By: Curtis Sindrey –
Jaffray, B.C.-born country music singer-songwriter Dean Brody has reached country-music-superstar status. He is now an arena touring act, and with thirteen Canadian Country Music Awards and two Junos under his studded belt, he is one of Canada’s biggest country music exports.
With his sixth album, Beautiful Freakshow, set for release on October 21st, his new Matt Rovey-produced effort is a fascinating mashup of Brody’s eclectic musical taste, best epitomized by the title track, “Beautiful Freakshow”, which features a rap vocal contribution by Halifax native, Shevy Price. From the pop-meets-country vibe of “Bush Party”, to hints of other genres intertwined with traditional country, there is something for everyone on the album.
In our new interview, Brody discusses the making of Beautiful Freakshow, how he and the Dean Brody Foundation are fighting to stop child prostitution in Brazil, what it was like to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, and more!
At the CCMAs, you performed a new song called “Time”. What is it about?
Just about the passage of time. I read a quote by… a lot of people say it’s Buddha and credit Buddha for the quote but some people actually say it was from somebody else. The quote says, ‘The trouble is you think you have time’ and I just thought I would write a song about that, how there all these different chapters in our life can go by so quickly. You think when you were a kid, when you’re in this little small town and you are wanting to get out of that small town. Then you look back years later and say ‘Hey I had it really good in that small town and the friends that I had. Second verse goes into having kids and how quickly they grown up before you know it they are gone. The third verse talks about grandparents, the whole idea of the song for me was to remind myself to live in the moment to really appreciate and love the people close to me.
It has a universal message to it?
Yeah I think so.
Is that what you try focus on when you are writing new songs?
Sometimes I’ll just try and write something that is fun and what a lot of people love, listen to music just have a good time, like something you can turn up really loud and it sounds great with lots of energy. So, I find myself most of the time trying to do that kind of thing. Every once in while I’ll turn to something that’s a little bit deeper and something that’s more, get’s more into the emotional side of living.
In terms of producer Matt Rovey, what did he bring to the table for this album?
Matt Rovey has been amazing and he has been there from the beginning, I think one of the biggest things that Matt brings is, he’s able to translate things and thoughts that are going on in my mind that I’m not really able to verbalize right away. When I write the song like I hear everything, I hear the production but I’m not always able to communicate that effectively. So Matt is the one that kind of bridges the gap between me and the musician on the record, where do we want to go with this song. He is just a really great guy too, great hang, so knowledgeable. Matt is respected in the Nashville community among musicians, and people in the music industry. Yeah, he brings a ton to my career and in large part I am where I am because of him.
How has your creative partnership evolved since working with Matt?
I met Rovey in Nashville for my first record…publishing deal and we did a couple of demos together. Just really enjoyed working with each other, felt like we just got each other musically. Also started hanging out with him and his family, kind of became a part of his life and part of mine. The whole music thing was an extension of what had being buddies, friends, you know. He got me my first deal at Broken Bow Records and he’s been there since the beginning. And still stuck around this long so I really do appreciate him.
What kind of themes did you focus on lyrically on this album?
Lyrically I definitely sing about country things and I think the one thing we try and do, although lyrically I am singing about country things, production wise we don’t mind taking risks. We try different things and we’ve got some electronic sounds, almost a spaghetti western kind of song that’s off of “Beautiful Freakshow” and it’s almost this spaghetti western soundtrack, it has this harmonica but the it also has some angsty surf guitar and it’s just a freak right. So, the name is very apt for the song.
What was the writing and recording process like compared to Gypsy Road?
I think that it’s the same, we try and respect the traditional where country comes from but we also try to push the boundaries to where it might be going and I think in this day and age with kids, when you see someone’s playlist it’s not just one genre, It’s the whole gamble. I think the iTunes world just blew it open where genre lines are blurred because you could be a fan of EDM, Taylor Swift and listen to Jamie Johnson, so I think that gives us a lot of freedom as far as direction goes, and being able to take risks.
With the album title, Beautiful Freakshow, what does that mean to you?
I always thought the conglomeration that we had going on and the melting pot of different things and different artists. With Alan Doyle on there, Vince Gill, and Sarah Blackwood, and just it was kind of sounds like a freakshow because it’s not your typical Country record. And then of course having a song called “Beautiful Freakshow” I thought, this might be a good title. It was either that or “Time” and time to me is kind of…the title “Time” has been used a lot..and it’s been over used.
What was it like having rapper Shevy Price featured on the title track?
It was a risk, I guess for sure. I started writing Beautiful Freakshow and I just asked around a bunch of my buddies. Like I’m not familiar with the rap world especially in Canada, nd I just asked “are there any dude’s in that world”, and they pointed me to Mark Perry. I was like “dude do you know anyone that would be in to doing this part for this song”, and Perry was like “yeah, there is this one girl she’s a MC and she’s really aggressive but she’s really real too”. Her stories, her music is very authentic it’s not like put on. She’s lived hard and has a story to tell. Price is a beautiful person and when I met Price I was kind of blown away. I thought what a cool human being this was and Price just knocked it out of the park. I met at her at her studio in Halifax and Price did her thing and it’s awesome, beautiful, has a little bit of angst, sexy, aggressive and I think it compliments the song so well.
I do appreciate Hip-hop and Rap, it’s an amazing genre …obviously I’m terrible at it but the whole idea of the song is these two different cultures coming together, two people falling in love that are not necessarily from the same social cliché or whatever, from two different sides of the track, so to speak. So it’s kind of cool that you get this contrast of the country guy falling in love with a city girl and you bring them together. So you get the Country side of stuff like while I’m singing it there is some harmonica going on, It’s almost like an old west and some references to old Hollywood. Then when Price’s part comes on it’s like full on, there’s drops happening and she’s doing her thing, it’s really cool how it works together.
You have a variety of guests on this album from Sarah Blackwood, to Alan Doyle. How did those collaborations come about?
I wrote a song called “Little Bitty Volkswagen”, it’s kind of this groovy song about a metaphor for a girl who is so cool, so groovy almost like a hippie kind of. And Sarah Blackwood’s delivery is so Californian, easy going, her delivery was just perfect. We approached Sarah with the song and she’s like ‘oh yeah, I love it’ and she was actually a little nervous about doing it but she nailed it. It’s a real special thing on the record.
Tell me about the Dean Brody Foundation. What inspired you to give back?
I think from a young age I’ve always wanted to help people out in some way, and I ended up reading a book called ‘Remember Me, Rescue Me’ and it was about the exploitation of the girls in Brazil. I ended up contacting the author [Matt Roper] who had spent seven years living with these kids on the streets and documenting these cases. I just said “Man, what can we do, this is really terrible stuff”, and he was like “I know some Brazilian Nationals that are really passionate about this who could work with you right away”. So we started making trips to Brazil, and Roper wrote another book so we just got really involved in this particular town we came across in our journey…it just seemed really dark, really just having a real problem with the exploitation of their girls. So we started working with them and started a house called the Pink House that works with these girls and families, and are trying to get them off the street and in particular the roadways where the prostitution is really rampant.
It’s been amazing, obviously it’s been really hard…we started in 2011 and the thing we got right, right away was working with the Brazilian Nationals and the Brazilians who care deeply about this issue. It’s a really tough fight, because these girls are with their families, it’s not like you can take them away. But there has been a history, almost a cultural thing that when you are a girl and you become of a certain age, all of a sudden you are worth something in this dark world of prostitution. It’s been really hard to navigate because you can’t just work for the girls, you have to work with the families, the community, local police and with the local social services that works with the kids. It was so much more complex than I thought it would be. It’s a little bit different than drilling a well and leaving the town, there’s so many layers of things you have to figure out. As complex as it has been, we have seen some improvement, we’ve seen these girls kind of light up and be able to see themselves worth more than what they’ve been told they were. Definitely seeing some progress over the years.
There are some stories there, they are a few years old, it’s hard to share the stories because they are real girls and you don’t want to expose them. So it is difficult but there definitely are stories. There is an organization we work for, basically Roper was the author I got to work with and his organization is out of the U.K. and Australia. Meninadanca.org and they document stories in a respectful way that protects the identity of the girls.
You performed at the Grand Ole Opry earlier this year. What was it like to perform on such a hallowed stage?
Man, it was amazing like this was our second time back, and it’s still something when you step inside that circle and you start singing, butterflies are raging and it’s just a really, cool, cool moment. The history of that place, the people that have played there, I mean the first time I played there Ricky Skaggs was playing there, the Sons of the Pioneers were there, Darius Rucker and Josh Turner. Just being around, being backstage is as much fun as being on stage because of the history.
If someone wanted to get into country music, what do you consider to be the most essential country songs?
Some people don’t like old Country and some people are finding their bridge into Country music with new artists like Sam Hunt, who is more on the edge and he’s got a Pop sounding type of music. And then there are the people who do love the old stuff, I’d say some of the new guys that are really awesome are Jamie Johnson. I love Shooter Jennings and that kind of stuff. Those are young guys doing the traditional stuff. The way it used to be done, so I almost think that’s a great bridge. First I’d say going back and listening to Hank Williams Sr. or whatever but I feel it’s about whatever point you think you can or would enter into Country music. For me, it was fairly traditional stuff. I got into artists like Randy Travis, but maybe for someone else it’ll be Sam Hunt who introduces them to the genre of Country and they find Randy Houser traditional, but their gateway maybe even Taylor Swift.