Whether fronting Bravo, Max! or going solo, local singer/songwriter Johnny Beauford has a lot to say and a very pretty way of saying it. Over the course of six years, this Winspear Opera House bartender has made his way into three different local acts while still finding time to release two fine solo EPs.
Speaking from his home in east Dallas and in anticipation of his CD release show this Saturday at Three Links, Beauford was kind enough to speak with DC9 about his sophomore effort and his opinions about the state of the local scene.
Can you talk a bit about the new solo EP?
Yes, it's my second EP. It has seven songs. The first one had seven songs as well. These are both leading up to a full length solo album that is just about finished. I wanted to get some stuff out there before I finished up the full length. This new EP was recorded over six months at the end of last year. It's pretty much completely solo. I had a little help from friends, but most of it is just me.
Any Bravo, Max! guys on the EP?
Yes, J.J. from Bravo, Max does some percussion work. And he helped on the production work as well. He's pretty much involved with anything I've done.
What's the difference between your solo material and what you've done with Bravo, Max!?
It's the same sort of genre I guess. The solo stuff is more like a mix tape. It's whatever I wanted to do. It was a free writing project for me. I don't feel like I have to have every song have a similar feel. Hopefully, the vocals tie it all together. It's just kind of all over the place in terms of style. This solo thing is freer to go any direction it wants to.
So, you're saying that Bravo, Max fit sort of into the alt-country genre?
Right, I think the solo stuff is more pop than alt-country. Bravo, Max! is more alt-country because that was the idea behind it. We started with a couple songs that were waltzes. I had a lot of finger picking stuff going on that took things in an alt-country direction. With the solo stuff, the hope is that each song is a brief and concise unit. That is the only common ground. For me, each track is a pop song, whatever that means.
You also have other projects such as the Jack Kerowax and Dead Moon Choir. How many irons do you need in the fire?
As many as I can to justify doing this full time. I usually have more time than the rest of the people in the band, so I can go off and help with another project. I am actually playing bass now in Dead Moon Choir. That has been a lot of fun because I don't have to do any vocals except here and there.
Are you from Dallas originally?
I am from Duncanville, just south of Dallas. I've been involved with the Dallas scene since Bravo, Max came together in 2007. I feel like it's been longer than it probably has. I've been writing for four or five years, but I've really been pushing hard since 2010.
Do you have a day job?
At this time I do. I tend bar at the Winspear Opera House. It's a full on black tie, black coat, black shoes experience. It seems pretty fancy, I guess.Let's say you put out the solo album and it takes off. Will that take precedence over Bravo, Max!?
I don't think so. My long term goal is to keep Bravo, Max! going in the direction it started off in. Maybe, it won't be the same stylistically each album. We are half way through the second full length. It sounds completely different from the first one. It's way more focused. Bravo, Max is my main, my real love. That's what I pout the most time and effort into, even with all this other stuff.
What do you think about the Dallas music scene as a whole?
I think it has completely blown up. Obviously, it has on some levels, just with the number of venues and bands; it's a lot easier to get on bills with bands that you are not embarrassed about playing with. When you tell your friends that you are playing, it's more likely that they will see a whole bill. That is definitely a bonus.
Who have you been embarrassed to play with?
Basically, my point is, there are a huge number of bands out there who are on to something now. Perhaps that's just because I've been playing for a while now and I know more bands that I like. But when we started out, we got pigeonholed as a country band. We would get stuck on these bills with these bands. One time, it was a band from [Ireland] called Guggenheim Grotto at the Doublewide. It made no sense. I had spent all this time and effort to get people out to the show and this band came through and I thought they were going to be really, really good. It was just a disappointment. There are bands you get billed with that are just starting out and they struggle to get through a set because they don't have enough material. I've just always been so serious about it. An embarrassment might be a harsh word for it. We have played with a lot of bands that you have to cringe through.
Who are some of your favorite local bands?
I still really like the Orbans from Fort Worth. We recently got to play with them at the Granada. They have really morphed into a different kind of thing. They have totally changed their sound. I like Telegraph Canyon. I really love Ryan Thomas Becker. He has so many projects as well. I got to play with him at Opening Bell where no one gets paid. They have this suggested donation. Every time I have played with Ryan, he has always offered to pay the entire guarantee to whoever the touring act is. That has always blown me away. You have to take what you can get with pay anyway.
What are the best venues in town?
The Granada and The Kessler are great places to play and to see a show. I've always been impressed with the sound at the Granada, especially when the place is full. The booking policy at the Granada is pretty ballsy. They are not trying to pigeonhole themselves. I think Trees is doing that as well. Trees has that huge sound system and a good looking bar.
Where was the video for "Pig Eating Past Love" shot?
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I actually tracked that video down from a site called Genero.tv. It is a complicated site, but you should check it out. It is a way for you to find videos. Basically, you make a bid on them. These are already completed videos and you bid on them. Then, they will go in and re-edit it for your video. They had to do a lot of research to find anything that matched my song. The guy that did that video is based in South Korea. He shot it all there. He is super affordable and it was cool to make contact with someone so far away. It was all faster than anyone I've worked with in Dallas. I was really impressed with it.