By Harriet Kaplan
Folk/punk troubadour Bryan McPherson sings and writes lyrics that are very pointed and direct. His opinions and viewpoint reflect what he sees as the social and political ills in the world and he offers unfiltered and sometimes very rough commentary. Tough times can for tough measures, so to speak. McPherson addresses those issues head on and doesn’t mince words. The listener knows immediately where he stands if one were to play almost any off the track on his third LP, Wedgewood. In an interview with Black on The Canvas, McPherson spoke about his reluctance to be stereotyped or labeled and he sees himself as creative vessel that channels these messages into songs and describes his newest release as being a continuation of the last LP, American Boy American Girl.
Would you characterize yourself primarily as a protest singer?
Bryan: No, I classify myself as an artist or a singer songwriter. I do not want to be put into a box where I am supposed to write a certain kind of song. I write a lot of different stuff and do not want to be limited or obligated to such a term.
Did Occupy Oakland signal a change not only in you, but in your awareness of the world and around you, as well as your songwriting point of view?
Bryan: Well at the time I knew what was going on in the world but I felt very alone in what I was witnessing before Occupy. We live in a massive propaganda machine that keeps the masses distracted from how they are being constantly screwed over. I had just written and recorded my previous album, American Boy American Girl about all of that when Occupy hit. I knew I had to go down there and sing for folks there because finally other people were in the streets talking about what I was singing about. My new album Wedgewood starts where American Boy American Girl left off.
Listening to the song clips, I get the impression you want people to “wake up” so to speak. I feel like you on a mission to educate, inform and shake up the masses? Would that be an accurate description?
Bryan: I’m just following the songs. It’s not up to me whether people wake up or not. It’s up to them. I’m on a mission to get to the next gig and write the next song. What people take away from it is up to them.
Wedgewood is your third album. What makes this release different from your past LPs? Or is it a continuation of the themes you tackled and taken on before?
Bryan: With Wedgewood I was consciously considering how all of the songs would come together to create an album from front to back. There is an A side and a B side. There is a definitive vibe to it that really makes it stand out as a full record not a collection of songs. It is a journey into the fire and out. While my last record felt like a collection of songs, this one feels like an album. This record also offers somewhat of a conclusion or an answer while American Boy American Girl left one with more of a To Be Continued theme. I also believe that Wedgewood is a departure of sorts. To what? You will have to wait and see.
Do you have a favorite song you like the best on Wedgewood and performing? Why? Days of Rage and Here We Go really grab me and feel potent and immediate.
Bryan: Nope I like them all. Like a parent with children I do not have a favorite or at least don’t admit it. 😉 Glad to hear those resonated with you!
How long have you been a singer/songwriter/musician?
Bryan: Since March 18, 1978.
I read about your musical influences. They did they inspire you to go this route and did their music resonate so strongly inside of you that you went in the direction you did? Was it an ah-ha moment where everything fell into place.
Bryan: I suppose I was inspired in some way or influenced in some way by any musician or artist I have ever listened to. I have been inspired by everyone I have ever met. I have been listening to a voice in my heart that tells me to go in this direction.
What was it like opening for Chuck Berry? What did you take away from that experience and learn from him?
Bryan: Wonderful. I was encouraged to not sing a certain song “Black Man” as it may be deemed offensive. One of the lines in the song is “Look at The Rock n roll, the white man stole, he wants your soul, to call his own”. Well I felt this song was actually very appropriate to sing considering Chuck Berry INVENTED rock and roll. I played the song anyway and the crowd went nuts and the promoter was stoked and said I made the right call in not listening to him. I learned to follow the voice in my heart and not the fear in my head.
How did the European leg of your tour go and what was the reaction among your fans regarding the new album? What do anticipate touring in the U.S. and look forward to?
Bryan: Europe was fantastic! I did not play much off of Wedgewood there as it was not out yet, but the reactions and crowds were incredible. I can not wait to go back in support of Wedgewood! In America, I look forward to seeing all of your beautiful smiling faces!
Can you tell us something about yourself that your fans may not know about you and you want to share?
Bryan: “It’s just a ride” – Bill Hicks.
Photos by EA Zimmermann