If your last name is Braun, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in the family business.
That business is picking up an instrument – usually a guitar – writing great Americana/Red Dirt music (think indie rock meets alt-country) and touring seemingly non-stop.
This weekend, Salt Lake City gets a Braun brothers reunion of sorts when Micky and Gary Braun and the rest of Micky and the Motorcars, and older brothers Willy and Cody Braun and Reckless Kelly play at In the Venue, 219 S. 600 West, on the last stop of their Tour Better Than One outing.
“It’s just a lot of fun really,” said Micky Braun, in-between shots on a golf course in Austin the day before the tour started. “When we do this, it’s a lot of laughs, a lot of partying. We get up and play with each other during both of our sets, a lot of impromptu jamming going on…crowds really like it, and we have a lot of fun doing it.”
Willy Braun concurred that when the two bands go on the road together, it’s about brotherly love more than sibling rivalry.
“It’s not a lot of rivalry, we’re more supportive than competitive. We definitely have a lot of fun. All the guys in the band have known each other for a long time. And of course we’re brothers. We have a lot of fun hanging out,” said Braun, who was also busy making last minute preparations of his own in Austin before hitting the road.
If there were any doubts about the brothers getting along, check out the video they shot for their Facebook pages during a recent stop in Arizona at a spring training game with the Texas Rangers.
The Braun brothers – Willy, Cody, Micky and Gary – have been making records with their respective bands for over a decade, singing a lot about life on the road, heartaches and relationships. Reckless Kelly – singer Willy and fiddle/mandolin player Cody’s band – have been putting out records for over 15 years, attracting fans with songs like, “Wicked Twisted Road,” “Love In Her Eyes,” “Ragged As The Road” and “A Guy Like Me.”
“It’s been a long slow build, ya know,” Willy Braun said. “We’ve gone out and toured with other acts as opening acts with bigger names like Robert Earl Keen and guys like that. We’ve done shows with ZZ Top and bands like that, and that helps getting your foot in the door and building fans a little quicker. But after that, you gotta get out and start headlining on your own. And doing that takes a long time especially at our grass roots level. We don’t get a whole lot of radio or press support, just being the nature of an independent band. You kind of have to get your fans one at a time. Definitely it snowball effects as you keep going back (to each city). If you keep going back and keep plugging away, it eventually pays off. It’s a long slow build, but eventually it pays off.”
That constant touring has also taken Reckless Kelly overseas where they’ve been welcomed warmly. In Germany, Braun joked the fans are so fanatical that they come up and tell them things about the band that they didn’t even know. While in Ireland, he said the locals just want to hear good music, and are willing to stay all night to hear it.
“They literally won’t let you quit. We played form 10pm til five in the morning once. We literally played 20 songs we’d never played before,” Braun said.
Reckless Kelly’s latest single, “Pennsylvania Avenue,” was a departure from the standard Reckless song, tackling issues that dealt with the political climate of the time. Willy Braun said it was written during the tail end of the Bush administration, two elections ago, but it didn’t fit the album they were working on then, so it was released as a single last fall.
“We don’t want to be known as a political band and we’re definitely not going to go out on stage and tell everybody our agenda and preach at everybody about anything in particular. But it is kind of fun to write about something other than the road and heartbreak,” he said.
Following the current tour with Micky, Reckless Kelly will head back into the studio to record a new album they hope to release by August. In-between, they’ll host their 5th annual Celebrity Softball Jam, combining a day of softball and music to raise money for charity.
Younger brothers Micky Braun, lead singer, and Gary Braun, rhythm guitar, for Micky and The Motorcars, have also earned a solid fan base through constant touring and an equally number of great songs about the rocky relationships and the road such as, “Naive,” “Long Enough To Leave,” “Any Longer Any More,” and “Grow Old.” Micky Braun admits he took a lot of long drives on desolate roads when he was in his late teens, which is reflected in songs like “Rock Springs to Cheyenne” and with lyrics like, “Jackpot down to Ely” from the appropriately titled “Long & Lonely Highway.”
The band’s latest single is “A Thousand Tears” off the Raise My Glass album. Micky said it would be the last single from the album before his band also goes back into the studio to record new music, most of which he said was already written. Micky and the Motorcars have also gone through a few lineup changes over the past few years. Braun said the youth of their current lead guitar player has put the band more on the rock side of the country-rock scene.
“There’s a lot more energy. He really fits in well with the group,” he said.
Though the Brauns have been with their respective bands for over a decade, their performing careers go back much further than that.
The origins of each band actually start in Idaho, where family patriarch Muzzie Braun has been performing himself for more than 40 years.
“My father was a musician full-time. His dad was a full-time musician, he has two brothers who are full-time musicians. We had a family band when we were kids. He bought us instruments for Christmas and our birthdays. We all had a lot of interest in music, eventually started playing in his band and eventually in other bands,” Micky Braun said.
Muzzie Braun, who toured with his brothers as the original Braun Brothers in the ’70s and ’80s, later toured with his sons, playing country-western and swing music and even landing a spot on The Tonight Show. Micky Braun was just 6 when he performed on stage for the first time with his family and eight when he started playing bass guitar.
After playing with his father and brothers for close to ten years, Willy and Cody Braun set off to Bend, Oregon to form their own band.
“We were there for a little less than a year. It was kind of on the tail end of the grunge scene and there wasn’t a lot of room for a happy-go-lucky band like us. So we decided we wanted to go somewhere else and Austin seemed like a good fit,” Willy Braun said.
Micky and Gary finished school in Idaho. Then when it came time to set off on their own, Micky first headed to Arizona when he was 18, eventually ending up in Austin a year later with his older brothers.
“It’s just a great music scene down here. Our brothers in Reckless had been down there awhile, they said it was great and were having a good time. Turned out to be a good call,” he said.
But the brothers make it back to Idaho each year, playing at the Braun Brothers Reunion music festival in Challis. It’s essentially three days of music, camping, hiking and fishing hosted by Muzzie and JoAnn Braun and their musical sons. Last year’s show drew between 3,000 to 5,000 people. Acts like Robert Earl Keen, Cody Canada have played at the festival, which this year will also feature Guy Clark.
Tickets for Saturday night’s show with Micky and The Motorcars and Reckless Kelly can be purchased at Smith’s Tix. In 2011, Reckless sold out consecutive nights at The State Room, so don’t delay.