. It just happens. I know thousands of musicians and it happens to every single one of them.
I think that might be because along the way, whenever your band starts doing well and you’re making money by singing songs or playing songs and you have people applauding the very fact that you walk into a room and pick up an instrument, it does something to you, especially when you’re younger, and it gives you a little bit of a god complex. I tried to write a song about that, but it came off as corny. It came off as corny and contrived.
“The Lie” is from a point of view of if God before he was God had a wife or a girlfriend and he promised that he would come back and take care of her when he was done with this whole God gig, and it’s from her point of view when he doesn’t come back and it’s a conversation between those two and how pretty much, “You said you’d come back for me. You said you’d find a safe place. You said that heaven and stars would never tear us back,” and then the next time, it’s him replying, “Who knew that heaven and stars had their own prison bars?” It’s almost an argument between God and the people who knew him before he was, which I thought was a cool take on a song, because a lot of people don’t think like that.
Okay, if you look back, can you recall your first introduction to music?
Yes, I was six or seven years old, and my dad put on Frampton Comes Alive on the big vinyl. I don’t know if you remember it now, but the Frampton Comes Alive vinyl, it folded out like six panels, and it was almost like a poster.
Of course, they had the big, huge records. I remember he put on Frampton Comes Alive, and he put on the song “Do You Feel Like We Do,” and I remember that song did something to me, especially when it gets to the vocals and he would do the answer and call with the guitar, and then he would answer it with the guitar call. I remember it just blew my mind. It blew my mind, and there was nothing else that I wanted to do from that point on.
What would have been the first gig, then, the first show that you went to as a fan?
The first show, I started at the top of the heap. I was nine years old, and I started off with Motley Crue, Dr. Feelgood tour. I’m telling you, they started the show with “Kickstart My Heart,” you know the guitar part, and then the snare come in, and every time the snare would hit, explosions would go off, and then the big snare would go, and at that point, I was ruined. I was ruined at that point. There was nowhere to go except into music for me at that point.
What in your life would you say you’re most proud of?
That’s a crazy thing, because people would say I’ve achieved all these things, as far as I drive a Rolls Royce, I have a 15,000 square foot house, I have money, I have this and that, but at the end of the day, I’m the proudest of the fact that I’m a true dad. I’m a real dad to my children. I am not a part-time dad; I am not a half-time dad. I wake up with them in the morning, I take them to school, I pick them up, I bring them home, I play with them, I make sure they get bathed and I get them in bed and we have rituals. I think my dad would be proud of the father that I am to my children, and my kids are my favorite thing. One Less Reason, everything, music, that’s all great, but One Less Reason is just a part of my life, when they truly are the one reason for me to be here.
Looking back then, again, do you have any regrets? Anything that you would have done differently?
No. No, I don’t do regret. Everything that I did and everything that I’ve done has made me the man that I am today. Yes, I’ve done some crappy things along the way, but it would be one thing if I had done crappy things and not learned from them, but I learned my lesson with each one and it made me better. I always think before I say things. I always think before I do things on how it’s going to affect not only me, not only my family, but also the people that it surrounds.
How do you view your own personal musical legacy? Are there any records of your own that you now disown, or are they all just a natural step and the natural evolution of you?
I would say yes. You can hear the natural progression from Every Day Life to Getting Back to Self-Disdain. You can hear where I was at in life with each record. When I did Every Day Life, I was 22 years old and I was angry. I was angry and full of angst and whatnot, and then with each record you can hear, especially the Four Letter Words, that was the point in my career that I had achieved success as far as financial and business success, but I was very, very unhappy with everything personal going on in my life. I wasn’t happy in any relationship that I was involved in. I had spent all this time on the road, and these people on the road had become my family and I was burned out on playing shows, and what I found out when I got home, I had nobody. It really reflects on that record where I was. You can hear that with every record.
I’m sure you’ve done many of these interviews over the years, but who would you, Cris Brown, like to personally sit down with you asking the questions, who would you like to interview yourself?
David Gilmore. David Gilmore, no doubt about it. He’s the greatest guitar player to ever pluck a string, in my opinion. He wrote some of the most beautiful, crazy lyrics. Him and Roger Waters wrote some of the most beautiful and crazy lyrics I’d ever heard that really to this day, still make me think, because they are so universal. They are so universal in their meaning. Just to be that universal in an art form is an amazing thing.
Returning then to the album, touring-wise, obviously you’ve indicated you’ve got a family. Would be doing any sort of tour to promote the album?
Yes. We start September 16th and we go all the way to November 1st, and then we turn around in November. We’re talking about coming to the UK in November.
Hopefully that will follow through, because the fan base in the UK has really, really always supported us. We would love to get over there. We will 100% for sure make it to the UK on this record cycle.
Just a finally crazy question. I was listening to your back catalog of music earlier in preparation for this interview, and there’s so many great and personal love songs. My girlfriend has actually asked me to ask you, do you do weddings?
You called me about seven years late. Seven years ago, I would have said yes, but these days, I didn’t even do my own wedding. I actually got married by Elvis in Las Vegas. I let Elvis sing to me.
I guess it’s just going to be a One Less Reason playlist, then, for the DJ.
Exactly. You wouldn’t believe how often I get asked that question. You would not believe it.
That’s because you’ve written so many great ballad-type songs that connect with a lot of people.
Awesome. Thank you. That’s awesome, but I don’t look good in a suit.
Okay, Cris. Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you. I know I will get to see you if you get to the UK.
Sounds good, man. Let me know when we get there. All right. Thanks, Mark.