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Wingman Wednesday

Bree Condon

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Photo credits: Randy Tran/Hair: Mika Fowler/Makeup: Merav Adler/Styling: Elliot Soriano

Portraying Kimberly Guilfoyle in the recently-released film Bombshell came with its share of professional pressures, but for actress Bree Condon, taking on such a controversial public persona in these politically divided times was not one of them.

It’s true, Kimberly and I have very different political and personal views, but that’s the challenge of playing any character,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It’s almost like you’re that person’s lawyer and you have to defend them – you have to justify their actions and way of thinking for yourself.”

We recently sat down with Condon to discuss stepping into Kimberly’s spotlight, accepting the complexities of the human condition, and why she still follows the advice of an old classroom poster.

TrunkSpace: Bombshell is such a big project and is stacked with talent both in front of the camera and behind it. When a project like this comes along, does it have the feeling of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity and how do you personally manage expectations going into a project of this magnitude?
Condon: It definitely has that ‘pinch me’ feeling all the way through! I always try with every project to really enjoy every step along the way and to be in that moment as much as possible. Especially with this project, I loved each stage in the process of building this character – the research, costume fittings, the hair and makeup tests, and then of course getting to collaborate with so many greats in front and behind the camera!

TrunkSpace: In the film you’re playing someone who is not only a real person, but someone who is still very much in the public spotlight today. Does that come with an entirely different set of pressures, both external and those that you place on yourself?
Condon: Yes, it does add pressure, especially because this was a first for me playing a real person. I approached it like I do any other character, and dove into the research. The benefit of playing a real person who is so heavily in the spotlight is that there was a lot of information to dive into. Kimberly has also written a book, which I read multiple times and held as my ‘bible’. It was extremely helpful to have that, which is so rare!

TrunkSpace: We live in very politically-divided times. Did you worry how this project and your performance in it would be perceived by the general public on both sides of the aisle and how that could trickle over into your personal life, particularly as it relates to the internet/social media?
Condon: It’s true, Kimberly and I have very different political and personal views, but that’s the challenge of playing any character. It’s almost like you’re that person’s lawyer and you have to defend them – you have to justify their actions and way of thinking for yourself. When I decided to be an actor, it wasn’t to play characters like myself. I would actually prefer roles as far from myself as possible! I take it as a welcomed opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes.

TrunkSpace: As we discussed, you’re working with amazing talent on screen and behind the camera. What do you try to absorb from those around you on a job like this and then apply it to your career moving forward?
Condon: There was so much talent to absorb and to learn from! One overall quality that I took away from the project was specificity. The attention to detail that every single person, in front the camera and behind, had on this film was amazing to see and learn from.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Bombshell that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Condon: Working with Charlize Theron on this project was the highlight and something that I will always carry with me. The first day I was on set I saw her acting all day and the moment she was done, she went back to the trailer, took off all her incredible hair and makeup, and came right back to set and stepped into her role as producer. It was incredible to see that firsthand – she wore so many shoes and did it all so gracefully.

TrunkSpace: You’re portraying Kimberly Guilfoyle in Bombshell. If in the future someone was playing you on film, what would you hope they would take into account as they gave their perspective on your journey?
Condon: I would hope they would realize that nothing is ever as it seems. In our current society, we are inundated with so many visuals that rarely show the truth. As humans, we are extremely complex and I hope they would try to lift up the hood and see what’s really in there.

Photo credits: Randy Tran/Hair: Mika Fowler/Makeup: Merav Adler/Styling: Elliot Soriano

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Condon: I’d say self-doubt and not trusting my instincts enough. In a lot of areas in my life, not just acting… but maybe that’s because I’m a typical Pisces!

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her journey has taken her thus far?
Condon: I’m sure she would be surprised! It’s crazy the different paths we take in life and how everything can fall into place. But in some ways my life is still very similar to that little girl – I’m very close to my family and I still have the same friends I grew up with since grade school, which I count myself very lucky and fortunate to have that stability and love throughout the years.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Condon: Bombshell has been a huge highlight for me. Getting to be part of telling a story that is so timely and that will really make a difference moving forward in regard to sexual harassment is so rewarding. It’s why I wanted to become an actor – to tell stories that make a difference.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Condon: As tempting as it sounds… I really wouldn’t! As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a journey not a race… I think that was a poster hanging in my 6th grade classroom! But it has stuck with me. It all makes you stronger and you just have to ride the wave, and that’s what I intend to do!

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Between The Sheets

Max Brallier

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In our ongoing feature Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with author and newly-minted executive producer Max Brallier about his series The Last Kids On Earth, helping young readers cope with life through his writing, and why he’ll always have a “wicked” Massachusetts connection.

TrunkSpace: How do you think you will look back on 2019 as it relates to your career? Where did this year impact you most as a writer?
Brallier: Oh boy – I mean, it was a nearly unbelievable year for so many reasons. New Last Kids book out, Last Kids Netflix series launches, my longest run on the bestseller lists, my co-scripted non-kids VFW movie releases, and my new kids book series – Mr. Shivers – publishes. All that is big dream-come-true stuff.

But more importantly – for real – I spent a lot of time on the road with kids, teachers and librarians. And my job is really about them. Seeing the quiet kid in the classroom, talking with the shy kid at an event – that was me! And then having teachers and librarians share how they use my books. All of that is sort of the turbo-charged adrenaline shot that will make sense of my writing over the next year, that will allow – I hope! – a continued career.

TrunkSpace: Is it still a bit surreal to think that a universe and characters that you have created are now living on in a capacity that involves so many other people? Do you have to stop and pinch yourself?
Brallier: So much pinching! 2019 left me covered in bruises.

In regard to the Netflix show – taking my creation (with Doug’s art!) and handing it off to others is a weird thing – both exhaustingly frightening and tremendously rewarding. There’s the fear around loss of full control, but also the thrill of what can happen with the skill and energy and passion of others. And yes, still surreal – always will be, I think!

TrunkSpace: You’re serving as Executive Producer on the Netflix series. For those not familiar with the industry terms and what goes into them behind the scenes, what does that mean for you in terms of your day to day. What are your duties as far as the television series is concerned?
Brallier: A whole range of fun stuff! I’m involved in all aspects of the story and the scripts – and I review art, animations, character designs, storyboards – and, when lucky, get to work with our wonderful cast of voice actors. Basically – our showrunner, Scott D. Peterson, steers the ship and I chime in now and then.

TrunkSpace: Why an animated series? What was it about that medium that made more sense for you as a creator than a live action series or as a theatrical release?
Brallier: I had thought about expressing Last Kids in many ways – live action, feature film, video game, animation, all that. But animation became obvious when Atomic Cartoons – the development and animation studio – approached me about adapting the book series. With Atomic’s incredible team of artists and animators, it was just so clear.

The best thing with animation is that it’s so flexible and non-confining. Monsters? Sure, no problem. The best voices in the industry? Let’s do it! 3D or 2D? Let’s mix it up! An end-of-world apocalypse with bright green grass and vivid blue skies that’s full of fun? We can do that! Animation is such a blast.

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest and most unexpected pleasant surprise in your journey of bringing The Last Kids on Earth to television?
Brallier: I had forgotten how much I love working with a large team of people – the Netflix series was a wonderfully-unexpected reminder. Handing off my characters – some of who are very personal – and stories to others was a nerve-wracking leap of faith. But it was immediately clear that working with a team just made it all that much more fun. Writing can be a lonely gig – working with talented and caring writers, artists, animators, producers is never lonely – just fun!

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on the series that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Brallier: When I chose the lonely profession of writing, I so missed the social, creative and collaborative rewards of being part of a team. Then with the Netflix series, all that wonderful team stuff came roaring back. It was like I was coming back to life. It’s clear now that I’ll always be searching for that in my career – and in other aspects my life.

TrunkSpace: Has working on the television series inspired you in ways with your literary writing that you didn’t intend? Has it opened up new ideas or opportunities?
Brallier: I’ve always tried to write books that feel like movies or like television. It’s very visual in my head when typing words. Movies were my first love. So, working on the television series has reaffirmed that love – and given me the confidence to write in that format. Certainly, new ideas – and hopefully new opportunities!

TrunkSpace: You’re a Massachusetts boy! (Bay State representing!) What is something that is undeniably New England about you that you can’t shake no matter how long you’re away from it?
Brallier: (Laughter) Yes, Massachusetts boy for sure – I spent most of my childhood in Reading, Massachusetts. It’s really the setting for Last Kids – but I named the town in Last Kids Wakefield, a town next door to Reading. And the school in my Eerie Elementary series is very much inspired by my own elementary school, Joshua Eaton – right down to the names of the characters.

Things I can’t shake…

  • A craving for a real Roast Beef sandwich – I like Harrison’s in North Andover and Jimbo’s in Reading
  • “Wicked.” I still say it now and then.
  • A habit of running errands in shorts, no matter the temperature
  • An undying loyalty to the Celtics (though, for baseball and football, I stick with the Pirates and Steelers).

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Brallier: Not sure if there’s just one. Hitting the New York Times bestseller list will always be up there – that was a concrete goal I had set for myself, and achieving it with Viking Children’s felt so monumental. Meeting Mark Hamill and having him read words that I wrote. Standing in an animation studio and looking out at 100+ people, all animating something that came from my brain. Opening the Netflix app and seeing Last Kids on there for the first time. Sitting in a writers’ room and giggling and smiling and realizing oh this is the best job that exists. Those are all highlights.

Biggest, though, is having a writing career at all, I guess. There’s so much luck involved. And now, to not just have a career – but for it to allow certain things: I’m able to live near family, I can afford health insurance, we’re zoned so that my daughter will go to a good school, my wife has the freedom to pursue the things she loves. That’s good stuff.

But really – again – the best thing is having a parent say, “My child reads because of you.” Or a kid say, “I had a bad day but I forgot about it for a bit because I was reading your book.”

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Brallier: Oh boy. No, I don’t think I’d take that journey. Back to the Future, man! Like Doc Brown says, “No one should know too much about their destiny.”

Brallier’s latest book, The Last Kids On Earth and the Midnight Blade is available now from Viking Books for Young Readers.

Season 1 of The Last Kids On Earth television series is available now on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Will Vought

WillVoughtFeatured
Photo By: Emily Assiran

Show business is a constant hustle. If you want to survive it – and thrive within it – you have to be willing to take each day as it comes.

That’s the gig and welcome to showbiz,” said actor and comedian Will Vought in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “You are going to get new pages, on a television show, things are added, taken away, always changing, and never quite finished. Just roll with it.”

Vought appears in Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, available now on Amazon.

We recently sat down with Vought to discuss traveling back to 1959, bra fittings, and the downside of dating as a professional actor.

TrunkSpace: As an actor, when you book a job on a series that already has a loyal following, does that make the work all the more sweeter, knowing that there will be eyeballs waiting to watch your performance when it eventually airs?
Vought: What makes the work sweeter is working with truly the best in the business, and that is Amy Sherman Palladino and Dan Palladino. The Palladinos are on the top of their game, besides the fact that I was surrounded by multiple Golden Globe and Emmy-winning actors. It’s always a plus if people are going to watch the work and I’ve been lucky. A lot of the series that I’ve worked on have had the eyeballs you talk about. It’s not something I really thought about while shooting, but I knew that the season premiere of the series was going to be a big deal… so yes, it was sweet.

TrunkSpace: You’re a comedian, and as we understand it, someone who is a student of the past, admiring the path that people like Lenny Bruce paved for future generations of performers like yourself. Did it feel like you were having the opportunity to work on a show that, in some ways, was tailor made for you, not only in a general interest level way, but also in the part itself?
Vought: I think all comedians are students of the past as it informs the understanding of the present. So, I am mindful of that and both a fan and student of all that’s come before.

To time travel back to 1959 and enter that world is absolutely surreal. You’ve seen the episode, and there was no detail left to chance in creating the USO show. Major Buck Brillstein is not a comic — he’s a major in the Army, which is where I started with the character. Buck wants to be a comic. It’s always been his dream, but life just had other plans. I believe he has a beautiful family and tortures them with his jokes, impressions, characters and antics. As the emcee of the show, Buck is literally living his dream.

I know the part was not written for me because I had to audition many times before snagging the role, but I get what you are asking. (Laughter) When I read the script, it did feel that it was an episode of television that moves the needle. Thematically, dressing up in drag and wearing heels may not have been a historic piece of sketch comedy, but it was absolutely thrilling to film in front of over 800 background actors. My request, which was honored, was to be brought in so that none of the background actors could see me. They didn’t know the script, so the first time they saw me was when we were filming, so their reaction is pure. We got the scene in two takes.

TrunkSpace: You were stepping on a set with an established tone. Is that a nerve-racking experience going into the first day of shooting, not knowing if you’ll fit into the vibe that already exists behind the scenes?
Vought: Absolutely, 100 percent yes – Day 1 is nerve-racking. I’m walking onto set as a guest with some of the most incredible actors working in television today – who have a routine and rhythm established over two seasons together. This is not lost on me. Honestly, we were all working pretty hard, so there was not a lot of downtime behind the scenes. The vibe was incredible. Everyone is thrilled to be at work, and we are all aware that we are making something special. Blocking out that first shot of the episode, which is continuous – spanning 8 scripted pages – was incredible. Knowing what’s been accomplished in past seasons, you know that you are part of something historic. We broke filming records that week for the number of background actors used in a production in New York state. So, the vibe was great. It’s long hours, a lot of work, and behind the scenes, everyone is focused. I was happy I “fit into” the uniform. Beyond that, I knew I was in good hands as Donna custom-tailored it.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of nerves, as you said, there were also a LOT of people involved in the scenes you shot. Did your career in stand-up sort of prepare you for that moment?
Vought: Yes. I’ve performed for large audiences as a comic, and I know that vibe and energy. So, I knew that on that front I’d feel comfortable. That said – this is not that.

These are not audience members that are attending a comedy show. They are actors and we are creating a world from the page. Very different. I’m not doing my material, so there’s a huge difference in terms of awareness. The energy that’s captured on film is only possible because Amy and Dan choose to hire that many background actors, and it made the production as real as possible. Eight hundred plus. Incredible. But yes, if you are a runner and asked to run, you feel more comfortable than if you had never run at all. I’m on stage a lot, so that, I’m sure, prepared and informed me to play this part.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Vought: I had an early appointment prior to filming with Emmy award-winning costume designer Donna Zakowska. After we fit the uniform for Buck, we had to play with selects for the sketch comedy scene where Major Buck would be dressed in drag. All of a sudden, I’m half-naked trying on different bras and wigs and heels and creating what you end up seeing in the episode, which is a classic 1950’s drag comedy sketch. I will never forget Donna asking me, “How does that bra work for you?” That was a first, and even at 7 in the morning, I busted out laughing. She painted a canvas and made me a woman. As I said earlier, walking onto stage, in drag, in front of almost one thousand extras… that’s a hard one to forget and what an opportunity, as an actor, to get to play that day.

TrunkSpace: As far as your stand-up career is concerned, was comedy always in the cards? Were you a “funny” kid, even at an early age?
Vought: Nope. I was sad. Sitting in the corner wishing for a friend or to get picked for kickball. (Laughter)

I don’t know if I was funny… I don’t think I was. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, so I was for sure in my head a lot, and I did like to laugh and loved to listen to funny things. Comedy was a discovery for me early on. Who are these people making people laugh? You can do that? That’s a thing?

As for the cards, I never paid much attention to what anyone thought I was supposed to do and every family has an opinion. My grandmother, God rest her soul, likely still believes that I could be in line at a soup kitchen at any moment. Dramatic yes, but my parents were on food stamps when I was a kid and I didn’t grow up super privileged, so going into show business isn’t something that anyone would consider to be a stable job. Any actor or comic that ends up meeting the person they are dating’s parents have that experience:

Parent: So, what do you do?
Will: I’m an actor and a comedian.
Parent: Right. But for money, what do you do to earn money?
Will: I’m an actor and a comedian?
Parent: I see. One second. Stay right there.
*Will waits*
Parent: I’m sorry, Will, Emily is not feeling well, so you’ll have to see her another time.
*Will leaves*
(Parent to their daughter, Emily)
Parent: What the hell is wrong with you? I already have three kids living here in their 20s, and I’m not having this deadbeat have to move in six months from now because you’re in love and he’s broke.

…… you get the idea.

Seinfeld gave an interview that anyone can listen to on laugh.com. He was in his manager George Shapiro’s office and talked about the difference between wanting to be something and choosing to be something. You make the choice “to be” a comic when you walk into a club and get on stage for the first time. Prior to that, it’s all wanting and thinking. As a kid, I can say that I knew what was funny to me. As I got older, I then knew I had the ability to make people laugh. The cards may have wanted me to go to law school and even though I worked in the White House for Clinton, the humor of the circumstances was not lost on me, even then.

Photo By: Emily Assiran

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to pursue stand-up comedy as a career and did you make a plan for how you would attack things?
Vought: I was on the radio in Buffalo doing mornings on WKSE Kiss 98.5 with local legend Janet Snyder (who I believe is still there and #1 in the market). I was young, my early 20s, and local clubs would put me on because of the radio show. I sucked. But I got stage time, which is the only way to get better. I moved back to New York City and hit the ground running, handing out tickets on Broadway for stage time, taking acting classes, doing Off-Broadway theatre. It was a non-stop hustle.

TrunkSpace: What is your most memorable stand-up performance experience (good or bad!) that will stick with you for the rest of your career and why?
Vought: I performed on Live at Gotham, televised nationally live from Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. There was something about performing on live television that was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The celebrity host was supposed to do 10 minutes upfront. They did four minutes and threw it to commercial. The producers walked over and said, “Hey Will, how are you feeling? You look great? Listen…. would you mind doing an extra two minutes in your set?”

Now, this is a comic’s dream. Not only performing on TV but being given more TV time. The problem is, I prepared that eight-minute set. I knew it, I knew the pacing, the material, and now ADD two minutes????

What was I going to add? Would it work? I said, “Yes, no problem at all.” HUGE PROBLEM! In the end, you suck it up, I did the 10 minutes live, and it all went great. That’s the gig and welcome to showbiz. You are going to get new pages, on a television show, things are added, taken away, always changing, and never quite finished. Just roll with it.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Vought: One of my highlights, thus far was as a writer, was when Wayne Brady brought me in to be the head writer during his time hosting the Late Late Show on CBS. It was during the transition period before James Corden took over, and they had a bunch of guest hosts for periods of weeks. It was absolutely incredible, and he is a phenomenal talent and one of my closest friends. Wayne gave me the reigns and went to bat for me, and I was basically the showrunner for the time that he hosted. Myself, Johnathan Mangum, and Wayne put together a new show every day, and it was an absolute dream.

A close second would be years ago. I had the good fortune to be cast by Sam Mendes in Revolutionary Road starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Huge congrats and shout out to Sam, who just won the Golden Globe for Best Director. His film, 1917, is on my list to see.

My role on RR was very small, however, featured, and I worked on the film for a week in Connecticut. On one day of filming, I was near Leo and he offered me a cigarette. Why not? We had a short but fantastic conversation, and he was as kind and generous a man as he is an actor. There is an inside well-known story on that film, during the dinner scene, where Leo insisted on doing his coverage last on what was a 12-hour filming day. I will never forget Sam calling for background and camera and we were not finished smoking and Leo looked at me and said, “It will be fine, don’t rush.”

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Vought: I don’t think I would want to see into the future. It would likely freak me out. Don’t get me wrong, I have clear goals and things I want to accomplish, but seeing that specifically would take me out of the present. I think it’s so hard for everyone not to live in yesterday or tomorrow. Staying grounded in right now, this moment takes an enormous amount of stamina and clarity. The mere act of answering this question is exhausting.

Season 3 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is available now on Amazon.

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Musical Mondaze

Miss Tess

MissTessFeatured

Between shifting industry trends and evolving listening experiences, it’s becoming more difficult than ever for artists to reach an audience, even when global connectivity is only a tweet away. For Miss Tess, whose new album, The Moon Is An Ashtray, drops on February 7th, tempering expectations when releasing new music into the world is part of her recipe when cooking in the creative kitchen.

With the sheer amount of stuff out there I think it’s amazing even one person listens to my music or comes to see me live,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Miss Tess to discuss going analog, growth as an artist, and why it’s important to take a break from social media.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, The Moon Is An Ashtray, is set to be released in February. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new material into the world? Is it sometimes hard to let material go and relinquish control over it?
Miss Tess: Actually I can’t wait to get it out there. We started recording a year and a half ago, so it’s been a long time coming. I don’t feel like it’s ever hard to let the material out there. I’ve listened to it so much, it’s time to give other folks a turn.

TrunkSpace: With so much music already under your belt, has the experience of making it changed for you since you first started out? Are there still firsts for you as you go through the process of writing, recording and then supporting an album?
Miss Tess: Every time I go into the studio I learn something new, and I’m always trying to grow and do it better next time. This album was the first time we had ever recorded something completely analog to tape. You only have so much room for recordings on the tape reel, so it forces you to be very decisive in the studio about what takes to keep. Also the recordings were mixed on an analog board, which can be a little stressful. You have no instant recall (like in digital) so if you want to tweak something you have to create a whole new mix. Luckily our producer and engineer, Andrija Tokic, is a whiz with that stuff and made it seem fairly effortless. He even did an actual tape cut to remove a section of a song, then taped it back together. It’s magic to me that music can exist on a piece of tape.

TrunkSpace: As you listen to The Moon Is An Ashtray today and compare it against, say, When Tomorrow Comes, where do you hear the biggest differences in the artist that you were and the artist that you are now?
Miss Tess: I don’t often listen to my older recordings, but sometimes a song pops up. I mostly notice how I’ve grown as a vocalist and a guitarist, and have more composure in the studio. I started recording 15 years ago, so that’s a lot of time for styles and techniques to change and develop. I used to be way more jazz/folk, but now while some of that still lingers, I’ve broadened my scope into country, blues, rock ‘n’ roll to make it perhaps even more eclectic. I like to think my singing has matured and strengthened, and I’m pleased with the fact that I’ve recorded several guitar leads. When I listen back to those, that’s the moment where I’m like, “Hey, that was pretty good.”

TrunkSpace: There are some great layers to peel away on The Moon Is An Ashtray, particularly when it comes to individuals and collective perspectives/expectations. As an artist, how do you manage your own expectations when it comes to your music and how it will be perceived once you release it into the universe?
Miss Tess: I release every album with the lowest possible expectations. That way you are always pleasantly surprised when you get a good review, or someone tells you they enjoy it. You can’t control anything really, even with the best team behind you to help promote. The industry is constantly changing and there is a staggering amount of recordings being released every week. With the sheer amount of stuff out there I think it’s amazing even one person listens to my music or comes to see me live.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the new album?
Miss Tess: I’m proud of the songwriting – these are good songs and fun to play. I’m also proud of our recording band mates, some of the best in Nashville. Our friend John Pahmer was the MVP doing most of the keyboard and piano stuff, and really helped bring these songs to life. Getting to record with stalwarts such as Dennis Crouch (T-Bone Burnett’s right hand bass playing man) and Jack Lawrence (from the Raconteurs) was a great experience, and I’m really happy with how the recordings came out.

TrunkSpace: Since the start of your career, you have released new music at a pretty steady clip. Do you consider yourself to be a prolific artist? What is the longest period of time you have spent away from music?
Miss Tess: I don’t consider myself to be prolific. I don’t write enough to earn that term. I don’t think I’ve ever really spent time away from music. It’s always there. I’ve probably gone about three weeks max between gigs, since I created my first band in Baltimore in 2003 or so.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Miss Tess: It’s easy to be hard on yourself with all the social media stats out there. It’s always been a bit of a popularity contest, and now we have concrete numbers with which to measure ourselves. On top of that everyone only posts their best side, so it can be misleading, distorting our realities and perceptions of how life should be. Also living in such a concentrated musical community as Nashville is, you see other people get really successful in what seems like a very short amount of time. It’s easy to compare yourself to this and think, “Why aren’t I doing better? I’ve worked my ass off for a very long time.” I have to imagine that whatever level a musician is at, they will still have doubts and disappointments.

To overcome these feelings I have to remind myself that I can only do my best, and make sure the art I’m creating is honest and that I am growing and expanding. I tell myself there are plenty of people who wish they could even get on stage and sing one song and I don’t take that ability for granted. Also, taking breaks from social media is important.

Part of the reason I keep doing this, is that I feel I haven’t reached my potential, and ultimately I am happiest having created something new. The challenge is always making art sustainable, and figuring out the business side of things can also be very discouraging, and the lifestyle of a touring musician requires a lot of sacrifices in terms of relationships, family, health and security.

TrunkSpace: Finish this sentence. “I wouldn’t be able to create music if I didn’t have…”
Miss Tess: A brain.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her musical journey has taken her thus far?
Miss Tess: Yes, she would be very surprised. I wasn’t one of those kids who was infatuated with being a performer or a rockstar, though I did enjoy the piano and I was always mystified by singing into a microphone and hearing my own voice amplified and recorded.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Miss Tess: I wouldn’t. I would be worried it would affect me too much in the current time.

The Moon Is An Ashtray is available February 7th.

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Opening Act

Monica Aben

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Artist: Monica Aben

Latest Release: In Your Universe

Hometown: Venice, CA

TrunkSpace: How do you think you will look back on 2019 as it relates to your music? Where did this year impact you most as an artist?
Aben: This year was a wild ride. I think 2019 will go down in history as the year of new beginnings. I can’t help but feel that the last several months set me up for the rest of my life. It was a big year for songwriting and meeting new collaborators who I now consider great friends. I traveled a lot (NYC, Nashville and London) and was reminded that songwriting is forever my favorite part of all of this. Realizing that allowed me to see the doorways that were previously hidden by my indecision. When you are trying to write, book shows, be an artist, create content of all forms, and have a life without going broke you miss half of the opportunities in front of you because you’re just trying to stay afloat. I have a gut feeling that in 10 years, wherever I am, I’ll look back at 2019 and see how the events of this past year helped get me there.

TrunkSpace: You released your album, In Your Universe, in November. As a listener, the release of that album becomes a part of our present, but those songs have been with you for some time and in a way, also represent your past. As an artist, do you feel like you have emotionally moved on from a song – at least in the way you first found a connection with it when writing – by the time it reaches the masses? How do you stay present with songs from your past, particularly in a live setting?
Aben: I don’t know that I’ll ever outgrow any of these songs, emotionally, mostly because of what they mean to me. Every time I sing them live, I get to relive the most beautiful years of my life to date. Everything still feels fresh. Even the sad ones make me feel good because the experiences that inspired them still matter. This record is the chronological story of me falling in love with my now fiancé, so playing these songs live just feels like my dramatic answer to someone asking me, “So how’d you two meet?”

TrunkSpace: If someone listened to In Your Universe front to back, what would they learn about you, both as an artist and as a person?
Aben: They would learn that as an artist, I put the most weight in my lyrics. I’m a big fan of keeping the production as simple as possible, then adding in other melodies and harmonies that help, but not overpower the story. I love poetry because it’s evidence that a string of words placed in a certain order can be poignant, powerful and important. I want my songs to mean something and tell a story. They would see how passionate I am about preserving highly emotional and important moments, and that I adore the piano. If they are into astrology, they would likely guess that I’m a Libra and they would be 200 percent right.

TrunkSpace: We read that you grew up on your father’s vinyl collection. Did that appreciation for front-to-back albums – a collective musical experience – inspire your own writing, because for us, In Your Universe feels like a collection of songs that belong together?
Aben: YES. Absolutely. The vinyl we played the most ranged from the ‘50s-‘70s and they weren’t just timeless pieces of work, they were stories I loved trying to decipher. Back then, I feel like albums were released with purpose. The goal was to make music lovers smile, to be the soundtrack to someone’s life, to make someone feel seen and understood. I know some music still does that today, but it just doesn’t feel the same to me. You see, these songs were written (almost) in the exact order they appear on the album. The first few tracks are about me letting go of an almost lover, but as the album goes on, the songs get happier because I met someone new, then we fell in love, and now we’re getting married. This album is the literal documentation of me falling in the greatest kind of love. I know I sound like a sappy romantic, but these songs were my way of processing everything that was happening and it will forever be my most personal timeless masterpiece based on the content alone.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Aben: I’m proud that it sounds exactly the way I wanted it to sound in my head. So many people told me to make it more “current” – I’m still not sure what that means. I didn’t understand why everyone wanted me to make it sound like everyone else. These songs were written as ballads. I wanted them to make the listener feel the way I felt when I wrote them. It doesn’t matter if these songs don’t get on a playlist or get thousands of streams, because every now and then, a stranger sends me a message about one of the songs, and every single time, the way it made them feel is exactly how I felt when I wrote it. That means I did it right.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take you to discover your songwriter voice and can you recall the moment when, creatively, it all clicked?
Aben: I feel like I found my voice as a songwriter when I was working on an EP called Sweet Dreaming that I impulsively released in 2017. I had these three songs that didn’t feel like anything else I had written before, and sort of came out of nowhere. I don’t really remember writing them. I just sat down with an instrument and let out my feelings. I wasn’t trying to choose certain words or make everything rhyme. I just wrote what I felt, and to this day that’s exactly what I do. I think it’s the only way I can actually stay true to my voice. I write by myself 90 percent of the time, so no one’s there to reel me in. It forced me to learn how to let everything out, but still be able to edit, and I think that’s made me a stronger writer. However, when I can’t do it myself, I’ve got some wonderful collaborators that help me dig my way out of very wordy verses.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Aben: I really beat myself up about being in the music industry and not being edgy or cool. In a world of “no labels” The music industry seems to have a handful of them. My aesthetic is that I don’t really have one. I love ‘50s & ‘60s vintage dresses, I host dinner parties for my friends, wear big curlers, and have been called “too wholesome.” I say this from a place of love, really. But it’s hard when people take the things that make you who you are and phrase them as negatives. So, I try to tune it out, live my life, write and sing my truth because I’ve known who I am since I was 16. If I tried to be anyone other than me, my music wouldn’t be honest, and neither would I.

TrunkSpace: Tell us about The Sweatpants Series and how bringing this experience into existence has impacted you as an artist?
Aben: The Sweatpants Series is my passion project and really the only way I perform. We raise funds and awareness for Safe Place For Youth (S.P.Y.), where I am also a member of their Next Generation Committee. Everyone comes in sweatpants and we have performances from a S.P.Y. youth member, myself, and other local singer-songwriters. We share our songs and the stories behind them in an effort to reiterate that we’re all in this together. Growing up in Venice, and seeing it explode with wealth and poverty at the same time really haunted me. This was my way of not only giving back to my community, but also preserving the culture of Venice. I think when you are gifted with a talent and a voice, you should give back to the people and place that raised you and inspired you. With a voice, a platform, and a whole lot of determination you can create change. I actually have a song coming out in 2020 called “Last Local in Venice” and it might be my greatest love song yet.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave her a glimpse of her future, would she be surprised by where her musical journey has taken her thus far?
Aben: Ten-year-old me would definitely be upset that I haven’t been on Broadway yet. I was a very theatrical child. I don’t think she ever would have expected herself to be a songwriter. I’m pretty sure she didn’t even know that career existed. Ten-year-old me wanted to be a singer first, archaeologist second. But at 26 I’m totally still a science nerd.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Aben: Nope! I know the highs of this career are unlike any other joy known to humankind, but the lows are where you learn the most about yourself, and personally, where I wind up writing the most songs. I am here for the ride and I like to be surprised. This entire YEAR was a surprise. I also think that people who go looking for answers about the future end up living their lives differently. I like the twist and turns and the unexpected mishaps that sometimes change your life for the better. I’ve always said that I want to feel every moment that I’m given no matter what… how else would I know I’m alive?!

In Your Universe is available now.

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Wingman Wednesday

Clarissa Thibeaux

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Photo By: Storm Santos

For Runaways star Clarissa Thibeaux, tapping into the personality of an existing character, in this case Xavin from the Marvel comic book universe, meant having to cull what she could from past sequential pages while simultaneously tapping into the vision of the series’ writers. The result is a memorable on-screen role, and although she had plenty of inspiration to pick from, there are still aspects of her own personality that make their way to the viewers.

I think the reality is no matter what I do a little bit of Clarissa will always shine through the characters I play,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Thibeaux to discuss personal awareness, finding her place in Los Angeles, and remaining blissfully unaware of what the future holds.

TrunkSpace: You discovered you first landed the part of Xavin in Runaways the week of your birthday. How has your journey on the series impacted your life and career? What has been the greatest gift of your Runaways ride?
Thibeaux: Yes, it was an amazing birthday week! It has been an eye opening ride so far. Being part of the series has given me the opportunity to audition and test for some amazing projects. I think the greatest gift has been getting to interact with the fans of the show and really hear about their connections to both the characters in the TV show and in the comics.

TrunkSpace: Xavin will have been the longest run you’ve had with a character in episodic television. What is that experience like for you… discovering new things that you can use day-to-day in your performance with a character? Does it make you ever second-guess the earliest choices you made with her?
Thibeaux: Having the opportunity to play such a muted yet layered character has been a great challenge. A lot of what I discovered acting-wise, with Xavin, is what is truly needed to communicate an idea of feeling. Since Xavin doesn’t have the same emotional range as some of the other characters on the show, it was a lot of fun to work with the directors to give just enough information visually to communicate Xavin’s myriad of feelings. I think my earliest choices of Xavin’s characteristics were close to what I brought to Xavin this season… Xavin has a huge shift during their arc but I think with all of the information from the new season maybe I would have done a few things differently. I’m not sure. I’m happy with my performance. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When you’re shaping someone who is based on an existing character, in this case a character who had a history in print, how do you approach staying true to what is already there, but at the same time, bringing yourself into the character? Is it a thin line to walk?
Thibeaux: I did my best to see where Xavin’s personality came out in the comics and did my best to layer those brash or comedic moments in with the writer’s vision(s). I think the reality is no matter what I do a little bit of Clarissa will always shine through the characters I play. Xavin, however, is such a calculated being, and that gave me a lot more to use when playing them.

TrunkSpace: As you were moving into production for Season 3, did you feel more comfortable in Xavin’s shoes, even with a new and unfamiliar story arc in front of you? Does tapping into a character and her motivation get easier the more time you spend with her?
Thibeaux: Definitely! It was also easier to fall into this season because I had already built budding relationships with my castmates and had a better understanding of what each day would be like. I also knew more about Xavin after Season 2 came out. So many wonderful fans gave me a lot of insight into how they felt when they read the comics and what Xavin meant to them. For me, playing Xavin had a lot to do with awareness. Awareness of my body, my breathing, and how each word left my mouth. I did my best to make everything (at least for me) feel a little foreign and intentional.

TrunkSpace: Runaways is grounded in reality to an extent, but at the same time, is very much a part of the fantastical as well. When you’re going to work every day where literally anything can happen on camera, does it keep things interesting for you as an actor? Does 10-year-old Clarissa give you high fives with the stuff you get to do as a part of the series?
Thibeaux: (Laughter) Ten-year-old Clarissa would be AMAZED. Since a lot of fantastic things happen on the show, it makes each day really feel like a dream. Some of the most interesting parts for me were all the camera set ups. There were rigs I had never seen before – those were pretty magical.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Runaways that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life career?
Thibeaux: I think one part of Runways that will stay with me is how supportive the whole cast and crew were. Since Xavin is a shapeshifter, it was a trip to have so many actors that I admire asking for my advice on how to play Xavin. Lots of very fun conversations!

Photo By: Storm Santos

TrunkSpace: You’re starring on a show that is a part of the Marvel brand. Given how big all things Marvel has become, do you feel lucky to be a part of this very unique period in pop culture history, particularly on a show that is helping to define the future of television by offering such quality content on a streaming platform?
Thibeaux: I feel extremely lucky. I could never have guessed that my career would take me on the path I’m on but holy moly am I grateful. It is such an amazing time in TV and to be on a show of this caliber… I still pinch myself.

TrunkSpace: You moved to Los Angeles after graduating college. As look back on your experience, locating to a city where so many people are dreaming the same dream, was it a difficult transition or did you feel right at home right away?
Thibeaux: I stumbled a bit when I got to LA – it’s not the easiest city to live in or navigate. I don’t know if I feel at home now. (Laughter) This is an interesting city. It’s a love/hate relationship. Some days I feel on top of the world and other days I feel like I have no idea why I’m here. In LA there’s a little bit of everything.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Thibeaux: I have to say Runaways! It has changed so much for me and opened so many doors.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Thibeaux: Hmmm… I don’t know! What if it’s really bad? That would be depressing. I think I wouldn’t do it, just in case. I rather live blissfully unaware. I’m happy now – it’s better to live in the present.

Season 3 of Runaways is available now on Hulu.

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Sit and Spin

Wilmette’s Carol From HR

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Song Title: “Carol From HR

Single Sentence Singles Review: In a season packed with easy-listening melodies meant to tug on nostalgic heartstrings, Wilmette delivers the goods on a riff-filled one horse open sleigh that skips melting snow and goes right for melting your face!

Beyond The Track: The band’s latest EP, Anxious Body, is out now on Mutant League Records. Get it here.

And that means…

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Musical Mondaze

Matt Megrue

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With his first solo album, The Mourner’s Manual, set to drop in February, Matt Megrue is no longer blending into the background of a band. Now front and center with his name the only thing standing between the music and the audience, he knows that he can no longer stay camouflaged, but it’s an experience he is ready to grow from, both as an artist and as a person.

It’s not about commercial success or failure as much as it is continuing to grow, evolve and giving myself the space for creative mistakes and coincidences to shape what I am doing,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Megrue to discuss staying present, looking beyond those bottles of lightning, and why it’s important for people to spread the word (and music!) of their favorite artists.

TrunkSpace: Your new album, The Mourner’s Manual, is set to be released on February 7th. What kind of emotions do you juggle with as you prepare to release new material into the world?
Megrue: It’s a weird mix of a lot of different emotions: excitement in that this creation is finally leaving your hands and making its way out into the world, anxiety around making sure everything is planned and you’re doing everything you can to support the lead-up to the release, hope that the songs might resonate with some people, as well as a degree of disconnection, in not putting too much into the inevitable highs and lows that come with releasing a new album.

TrunkSpace: Is there a different vibe with the build up in releasing this album as a solo artist as compared to when you were in projects like The Unusual Suspects and Loners Society? Is there more pressure involved when it’s your name and your name alone above the album title?
Megrue: Absolutely.

I was the primary songwriter in all of my other bands and, if I am being honest with myself, I think that was why I avoided putting records out under my own name for so long: if something were to “fail”, I could always hide behind a band name. Obviously, you don’t get that luxury when you put things out under your own name.

But for me, lately, it has become more about redefining why I continue to create music. It’s not about commercial success or failure as much as it is continuing to grow, evolve and giving myself the space for creative mistakes and coincidences to shape what I am doing.

TrunkSpace: You started your The Mourner’s Manual journey in 2016. Because it has been a part of your life for a number of years now – and as excited as you are to have it finished – is there a part of you that feels like you have a bit of a creative void now that you have to fill, and if so, what are you filling it with?
Megrue: There definitely is a void once you wrap up a recording, and like most creative people I know, I also have a tendency to say, “Okay, on to the next thing.” without really taking the time to be present in what I just did. It is something that my drummer (Kyle Polk) pointed out to me, and I recently caught myself doing that. I was already moving on, writing for the next record, but have since taken a pause so that I could be present in the process of putting out this record and getting ready to tour it a bit.

TrunkSpace: In a message on your website, you wrote that the album is… “Loss. Love. Anger. Hope. Longing. Vulnerability. Spirit.” In a way, is releasing this album a bit like a therapy session because you’re sharing so much of who you are with those who choose to listen? Does that vulnerability on the album translate to vulnerability for you as an artist on the eve of its launch?
Megrue: It does, somewhat, but I think that’s where the disconnection I mentioned before comes in. For me, it’s not only about disconnecting from press, praise and negative critique, but also the material itself, to a certain degree.

The goal for this record was to leave it all in the studio and on tape, so to speak. The studio is the moment to dive into the raw emotion and vulnerability; but once that is over, I have to disconnect in order to perform certain songs over and over again. Otherwise, without that disconnect, I feel like I’m functioning but completely exposed.

TrunkSpace: If someone sat down to listen to The Mourner’s Manual front to back, what would they learn about you both as an artist and as a person?
Megrue: That is a really difficult question to answer. I think I can answer it best by telling you what I learned about myself in those regards.

As an artist, I learned that maybe I am a little more capable than I wanted to believe. What I saw as “writer’s block” leading up to recording this album, was probably more me not allocating the time to really put in the work. I was waiting for the “lightning in a bottle” moments and kind of forgot the “10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration” rule. Once we got the gears going and got into the rhythm of doing the work, everything started falling into place.

As a person, I think I found a more empathetic lens with which to view the world than I have ever had before. I dug into some fairly heavy topics with this record, but I wanted to balance that with a sense of hope. Beautiful things can be birthed from darker moments if you allow yourself to be open to it. I hope people pick up on that.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the new album?
Megrue: I’m just proud that I made a record that I am proud of. Granted, I have “new album fatigue” right now from listening to all of the various phases of mixing and mastering, but I am really proud of it as a representation of who I am and where I am at. Again, my hope is that some of that will resonate with people.

TrunkSpace: As an artist, can it be daunting looking out into the musical landscape and seeing how many artists are releasing new material at any given time? How do you cut through that noise and make a real connection to listeners in 2020?
Megrue: That’s a great question and, honestly, one that I wish I had a better answer for. I just try to be as honest as I can in how I write and release material. I believe people are yearning for authenticity more than ever before, and I just try to make music that is a true, authentic representation of who I am.

As far as cutting through the clutter, a lot of that onus is on the listener. If you love a band or an artist, tell your friends, tell the band, blow up social media. I know that I have found most of my favorite bands through the recommendation of a friend or someone whose tastes I really respect.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Megrue: Lyrics. Definitely lyrics. I put a lot of sweat into trying not to say the same things the same way, and it makes it really easy to get lost down a rabbit hole. It’s something that I still work on constantly to overcome, but having people around who you trust and won’t just tell you what you want to hear helps a lot! You can reach the right destination a lot faster that way.

TrunkSpace: Finish this sentence. “I wouldn’t be able to create music if I didn’t have…”
Megrue: “the goosebump moments.” If you’ve ever played music, you know what I’m talking about.

There were so many of those moments making this record where we would just drop a sample in or write a riff and things would fall into place around it. It was almost creepy at times.

Even playing live, you get those moments where everyone is so perfectly in sync that you almost want to play a wrong note just to make sure your amp is still working.

Those moments, and doing it with people you love and respect, is what it’s all about.

TrunkSpace: If you sat down with your 10-year-old self and gave him a glimpse of his future, would he be surprised by where his musical journey has taken him thus far?
Megrue: Probably. When I was 10 I was really deep into that 90’s country music. So, he would probably be quite confused at how he got from there to doing the kind of music that I do now.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Megrue: I don’t think I would. The fun lives in “the not knowing”. Again, for me I love creating the space to let the “mistakes” and “coincidences” happen and allowing that to lead where I go next.

The Mourner’s Manual drops February 7th.

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Sit and Spin

Coco Reilly’s Christmas With You

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Song Title: “Christmas With You

Single Sentence Singles Review: We love the standards that come along with the holiday season, but when every Bing Crosby and Burl Ives cheer-giver are playing in heavy rotation from the day after Halloween to now, it’s nice to inject the seasonal playlist with a song like “Christmas With You,” which decks the halls in an entirely new way while still giving us the classic feels.

Beyond The Track: Want to hear what Coco Reilly sounds like when not writing for the holiday season? Check out her debut single, “Define You,” here.

And that means…

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Trunk Stubs

The Brother Brothers

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Artist: The Brother Brothers

City Attended: Waltham, MA

Venue: Charles River Museum

Concert Date: 12-13-20

The Reason We Went: The harmonies that identical twin brothers Adam and David Moss displayed on their 2018 full-length debut, Some People I Know, were a mesmerizing window that peered into the duo’s potential as artists and songwriters. Getting to see them in the intimate setting of an industrial museum, surrounded by items from our collective pasts – including old cars, bikes, steam-powered contraptions and various equipment that helped to shape our present – was an opportunity too good to pass up.

What We Thought: Although getting out of the cold New England air and into the venue proved to be a difficult task (watch the instructional video on the Charles River Museum’s website so you don’t make the same mistakes we did!!!!), the music that The Brother Brothers offered up to the audience was so warm and welcoming that it melted the Boston-area chill. The magical, historical feel of the space combined with Adam and David’s almost-whimsical way of engaging an audience through song made this a very special night. Those in attendance familiar with Some People I Know relished in live takes of “Mary Ann,” “Frankie,” and “Colorado,” while it was an acoustic rendition of Peter Rowan’s “Angel Island” to close out the night that served as the perfect exclamation point on an exceptional evening on the Charles.

Bonus Takeaway: If the new tracks shared by Adam and David are any indication, The Brother Brother’s upcoming follow-up to Some People I Know will be an even more noteworthy collection of songs than their debut. Stay tuned for that one in 2020!

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