John Abrams | The Abrams Brothers, Viva La Vida
September 19, 2009
Dr. Kent: What a great tune, Viva La Vida. Of course, it’s a Cold Play song, and what a version of it, it’s awesome. And I’ve heard that it’s going to be, or already has been, on CMT, and I’m welcoming to the show John from the Abrams Brothers. Welcome to the show.
John Abrams: Hey there, how are you guys?
Dr. Kent: Pretty good. So tell me, tell me about this song, Viva La Vida. I have not heard that before, and it’s pretty exciting. This was on CMT?
John Abrams: It’s going to be coming out on CMT this Monday in the United States, and this coming Saturday in Canada, and it’s a song by Cold Play that was released by those guys. They’re a British rock band. It was released last summer by Cold Play, and we’re certainly big Cold Play fans. So we decided to do a country rock version of the song and put it on the Internet last summer, and stirred up a whole bunch of buzz with CMT and a whole bunch of other people, and we’re really excited about it because it’s a great song. We love to sing it and play it.
Dr. Kent: And the sound is absolutely awesome. It’s driven by a banjo in it. Who’s playing the banjo?
John Abrams: Oh, that’s Brandon Green. He actually, he played banjo with us last year and he’s a fantastic musician, and he recorded the part with us when we did the single last summer.
Dr. Kent: That’s wonderful, and tell me about this, the core of this group, of course, you’re the Abrams Brothers, and a cousin. Are you guys all still together then, in the group?
John Abrams: Yeah, yeah. James and I are the brothers, he’s 16 and I’m 18 and we grew up playing bluegrass music, and we certainly love that. That’s our accord, and also gospel music, we have a lot of reaching gospel. But this is actually a very, as you can probably already tell, it’s a very family oriented thing. We’re actually the fourth generation playing roots and gospel music in our family, on the road actually, the fourth generation on the road. So that’s a pretty exciting tradition to carry on. And we’re joined by our cousin Eli on the bass and our family travels with us on the road. Our grandparents, they help drive the bus and cook and clean and cut our hair and run the merchandise table, and we have a great thing going, we’re really excited about it.
Dr. Kent: So they must be all pretty pumped that this thing is happening on CMT on Monday?
John Abrams: Yeah, it’s really exciting. We’re just really glad that we can bring our roots and bluegrass music and take it into a contemporary setting and have it recognized by other people in the industry, and also the fans and people who listen to it. They’re, they seem to be relating to it, and we really appreciate our generation latching onto a great tradition, but just kind of packaged in a newer way.
Dr. Kent: So tell me about the three of you. Who does what?
John Abrams: Well I’m John Abrams, I’m 18, I play, I play acoustic guitar and electric guitar and also I do a lot of the lead vocals, and some harmony singing. My brother James plays a lot of fiddle, a little bit of guitar, and he’s a 16 year old, and he does a lot of the singing as well And then we’re also turned by our cousin Elijah, he’s 18 and he plays the electric and upright bass. And we have a drummer. Ethan Myers, and a banjo player whose name is Nick Picianini, and that’s pretty much everyone that goes out. We’re also joined by our producer, Chris Brown. He produced the album Blue on Brown that we put out a little over a year ago. He plays keys with us on the road sometimes. So we kind of have a, I guess you could say a bluegrass, rock, country group that goes out together, and that creates the Abrams Brothers style.
Dr. Kent: And I wanted to play a song here, if you want to wait on the line, because the album Blue on Brown was what drew me to you in the first place. I’m a huge Arlo Guthrie fan, as you guys obviously are as well. This is an album of Dylan and Arlo Guthrie. Tell me about that album, Blue on Brown.
John Abrams: Yeah, we’re just, we’re really excited to be able to record a whole bunch of great material, great songwriting material. Both of them are fantastic writers. And we originally were just going to do a whole bunch of bluegrass versions of their songs, but two years ago now, a little over two years ago we met our producer Chris Brown, and he produced the Mild Man Tribute To Steve Goodman album, actually, for the Goodman family. And of course the song City of New Orleans is on that. We recorded the song by Steve Goodman, City of New Orleans, which certainly was an Arlo Guthrie hit as well. And we met Chris because of our mutual affection for the song, and he lives just near where we live, on Molt lsland, just off of Kingston, Ontario, which is our home town. And we connected with him, and ever since we’ve been making music together. So that’s kind of the story of Blue on Brown album, but all those are great songs, and we’re really excited to be able to perform them and carry them on in the Abrams Brothers way for a generation that might not have been exposed to them.
Dr. Kent: Well, if you want to hang on the line, I’d love to listen to the whole track of City of New Orleans. It’s about five minutes, so you could probably go and have a snack and then brush your teeth and come back, but we’re all excited to listen to City of New Orleans, where it all started with this album Blue on Brown. Here we go.
Dr. Kent: That’s a great tune, it’s called City of New Orleans. Of course, that’s a famous tune by Steve Goodman that was covered first by Arlo Guthrie, and this is a version that was recorded by the Abrams Brothers. The label is UFO Music, United For Opportunity is the name of the label, and it is their work that they did with all sorts of amazing musicians. And Arlo Guthrie, who most famously said that, “They’re too young to sound that good,” and we’re going to get John back on the line, John Abrams, and that’ll take just a second for that. And then we’re going to listen to another track from the album, which will be called Gotta Serve Somebody. The album is, of course, both Dylan songs and Arlo Guthrie songs, and the album’s called Blue on Brown. We’re having a little bit of technical difficulties, hold on just one minute. And do I have John on the line?
John Abrams: Hello? I’m here.
Dr. Kent: Hey there, John, how are you doing?
John Abrams: Good, how are you guys?
Dr. Kent: We lost you for a second there, that’s our fault.
John Abrams: Hey, yeah.
Dr. Kent: But we listened to the whole track of the City of New Orleans. Great tune. Not the easiest song to play the first time you pick it up.
John Abrams: Sure, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of chords in that one, but we wanted to learn it exactly how, really, we listened to Arlo Guthrie’s version cause of course it was our tribute to Arlo Guthrie, but you know, it’s just, it’s one of those timeless songs, one of those memorable songs. It doesn’t matter which generation listens to it, as long as you bring it into that new generation in context. This is just one of those timeless songs, and I just, I really think a timeless song the way it’s written, the way the melody is, is a timeless song (inaudible) for years and years.
Dr. Kent: How do you compare these Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie songs to, you know, Cold Play? Do you guys just pick up on great music and say, “Let’s try this one?”
John Abrams: I’m sorry?
Dr. Kent: Do you just pick up on any kind of music and say, “Hey guys, let’s try this one,” like the, you know you played the Cold Play song at the beginning, Viva La Vida. These are Dylan songs and Arlo Guthrie songs. What won’t you guys try?
John Abrams: Oh yeah, no, that’s a great question. We like to try all kinds of different styles of music and different songs from different genres. And to us it’s all about taking a song and the writing and what was done before and bringing it into our sound, in the Abrams Brother’s music. And that’s certainly that combination of bluegrass and the contemporary styles, like rock and country. So yeah, the Viva La Vida song, the City of New Orleans song, these are less covered than us doing our own version of the song that’s already been (inaudible). Actually, the Viva La Vida song didn’t become a hit on our album of all original material, but we’re working on that now, songs that we’ve (inaudible). So we’re excited about that conversation.
Dr. Kent: That is fun, yeah, and there’s nothing better than kicking it off with a CMT appearance, that’s on Monday. So folks should check out on CMT and see if they can see the Abrams Brothers. Otherwise, you know, there’s a lot of places people can find out about you. Where can folks go online?
John Abrams: Yeah, you can go on www.abramsbrothers.com and we’re also on Facebook, MySpace, I think on Twitter now, yeah, I know we’re on Twitter now, and YouTube, and we like to update those all the time and try to keep in contact with everybody. So yeah, and eventually it will be up, the brand new website will be up in the next couple of days with the base for video and we’re really excited about that. So you can check us out again at www.theabramsbrothers.com.
Dr. Kent: And how about, what’s your take, I mean, it was a horrible day yesterday for music. You know, I grew up hearing Michael Jackson. What your take on the passing of the King of op?
John Abrams: Yeah, I mean, you know, I haven’t been watching the news a whole lot at all, but just, I’m hearing about his passing last night. I mean, he had incredible talent, and it’s a real loss because he was a, left a legacy of fantastic song, memorial songs and good music. So yeah, he will definitely be missed around the world, yeah I think we’re all pretty sad.
Dr. Kent: Well, it’s been a pleasure speaking to John Abrams, the Abrams Brothers on a ride, a ride to the top, I think. They’ve got a great sound and some amazing tunes, I can’t wait to hear their new album with original tunes. The sound on Viva La Vida is amazing, and we’re going to listen going out to another song from their Blue on Brown album. It’s called Gotta Serve Somebody, of course, Bob Dylan song. And than you so much for chatting with me, John.
John Abrams: Thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure, and hope you enjoyed the songs.
Dr. Kent: And everybody tune in on CMT on Monday, and see if they can find the Abrams Brothers.
You have a great day.
Dr. Kent: You too. Now let’s listen to Gotta Serve Somebody by the Abrams Brothers. Here it is.