Cody Braun talks album making, festival planning, and Red Iguana
Beer is a lot like music, according to Cody Braun.
If it’s being given away for free, people aren’t picky about what they’re getting. But once money is involved, consumers become a little more selective about what they spend their paycheck on. And if they can get the same thing for free somewhere else – whether it be beer or music – they’ll do that instead.
In 2016, Reckless Kelly released Sunset Motel, their ninth studio album and one of their most upbeat with songs like “Radio,” “Moment in the Sun,” “How Can You Love Him (If You Don’t Even Like Him),” and “Who’s Going to Be Your Baby Now?”
“Our goal with this one was to really kind of step more into the Americana scene a little bit,” said Braun, while adding that the band was trying to step out of the Texas country music spotlight a little bit and focus on new markets.
Despite being a very strong album, Sunset Motel barely cracked the top 200 on the U.S. album charts, though it did peak at No. 12 on the country album chart (a personal best). Braun said 2017 was a tough year not only for his band in terms of album sales, but for a lot of artists.
“It wasn’t one of our highest selling albums,” he said. “But our streams are up by hundreds of thousands.”
On streaming services like Spotify, Braun said the band is doing well. But as is the problem for many artists, streaming songs on Spotify doesn’t translate into money for artists.
“I don’t know if most people understand how big of a hit that makes, especially on independent artists putting out their own records and paying for their own records, and then everybody listens to them for basically free instead fo paying that $15 for a CD. It really has a big impact,” he said.
Braun admits it has forced the band to think about different ways of doing business. But he doubts they’ll ever stop releasing albums.
“Just the process of making records is really fun and kind of part of the art that we really enjoy. I think we’ll always continue to make records. But figuring out how to pay for them is definitely different,” he said.
Not only does Reckless Kelly put thought into the songs that go on an album and its cohesiveness (“We like to have a beginning, middle and end,” Braun said), but the band puts a lot of thought into the album packaging. Reckless Kelly has been nominated for best album artwork for their past three records, winning one for Long Night Moon.
“We do this because we love the art of playing music and the process of making records,” he said.
It’s something Reckless Kelly has been doing now for more than 20 years. Fans of the Braun Brothers all know the story: Brothers Willy and Cody Braun began performing at a very young age in Idaho with their father, Muzzie Braun, and their brothers Micky and Gary Braun went on to form Micky & The Motorcars. The Braun family even landed two guest spots on The Tonight Show while the four brothers were very young.
But it was when Willy and Cody set out for Bend, Oregon and later Austin, Texas, that they achieved the sound that would become Reckless Kelly. Along the way, they picked up longtime members Jay Nazz (drums) and lead guitarist Dave Abetya (a Berklee College of Music grad!). Most recently, Joe Miller on bass.
For the next two decades, the band blurred the lines between country and rock with a series of solid albums including Under the Table and Above the Sun, Wicked Twisted Road, Bulletproof, Good Luck & True Love and songs like “Nobody’s Girl,” “Wicked Twisted Road,” “Ragged as the Road,” and “One False Move.”
On Wednesday, May 9, Reckless Kelly returns to Salt Lake City. During their last visit in the fall, they sold out The State Room and played an extra long show, giving fans an unforgettable “Evening with Reckless Kelly.” No opener. This time, they’ll be the first ticketed event for the brand new Commonwealth Room (same State Room owners, bigger venue).
The band has been playing Salt Lake for many years. Braun still has memories of playing the old (and still dormant) Zephyr Club.
Anytime a Braun is in town, it’s almost a guarantee they’ll be found at some point eating at the Red Iguana (Cody Braun’s go-to is the mole sampler plate or whatever is that night’s special). It was during one of those early visits they came across the Red Iguana and immediately noticed the pictures on the wall of artists they knew and admired. And once they had the food, there was no going back. The Brauns even got to meet Ramon Cardenas, Jr. before his untimely passing in 2004.
“When people ask us our favorite Mexican food, we always say Salt Lake City.”
Later this year, all of the Bruans will return to Idaho for the annual Braun Brothers Reunion music festival in Challis. Aug. 9-11. This year marks the second that the four Braun Brothers are completely in charge of organization the event, after having the torch passed down from their parents last year.
“It’s an unbelievable amount of work,” Cody Braun said.
His parents organized the festival for 30 years. So fortunately, he says, a lot of what they do to host the event is already in place.
But being 2,000 miles away in Texas has posed challenged, he admitted, especially when most of the residents in the small Idaho town “do their business at the coffee shop and not email,” he said.
Things that most concert-goers don’t think about, such as parking and ordering port-a-potties, are all items that have to be taken care of in preparation for the concert. Braun said his duties include booking who’s going to play, and securing the beer sponsorship. But being in charge of the beer isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, he said.
“Asking people what kind of beer they like is like asking what kind of music they like. They like it all if its free,” he joked. “Some want cheap beer. Some want more craft beers. There’s just such a wide range of people who go to the show.”
Braun said fans can also expect Willy to do some song writing for the next album while in Idaho. All four Braun brothers own property in rural Custer County, Idaho (Willy even has a yurt, his brother said).
“It’s just a great place to go get away. The phones don’t work. It’s just a beautiful place to go and shut everything off and really concentrate on the writing process,” Cody Braun said.
As for the next album, Braun said Willy typically focuses on writing from now until October, and the band typically does their studio time in January and February. After that, Reckless Kelly will look to release their music to the public, who hopefully will be willing to spend a few dollars to buy a record and a beer.