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Interviews

Interview: Creed Bratton Talks The Office, “While the Young Punks Dance”, and Cowboy Boots

By: Jessica Nakamoto –

Creed Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Hreha)

Creed Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Hreha)

California native, Creed Bratton is not a personality you’re likely to forget. Most notably recognized for playing a fictional version of himself in the hit comedy, The Office, Creed’s humor and talent light up any room he enters. When he’s not on stage shooting a nine-season Emmy-winning series or starring in various movies or films, Creed can be found producing and performing some exceptionally good music. As lead guitarist of the legendary American rock band, The Grass Roots, as well as the star of his own independent projects, Creed’s musical career has stretched for almost five decades and has accounted for millions of record sales. Recently, Creed has once again taken to the spotlight with the release of his 7thfull-length album, “While the Young Punks Dance” (out April 6).

We had the pleasure of speaking to Creed about new music, cowboy boots, The Office, and more!

To start things off, I want to talk a little bit about your music career.  

Creed:Great! Did you hear the new album [“While the Young Punks Dance]?

I did! It’s your 7th full-length album, incredible!

Creed: Thank you, I appreciate that!

What was the inspiration behind some of these songs?

Creed: Oh! People ask me about that all the time. I don’t sit down and write a song about a subject, they just come to me. And many, many times I won’t even know what they are for a year, or a couple of years later, if I do then even.

It’s the subconscious giving you information or forewarning you about something or reminiscing. Many, many, times it’s reminiscing about a lady that I, you know, should have hung onto longer, (laughs) or she got away, or something like that. Or, it’s just basically the old existential crisis of living in our world. All those things I tie in. It’s a mish-mash.

I don’t want to specifically say songs are about a subject, because I think it’s important that like talking about food, or talking about music, people are going to get their own interpretation. If somebody has an image in their mind when they listen to one of my songs, I say yes indeed!

I know one of my partners, Dylan O’Brien. I guess it meant something totallydifferent [to him] than what I it meant to me. So, I thought hmmm, I think it’s better just to say well, there’s a song, there’s ambiguity there, you get out of it what you can. I think if I say, this isexactly what it’s about, it limits the song.

Do you think your latest album has a different feeling compared to the rest of your works?

Creed: Yes, it seems to be that people find it to be much more personal. And it is! The songs… I developed a lot of them on the road. And a lot of them, I wrote at home when I was back from touring. Then, I’d take them out and I’d play them in front of a live audience. So, I got really comfortable and I came back to play them for my producer Dave Way, the multi-Grammy award-winning Dave Way, he likes to refer to himself like that (laughs)! So, I’m real lucky to work with him! He said wow! You have these songs down! So, we decided we were going to do it the old fashion way, kind of like I did when I recorded “All the Faces” for The Office. I just went in and I sang the song because we were in a hurry to get that thing ready to go for the show. Or, after the show, rather. We needed it out right away. The advantage was strike while the iron is hot.

So, I just went in with the guitar, with a mike for my voice, and a mike for my guitar, and sang it like I would on stage, without any overdose. And then we just did some sweetening and added a little bit of stuff to it.

But six of the songs are that way. Maybe even more actually. Maybe even seven of those ten songs are that way with me just singing in front of the mike.

You know, I take it back, I think most of them are.

Oh wow!

Creed: Yeah! Maybe even eight of them are that way!

Normally, somebody goes in and they might play and sing it [a new song] along with a drummer, or a bass player, or something to get a scratch track. Then they go and put all the tracks down separately. Then, the artist will go back in and put his guitar down and sing over, and over, and over again, and sing his vocals until he gets it right!

Well the way I do it, I got it in the first to third take. That was it! Boom! So, I’d just sing it that way.

I think it’s a lot of immediacy. And it’s very, very personal. It sounds live, in a way, to your ear. It doesn’t sound like it’s been completely processed too much and I really like that aspect of it.

Wow! So, it doesn’t typically take long for you to record one track.

Creed: Well, for myself, it doesn’t take long at all. But then, I have people come in. In the song, “More Than You Know”, it’s just me on guitar and vocal and then my friend Cary Park, he’s playing a little thing called a Stubby, which is an octave 12 string electric. And he came in later and just meandered around my weave. He weaved. I think it’s a Keith Richard’s phrase, weaving (laughs)! He weaved around my guitar line. I heard it, and we all went whoa! That’s done!

We looked over at Dylan and said yeah! I don’t think you can add any more than that to compliment it all. It’s got everything you need. Sometimes simplicity’s the best way to go.

There’s not really a lot of stuff besides my voice and guitar. There’s cool little things in the background, but nothing internally out front. It’s mostly my guitar and voice.

That’s excellent! 

Earlier, you mentioned touring live. Do you…

Creed:(jokes) As opposed to touring dead?!

That’s true! (laughs) Let me rephrase that! 

If you could, would you prefer someone’s first exposure to your music to be your recorded music or your live show?

Creed: Well! I think it would be lovely for the people to have heard the song. If they’re familiar with it, I think it [a live show] would give them more.

I think there’s a bunch of people who really can’t conceive it or get their head around it when they first hear it live, you know? They’re watching me play. They’re waiting to see, is it that weird guy from The Office? He can sing? Wow! And then they’re just confused. I see them, a lot of the time, looking at each other. They’re scratching their head going, what? What?! (laughs) So, I think it might be, better [for people to know to the music first]. But, besides that, people can sing along on the chorus.

With “All the Faces” from The Office, they know that song. So, when I sing that song, immediately, they’ve got an image of where they were when they heard that song, when they were watching the Finale. And it’s very emotional to them. So yes, I think it would be good to have them prime the pump, as it were, to hear the album first. Yeah!

Many people do recognize your name first from the hit T.V. series, The Office. If you were to recommend one of your songs to new listeners, which would it be and why?

Creed: Oh gosh, that’s a really tough one! I guess, to get an overall view of the personal stuff, because my stuff is sad… I touch a universal longing, a loneliness, and I don’t do that on purpose. It’s just I’ve got these sad things in my past and I’m dealing with it. Music is one way to release it and get it out of me. Each time I write a song, I feel lighter. Immediately, I’m just more of a complete person. Music is something I’ll always do. Music is coursing through the pain. It’s like outsourcing my pain, as it were, and getting it out there.

And so, I think, “All the Faces” [would be the one to pick]. The Grass Roots [band], that was one of the first songs that came in its entirety, like all the good songs do. They’re already sitting there. I pick up the guitar and I see my fingers playing a pattern and I’ll hear a melody, and I’ll reach down and write the lyrics all at once. I don’t sit there and do it separately. They all come at once. Those are the good ones. It all comes in about 10 minutes, and then, of course, you craft them to an extent. But, the bulk of the song is done. So, I think, “All The Faces”…and… oh! Another one too! One [song] people get really get emotional about, even if they haven’t heard it, is “Boxer in a Club”. Something about that [song] touches people.

Creed Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Hreha)

Creed Bratton. (Photo: Andrew Hreha)

Between music, starring in The Office, and all of your work in films, you are a multi-talented individual! Do you see yourself as a musician who acts, an actor who sings, or a combination ofthe two?

Creed: I look at myself… I’ve already got a pat answer, but it’s the truth, I’m an artist. So, if I’m singing a lyric to the audience or to the microphone in the studio, I’m emoting.  I’m selling an emotion. I’m trying to get a reaction from the listener when they hear it.  And, I want it to be honest. If I’m in front of a film camera or a T.V. camera, I’m saying lines. It’s the same thing. I have to convey honesty. When it’s comedy or drama, I have to totally believe it. I have to believe my lyric when I’m singing it.

That makes the lines when I do [be honest]. If I’m just being cute, it will read. People will read and whether they know it or not, they’re not going to be affected on a deep, deep, level. And that’s comedy too! Most actors approach comedy and drama the same way. Even in a situation where the lines are funny, you’ve still got to do the part. Unless you insist on just being cute. And certainly, at my age, I can’t get by just being cute (laughs)!

Speaking about comedy and multiple talents, one of your former co-workers, Oscar Nunez is a contestant on the T.V. show, Worst Cooks in America – Celebrity Addition for the Food Network. Have you been keeping up with the show or do you still keep in touch with old cast members?

Creed: Oh! I’m keeping up with it! He came over to my house to try a couple of recipes!

My goodness!

Creed: (Jokes) Yeah! I was disgusted! I chased him out. It’s tough, he hasn’t got a clue that guy! (laughs)

Oscar is one of the guys on the show [The Office], he wouldn’t crack. He wouldn’t break. People, you know, once you crack or you lose it, you start laughing. People would break up all the time. Oscar would never break up. Actually, when he did a few times, we’d all remark on it. It was astonishing. He’s one of my favorites! He’s great!

That’s incredible! (Jokes) I’ve seen a couple [Food Network] episodes so I think I can safely say he can make you a pretty good pizza or fish taco right about now. 

Creed: Can he, can he? They’re teaching him how to do it?

I think so!

Creed: Oh! Well, I may have to take him up on that! If he invites me over for some tacos or pizza, I’ll definitely take him up now and I’ll just say that you said so. (Jokes) But it’ll be on you, if it’s not any good!

(laughs) Ok deal!

Speaking about reunions, I’ve heard some rumors that The Officemay make a comeback return in 2019. Would you consider rejoining the cast if asked?

Creed: Oh, come on! Come on! [Yes!] To get to go laugh with my friends again!

As far as anybody I’ve talked to, nobody’s been spoken to yet. But if they did, I’d loveto play that character again! I even fit in my old wardrobe! For sure! The old ill-fitting suit of mine! (laughs) No, I would love to do it. That’d be fun. I know, Angela and I were talking about it. We said we’d love to do it.

I’m sure everyone would love to have you back! 

Creed: Oh my gosh, it’d be great! It was the best job in the world! I enjoyed being on road with The Grass Roots, but to go for 9 seasons and laugh every day with your friends, come on! We had the best writers and the best crew. I really believe that our cast has shown themselves. By gosh! The things that all that cast has gone on to do, in so many different areas, it’s amazing!

Excellent! Are there any other projects in the works that you could tell us about? 

Creed: Well, I’m waiting for this film. I thought it was going to be out in 2018 this year, but it looks like it’s going to be out later. It’s called “The Sisters Brothers”, based on the novel by Patrick DeWitt. It’s a noir-Western with Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly.

I had a scene with John and Joaquin. I was there [Romania] maybe four days. But, the thing is, I’ve been in movies before. They turned out to be pretty good-sized movies, but I didn’t get used. They cut you out. This is a common thing for actors, you never know for sure when they start editing it. They go wow! This is a good scene! But, the director will go, I think I’d rather go right to this scene here, I think it moves the movie along faster. It happens. So, I tell everybody, I did it. I worked with these guys (laughs)! I had a lot of fun and I know it went well, but, whether it makes it in, who knows. But, it would be great. I’m always looking for a good part.

I got to play in a Western. That was something on my bucket list. I really wanted to do that. Have a gun and boots and all that stuff! Walk around with a swagger and (speaking with a cowboy drawl) talk like that! Or, (speaks with drawl) get over here you dang fool(laughs)! I was talking like that!

How fun!

So, to finish things up, would you mind filling in a couple of sentences for me?

Creed: Finish some sentences? (Jokes) You can’t finish them yourself?!

(Jokes and speaks with a cowboy drawl) Nahhh, I think I’m going to need some help from you Creed!

Creed: (laughs) Ok! Let’s proceed!

If I could perform with any musician, past or present, it would be…

Creed: Charlie Christian! [American jazz and swing guitarist / an early performer on the electric guitar]

One thing I always keep in my fridge is…

Creed: Sprouts! This is a shout-out to The Office.

Yes! That and peach cobbler?

Creed: And the peach cobbler! That great scene with John Krasinski [played Jim Halpert in The Office]. Oh God, we were laughing sohard when we shot that! So good, so good! That’s “Survivor Man” [Season 4, Episode 11 of The Office]. That actually turned out to be one of my favorite episodes. I just loved it! Steve [Steve Carell- actor] off in the woods with his coat. Oh my God, it was great!

Ok, last one! My ideal day off would include…

Creed: Oh boy! My ideal day off would include: getting to jump out of a plane to the top of a mountain, and zip-lining down to the river, getting in the boat and trout fishing, and then as I get to the end, there’s a beautiful camp there with a fire light and this wine. One of my favorite bottles of wine, with Helen Mirren [actress], and then walking up to join her. And maybe throw in my friends from The Office. They wouldn’t get involved with Helen and I, but they would just kind of tell jokes in the background to keep the levity up. That’d be a perfect day. And then, in the end, getting on a horse and riding into the sunset! Yup! On the beach and then driving a sports car. It’s a long day! This is a 48-hour day you’re talking about here (laughs)!

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